Those who have become part of the ever-growing spectrum of humanity called the “gluten-intolerant” find themselves obsessing over things they’d never previously thought about.
In nature, gluten is found mostly in wheat and similar grains like barley. It’s what helps bread rise. It helps things stick together, too, though, and maintain shape, so it’s used as an additive in a ton of strange places.
Soy sauce, for example. Canned soups. Ovaltine. Pickles. Further down the unpronounceable-ingredient rabbit hole, additives like maltodextrin have gluten too.
Cutting these things out can be a chore, and for those with worse forms of intolerance like celiac disease, failing to cut them out endangers your health.
While going gluten-free is a diet du jour for some (featured recently on The Today Show as a celebrity fad), it’s serious business for many people. The following restaurants take it seriously as well.
IVANO'S RISTORANTE AND CAFFE (Sandpoint, Idaho)
For more than 30 years, owner Jim Lippi suffered from symptoms he never imagined to be a food allergy: chronic low-grade headaches, dizziness, hand tremors and severe muscle cramps.
One night, a friend sitting at his restaurant’s bar suggested he rid himself of wheat. Eight months after heeding the advice, his symptoms were almost nonexistent.
Lots of joints in our area are beginning to think about cutting the wheat. These places make it a priority.
9021 Nn Indian Trail Rd. | 464-0110
11703 E. Sprague | 891-8711
The pad Thai noodles and five sauces are gluten free
Isabella’s Restaurant & Gin Joint
21 W. Main Ave. | 624-0660
Gluten-free breads and pastas make everything on the menu in-bounds.
The Melting Pot
707 W. Main Ave. | 926-8000
This fondue factory has a special gluten-free menu.
4750 N. Division | 483-1500
Their sauces are almost entirely gluten-free. It’s unique, as soy sauce is glutinous and a staple of Asian food. See story.
Locations in Spokane, the Valley and Cd’A
The Aussie chain has a gluten-free menu.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
801 W. Main Ave. | 456-2166
Seventeen menu items and starters are wheat-less
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Two locations in Spokane and one in Spokane Valley
The Seattle chain has a special menu.
404 W. Main Ave. | 315-4613
Soulful Soups and Spirits
117 N. Howard St. | 459-1190
Three-quarters of the soups (and the non-beer spirits) are gluten-free.
Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar
808 W. Main Ave. | 232-3376
Special gluten-free menu
White Box Pies Bakery & Cafe
28 E. Sharp Ave. | 927-8850
916 W. Second Ave. | 456-7575
Special menu — see story
Winger’s Grill and Bar
Locations in Spokane Valley and Pullman
Special gluten-free menu
Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls
846 N. Fourth St., CdA | (208) 765-2850
1710 W. Riverstone Dr., CdA | (208) 765-1540
Special gluten-free menu
115 S. Second St., CdA | 208-765-4000
Garlic Jim’s Famous Gourmet Pizza
405 W. Neider Ave., CdA | (208) 930-4818
Everything except the wings and ice cream can be made without gluten.
1319 Hwy. 2 | (208) 265-7992
All pizzas and pastas can be made gluten-free.
823 Main St. | (208) 263-0509
207 Cedar St. | (208) 263-0846
102 S. First Ave. | (208) 263-0211
Second Avenue Pizza
215 S. Second Ave. | (208) 263-9321
Any pizza can be made with rice crust, which only comes in their small size.
— TIFFANY HARMS
About the same time, 18 months ago, he initiated a separate GF menu at his restaurant.
“Everything on our menu can be ordered gluten-free,” he said. “To me, it tastes just as good as our regular menu.”
The Amalfi ($20), one of the pollo entrees, is named after a region south of Naples noted for its herbs and lemon. It’s a large organic Jidori chicken breast, roasted with large cloves of fresh garlic baked in a light lemon, fresh thyme and white wine sauce. Add the GF dark and white chocolate mousse for dessert.
Of those sampled, the Mustard Seed wins the award for serving gluten-free the longest. Managing partner Sabrina Schafer says they’ve been doing it for seven years.
She began creating GF dishes after learning that one of her regular customers was diagnosed with celiac disease. Today, the restaurant offers four different wheat-free sauces. Though they don’t advertise it, just about anything is available GF for the asking.
“We have the best menu and knowledge of gluten-free,” Schafer says. “We can adjust our entire menu.” To put them to the test, I chose the popular GF Osaka Chicken, cooked in a ginger sauce served with fresh lemon slices and a tangy mustard sauce ($13). Along with the GF Chocolate Decadence dessert, it passed with flying colors.
Executive chef Charlie Connor knows the challenge of living without gluten, having been diagnosed with celiac disease at age 6. He applied his dining experience and food-crafting knowledge to initiate a well-received GF menu more than a year ago.
The Wild Sage’s secret to successfully modifying existing recipes for GF preparation is to begin from scratch with simple raw ingredients.
Owner/baker Gare Traeger collaborates with Charlie on the menu. Traeger has a gift for creating “sight” pieces such as breads, crackers or desserts.
His passion for creating outstanding food is illustrated by his dedicating more than eight months to perfect GF bread (special order, $8), which, in my opinion, is equivalent to its gluten counterpart when it comes to texture and taste.
The wild prawn pasta gratin ($20) features large fresh prawns painted in a creamy garlic sauce with a scoop of pesto sauce in the middle that infuses the entire dish with spicy radiance. Most important, the tender brown-rice pasta that tastes like wheat-based pasta.
Their four-layer chocolate torte will destroy your preconceptions about gluten-free food.
Interestingly, pizza places have taken up the gluten-free mantle as well as anyone (see sidebar). At Adelo’s new South Hill location (the other is on Indian Trail), owner Matt Howes assured me of the steps he takes in making a safe product.
All this extra care is driven by a desire to serve a tasty pizza that could be enjoyed by his wife, Kim, who is gluten-intolerant.
During extensive research, he found flour can remain in the air for 24 hours. To reduce the chance of airborne contamination, he puts the regular dough in a mixture of rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour at a staging area before it goes through the dough roller. He also shreds his own cheese, as pre-shredded bags can contain flour in the caking agent.
The popular GF choice is the chicken garlic pizza ($12), which is smothered in garlic sauce and loaded to the edge with chicken, green onions, mozzarella and small pieces of tomato. I agree with popular opinion here. The subtle crust allows flavorful toppings to shine through. You do need to take extra precautions before baking, as the raw crust is slightly crumbly on the edges — but once baked, it’s solid.
The pre-made GF crusts only come in 10.5-inch pies, enough to feed one or two people.
White Box is extremely friendly to the gluten abstainer.
I ordered a GF turkey Reuben with a small bowl of GF rosemary chicken soup ($8 for half a sandwich with soup or salad) and the man behind the counter smiled and said, “We understand.”
For the past four years, they have provided quality GF meals. Owner Shirley Glodt spends extra time in the kitchen baking both gluten and gluten-free versions of almost everything on the menu. Though it costs more, she refuses to pass the extra cost onto her customers.
Every sandwich, quiche, pie or baked good — brownies, cream puffs, cheesecakes and Bundt cakes — can be made gluten-free. There are five selections of GF salads, and the daily soup offerings are friendly to the gluten intolerant.
The Reuben was delicious. Instead of bread, they use a GF cream puff pastry shell, dense with a slight buttery taste. It was filled with slices of lean turkey, grilled onions, melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and dressing. For dessert, their rich double chocolate brownie wasn’t disappointing in the slightest.