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Gluten-free dining report July 2014

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As more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, people in the restaurant industry are finding their employees affected by this disease and they are taking note. They understand that gluten free isn't a fad and it needs to be taken seriously when it comes to food preparation not just ingredients. Every time a restaurant owner, their families, or employees are diagnosed, the gluten-free community gains a new option that not only gets it, but raises the stakes by offering hard-to-find items, like grilled cheese and fried chicken.

This month's installment bring with it: fried tacos, fancy grilled cheese, fried chicken, pasta, burgers on buns, cheesecake, chicken noodle soup, cookies, and more. Please keep in mind that none of these establishments have dedicated gluten-free kitchens, but they take steps to avoid cross contact during preparation. Here are this month's contenders in alphabetical order:

Bagel Boys Cafe - started offering Udi's Gluten Free plain bagels, blueberry muffins, and chocolate chip cookies last month. All of the products are individually wrapped and go from freezer to serving baskets (once thawed) without being open. The company takes preventing cross contact very seriously, so let them know if you have any questions.

Bartaco - opened the first of a total of three metro Atlanta locations at the Dixie Packing Co. building on Marietta Street on the Westside. Next, Bartaco will open in space previously occupied by Dunkin' Donuts in north Buckhead on Roswell Road late this year. The third, and for now, final Bartaco will open at the new 280 Elizabeth Street project in Inman Park, close to Bartaco's sibling concept, Barcelona. The restaurant has a 99% gluten-free menu full of freshly made juices, small plates, tamales, and lots of tacos. The fried oyster taco is my favorite because the oyster is nicely seasoned with a hint of cayenne and the batter is light and crispy.

Common Quarter - was named Top 100 Neighborhood Restos in America 2014 by Open Table. Their menu a number of gluten-free options, so be sure to ask your server for a rundown.

Dantanna's Tavern - is set to open its third location in Sandy Springs at 6649 Roswell Road in the Abernathy Square Shopping Center. The new space is 5900 square feet with 180 seats and is set to open this summer. The menu will feature Pure Knead's vegan and gluten-free buns.

Max's Wine Dive - opened its first Georgia location on July 1 at 77 12th in midtown. They have a robust gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free fried chicken as the star. I learned one of the founders has celiac disease, which is why they do gluten free right. All of the gluten-free orders come out on a special plate to eliminate confusion in the kitchen. I suggest trying the gluten-free fried chicken, the chicken noodle soup (noodles are made out of chicken), and the pulled pork stuffed peppers.

Osteria Mattone - I just learned they offer three types of gluten-free pasta and most of the menu items are gluten free and the ones that aren't can be easily modified. One of their employees has a child with a life threatening food allergy, so they know what it means to provide a safe meal.

Table & Main - has a number of gluten-free menu items daily and they are happy to accommodate diners with food intolerances. They have just updated their menu and here are their gluten-free summer specials: Vegetable plate with a selection of summer veggies and preparations, Potato salad with blue cheese and ham, Red snapper with carrot, parsnip, pea, shrimp bisque, pickled shrimp, and pastry chef Micki Kimberly’s award-winning Bourbon butter pecan ice cream.

The Fresh Market - is expanding and will open a new location in Georgia, near Toco Hills. The store, expected to open in the summer of 2015, will be located at the intersection of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Roads, in the former Loehmann’s Plaza, which is being redeveloped and renamed Brighten Park. Once opened, it will be the company’s 13th store in the state. On a recent trip to the Athens, GA location, I found Beecher's gluten-free mac and cheese and brown rice and kale gratin (co-packed), Tate's Bake Shop ginger zinger cookies, Steve's Ice Cream dairy-free ice cream, JJ's Cocomels, and more.

Tom+Chee - in Kennesaw offers grilled cheese sandwiches on Udi's Gluten Free bread and all of their tomato soups are free of gluten as well. One of their founders is gluten intolerant, so they take preventing cross contact very seriously. They use separate utensils, griddles, and ingredients for every gluten-free order. Staff always washes hands and change gloves before and after preparing a gluten-free order. The also offer Teese Vegan Cheese (also free of soy, and tree nuts). Their Alpharetta location is scheduled to open this fall.

Sprouts Farmers Market - opened its first location in Snellville at the end of June. One of the cool benefits of this store is their use of a West coast distributor, which means we will get access to new products much quicker. The produce takes center stage and it is very reasonably priced. When I visited the store, I found: Venice Bakery's gluten-free pizza crusts and Greek calzone, The Dunwoody Bakery's new line of mixes, American Gra-Fruitti's ever expanding line of products, Canyon Bakehouse's bread in a refrigerated case, Milton's new line of baked crackers, a bakery table full of gluten-free goodies, and more.

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