Yeah, so this blog post comes over a year since my last one. But I’m a busy guy and hopefully the knowledge I’m dropping here will make up for it. Sounds good to me, so I’m going to post away guilt free. And not only guilt free, but gluten free!
In late 2011/early 2012 I was going through some health problems. Ultimately, I would end up having surgery to correct the problem, but as part of the many, many tests and doctor visits, I also found out that I somehow developed celiac disease.
I’m not going to go into detail on gluten sensitivity/intolerance, but basically it’s an allergy to a wheat protein. And unfortunately, gluten is a major part of the American diet. Seriously, once I started scanning ingredient labels, I was stunned to find out all the different places it pops up.
Thankfully, I live in a pretty hip Montana mountain town where being gluten free is fairly easy. But, once a year I make the trip to Indianapolis for Gen Con as part of the Catalyst Game Labs crew. The 2012 convention was the first year having to go gluten free and…well…it wasn’t so much fun. I figured out a few good places to eat, but had failed to do my research beforehand and ended up eating the same thing quite a bit – heck, the staff at Champps knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in (which to their credit was awesome).
This year, though, I’ve done some research! And to help my fellow GFers out there, here’s a short list of restaurants that offer gluten-free menus. These aren’t in any particular order and the list is by no means comprehensive. I just started looking for places I’d been in the past and then expanded from there. Where possible, I’ve linked to a PDF version of menus or given a direct website link. Some places say they have GF menus available, but don’t have them online.
And finally, though I’ve been gluten free for nearly two years now, I’m not an expert and many folks react differently. Don’t take this as gospel, but as a helpful guide. If you have any doubts about gluten, don’t eat it!
BUCA DI BEPPO
Buca was a yearly ritual for me and my friends prior to the celiac diagnosis. And since it’s an Italian restaurant, I didn’t even attempt it last year. However, they do have a gluten-free menu, as it turns out! However, the tag on the menu says “request that this dish not be dusted with flour” which screams cross-contamination nightmare to me. Flour being slung around the kitchen? Just asking for trouble. But they do have a menu so I might try it this year.
Like I said above, I ended up eating at Champps a lot in 2012 and I had no reactions, so I’d definitely recommend them. The GF menu has some good variety as well.
Most national chains have some sort of GF menu and Hooters is no different. It’s pretty damn short though and for burgers, just says “order without bun” which is like getting a sundae with no chocolate syrup. Meh.
OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY
Ok, OSF gets an A for effort. Like Buca, it’s primarily a pasta place so good freakin’ luck. Their gluten-free menu is surprisingly long on first glance (four pages!) but then you realize that most of the menu just lists sauces. Yeah.
Steak’n’Shake is another Gen Con ritual for me and because I usually just get shakes there, is one I haven’t had to give up. Indeed, they have a lot of GF alternatives. SNS wins the menu competition because they don’t just offer a GF menu, but a menu listing all ingredients for ALL the choices AND it lists all allergens in each selection. I can say I’ve had the nacho fries there with no reactions, so surprisingly, SNS get a thumbs up from me for being gluten-free.
I’ve only eaten at Weber Grill once, so just looked them up out of curiosity and like Steak’n’Shake, I was pleasantly surprised! Weber Grill not only has a big GF menu, but instead of saying “order without bun” they actually have Udi’s gluten free buns as a substitute! That’s huge and is enough to say Weber wins this post.
The Ram is really a must for Gen Con. They dress the place up all nice and have a gamer theme which rocks. The Ram does have a GF menu, but it’s very small at six selections
Like Weber Grill, I was pretty surprised to see Scotty’s offerings, as they offer Udi’s buns for gluten-free burgers! Their menu isn’t quite as big as Weber’s, but is another place to hit up where it seems like they actually give a crap.
There are some great steak places that I didn’t look up or couldn’t find menus for like Shula’s, St. Elmo’s or the Capital Grille, but what’s the point. It’s a steak place. Get steak.
BUT WHAT ABOUT SNACKS?
Yep, all the places above are great for meals, but if A) you like to snack or B) don’t want to drop a bunch of money every day, there’s an option I’ve exercised before: head to Marsh supermarket. It’s a decent walk from the convention center (and most hotels), but you can stock up on everything you need and be set for the rest of the week/weekend. I’ll be getting into Indy early in the week, so will make a trip over there on Tuesday to stock up on whatever snacks I need.
Check out Marsh on Google Maps.
So there you have it! A quick list of gluten-free options while at Gen Con. I hope it helps you! Feel free to stop by the Catalyst booth to say hi or let me know of another good place to get some GF chow. I’m the one with the face and the beard.