Nom Wah Tea Parlor – New York City – Chinatown

I was in Chinatown last week, hungrily, pitifully peering into the windows of dozens of Chinese restaurants that I sadly realized were going to be almost impossible to safely get a gluten free meal from.  I had tried to eat at a couple of Chinese restaurants early in my gluten free days and had been very sick after both attempts.  My (at that time) discomfort with asking for special treatment combined with a language barrier had proven disastrous in those cases

Luckily my companion recalled Nom Wah Tea Parlor being on a list of gluten free restaurants that I had recently sent her.  We thought it sounded like one of the riskier gluten free options we’ve tried, but I decided to brave it.  It is located at 13 Doyers Street.  I was totally lost by this point, so all I know is that that’s in Chinatown.

Nom Wah has a pretty extensive list of gluten free items, which are marked by a special symbol on the regular menu.  As we discovered, these can be made either gluten free or not, so it is extremely important to be very explicit that you want them gluten free.

We ordered several gluten free selections from the menu (she’s not gluten free, but we wanted to share) and some tea (Because it’s a TEA PARLOR!!!).  Since there was a bit of a language barrier, we tried to be as clear as possible that I needed my food to be gluten free.  I was not all that comfortable, but when she returned with a bottle of San J Tamari, clearly marked as gluten free, I felt much better.

A different employee soon arrived with several of the dishes we had ordered.  Pretty much all covered in soy sauce.  That seemed suspicious, so we called him back over and asked if they were gluten free.  He immediately motioned me back away from the soy sauce (as if it might jump right out of the dish and assault me!) and quickly snatched the dishes away.  Oddly, this made me feel somewhat better, as despite the miscommunication, he seemed to grasp the implications of eating gluten for me.

A bit later he returned with new gluten free dishes.  While still not totally comfortable, I proceeded to gorge myself on Chinese food on the theory that, even if I did gluten myself, I might as well get my money’s worth.  I felt pretty comfortable that they now knew it was supposed to be gluten free, but I was still concerned about cross contamination, particularly because some of it was fried and I didn’t ask if that was done separately from the gluten containing stuff.

Luckily, I felt fine afterward.  And the food was excellent.  That’s awesome because I will need to return to Chinatown for more of the awesome foot rubs I got before dinner.

I’m not super sensitive, so it you are, I would recommend asking more about cross contamination.  If not, I believe this is the best choice for a gluten free meal in Chinatown.

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Bloom’s Deli – New York City

I was in Manhattan for a couple of days last week and ate a Bloom’s New York Delicatessen & Restaurant a couple of times last week, once for lunch and once for breakfast. Bloom’s is located at 350 Lexington Avenue on the corner of 40th Street. It’s a very casual place and felt to me like an old school New York City Deli should; it is the kind of place I always want to eat at while I’m in New York, but usually can’t.

Bloom’s has a substantial gluten free menu, with many options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff seemed very gluten aware and during one of my visits, the waitress already had the gluten free menu in her hand from another table. Bloom’s also does takeout if you’re looking to order gluten free.

For lunch I had a corned beef sandwich. It was piled high with delicious corned beef on what appeared to be Udi’s bread. Given the size of Udi’s bread, $12.95 sounds like a lot for a sandwich, but given the quality and amount of the corned beef, it was well worth it. It came with a couple of pickles and some coleslaw as well. Highly recommended.

I was so impressed by my corned beef sandwich that I went back for breakfast the next day. They had a sign outside advertising their gluten free pancakes and french toast, but I could not resist ordering the “Big Man Omelette”, which contained Pastrami, Corned Beef, and Kosher Salami. It was okay, but not quite up to the standard set by the corned beef sandwich. I’ll try the gluten free pancakes next time I’m there for breakfast.

Overall, Bloom’s is a great place to stop by (or order in) for a quick, casual gluten free meal in Manhattan.

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Palace Cafe – New Orleans

I ate at Palace Cafe a three times on my recent NOLA trip.  It is an upscale Dickie Brennan restaurant at 605 Canal Street in the French Quarter.  They have a separate gluten free menu with a pretty extensive selection of gluten free options.  On each of my visits to Palace Cafe, the staff made me feel very comfortable about their gluten awareness.

During several trips to Palace Cafe I had the Cobb Salad, Crab Claws Bordelaise, Ribeye and Shrimp, Grilled Gulf Fish (I can’t remember what the fish was that day), and some shrimp appetizer that many not be on the online gluten free menu since none look familiar.  While everything was good, I enjoyed the Grilled Gulf Fish the most, probably followed by the Crab Claws Bordelaise.  While they don’t have a gluten free desert menu listed online, they were able to point out a few desserts that were gluten free, one of which was the Bananas Foster.  It was excellent!

Below are a couple of pictures of my last lunch at Palace Cafe.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of my dinners and dessert, so despite eating there several times, the pics are pretty limited.  Trust me, everything looked great!

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Bourbon House – New Orleans

Bourbon House is a Dickie Brennan Restaurant specializing in seafood in New Orleans.  It located at 144 Bourbon Street , not far from the intersection of Canal.  I ate there once on my recent trip to New Orleans and enjoyed my meal.

Although Bourbon House has a gluten free menu posted on their website, they did not actually have a physical copy of one in the restaurant.  That always concerns me, since it makes me feel like there is less awareness in the restaurant than there would be if they had a menu.  The waitress went over what was gluten free on the menu and when I double checked, the options she presented were in agreement with the menu.  That made me feel much better.

Trying to sample some local NOLA cuisine and sticking with Bourbon House’s seafood theme, I had Lousiana Oysters on the Half Shell and Redfish on the Half Shell, which appears to be Bourbon House’s signature entree.  Both were excellent.  I also tried a couple of the Bourbon BBQ Shrimp, which were also very good.

While the food was great and I absolutely would have returned to Bourbon House, I choose other options for the rest of the trip for a few reasons.  While the staff seemed gluten aware, it was the only one of my gluten free NOLA spots without either a physical gluten free menu  (Muriel’s and Palace Cafe) or explicit specification of gluten free items on its regular menu (Meals from the Heart Cafe).  Also, I had tried the three things I most wanted to on the gluten free lunch and dinner menus, which were sufficient, but not quite as diverse as Palace Cafe or Muriel’s.  Finally, I was so absolutely in love with Muriel’s that I choose to go there every opportunity I got.  Despite only going there once, I absolutely recommend dining at Bourbon House if you are in the French Quarter.

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Muriel’s – New Orleans – Awesome!

During a recent trip to New Orleans, I ate at Muriel’s five times, twice for dinner, twice for lunch, and once for brunch.  Why did I eat at Muriel’s so frequently?  Because Muriel’s is awesome!!!

Muriel’s is located at 801 Chartres Street, in Jackson Square.  Jackson Square is a cool and beautiful place to hang out, which is a bonus of a trip to Muriel’s.  The fourth time I was eating there, my dinner companion pointed out how architecturally interesting the building itself was.  I wish I could describe that to you, but I was too focused on the amazing food to even remember.  You’ll have to check it out for yourself!

While Muriel’s doesn’t have an enormous gluten free menu, it has sufficient options.  For example, while there are only three entrees on the dinner menu, they are fish, beef, and chicken options, so there is adequate diversity.  The brunch and lunch menus actually have a few more selections, and there are sufficient appetizer and dessert options as well.

The service was fantastic and the staff extremely friendly.  Due to the general professionalism of all I encountered, I felt confident that they were actually preparing my food gluten free.  I tend to worry about that a bit at some places.

The food itself was simply amazing!  It was absolutely the best gluten free food I have ever had and quite possibly the best food I’ve ever eaten period (I’ve only been gluten free for a few years).  I’m still dreaming about the Wood Grilled Chicken.  Unbelievable!  My dining companion, who is not gluten free, raved about the food as much as I did, if not more.  She’s a foody who lives in New York City and frequently eats at fantastic restaurants, so that is high praise indeed.

Below are photos of some of some of what I ate at Muriel’s.  Most of these were presented in a slightly more visually appealing fashion, but looked so delicious that I was unable to stop myself from digging in to them prior to taking a picture.

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Meals from the Heart Cafe – New Orleans

During a recent stay in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of eating at Meals from the Heart Cafe several times.  Meals from the Heart is located at 1100 N. Peters Street, Bay 13 in the French Market.  For those who have never been there, the French Market is a covered open air market.  Meals from the Heart’s address is actually the back door which is outside of the market, so if you find a door with a 13 on it, you have to kind of loop around to the inside of the market.  While that is probably obvious to most, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out.

Meals from the Heart offers both takeout or eat in (there are stools at the counter or nearby tables) healthy food and caters to food allergies.  The menu list many gluten free options and a few of the items that aren’t listed as gluten free can still be prepared that way (like the crab cakes, for example, although I didn’t get to try those).  The gluten free options include pancakes, po boys, and gumbo.  They open at 9:00 and close around 5:00 or so, apparently depending on when the market closes.  For that reason, it is more of a breakfast or lunch option than dinner, unless you like to eat very early.

Although I ate there several times, I only tried the gluten free blueberry pancakes (several times) and the gumbo.  Mostly this was because the pancakes were very good and an excellent way to start my day (i.e. cure my Bourbon Street hangover) when I was dining alone.  The pancakes were filled with blueberries, and topped with strawberries.  The gumbo was good, but I don’t know enough about gumbo to say how it ranked compared to other gumbos.  I just wanted to try some gumbo while in NOLA so I had it one day.

The thing that stands out most about Meals from the Heart is the people.  During my visits there, I met the owners, Marilyn and Averill, and one of the employees, Melvin.  All of them were just incredibly nice, friendly people.  I was on my own for the first half of my NOLA trip, so I very much enjoyed their company while I ate there each morning.  Thanks to all at Meals from the Heart for making me feel welcome in NOLA!

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Gluten Free New Orleans

I just got back from a week in New Orleans.  Prior to going, I had read that NOLA was one of the more difficult places to eat due to the style of cooking being very gluten heavy and a possible lack of awareness of food allergies at many local restaurants.  I found this to be somewhat untrue as I found several restaurants with great food and gluten free menus.  However, I don’t think I would have been as comfortable trying to order gluten free in a restaurant that was not explicitly gluten friendly as I would be in New York, for example.  I plan to write up detailed reviews of the restaurants I tried, but I wanted to write a general summary of New Orleans first, as I would have found that helpful prior to my trip.

I primarily ate at four restaurants during my stay.

Meals from the Heart Cafe - A small casual restaurant located outdoors in the French Market.  They specialize in quick, healthy food and food allergies.  Incredibly nice and friendly owners and employees.  Full review here.

Muriel’s – An upscale restaurant in Jackson Square that serves Contemporary Creole Cuisine.  Simply Amazing.  The best gluten free food I have ever eaten.  Maybe the best food I have ever eaten.  Full review here.

Palace Cafe – A Dickie Brennan Restaurant serving classic NOLA dishes on Canal with a substantial gluten free menu.  Excellent.  Full review here.

Bourbon House – Another Dickie Brennan Restaurant (Thanks, Dickie!) with a small gluten free online (but not an actual separate menu in the restaurant) mostly serving seafood.  Not all that many gluten free options, but was very good.  Full review here.

I would recommend all of these restaurants, but Muriel’s stands out as just an amazing dining experience while Meals from the Heart is great for a quick bite or takeout, particularly if dining alone.  Palace Cafe and Bourbon House were both very good as well, but not quite up to the standard set by Muriel’s, in my opinion.

There were some other options in NOLA that I did not try for various reasons (time and distance mostly).  I can’t personally recommend them, but I wanted to record my findings here to save others research time.

GW Fins – Supposedly one of the best seafood restaurants in NOLA and gluten friendly.  They don’t have a gluten free menu that I know of, but I read a few good gluten free review of them and saw a post on their facebook page mentioning one of their many gluten free dishes.

Bayona – Does not appear to have a gluten free menu, but says they can accommodate any dietary concerns and I’ve read good gluten free reviews of them.

Deanies – Has a pretty extensive gluten free menu on their website, but when we asked about it, they said they were supposed to have one, but didn’t.  We decided to leave and go to Bourbon House as the tone of the response did not instill much confidence.

Luke – I don’t think they have a gluten free menu, but I read a few reviews of them indicating they could at least accommodate.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - Located in Harrah’s.  Has a gluten free menu.

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop – Advertised as the only gluten free gumbo in NOLA.  That’s not actually true as Meal’s from the Heart also serves a gluten free gumbo, but it would have been good to try if it wasn’t too far from the French Quarter.

Wandering Budda – A Korean Vegan restaurant with several gluten free options.

Casamentos – It says on their website, “Our Fried Seafood is Gluten Free!”  If I had seen that before my trip, I would have tried this place for sure.

Juan’s Flying Burrito, Superior Grill – These both appear to be gluten friendly Mexican Restaurants, although it isn’t clear to me whether or not they have a separate gluten free menu or not.

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Mozzarelli’s – New York City

I was in Manhattan last week on my way to meet friends and I realized I should probably stop and eat something first.  Although New York is probably the easiest place in the world to eat gluten free, I didn’t want to worry about eating at a regular bar or restaurant, so I figured I would grab a quick bite first.

I always feel like I should eat pizza when I’m eating alone in New York so I stopped by my standby New York pizza place, Mozzarelli’s.  Mozzarelli’s is located at 38 E 23rd St.  The general setup is that the regular (containing gluten) slices are on the bottom shelf and the gluten free slices are on the top.  The slices look completely different in the shape so there is no chance of mixing up the slices.  They generally seem to have 4 or 5 different kinds available for slices at all times.

I wasn’t all that hungry, so I just had one slice with sauce and cheese, but I’ve tried the more exotic varieties on past visits and they’ve all been good.  In this case, I went with the simplest version so I could focus on the crust, which is key to reviewing a gluten free pizza.  While it’s been so long since I’ve had regular pizza that I can’t really compare it to that, I actually enjoyed eating the crust itself.  That is rarely true of other gluten free crust or bread substitutes.  They normally serve simply as a transportation vehicle for the toppings or filler.  But, with Mozzarelli’s pizza, I actually enjoyed eating the crust, at least to some degree!  That is the highest possible praise for a gluten free pizza!

Overall, while I have not yet tried that many, Mozzarelli’s is probably the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had and I’ve never had any glutening problems there.  I highly recommend Mozzarelli’s.

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Beef Barley Soup

When I was a little kid, I remember going to Friendly’s with my Dad one Saturday afternoon.  I don’t remember how old I was.  Maybe 8 or 10 or something like that.  I do remember that I had the most delicious beef barley soup.  Although, I had eaten beef barley soup several times before, it had never been so wonderful.  That Saturday afternoon began a love affair with beef barley soup that I thought would last a lifetime.

Relationships do not alway work out as we plan.  Beef barley soup contains gluten.  Beef barley soup and I are no more.

Although I hate wheat with a burning passion, I strangely still do not hate barley.  If fact, I have only warm feelings for barley, particularly beef barley soup.  Unfortunately, those warm feelings are no longer in my belly.

Bye Bye Beef Barley.

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Bye Bye Barley

By far the most depressing thing about going gluten free was the realization that I was going to have to give up drinking beer.  I loved beer.  Very, very much.  I was so sad.

It isn’t even the taste of beer that I miss so much.  After all, I came to learn that there were several gluten free variants of beer available and I quickly sampled them all.  While I don’t like them nearly as much as the real thing. some of them aren’t half bad.  Taste isn’t the main problem.

The real issue is availability, particularly in social situations.  Now, I go out for beers with the boys and can’t drink beer.  wtf.  Work events serve only beer and wine.  I skip them to avoid the taunts that I imagine coming from my not so cultured friends as I sip on a glass of Pinot Grigio.  I go to a burger place with a chick.  She gets a beer and I get a super fruity (but admittedly refreshing) Swedish pear cider. WTF!

Sure, I feel great now that I’m gluten free.  More importantly, I’ve actually discovered many alcoholic beverages that I like even better than beer (haha, just kidding about order of importance).  But how I miss being able to walk into a bar, quickly scan what’s on tap, and order a tasty draft.

Bye Bye Barley.

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