A few months ago, celiac disease shoved my family out of the GLUTEN FREE = GOSH, THAT SEEMS LIKE A TOTAL DRAG group, and into the GLUTEN FREE = US group. In general, it has been much less harrowing to eat food prepared at home. However, I’ve gathered the courage to take my child out for food prepared in foreign kitchens a handful of times (am I your hero?), and have been happily surprised by the thoughtful accommodations that can be found all over our region.
Rhode Island-specific favorites:
Sage Cafe, East Providence, RI. The owner and pretty-much-always-there chef/barista Jill not only includes gluten free muffins and whoopie pies from Evaruth’s (the dedicated GF bakery in Middletown) in her pastry case, but also offers (inherently GF) smoothies, and GF egg sandwiches and crÃªpes. For customers with celiac disease or gluten allergy, Jill cleans theÂ crÃªpe thingies extra-well before cooking. (Just ask!)
Blue Kangaroo, Barrington, RI. This fun little cafe has cozy chairs and lots of GF offerings. Blue Kangaroo offers a giant menu of sandwiches, and every kind is available on a GF wrap or grinder roll. Sandwich makers don fresh gloves and lay out sandwich-wrapping paper without any hovering/reminding from the allergic person’s overbearing mother. The celiac diet requires me to ask questions like, “Do you know if the oats used in your gluten free granola bars are certified gluten free?” At Blue Kangaroo, the answer to that question is yes and those GF granola bars are divine.
Beehive Cafe, Bristol, RI. Many, many items on Beehive’s menu are, or can be made, gluten free; they make GF bread in house. A smoothie and a grass-fed local-beef burger on this bread is a delicious, safe happy meal. We love Beehive for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. Long before celiac disease, this was our favorite place to eat and I’m grateful we can continue to go.
Wildflour Vegan Bakery & Cafe, Pawtucket. Wildflour has heaps of GF treats. All are vegan, and many are raw as well. The coffee is so good too. Ditto the smoothies. And the salads. And the almond yogurt parfait. Has anyone ever been disappointed at Wildflour? Currently, our very favorite might be a small but potent sandwich cookie named Raw-reo. Paradise. I think you should take your gluten free person out for a cookie, get yourself a cup of coffee, then get back in line and get yourself a cookie too.
Close-to-Rhode Island favorites:
Alice’s Diner, Fall River, MA on the Tiverton line. Eponymous Alice is the chef, and has celiac disease, so she knows how to keep her GF cooking areas scrupulously free of G. Alice’s menu includes gluten-full and GF versions of traditional diner fare: grinders, French toast, egg-bacon-cheese on English muffin, omelet and toast, and more. It’s greasy in the yummy way and Alice is welcoming and friendly. If there’s time for conversation, she’ll share GF shopping tips.
Bliss Dairy, Attleboro, MA. The decor is Newport Creamery-meets-Shake Shack and there are lots of family-friendly booths in the large dining room. A giant binder outlining each ice cream flavor’s relationship to the 8 common allergens is available, so you can order wisely. If you want more than sundaes, gluten free buns are available on Bliss’s zillion-variety burger menu.
Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave, Guilford, CT. Isn’t Connecticut HUGE? Driving from Rhode Island to New York always requires a pit stop. For us, Shoreline Diner at Route 95’s Exit 59 is exactly halfway between home and Grandma’s house. Shoreline Diner has a complete GF menu (it’s traditional diner cuisine: all-day breakfast and old school lunch/dinner), and the french fries are cooked in a dedicated GF fryer. A prominently-placed certificate emblazoned with the seal of a celiac poobah testifies to the staff’s knowledge of safe gluten practices.
Favorites in Rhode Island and beyond*:
Chipotle, Cranston. When you mention a food allergy or celiac disease in the Garden City Chipotle, a team member calls out “Yo, we got a food allergy!” Then everyone working the burrito assembly line dons fresh gloves and seamlessly returns to the task at hand. No confusion, no follow-up questions: they know how to take care of things. This is especially nice for the recently-diagnosed tween, who might feel self conscious as his mother describes (to a professional taco maker) how to make a taco.Â I’ve heard on the celiac grapevine that Chipotle’s loving care for the allergen-sensitive customer is a nationwide thing. Everything at Chipotle is gluten free, except for the flour tortillas. Easy!
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Seekonk and Swansea, MA. Everything at Five Guys is gluten free, except for the buns. That’s a minor hurdle. We bring along an Udi’s burger bun (these are conveniently available in the freezer aisles of the Seekonk & Swansea Target stores, each within minutes of a Five Guys); the cook warms up the bun on a protective sheet of foil, far away from the regular-people buns. They also offer large lettuce leaves for GF diners who prefer to use lettuce as a bun. BONUS: Five Guys fries are truly GF, because—thanks to this chain’s extremely limited menu—nothing but potatoes touches the fryer oil.
PF Chang’s, Providence. Yes, it’s a restaurant in a mall. But whatever it lacks in street cred is completely compensated for by its strict GF food-safety policies. These reassuring policies include a complete GF menu and dedicated GF dishware so you can be sure your waiter is delivering the specially-prepared food to the right person.
*These chains are all over the place. Town names listed are the locations we can personally recommend.
Please add your tips and favorites to this list in the comments, below.
Bonus Content for the Newly Diagnosed!
Get a prize for having a disease:
For people recently diagnosed with celiac, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center offers a huge gift basket filled with coupons, information, and a gazillion samples of brownie mix and crackers. The gift basket is so large, it arrives in one of those boxes kids convert into a clubhouse. It is especially delightful to get a huge, fun thing (two huge, fun things if you count the clubhouse!) for free when you get somber medical news.
10 favorite GF cookbooks (of Katy Killilea):
Gluten is My Bitch, April Peveteaux. A hilarious introduction to living GF. Peveteaux makes you almost glad to be in the club.
App for that:
Find Me Gluten Free is Yelp for the GF set. So helpful when you’re on the road, Find Me GF includes reviews, recommendations, and warnings from experienced GF diners.