Houston's Best Gluten-Free Dining Options
One of the more frequent questions I'm asked these days is where to find good gluten-free food. And when GF folks ask this question, they're looking for more than an answer of, "Oh, any place that serves vegetables and meat. Can't you figure out your own dietary restrictions?"
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Ethiopian food is perfect for a gluten-free diet.
No; they're looking for restaurants that specialize in gluten-free menu items, but yet are still mainstream enough to accommodate their friends and family. Luckily for them, an increasing number of restaurants are doing just that.
One of the easiest routes to take as GF diner is, of course, to familiarize yourself with cuisines which are naturally free of gluten. This means getting cozy with South Asian ethnic foods like Indian (steer clear of naan and puri shells), Pakistani and Thai or learning more about sushi -- just make sure to ask for (or bring your own) gluten-free soy sauce.
Ethiopian is another easy option for GF diners: injera, which forms the base of most meals, is made of teff flour and is naturally gluten-free -- but also extremely nutritious. You use injera like a utensil to scoop up your food, which can be anything from all-vegetarian (lentils, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, greens and more) to meat-heavy (doro wot -- or spicy chicken stew -- is a personal favorite as is the raw beef treatment called kitfo).
But back to the idea of being gluten-free and mainstream. Here is a list of options, grouped by category, to please every palate:
While chains aren't always known for the quality of their food, the spots below are notable for a few reasons: They're conveniently located throughout the city, they're relatively inexpensive and all offer entire gluten-free menus -- not just a few paltry GF substitutions. Outback was one of the first chains to offer a separate GF menu and P.F. Chang's currently offers one of the largest. (One more fun fact: Saint Arnold brews the beer locally for the BJ's spots in and around Houston.)
The fact of the matter is that most Mexican joints are safely gluten-free if you abstain from flour tortillas, sopapillas and the like. Corn tortillas -- especially those filled with barbacoa or al pastor from taco trucks -- are one of the easiest bets for the GF diner. But here are a few places that really take gluten-free to the next level.
Gluten-free pizza at California Pizza Kitchen.
Pizza is one of the items that many GF diners miss the most. Fortunately, more pizza places -- both large and small -- are catching on to this and offering gluten-free crusts that are every bit as good as standard wheat flour crusts.
Sure, you can get a bunless burger at any old burger joint. But sometimes you just want those two fluffy buns holding your meat sandwich together. These four spots will gladly throw a gluten-free bun into the mix for you -- and in the case of Beck's Prime, you'll find plenty of other GF options that aren't burgers, too. Same goes for Guru Burgers & Crepes, where you can also get GF versions of its signature crepes.