Monday, July 7, 2014

reno refreshments: a gluten (and corn) free guide to eating in reno, part 1

We're in the states again, and as such, we are traveling without all of our safe kitchen utensils. I have wonderful in-laws who have created a kitchen space for me and my special food and utensils, but there are times when it's necessary (and let's face it, fun) to eat out. It's been ages since we've been able to eat out safely, so I was very excited about this prospect. With the gluten free fad, though, I have been a bit nervous about the safety of restaurant eating. Even some of the restaurants I frequented last year are no longer safe, so it's taken hours of researching, calling, emailing, and googling to find safe establishments. Here are some of the places I've experienced so far this summer!

(Keep in mind that everything I have ordered has been gluten free and as corn free as possible. I use the Find Me Gluten Free app, call the restaurant, and then talk to a waiter and/or manager before ordering to ensure the food I am ordering will not make me sick. If I feel like the restaurant isn't safe or that the servers/cooks are not taking me seriously, I will leave with no hesitation. I am also considered "corn lite" in the world of corn allergies, so if you have reactions that go beyond keeping corn ingredients out of your food, you will need to do additional research.)

The first place we always visit when we come back to the states is In-n-Out. There are, of course, In-n-Out restaurants all over California, Nevada, and Arizona, so this isn't necessarily a Reno-specific review. I will say, though, that we look forward to visiting and have never had a bad experience. I let them know about my allergies and then order my burger protein style without any spread (the spread has corn syrup). They will wash their hands and use a special dedicated gluten free section of the kitchen to prepare your burger if you alert them of your gluten issues. The fries are also made in a dedicated fryer, so I almost always order fries well done to go with my burger. I also bring my own ketchup, since they use ketchup that has corn-derived vinegar.

Protein Style w/o spread + fries well done w/cheese = heaven on Earth.

One of our favorite local-to-Reno restaurants has always been Pneumatic Diner. Ben and I have both been going there since our high school days and we are so glad it's still open and as delicious as ever. It's a small, hole-in-the-wall type restaurant that has sort of a cult following. Pneumatic is 100% vegetarian with several vegan options and a few gluten free options. This type of restaurant is typically difficult for me to find safe foods in, because they rely heavily on grain-based foods. Pneumatic has a decent variety of gluten free dishes, though! It was easier to eat there before the corn allergy manifested itself, but despite that, I am still always able to find something to eat at Pneumatic and the staff is always willing to find me something safe to eat. This time, I ordered the combo Bayard and subbed the Jack cheese for one without vegetable rennet as well as the rojo sauce for their cucumber garlic sauce. It was delicious, and I had no issues with ingredients or cross contamination. Pneumatic is one of those restaurants where the environment is just as important as the food, and neither was disappointing during our visit!

Pneumatic! ♥

Combo Bayard with all sorts of deliciousness inside

I love the small size and eclectic atmosphere of this restaurant!

The last restaurant review for this blog entry is another of our favorite Reno restaurants: Cafe de Thai. I knew that they had several gluten free options, but I was weary of trying them out because most Asian restaurants use vegetable oil for their stir fries. After talking with one of the servers on the phone, I found out that if I brought my own oil the cooks would be more than happy to use it for my meal. I took avocado oil and red palm oil so they could choose the oil that would work the best with whichever meal I ordered (they opted for the avocado).

Cafe de Thai

When we arrived, the server I had spoken with on the phone ended up being our waiter so he was familiar with my restrictions. He was extremely patient and took notes so he could review everything with the kitchen staff. When I thanked him profusely, he said he was glad to be learning something new, which is always refreshing to someone who feels like they are being high maintenance (despite not really having a choice in the matter).

I was able to order the fresh spring rolls, and they made me a special spicy peanut sauce to go with them instead of their usual vinegar-containing sauces. As an entree, I ordered the Pad Thai. Similar to Great Full Gardens, they informed me that they needed to cook my chicken a bit differently since their usual marinade includes corn starch. I was also able to order a drink, which is rare in a restaurant. I tried their homemade gingerale, which is made with sugar, water, and fresh ginger.

Homemade gingerale

Fresh spring rolls (left) and specialty spring rolls (right, not gf)

My spring rolls and peanut sauce

The Pad Thai was just as great as I remember it 

The appetizers, drinks, and dinner were absolutely delicious, and the restaurant staff went to great lengths to accommodate and make me feel welcome and safe. It's so nice to know that I can once again eat at some of my all-time favorite restaurants, despite having so many restrictions!

This is just the beginning of our trip, and later this week we'll be trying out some newer Reno restaurants! Check back later if you'd like more information on eating out safely in Reno.

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