The gluten-free craze is really taking off — for those of you like myself who are averse to the stuff, here are some recommendations for living gluten-free in Austin.
– Be sure to check out their gluten-free baked goods on Wheat-Free Wednesdays. It’s summer, and the early morning hours are the most cool, weather-wise — do yourself a very delicious favor, and buy a gluten-free blueberry muffin one Wednesday morning before work. The salad is also great, and mostly gluten-free. The few options that are not gluten-free are carefully labeled with allergen warnings.
– Udi’s brand of bread is, so far, my favorite. Gluten-free bread tends to be smaller, more expensive, and less tasty than wheat bread, but Udi’s makes a wonderful “whole wheat” gluten-free bread that is reasonably priced, and large enough for a substantial sandwich. Wheatsville carries several options of Udi’s bread flavors in their bread aisle, and Udi’s soft-baked chocolate chip cookies in their dessert aisle.
– The strength in this place lies in their lunch menu. They have pastas and croissant sandwiches and paninis for order, and the place boasts a one hundred percent gluten free environment. Eat easy. The dessert bakery isn’t the greatest in the world (some of the things I’ve ordered have been a little dry) but they make freshly baked loaves of bread (vegan, to boot) every day that are available for sale and are to die for. The focaccia will change your life.
– There are several locations and times where the farmer’s market sets up around town, but I enjoy the Saturday morning market at Republic Square Park on 4th and Guadalupe. Plenty of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as food stands and samples.
– I have not been here yet, but this bakery comes very highly recommended from one of my fellow gluten-free-ers. Rumor has it that the cupcakes taste just like they’re made with actual wheat flour, only they’re completely safe to eat. Pretty high standards — try it out, and see if it measures up to the delish’ namesake.
5. Whole Foods
– Otherwise known as Whole Check, I am not a frequent visitor to this grocery store. I did pop in for some *broccoli rabe the other day, and discovered a whole section of gluten-free items including bagels, muffins, cheesecake, scones, cupcakes, and more. Before you get too excited, checking the prices will stop you from throwing one of everything in your cart. After much deliberation, I settled on bagels. Made my week.
6. Galaxy Cafe
– Great for casual dinner, Galaxy Cafe has an entire gluten-free menu on the opposite side of their regular menu. They are very considerate as well if you are especially sensitive to gluten contamination: They have a glove-changing policy when making dishes for people with celiac. The wraps are amazing, but maybe steer away from the mashed sweet potato (it was a bit too rich) and go for the sweet potato fries instead.
– These two rank in my top places to go during the summer months – mostly due to their cold drinks and outdoor seating. Both of these places have gluten-free menus upon request, and the chips and salsa are also gluten-free. I’m a fan of the soup and salad plate at Shady Grove: Roasted vegetable chili (with corn, not flour tortilla) with house salad and cilanto-lime dressing. Yummmm.
– You know those days when you have so much going on that all you want is to be able to grab a drive-through burger and fries? Zen is the next best thing for your fast food fix. They have a gluten-free column to their take-out menu. Try the seaweed salad.
– Central Market carries Glutino, which is by far the most wheat-free wheat-like brand that I have tasted. Their products are very reasonably priced, and they give you a lot of food for your dollar. Go for the pretzels and the chocolate-covered wafers (which, if you miss Kit-Kats, are pretty much the same thing).
– Central Market also carries some pretty good **pasta options here. I personally prefer the corn-based pastas, as they seem to have more flavor than the rice, and the quinoa tastes just plain weird.
10. Mother’s Cafe
– The perfect Sunday breakfast or brunch place to eat. The menu has a “GF” icon next to all of their wheat-free options, and is located in the pleasant Hyde Park neighborhood. The entire restaurant is vegetarian, and the cooks will also tailor any menu item to be gluten-free (upon request).
*Broccoli rabe is typically a cold-weather vegetable, and doesn’t grow well in the South, so it’s pretty hard to find. Wheatsville carries it sometimes when it’s in season, and the farmer’s market may have it as well if you’re lucky. Whole Foods is usually the most reliable source. If you are unfamiliar with broccoli rabe, here’s a quick, simple way to try out this vegetable: Boil it and drain it, then add some Italian sausage, red wine, pine nuts, red pepper flakes, and garlic sauteed in a little olive oil. A little red onion if you want to go all out, but don’t get too crazy.
**If you’re new to gluten-free and haven’t dealt with wheat-free pasta yet, it can be very tricky to make. Cook it a minute too short, and it will be hard. Cook it a minute too long, and the noodles will start falling apart. Go for the eight to nine minute time range, and watch it very carefully. Stir more often than you would with regular noodles — the noodles tend to stick very easily to your pot while they boil. One to two tablespoons of olive oil in the water, along with a pinch of salt, should help with that problem.