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.

We’ve been to Bacchus before, pre-GF, so I expected a good meal. It was not very busy on a Saturday night, but it was rather loud. They don’t have a separate gluten-free menu, but our waiter was knowledgeable and said we could order most things and they could adapt them.  I’m always happy when a server is knowledgeable but it’s never true that you can order anything because some things like pasta or gnocchi are based on flour.

Potato skins

I started with potato skins which were filled with a Gorgonzola cream and topped with prosciutto. When the dish came the server told me they had to cut off the top of them since they were breaded. This works for me since I am gluten intolerant but if I had celiac it would have been a problem – and he had no way of knowing why I asked for it gluten free. It was good, but it wasn’t potato skins. There was nothing crispy happening on the plate. It was a nice twist on traditional potato skins though. My husband

mussels

got mussels which were good.

For the main course I ordered salmon which is supposed to come with a pecan crust, spinach and a sweet potato hash. The server told me the pecan crust had breadcrumbs so they would

salmon

prepare it without. It had a beurre blanc sauce that I was ready to argue about – often restaurants prepare sauces that should not have gluten with flour as a stabilizer. I was happily surprised that this beurre blance was made traditionally and had no gluten. My husband ordered the ribeye which was supposed to come with a Gorgonzola crust. The server said they would have to make it without since it had breadcrumbs. I suggested they just use some plain Gorgonzola instead, which they did (because otherwise it’s just a plain piece of meat). As always I’m frustrated when the response to a gluten-free diner is to just take things away without making reasonable replacements.

As usual, the only gluten-free dessert option was creme brulee so we passed.

The food was all good and I would again in the future.

It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the Fuji Grill on Maple in Amherst, but I’m happy to report they as gluten-free friendly as I remember. Although the menu is not marked (which is a pet peeve of mine  – and it is currently not up online – another pet peeve), they are willing to accommodate gluten-free diners. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and basically told us we could order any sushi we wanted except for tempura. They would make changes if needed to anything. He brought us a bottle of gluten-free soy sauce to use as well.
We started with the chicken yakatori. The menu said it was chicken with vegetables but it just chicken skewers on lettuce. It had a nice flavor though and we enjoyed it. We also ordered miso soup and vegetable fried rice. The fried rice is fantastic here, fluffy and flavorful, with lots of vegetables. It’s not greasy and it’s not just tiny flakes of veggies just to live up to the name.
I ordered a lobster roll which was very large in diameter and satisfying. We also got a shrimp roll, which was smaller but a nice side.
The husband ordered  a large plate of sashimi and sushi which was beautifully presented.
For dessert we enjoyed green tea, mango, vanilla, and red bean mochi which is out of this world and not to be missed. I would definitely return here again. Service is a bit slow, but the food is excellent and we felt comfortable that everything got would be gluten-free.

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.

Toutant 1-23-2016 5-18-28 PMOn a cold winter weekend we decided to try Toutant, known for its Southern style food. We tried to get a reservation but they had none available. The hostess suggested coming when they open to sit at one of the bar tables. We arrived a little before 5 (which they list as their opening time) to find about 8 people ahead of us in line. We did snag the last bar table but they made us wait 10 minutes after everyone else was seated before seating us.

sweet tea

sweet tea

The bar was not too noisy although it was cold to be seated so close to the front door. Our server was very conscientious and checked in with us constantly although it was nearly impossible to hear her since she was a low talker.

Country ham

Country ham

We were thrilled to see the menu clearly marked with gluten free items. However (and here come two of my pet peeves), the online menu does not indicate this at all (I only knew they had GF

cornbread

cornbread

items since someone I know ate here and told me – otherwise I would never have bothered to come) and our server brought us a specials menu which was not marked with GF items. How do you carefully mark your menu but not your specials? When we asked what on it was GF, she said she knew one thing was but would have to check. She did come back with another copy of the special menu marked up to indicate what was GF.

We each ordered a house made sweet tea since if you’re going to have Southern food, you just have this (and our server

shrimp and grits

shrimp and grits

kept bringing them so apparently they are bottomless). We started with the country ham and the cornbread. The ham came on a dinner plate (so not really a “small plate” as it was categorized) and was thinly sliced. It was very soft and had the texture of roast beef. It was lightly smoked and served with thin slices of pickle and some thick mustard. It was really a delicious plate and we had to bring leftovers home since there was too much to eat. The cornbread came in a small cast iron skillet and had crunchy edges and soft interior. Although the menu said it had honey in it, it was none too sweet. We ended up eating the ham, pickles, and mustard with the cornbread and that was a fabulous combo.

oysters

oysters

For the entree we shared the shrimp and grits. This was a nice warm bowl on a cold night. The grits were creamy, the shrimp were perfectly cooked and the tomato tasso offered a gentle sauce to the entire dish. The husband enjoyed some Vineyard oysters on the half shell which came with lemon and pickled ginger. They were fresh and beautiful. We also ordered the buttermilk taters as a side which are mashed potatoes and were creamy and rich. When they arrived at our table they were stone cold in a hot

bacon

bacon

bowl however. Back they went and some hot ones took their place. We also ordered a side of bacon which we didn’t enjoy much. It was a very meaty bacon, almost like ham with no crunch. That we brought home for our teenage son to finish off.

buttermilk taters

buttermilk taters

We inquired about desserts and were told they had two gluten free options. One was peanut butter fudge and the other was a chocolate dessert in which they could take out the chocolate cake, leaving us with ganache, sorbet, cranberries and chocolate (and you can bet they would have charged us the full price for this even though it didn’t come with the cake). Needless to say, we passed. Yet again I lamented the lack of real desserts that are gluten free. How hard would it be to buy GF cupcakes from one of the many local bakeries and freeze them then substitute that in the chocolate dessert?

I would definitely go back, but probably not for a year or so unless the menu changes. Everything was nicely done but there are just limited options when it comes to gluten free dining here. If only they would make the fried chicken GF….

UPDATE
After I tweeted my review, Toutant tweeted me to say the fried chicken can be made GF with prior notice. How on earth would I ever know this if the menu, the web site, and my server do not mention it? ESP? That is incredibly frustrating to me as gluten-free diner and very disappointing since I would have ordered this for sure.

UPDATE #2

Toutant also pointed out to me they do list GF items online. But you have to click tabs at the bottom of the page to see that and they are PDFs – not something I saw on my mobile. The main menu listed on their main page lists the dinner menu but doesn’t list GF items. I still maintain they’re making it too hard to figure out what they have to offer.

 

 

 

 

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.

Bill Grays 4-25-2015 5-56-10 PMWe hadn’t been to Bill Gray’s in many years but a recent night called for a burger and fries. They have a gluten-free menu Bill Grays 4-25-2015 5-32-13 PMat the register or online. No gluten-free buns, but the fries (not the curly-ques) are GF. We each got a world’s best cheeseburger with no buns. I have to say these cheeseburgers were pretty good. They are huge. We also got fries, which needed to be cooked just a little longer to be super crisp, but were still good. I was very disappointed to learn all of their chocolate frozen custard has gluten (why? why would you add this?) so we skipped the ice cream since I am not a vanilla girl (all of Perry’s frozen custard is GF so go get that somewhere else if you need ice cream). Overall it was decent if you’re looking for burgers and fries. I like their fries better than Five Guys and it’s a nicer atmosphere than Ted’s.

Sun springWe’ve been hearing the buzz about Sun Restaurant for quite a while. However, we weren’t sure that there would be many choices since so many sauces at Asian restaurants contain soy Sun noodlesauce, and thus, gluten. We were encouraged however when we found that their online takeout menu lists gluten free choices. We decided to get take out and take it to our daughter’s apartment, leaving leftovers for her. When we called to order we had a lot of trouble Sun rollcommunicating with the non-native English speaker who took the order. There were definitely things we said that she did not understand and things she said that we could not understand. We tried to make it very clear that we needed gluten-free food, but were unsure how clearly that message was received (we both suspect wesun rice may have had some gluten based on how we felt the next day). I think this would be much easier if you dined in the restaurant and could work with a server in person who understood the concerns.

We ordered (or at least we think we ordered):

sun rice pudMilk tea: this was pleasant but not remarkable we found

Black rice salad: I loved this combo of mango, avocado, red pepper, lettuce, cashew, peanuts and dressing on sticky black rice. Definitely my favorite dish.

spring roll: We asked for chicken and this was done nicely – crunchy and good.

Tiger Sun roll: avocado, cucumber, crab, shrimp made up this sushi roll

Grilled salmon roll: This was also tasty, salmon with avocado, seaweed, and cilantro

Mango roll: this contained sweet potato and avocado

Rice noodles with chicken curry sauce: the curry sauce was mild (we don’t do well with spicy foods) and it was a nice mix of noodle, veggies, and herbs

Burmese fried rice: We asked for chicken and this was a very good fried rice version

Thai basil fried rice: another excellent fried rice bowl with chicken, veggies, and basil

Black rice pudding and Mango sticky rice pudding: Our two desserts were very similar, one with mango and one with sweet potato and coconut milk. Both were good, but by that point we were on rice overload.

I would consider a repeat, but only if we dined in since it was simply too hard to communicate by phone. I definitely want to have the black rice salad again.