Who are you and where are you?
I’m Carrie Keplinger, also known as The Gluten Free Hack, and I’m from southeastern Pennsylvania. I’m an editor and graphic designer as well as a not-so-secret foodie.
Tell me about your relationship with gluten..
I’ve been sick my entire life but didn’t make the connection with gluten until almost three years ago. I had a very hard time getting my doctors at the time to take me seriously (big surprise there, right?), so I went off of gluten for a few weeks to see if it made a difference. I didn’t actually notice anything until I went BACK to eating gluten and felt horrible. Lots of strange symptoms I’d just learned to deal with had gone away during those weeks, and when I ate gluten again they all came back at once. I went completely gluten free after that and I’ve never felt so good! I still have residual issues, like IBS, from almost 30 years of gluten consumption, but I’m far better now.
Why should gluten free travellers visit your town?
The town I actually live in is horrible for gluten free food, but nearby is the Penn Avenue neighborhood of West Reading, a super chic indie shopping district where I like to hang out. There are lots of really interesting shops with everything from clothing to hand crafted items to antiques, and the cafes and restaurants have all sorts of delicious things to eat. They’re all independently owned, too – no chains. We love to go there on dates because it’s the perfect place to spend a day shopping and eating.
Tell me something fun about your town..
We have a pagoda. Yes, you read that correctly. It was built on the mountain overlooking the city in 1908 as part of a luxury hotel and restaurant, but was abandoned and given to the city in 1911. It’s now part of a municipal park, and you can climb to the top and check out the Buddhist temple bell from Japan. The pagoda has become an integral part of the city’s identity, and you can see it on flags and logos throughout the area. West Reading is also the home of Cupcake Wars winner Ady Cakes! Sadly, they don’t make gluten free cupcakes, but they are local-famous.
Where is your favourite place to eat out in your town and why?
Oh, this is hard because there are so many places where I can find delicious things to eat.
- First of all, there’s Good Eatz, which has a dedicated gluten free kitchen and extensive gluten free menu with pasta, pizza, breads, desserts, and delicious entrees. They also serve vegetarian and vegan cuisine as well as food for people who eat a “normal” American diet. Their Grilled Chicken Oscar and French Combo and two of my favorites, and my husband loves the Kobe beef sliders.
- Just down from there is Haute Chocolate, which is owned by a pastry chef who loves everything chocolatey. Most of the drinking chocolates and shakes are gluten free, and the Guiltless Chocolate Brownie and Pots de Creme (my clear choice) are also delicious options. Sometimes there are even cupcakes, though the very sensitive should be aware of possible cross-contamination.
- One block over, we have Say, Cheese! This establishment is run by people who are exuberantly dedicated to good cheese, good food, and good service. Most of the cheese is naturally going to be gluten free, so I usually get one of the cheese platters and ask for gluten free crackers or bread. This is a small meal in and of itself as the platter comes with four or five different cheeses, fruit, honey, preserves, mustard, and bread. The wait staff still needs some education about cross contamination, but they are super accommodating and are planning to get some more gluten free menu options soon.
- Two other places of note are Winedown Cafe, which has a delicious assortment of wines, and Kupkake Kouture, which carries macarons in all conceivable flavors from a dedicated gluten free bakery.
Do you live in West Reading or have you travelled there? Where is your favourite place to eat gluten free?