I waited with bated breath for Corelife to open. I am a big fan of Panera’s salads (which I carefully research for gluten online before ordering!) and was looking forward to this new option because all of the menu items are gluten free (note that they offer you a piece of bread at the end but it is kept in a separate closed box). They offer salads, grain bowls, or broth bowls or you can make your own from their ingredients. For our first foray we decided to go with two salads from the menu – the chicken Caesar and the Cobb. While I love the concept, I wasn’t in love with the food. The salads were heavy on greens and light on anything else. This could be remedied by making your own (or adding to the existing salad), but I think it would be pricier since I would

Cobb

want more veggies in my salad. It was a lot of lettuce and not much else. My biggest beef was with the salad dressing. For each of our salads, they scooped a huge ladle full of dressing onto them. It was far too much. In the future, I will ask for dressing on the side. Both of our salads had heavy, white gloppy dressing coating the lettuce. In smaller amounts, it would have been fine.

We also sampled drinks: a tropical green tea (completely unsweetened) and a tropical fruit punch with coconut water. The punch was very good. The tea was refreshing, but I like a bit of sweetness so I wouldn’t get that again.

We’re planning to go back. The broth bowls I spied other people eating looked really good, so maybe we will try some of those.

Tortilla

A recent meal at Aro Bar de Tapas in Williamsville is ranking as one of my best GF dining experiences in Buffalo. Not only is the menu clearly marked, but the servers are knowledgeable about how each item is made. Our server took the time to discuss with me why gazpacho (traditionally GF) was not listed as GF on their menu and also to discuss their shared fryer. He made it clear they would be as accommodating as possible. This is a restaurant where

Grilled romaine

celiacs can feel safe and people with gluten intolerance like myself can enjoy some options.

Tip: order lots of dishes (the plates are quite small), but don’t order them all at once so that you can have some pacing to your meal.

Watermelon

The Tortilla Espanola was fantastic with layers of egg and potato and onion and Spanish ham on top. Sandia Playa (Watermelon Beach) was a lovely concoction of fresh watermelon, salmon roe and radish. If you like watermelon with feta, you’ll love this. The best dish of the night was the Pollo Con Frutos (chicken with fruits). Half a chicken comes in pieces with loads of dried fruits. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the fruits were an amazing accompaniment. We also enjoyed shrimp in garlic, beets prepared seven ways, and grilled romaine. We also ordered the potatoes – they are cooked in a shared fryer so are not marked as gluten free, but shared fryers do not bother me. They were crunchy and perfect.

The desserts were my favorite. The strawberry frozen yogurt with lacto-fermented green strawberries and white chocolate is the most amazing mix of textures and flavors. It’s small though, so get one for each person! The flan is also truly lovely – not a traditional jiggly flan, but a custard with passion fruit served over dry ice.

Chicken

Flan

It has been quite a while since I’ve had such a creative, thoughtful, delicious meal locally at a restaurant that understands and works with dietary restrictions (the menu also marks vegetarian choices).

I would highly recommend this if you simply cannot face another meal where you can have X but without the sauce, or we can make you Y without the bun. I didn’t miss gluten in this meal and left completely satisfied.

ranchos1Trying something new is always a good thing and recently we went to Ranchos Latin Foods.  They don’t have a web site but you can visit their Facebook page for hours, address, and some pics of dishes. I found however that some of the items mentioned on their Facebook page were not seemingly available the Saturday we went (kabobs or vegetarian arepas). It took me a while to get to the bottom of what we could eat and what we couldn’t. Several months ago I posted on their Facebook page asking what was gluten free. They asked me to message them my email address. I did and never heard from them. Then recently I messaged them just asking if the arepas were gluten free. No response. Finally we called and the phone was passed around and then someone shouted out to the kitchen and reported that the arepas had no wheat flour, just cornmeal.

The restaurant is sparse but clean. The menu is pasted on the counter and on the wall with photos. There is also a white board where they seem to write specials but it was hard to decipher and understand. You order at the counter and your food is brought to you. It’s all made to order, so it took a few minutes to come out.

We each ordered an arepa – I got chicken and the husband got beef. We got them with cheese and a side of yellow rice. The arepas are like round, fried cornbread, sliced in half like a bun and stuffed ranchos2with meat that is very lightly sauced. I did find half of an olive in mine, but other than that, there are no vegetables or added ingredients. We did each get a little plastic cup of garlic herb butter which I slathered inside my arepa. The arepa itself is crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. It has a slightly different texture than cornbread and has no sweetness. The chicken in mine was moist and good. The beef in my husband’s was better I thought, although it was a little greasy. The cheese we ordered was melted across the top. I’m not sure it added anything. The garlic butter added some flavor to the whole sandwich since we could not detect a taste from the very light use of a sauce. The yellow rice was fine but not exciting.

ranchos3The husband also got a can of Tropi-Cola which tasted like cola with a fruit flavor at the end. The more I tasted it though the more the fruit flavor tasted like bubblegum to me. There is also a pineapple soda available we did not try.

We enjoyed our arepas very much. They were super hot and steaming and tasted fresh with a wonderful combo of crunch and softness. They are very filling and neither of us was able to eat all of it. I wish there were some vegetable options to go along with it but there were none the day we visited. It’s a very heavy meal to eat without any fruit or vegetable.

This is definitely a place to visit when you want to try something new and are willing to get your hands a little dirty eating.

Chefs 2016-02-26 (2)Chef’s is the quintessential Italian restaurant in Buffalo. If you live here, you’ve been. The walls are lined with photos of celebrities who have dined there. Chef’s has expanded and remodeled in recent years and also recently printed a new gorgeous menu with photos and stories. The other big news is Chef’s now offers gluten-free pasta and meatballs. We visited back in December and then again recently and have been very, very pleased both times. In my opinion, the reason to go is their famous spaghetti parm, which, according to the menu, was invented at Chef’s. The gluten-free version is exactly the same as the regular version. It’s the same size and the pasta is cooked perfectly. The meatballs are handmade in house and they are delicious. And of course the sauce is as amazing as it has ever been. On our most recent visit we were pleased to find out they offer gluten-free rolls instead of bread upon request.

The gluten-free menu is even listed online – scroll to the bottom of the regular menu page. There are no interesting GF desserts, but after eating spaghetti parm, who has room? What a thrill to be able to have a local specialty like this again.

Windsor Park 1We were skeptical about Windsor Park since the menu is heavy with gluten. There’s almost nothing on it that isn’t a gluten festival. But they did say they have GF rolls, so we gave it a try. We visited the Transit Road Williamsville location on a Friday night. The interior is dark and pubby but the booths were comfortable and quiet. The server looked at us like we were a bit crazy to be eating there when we asked about gluten free options. There is no separate menu and all she could offer was that they sometimes have GF chicken fingers (but not that night) and they have GF rolls. When I asked about the salad dressings, she was vague but knew the Italian and raspberry were GF.

Our server brought us a basket of popcorn and large waters so we were off to a good start. Our food took quite a while to arrive. I got the Cobb salad with the raspberry dressing. It was a nice salad with hardboiled egg, chicken, bleu cheese, pinkish tomato, avocado, and bacon (I asked to have the onion omitted). The only downside (and a big one) was that my salad had been place in a HOT bowl. Hot lettuce is not a good thing. I asked for a bowl of ice to sit it in and soon it became chilled again, but this was a glaring oversight.Windsor Park 2

The husband ordered beef on weck on a GF roll with the chips (steak fries). We were very surprised when it arrived crusted with salt and caraway seeds. We questioned our server to make sure it was indeed a gluten free roll and she confirmed it was and that the chef had dipped the top to recreate weck. This was an amazing, thoughtful touch. Unfortunately the beef was gristly. The chips were excellent though – crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and steaming hot.

We probably would not return since the options are limited (and the Bavarian pretzels on the menu made me have severe unrelenting gluten envy), but for a salad and sandwich it worked out ok.

SeaBarWe ended up at Seabar on a Friday night without reservations and snagged a table. They do not have a separate GF menu, but our server was very knowledgeable about what gluten-

Scallops

Scallops

free options we could have. The good news is all the sushi is or can be made GF.  Our server brought us the curried popcorn, but we had to ask for it (normally it is just brought to the table). We enjoyed a crab and mango roll. They have GF soy sauce, but you have to ask for it.  We also had edamame as a starter. For our entrees, I had the scallops with risotto. The dish is supposed to come with chorizo but since they don’t make it themselves, they remove it for GF diners since they are unsure (which I really appreciated). My scallops were huge and the risotto was creamy and flavorful with sweet peppers and a corn puree. It was rich

Short ribs

Short ribs

and comforting. The husband ordered the short ribs, with onions, potatoes and gremolata, which I found a little chewy but he enjoyed. These are not your traditional falling off the bone short ribs. The meat is presented without bone and is sliced like steak and served medium rare. The gluten eaters at our table enjoyed an udon noodle bowl and chirashi-zushi. The only gluten-free dessert is a granita, so we passed. It’s nice to eat someplace where the highlight of the menu (sushi) is safe. We will definitely be back.