My son and I have been strictly gluten free since February of 2011. For a long time, we just didn’t go out to eat, for fear of getting glutened. (A few bad experiences solidified our fears.) Then, for the longest time, we only ate Chipotle. However, we eventually began to branch out, and now we have a plethora of safe options. Some of the places on the list might even surprise you.
This list focuses on Kansas City, but many of the restaurants are chains and can be found in other US cities as well. I know there are many more places, but I’m only including ones I’ve actually tried. I will add to the list as my repertoire grows.
Chipotle—Fresh Mex. We’ve never had a bad experience here. The food is delicious, and the menu is small and simple, with meat, beans, rice, veggies, salsa, guac, toppings (cheese, sour cream, lettuce, etc.), and chips. The only gluten in the restaurant is in the tortillas, and the only thing they fry in the grease is the corn chips, so if you can have corn, you can have the chips. Price: Cheap!
Costa Vida—New to KC, this place is kind of a godsend. Like Chipotle, the only thing on the menu that contains gluten is the tortillas. The employees are trained to change their gloves and handle gluten free orders with care. The food isn’t fabulous, but it’s pretty cheap, and they use pretty fresh ingredients. It was really exciting for me to be able to get enchiladas for the first time in over a year!
Jalapenos—They have a gluten free guide. We eat the chips, and have never had an issue. The food is sooooo not authentic, but it’s not bad. It’s right by my husband’s work, so we occasionally meet him there when he has a long break.
El Porton Cafe—South American/Caribbean cuisine. Mmm…platanos. Eating there was the first time I’ve had Cuban food since leaving Florida about 16 years ago! Most items on the menu are gluten free, even the arepas! It lacks ambience, and is on the pricier side, but definitely worth it. And get this: You can bring in your own bottle of wine!
Waldo Pizza—Super-fab. I love this place. It was my favorite pizza place in KC before going gluten free, so when I heard they had gluten free options, I was thrilled! The pizza is probably the best gluten free pizza I’ve had (but I haven’t tried them all yet), and I love their menu! They have pizza, breadsticks, salads, sandwiches, and desserts galore, all on the gluten free menu! They have a gluten free molten brownie that’s to die for, and I love, love, love the gluten free meatball sub. Yum! It’s a family favorite here, but saved for special occasions because of the price.
Ingredient—It’s one of those salad places where you build your own salad (well, they build it for you, but you choose the ingredients). The maple balsamic dressing is out of this world! You get a gluten free breadstick with your salad, and they have a gluten free pizza. Be warned: The gluten free pizza costs $11, and is TINY! It’s about 6-8 inches. Maybe the size of a personal pan, if that, and the crust is very thin, and pretty mediocre. I would eat it again, but for the price, I’ll stick with the salad and breadstick. The breadstick is delicious.
Carrabba’s—They have a small gluten free menu, and some gluten free pasta. They even have a gluten free chicken marsala. It’s pretty good.
Cinzetti’s—Surprise! An all you can eat Italian buffet?! This one was a shocker! I actually worked there as a server 2 years ago, and they were hardly aware of what it meant to be gluten free, let alone prepared to offer safe options. Now, when you go in, the manager will personally walk you around and show you every item that you can and cannot eat. I know you’re thinking it still sounds dangerous, but here’s the thing: The restaurant is set up Italian market-style. So, they have stations where everything is prepared fresh (not your typical buffet). Only one thing is cooked at each station (and you can watch the cooks prepare it), and each station uses its own dishes and serving items. So, some stations don’t have any gluten substance anywhere around. The cook at the pasta station will even prepare you a special gluten free pasta with whatever ingredients you’d like. The food is really good, and I highly recommend it. Go at brunch for the most gluten free options. They have a Denver location, as well.
You all know that Kansas City is THE place for barbecue, right? If you say, “What about Texas,” then you are obviously not in the know. If you live in KC, and must give up gluten, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved barbecue. We tried Wyandot Barbecue, one of my former favorites, and got sick, so I don’t recommend it. Haywards has gluten in their rub, so don’t go there. They’re not that good anyway. We tried, and did okay at Johnny’s, but again, not that good. Arthur Bryant’s is one of my alltime fav’s, and I know that their rubs and sauces are gluten free, but they don’t have a gluten free guide online. I need to call sometime and ask if they have a gluten free guide in the restaurant. If you are visiting KC and not worried about gluten, you need to go there for some bad mother-truckin’ KC barbecue.
Jack Stack (Fiorella’s)—We don’t eat bbq often, but this is the place we go by default now, and have consistently done fine. They are gluten aware, have great food, and a gluten free guide to the menu.
Sheridan’s Unforked—Sheridan’s, the custard company, opened a burger joint, and it is fabulous! They have gluten free buns for the burgers, gluten free tacos (corn tortillas), and even the french fries are gluten free (fried in designated oil)! They use fresh, local ingredients when possible. Go there. You won’t regret it!
Granite City Brewery—Surprisingly good gluten free menu, with plenty of choices. The food there is excellent, and the menu extensive, so everyone in the group will find something they like. They even have a gluten free pizza that was pretty good!
Applebee’s—A handful of gluten free items, and none of them are particularly great. They do have a guide for you in the restaurant, so you won’t have to have a manager look at the ingredients in each dish to help you figure it out. Eat there only if you must.
Chili’s—Not a whole lot, but still quite a bit more selections than Applebee’s, and the food is better. Did you know the baby back ribs are gluten free? We go there from time-to-time, and enjoy it. They also have a gluten free guide.
PF Chang’s—LOVE this place! The first time we went there, my son and I both cried. I’m not kidding. Chinese food (or Asian food in general) has always been our favorite, so not being able to eat it in a restaurant was really sad. Then we went here. It is genuinely good food of the fresh, gourmet variety, but still pretty Americanized. There are better authentic places (if you’re not gluten free and you come to KC, try Bo Lings), but this is still very, very good. And SAFE! They are very gluten-aware, and even cook the gluten free foods in a separate part of the kitchen, in designated dishes. Try the Singapore Street Noodles. Yum! Oh, and they even have a couple of gluten free desserts! The only drawback is that it’s pretty pricey. However, we figured out that if we just want some Chinese takeout, we can order two meat and vegetable fried rice dishes for under $20. They are HUGE, and easily feed the four of us, sometimes with some leftover!
Pei Wei—Owned by PF Changs, this is Chinese of the more fast food variety. They have like, 2 salads, 2 chicken and rice dishes (both fried), and spring rolls that are gluten free. So, not many options, and it’s barely mediocre, in my opinion. My family is not crazy about it. It’s cheaper than PF Changs, but still seems pricey for the quality. Some people love it, though, so don’t let me stop you from trying it. If you love Panda Express, then you’ll probably love this, too.
Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop—They are so friendly, and have a great, extensive gluten free menu. It is online, so you can plan what you want before you go. They have a few desserts, too. Glace ice cream if you can do dairy, and mango sticky rice! Yum! There’s even a note on the website from the owner, which addresses and welcomes those with food allergies. They really try their best to accommodate, and handle the food with care.