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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Dog e Style 10-25-2014 4-58-48 PMThe newest hot dog joint in Buffalo, Dog e Style, was surprisingly completely empty on Saturday night when we arrived. We were excited by the promise of a variety of different dogs and

Greek dog

Greek dog

preparation. They don’t have a web site, so I can’t give you a link, but you can see the menu on Buffalo Eats. When you walk in, it’s through the bar. There is a weird narrow room with counter seating then you get to the menu and the ordering station which is right by the grill. The big printed menu is on the wall, but then there is a big decorated chalkboard above the grill that seems to be the same thing, but you can’t really see it, so it’s hard to know. We were very, very disappointed that the seafood dog was not available. It was the only thing I wanted to try.  The menu is short, but perhaps a bit too short. They don’t list the condiments you can choose from so we had to ask. The menu says there is a daily special but there wasn’t one the day we were there.

Fries

Fries

The husband got the Greek dog, which is made of lamb and comes with a mix of feta, olive, tomato and pepperoncini as a topping. This was all mixed together, so if you don’t like the hot pepper (we don’t), you’re out of luck. I ordered the cheeseburger (I know! But I was grieving the seafood dog and just couldn’t face the other options). We also got some fries which are billed as twice fried. Our son got a regular dog (they serve Wardynski’s here). We ordered ours without buns since there they don’t have gluten free buns. The lamb dog was interesting, but not something I would want again. If I want those flavors, I think I would just go to a Greek joint. My cheeseburger was thick and juicy. The chef forgot the cheese so we had to send it back for that (considering we were the ONLY customers it shouldn’t have been that

Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger

hard, also they only have a cheeseburger on the menu, not a hamburger). Their relish is called neon relish and it truly is neon. I don’t want to know what they added to make it that color, but I definitely don’t want to put something that color in my stomach again. The fries were a complete bust. Total disappointment. If you’re billing them as twice fried, they better be crispy. These were limp and not crunchy at all. They don’t deep fry anything else here, so there’s no gluten in the fryer.

Dog e Style 10-25-2014 5-05-18 PMThere is a large upstairs dining room which I think must get very loud, since the walls are made of corrugated metal. They didn’t have any silverware out upstairs, so we brought it up from downstairs. It’s flimsy plastic.

My prediction: this place isn’t going to make it when you can go to Ted’s or Louie’s.

Pizza and wings

Pizza and wings

I’ve finally found it! A really, really good take out gluten-free pizza! The bad news? If you live in Buffalo, it’s not a short drive. The Livingston Pizza Company is located in Avon, NY, home to the famous corn festival. We spend a lot of time at Conesus Lake which is how we happened upon this gem. It’s hidden down a side street in Avon and we only know about it because we saw an ad in the local Pennysaver. If you’re heading out to the Finger Lakes, definitely take a detour through Avon.

This is a pizzeria and bakery. The pizza was as good as what I’ve made at home. At last, a take out GF

Brownies

Brownies

pizza that tastes like real pizza! We got ours with spinach, mushrooms, and broccoli. They have a full extensive menu of GF pizza choices to choose from. The pizza had none of that gumminess or cardboard texture you get at most places. The deal was sealed when we saw it was hand shaped – no prefab dough on an aluminum sheet here. Their sauce was tasty – not too sweet, not too tangy. Everything about this pizza was spot-on.

The menu also has GF pasta dishes, sandwiches, paninis, wings, and salads. The wings we had were

Chocolate pie

Chocolate pie

excellent.

We bought a chocolate cream pie which was to die for. Thick, rich, not cloyingly sweet – it was heaven. The crust was thin and flaky. Nothing gummy about this.

We sampled a variety of cookies, which are not cheap at $10 for half a dozen, but there were many choices: chocolate chip, M&M, peanut butter, molasses, butter crunch, kitchen sink, and ranger cookies. The cookies were  soft  with a tendency to fall apart, but the flavor was good. The peanut butter and M&M were our faves.

Their brownies are very light. I like my brownies thick and dense. These were airy and more like

Cookies

Cookies

cake, but they were good.

We bought a raspberry coffee cake for breakfast. This was excellent. The cake was moist and dense and did not taste like it was GF in any way. It had a raspberry crumb topping that gave it just enough sweetness and a little bit of zing. I’m going to have to stock up on these coffee cakes.

They have a lot of other baked goods you can order in advance. I’m going to order cinnamon rolls for sure!

Coffee cake

Coffee cake

 

Enchilada or burrito?

Enchilada or burrito?

You know you’ve got a fighting chance for a safe GF meal at a Mexican restaurant since corn tortillas are (usually – you should always ask!) gluten-free. La Tolteca on Transit Road in Williamsville was a regular joint for us before we became GF. We headed there recently again.

First, let me shout and stomp about one of my pet peeves. If you have a gluten-free menu, please put it on your web site! La Tolteca does not and you wouldn’t know you could eat there unless you made the effort to call ahead.

And then there is my second pet peeve. If you have a gluten-free menu or special gluten-free options, please mention it on your menu! Even a little box that says “ask about our gluten-free menu” would be enough.

La Tolteca has gluten-free options, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their menu. We asked

Fajitas

Fajitas

and while they do have gluten-free options, there is nothing in writing to guide you. Instead, our waitress pointed at various areas of the menu. It was very, very confusing. In fact, it was so confusing, I can’t even remember what was and wasn’t GF. There was something craziness about how you can order an enchilada but only with burrito sauce, or the other way around. And corn tortillas cannot be substituted for all flour tortillas on the menu. I asked why and was told “because they are smaller.” This made no sense to me at all. I really wanted a quesadilla, which would be completely GF since it has cheese and veggies and meat in it, no sauces, but was told that couldn’t be done. Instead, we were told to look for menu items that said they could be made with flour or corn tortillas, then ask if the ingredients are GF.

I ended up with the fajitas. My husband had either an enchilada with burrito sauce or a burrito with enchilada sauce (neither of us can remember which).

The refried beans are GF. The chips are GF. The Spanish rice is GF. There are a fair number of options here, but the problem is trying to determine what exactly they are. They really need to print up a sheet listing what is available for clarity. We had to ask our waitress to come over several times to answer questions. All of this could have been avoided with a printed GF menu.

We find the food here to always be acceptable. It’s not fantastic, but it is reliable. I’m still mourning my quesadilla, but we will probably be back again in the future if the craving for Mexican hits us.