Upper Midwest Restaurants: Kroll’s Kitchen, Fargo ND

I was a little bit skeptical of eating at Kroll’s. I’d called ahead and found there was not much to eat that was gluten free, and they also didn’t seem to know much about gluten in general. I’d eaten there in my gluten-filled glory days and loved it, but knew that I could no longer eat the knoephla soup or fried dough, so I had Culvers on my mind as a back-up.

as it turns out, I had a few options to choose from, even while my waitress was “not familiar” with what gluten was.. I was debating ordering the egg salad (without the sandwich (bread), but opted instead for a breakfast meal, as that is much easier to navigate without help. I ended up ordering a delicious hashbrown skillet with green peppers, onion, bacon crumbles, and cheese. they had 3 hashbrown skillets, and all three appeared to be pretty safe choices. to my surprise, it also came with two eggs, as well as a bread option. I assumed I would just forgo that part, when they suddenly mentioned that the had gluten free bread! (Udi’s). had I known that I would’ve reconsidered the egg salad sandwich or a BLT. but my skillet was really good, and completely filling. in fact, it lasted me breakfast for two additional mornings 🙂 I asked for my bread to be cooked on the grill instead of the toaster, in a place where bread/ gluten isn’t handled, of course. and it was delicious, my favorite part of the meal, I think! it makes me wonder why I don’t make toast at home more often.. but I don’t know the last time I opened one of those little jelly packets at a restaurant to spread on toast, it made me very nostalgic!

anyway, I actually loved my meal and would happily visit here again. there aren’t many choices, but I was very happy with the ones I could spot.

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Restaurant Report: Five Guys Burger & Fries

Five Guys is one of my favorite places to eat, gluten free. for years they were ahead of the game on quality GF burgers & fries.

the french fries are the only things they cook in their fryers, so those are safe to eat (even the cajun seasoning is gluten free, if you’re wondering).

while they don’t offer gluten free buns, the burgers are so good that I honestly don’t miss them. sometimes I go for a really loaded burger with tons of toppings, and sometimes I go more simple. but it’s always amazingly good. they don’t freeze the meat, it’s always fresh, and it makes a big difference.

if you have a peanut allergy, though, this is not the place for you. they have open boxes of peanuts in the restaurants, as they offer them as a free appetizer as you wait (yum!). and if you want to skip the wait, you can place an order online, on their app, or call it in. just note that they wait to make your fries until you arrive, to make sure they’re fresh.

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Restaurant Report: Naf Naf Grill

the Naf Naf Grill is a fast casual gyro restaurant whose style resembles a Chipotle. they serve the only gluten free shawarma I’ve ever found. both the chicken and the steak shawarma are gluten free, and it was such a treat to have again!

I must, however, caution against the extreme cross-contamination risks though. the person in front of me had ordered theirs in a pita shell. the server took a scoop full of meat, and stuffed the whole scoop right into the pita and shook out every last bit against the insides of the bread. I was a little aghast at the levels of contamination.

luckily I was there at an off-hour, so they had plenty of time to heat up the shawarma grill to  cook and shave some fresh meat for me (which took about 5 extra minutes), and get the other ingredients from the back. so unless gluten is just a dietary choice for you, I’d highly recommend that you ask for the same treatment.

they were very nice there. they even gave me some free falafels to try, which are gluten free. they also have fries there, which look almost like freshly made thick chips. but those are the only two items fried at Naf Naf, and neither contain gluten, so both are safe to eat.

one thing that I really liked about the bowl choices was that it had a rice bowl option. sometimes the bed of lettuce, that you often get for substituting out the bread products, just isn’t filling enough. this way I got my normal gyro ingredients on top, with a nice bowl of rice at the bottom! it was actually quite large in total, and the whole thing lasted two meals for me.

here’s the menu: choose a base: pita shell (obviously contains gluten), but the bowls of lettuce, rice, or hummus base are all gluten free. both the chicken and steak shawarma are gluten free, as are the falafels. garnishes include chopped salad (which I was a little disappointed that it contained so much cucumber with the tomatoes, and not really any lettuce that I saw), red cabbage, onions, and pickles. there are 4 sauces to choose from (the tahini seemed closest to my favorite tsatsiki sauce). and then there are 3 sides to choose from as well: rice (the same rice from the rice bowls), lentil soup, and the aforementioned fries/ chips. the only item out of that whole thing is the pita bread. note that the baklava and cookie desserts I hadn’t mentioned yet also contain gluten though.

I did have to add a bit more seasoning for my liking, once I got home. but the only real issue is that the contamination of the pita bread is such a large issue there, from them sticking the whole scoop inside of it for each ingredient. so just make sure that you are personally there to order it, and ask for fresh ingredients that didn’t go on the bar yet. and hopefully they’ll be as friendly and helpful to you as they were to me.

all in all, I loved the rice bowl, and that it was so nice and filling. mostly, it was great just to get to eat these foods again!

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Product Spotlight: GF Funfetti Cake Mix

while walking through Target last week, I was overjoyed to find a new line of Pillsbury gluten free baking mixes, including their Funfetti cake mix!!! I’ve been missing Funfetti for a couple of years now.

I bought it, along with the obligatory Funfetti frosting to go with it, and made it within a matter of days.

I kid you not, it was probably the best gluten free baked good that I’ve had to date, and that includes cakes, cupcakes, and other goodies from expensive bakeries. (I’ve been gluten free for about 8 years now). it was incredibly light and fluffy, and it was indistinguishably gluten free.

they also had other GF cake mixes: white cake, chocolate cake, and maybe one more.

funfetti

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Restaurant Report: Tacodeli

Tacodeli is a Texas-based chain of fast Mexican food. the entire menu is gluten free, except for the flour and whole wheat tortillas. so literally every taco is gluten free if you order a corn tortilla.

they have an extensive list of taco options, including a ridiculously large amount of meats and sauces (just in the beef category, they have braised beef with adobo, cowboy rubbed beef tenderloin, grilled sirloin with mole, ground Akaushi beef, and ribeye. and they have tacos with more than beef: chicken, pork, salmon, shrimp, fish and various vegetarian and vegan options.

there are other options, like a great selection of salads, and a couple of soups. and then we come to the dips… you can get your standard chips with salsa, guacamole, or queso. or you can get them all combined in the Fuerte Dip & Chips, which includes all three plus ground beef. it’s delicious!! it was a bit odd at first, because it’s a bowl of queso with the pico de gallo, guac, and ground beef just dropped in, not necessarily mixed around. but I got used to it quickly, and it was great. the chips, if you’re wondering, are made off-site, and are gluten free.

perhaps the best, and most unexpected, favorite was the soda. they had fountain soda from Maine Root. I regret not trying some of the more unique flavors, like the blueberry soda. I just had the regular cola. but it was so amazing!! it’s with fair trade cane sugar, and it was probably the best soda I’ve ever had. I really hope that this company takes off, and that we find it all over soon.

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Product Spotlight: Eggo’s

I’m not sure how long they’ve been around, but I recently noticed gluten free Eggo’s in the grocery store! I bought a box of them, and I was really impressed. I’ve had several different gluten free frozen waffles from various brands already, but I just loved the flimsy nature of the Eggo’s.

because they’re on the thin side, it helped to keep them light and airy, rather than heavy and dense. and the sweet smell of them as they cooked in my toaster, had me a little nervous that they were too sugary. but that was not the case at all. they were the same, perfect level of sweetness that I remember from regular Eggo’s in the past. sweet enough that you can simply butter and eat them, but by no means too sickeningly sweet.

I tried the Original Style (GF) they also offer a Cinnamon (GF) Eggo as well.

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Restaurant Report: Maggiano’s Little Italy

although Maggiano’s didn’t have an actual gluten free menu for the longest time, it was one of the best places to eat gluten free! they offered a GF pasta, and the chef would come out and talk to you, and make you all sorts of wonderful things!

now they’ve started offering an actual gluten free menu, which should make things easier. it will include many of the regular pasta dishes that are currently being adapted already, along with some fun extras, lik cheese ravioli and flourless chocolate cake. and the cross-contamination concerns are being taken very seriously.

I can’t wait to try the new menu items! if you haven’t been there, you’re missing out!

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Restaurant Report: Pizza Ranch

Pizza Ranch is one of my favorite places to get pizza. the pizza is good, they are very careful to avoid cross-contamination, the people are really helpful and friendly, and best of all… they’re reasonably priced!!

I usually call my pizza order in, as I’m about to leave to drive there. that makes the timing about right for it to be ready shortly after we arrive, so that I don’t have to watch all the buffet-eaters I’m with for what seems forever, only to have them finishing up when I’m just starting. it works pretty well for the most part!

my favorite pizza is the taco (“Texan”). it’s great for people who can’t have dairy, because with so many toppings, you hardly notice the lack of cheese. they have some other fun varieties of pizza, like a spinach chicken alfredo, a BLT pizza, bacon cheeseburger pizza, etc.

the pizzas are generally around $12, and I don’t think we’ve ever been charged for extra toppings. the salad bar/ soda add-on options for gluten free pizzas used to differ between locations. but it’s seems to be the same everywhere now: just $1.99 for a trip through the salad bar and a drink, which is a great deal! so for under $15 you can get an entire GF pizza, a soda, and salad bar. most GF restaurants charge much more for just the pizza.

Pizza Ranch locations are usually found in smaller cities. and if you find them in a metro area, it’s usually on outer suburbs. it’s got a real friendly, small-town feel to them.

and here’s their gluten free menu. enjoy!

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Restaurant Report: Chipotle

Chipotle is a fast favorite of mine. almost the entire menu is gluten free. the only exceptions are the flour burrito and softshells, and one of the spicy red salsas.

they’re very nicely trained and amenable to changing their gloves and just having one person do your whole order. I feel bad taking up extra time when it’s busy, so I try and go when there’s not as much of a rush (which is always a good idea when ordering gluten free anyway, less chaos = less gluten contamination risk).

for GF entrees, they had the hardshell tacos (no flour items have been fried in the same fryers), softshell corn tacos (but don’t have them warmed, if you want to avoid cross-contamination), the burrito bowls and salad bowls. and all off the meat choices are GF, so it makes for a great meal with lots of options!

it’s always difficult for me to leave without a bag of chips with a side of guacamole. they have among the best guacs I’ve found. and again, it’s nice to be able to eat the chips, as only gluten free items are fried there.

I highly recommend them for a good, fast meal!

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Restaurant Report: Olive Garden

Olive Garden offers a small gluten free menu. when I say small, I mean there are 4 items to choose from. but it’s nice that they’ve made the effort to offer anything GF at all.

starting with the famous salad, it’s safe to eat if you ask for one without croutons. and it’s also safe to eat the caesar salad without croutons. I personally can’t get enough of it, I absolutely love it. however, it was an adjustment to learn to eat the acidic salad without the breadsticks to balance it out!

the four entree choices include the following: a steak dish, a salmon dish, and two gluten free pasta options: marinara and primavera. I have never tried the steak, but the salmon was quite good. it came with a broccoli side. the pastas are both nice options as well. it’s great that they offer gluten free pasta. I was skeptical of the it at first, wondering whether they’d remember to always use a fresh (or strictly GF) pot of water, but I’ve never had a problem.

I do have a couple of complaints, though. one is with the tomato-based sauces (the marinara is literally just tomato sauce, and the primavera is tomato sauce with some chopped veggies). like the salad, it’s really acidic. I usually have them pile on the parmesan to help cut the acidity. but along with the salad, the only thing not acidic in my meal is the actual GF ziti noodles.

the second complaint is that they’re completely inflexible to adapt the gluten free pasta dishes to anything else. I’m sure it has to do with the heavily-prepared-food nature of chain restaurants. but they’ve yet to make any of their other sauces gluten free (which would probably require something simple like switching out the wheat flour thickeners for something like corn, potato, or tapioca starch instead). I’ve asked to just get something simple made instead of more tomato acid, such as garlic in olive oil. and even that was impossible.

the soups would also be nice to have gluten free as well, even just one option, so the unlimited salad and soup deal could be ordered. again, I’m sure it’s mostly just a matter of switching starches.

hopefully they’ll sell so many gluten free dishes and get so many requests for a larger gluten free menu, that they expand it, because I really enjoy eating there. I love it, but sometimes it makes my stomach churn.

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