I love outstanding dining experiences. The top-notch service, the out-of-this-world flavor combinations and the wine and spirits to match. So, when finding out I had to go gluten free, I questioned whether the days of great food and wine prepared by the world’s most creative chefs were gone for me.
I’m happy to say, they aren’t. In my first year of going gluten-free, my work and personal travels have brought me to some of the nation’s best cities and, consequently, some of its greatest restaurants. Here are four outstanding gluten-free dining experiences I’ve had.
There is no manual on how to provide a great gluten-free dining experience. The four restaurants featured here worked with me in different ways to ensure I was given a delectable meal and special service. What they all have in common, though, is outstanding customer service. That is the key to a great gluten-free meal.
– Tru was the very first upscale restaurant I went to after being diagnosed. We did not call ahead to let them know I was gluten-free. They were informed upon arrival. When I told the waiter, he just smiled and said the chef was well-informed about celiac disease and gluten intolerance and that all would be taken care of. I had my concerns. But then the bread was brought out and my fears were allayed. The chef had specially-prepared popcorn for me to enjoy while Darren ate his fresh-made bread. The remainder of the meal followed in the same manner. Darren and I ordered the tasting menu and every course that had a gluten-containing ingredient in it was replaced with something just as special, if not more. The croutons on the soup were replaced with a crumble of nuts and cheese. The lace cookie wedged into dessert with a round of dark chocolate. I didn’t even realize the gluten was missing. Kudos to the chefs, Rick Tramonto and Anthony Martin. I have to shout out to the Wine Director as well, Chad Ellegood. He was also fantastic. Tru, 676 N. St. Clair St., Chicago IL, (312) 202-0001.
The Slanted Door – The staff at The Slanted Door did not know they would be serving a gluten-free customer when I walked in. I was part of a 20-person party being served a pre-set menu. Once our waiter was aware, he sent out the chef to talk to me. Had I known I’d be blogging about this experience, I would have asked the chef’s name as he certainly deserves the kudos. At the very least, I have to send my thanks to Charles Phan for educating his staff so well. The pre-set menu ordered was gluten heavy, so the chef came to my seat and inquired about my particular taste preferences and likes. For every course brought out, special gluten-free items were delivered just for me. The experience truly blew me away. The food and drink were phenomenal, but the service…something I will never forget. I tell every person I know visiting San Francisco that they must go to The Slanted Door. The Slanted Door, 1 Ferry Building #3, San Francisco, CA, 415.861.8032.
The French Laundry – On the restaurant’s website there is a quote from Thomas Keller, “Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do.” I knew I was in for a treat when going to this world-renown restaurant, but I was not expecting the level of respect for the gluten-free that awaited me. While, again, they did not know a gluten-free customer would be joining them, it did not matter. They were ready and waiting with specially-made gluten-free alternatives for me, from the amuse bouche to the dinner rolls (which I ate way too many of) to dessert. For those of you who have been or have heard, The French Laundry is not just a meal, it is a sensory experience from the moment you sit down until the last drop of coffee is poured. I did not miss out on a single thing. It was fabulous. The French Laundry, 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, 707-944-2380.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (Las Vegas) – Joe’s did I was coming ahead of time. I was part of a group of 15 and the leader of the party, who always looks out for my dietary needs, informed the host prior to us arriving. He did his homework and was ready and waiting. He knew exactly what I could not eat from the pre-set menu and offered gluten-free options in their place. It was a beautiful thing. No long series of questioning, drawing attention to myself amongst a large group. Just quick, efficient service with a smile. And the food was great. If you are a seafood lover, like me, this is a perfect place to enjoy the pearls of the sea. Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Forum Shops @ Caesar’s, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV, 702-792-9222.
As my travels this summer bring me to different places, I will continue to share my recommended gluten-free dining experiences.