Big thanks go out to my good friend and fellow gluten free traveller, Meagan Manning, for writing this post. For anyone contemplating a gluten free trip to the Twin Cities, do not fear. Meagan has provided us with lots of useful tips on where to find safe and delicious gluten free delights! I can’t wait to return to one of my favourite cities in the mid-west to try some of these celiac friendly locations…
Minneapolis may be best known for its cold winters and domed sports arena, but the immense plethora of tasty, locally owned restaurant offerings are not to be ignored. When I discovered my gluten intolerance just over a year ago, I was convinced many of my favorite spots would be off limits—after having worked in the restaurant industry for six years, I am acutely aware of cross-contamination dangers present in industrial kitchens and the potential distractedness of a busy server. Luckily, I was sorely mistaken. A large percentage of the places in my neighborhood already catered to those of us who cannot consume even the smallest amount of gluten. I am continually impressed at the number of restaurants in the Twin Cities with gluten free menus and staff members familiar with the severity of a reaction to gluten. I’ve come up with a list of a few of my favorite places and some tips for those passing through the Twin Cities. While the best months to visit are definitely during summer and early fall, Minneapolis is a great place to be gluten free any time of the year!
Pizza Luce, available in a number of locations across the Twin Cities and in our neighbor three hours to the north, Duluth, serves a gluten free menu at all locations and has managers who are certified by the Celiac Awareness Group. They are best known for their pizza, almost any of which can be made GF, but my favorite choices are the stuffed pasta shells and the bruschetta served with GF buttered rolls. I haven’t sampled their weekend brunch yet, but the menu boasts extensive gluten free options, even GF eggs benedict! I’ve also been known to call in a late night delivery order since they will bring gluten free delights to your door almost anywhere in the city any time before 2:30am. Pizza Luce takes great care in avoiding cross-contamination in their kitchens and makes sure all gluten free orders get special attention. I highly recommend them to anyone in search of savory Italian treats.
Earlier this year, Brasa Latin American Rotisserie located in Northeast Minneapolis and on Grand Avenue in St. Paul went almost entirely gluten free. Conceived by James Beard Award winning chef Alex Roberts, Brasa specializes in Latin American home cooked meals great for a chilly fall day or winter evening. Only the bread used for sandwiches, corn bread side dish and macaroni and cheese (served at St. Paul location) contain gluten. All fried items are GF, so definitely give the fried yucca or plantains a try. I always get the pulled pork, deep fried yucca, and apple cider vinegar coleslaw. The staff is happy to answer any questions you many have about their menu and has been well trained in the nuances of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Because of the delicious menu, both locations are always very busy. If you happen to be in a hurry or have a large group, Brasa may not be the best choice. Luckily, everything on their menu is available for take-out!
My favorite spot in the Twin Cities for certified gluten free treats is Minneapolis’ French Meadow Bakery. French Meadow has been producing local, organic, specialty baked goods and meals since 1985. According to their website, “all of our gluten-free products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group.” You’ll find many gluten free menu options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at their flagship restaurant located in the Uptown neighborhood. You can also find their brownies, cookies, pizza crusts, rolls, and sandwich breads for sale at local grocery stores. If you’re just passing though, many of these treats can be found in the small coffee shop at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Also keep an eye out for French Meadow locations in JFK Airport, Logan International airport, and on the University of Massachusetts—Amherst campus.
If you have access to a car during your visit and are willing to venture 30 minutes or so to the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, there is a gluten free friendly sports bar in your future! Mad Jack’s Sports Café in Vadnais Heights is a fantastic place to come watch a sporting event and enjoy hard-to-find gluten free bar food. Jack’s maintains a dedicated GF fryer with options like french fries, sweet potato tater tots, calamari, and hash browns. During my visit the server immediately asked who the gluten free diner at the table was and made sure my order was kept separate from my friends’ dishes. When my Philly cheese steak on a GF roll with fries arrived, I almost burst into tears. The server smiled and said many a gluten intolerant customer had shed a tear or two at Mad Jack’s. Other menu items include gluten free pastas, wrap sandwiches, burgers (with GF buns), salads, and homemade pizza. The restaurant was recommended to me by the Northland Celiac organization. Only the Vadnais Heights location has gluten free options, so make sure you are not heading toward Brooklyn Park.
In a pinch, it is usually very easy to locate a Chipotle in the Twin Cities. They are EVERYWHERE. If you find yourself out in the suburbs, Chipotle may be one of the few options available. The restaurant serves Tex-Mex style cuisine: a variety of types of burritos, burrito bowls, taco salads, tacos, and tortilla chips. The menu is very similar to the Qdoba restaurant chain, which can also be found around the Twin Cities. All items besides the flour tortillas used for burritos and tacos are gluten free—the corn tortilla chips are the only thing they fry, so those are also just fine. Any burrito type can be made without the tortilla, just ask for a burrito bowl. Staff members have been instructed to change their gloves for you if you ask, so don’t hesitate. It’s a cheap, very fast option—I often turn to a burrito bowl for lunch during busy study days.
The Northland Celiac Support Group is the local chapter of the Celiac Sprue Association. Their website provides a nice list of other gluten free friendly restaurants in the Twin Cities area and their level of accommodation: http://northlandceliacs.fastmail.fm/dining.html
If you’re looking to cook while in the Twin Cities, these grocery stores are extra-friendly for those of us in need of gluten free options.
The Seward Co-op has many specialty items like GF pastas, pizza crusts, breads, and baking ingredients. A bright orange sticker found on store shelves just below products denotes gluten free items, so even if you are unfamiliar with the store or the brands you can still feel very comfortable shopping. The Seward also provides a guide to all GF products on their website if you want to check things out before you travel.
The Wedge Co-op located in Uptown also carries many GF specialty items. One of the best parts of the Wedge is their selection of gluten free deli items and baked goods. I love their mini-GF chocolate cakes! They do not label the shelves or have a list on their website.
Lund’s and Byerly’s is a local grocery store chain focusing on high-end and specialty foods. Minneapolis and St. Paul numerous locations, and the chain also has opened stores in several of the suburbs. Almost all locations have at least a small GF section, though their product selection is not as extensive as a co-op would be. Their staff is more in tune with the needs of a celiac than most other grocery stores in the Twin Cities, though you need to remain specific and diligent when questioning store-brand deli, meat, and pre-packaged items.