Posted by Lyndi
Today we continue with final topic of our three-part interview with Carolyn Lynch McKinley.
3. Gluten-free restaurant dining in Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri.
nwafoodie: We’ve already talked about how the gluten-free section came to be at Walmart and how you were personally involved in making that happen. Before that we discussed the local celiac support group and your willingness to help others embrace their new gluten-free lifestyle. Now, I’ve got to know… what are YOUR favorite restaurants with gluten-free options in Northwest Arkansas and what are your favorite menu items? Can you share that with us?
nwafoodie: Before we start your list, is there any advice for us when ordering gluten-free?
Carolyn: Yes! The first time you ever go to a restaurant, always, always, always do not be afraid to ask questions! Talk to the manager. If a menu items comes out wrong, tell them. For instance, on Monday a meal I ordered came out wrong and I told them. They ended up not charging me. Other example is Copelands’ restaurant in Rogers. They do not have a gluten-free menu, but the manager will work with me to ensure my meal is gluten-free.
nwafoodie: Great advice! I always forget to ask and I make assumptions. Just because a chicken is grilled does not mean that the glaze isn’t gluten-free. Okay, ready to share your favorites? I know that Boston’s Grill in Bentonville is one of them, because here we are, enjoying gluten-free pizza while we chat. I have to tell you, it’s AWESOME!
Carolyn: It IS awesome! They are in my top three!
1. PF Chang’s in Rogers: They have an entire gluten-free menu, which is extensive. They even have gluten-free soy sauce.
2. Mama Fu’s in Bentonville: Steam bowls are great. Be sure to order them without soy sauce. You can have the sweet and sour instead. And now they have a gluten-free menu!
3. Boston’s Grill in Bentonville: They have a gluten-free pizza option. I will usually order one and share it with someone or take half of it home. They also have gluten-free beer varieties, so be sure to ask which ones because it is not noted on the spirits menu.
4. Red Robin in Rogers and Fayetteville: Ask for the gluten-free menu. Tell your server when you order that you want EXACTLY what is on that gluten-free menu. Their burgers can come in a lettuce wrap. Watchouts: their seasoning salt that’s out on each table has gluten and there is wheat in their milk shakes.
5. Las Fajitas in Bella Vista, Bentonville, and Springdale: Order the chicken fajita taco salad without the shell. Ask them to replace with fresh peppers and onions because the cooked ones run a risk of cross-contamination with gluten.
6. Acambaro in Bentonville, Lowell, Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville: Again, order the chicken fajita taco salad without the shell. No need for any other request. Beans are gluten-free.
7. Carrabba’s in Rogers: Ask for the gluten-free menu. This is the same family of restaurants as Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill. All have gluten-free menus. Outback has the most variety.
8. Bordino’s in Fayetteville: They actually have gluten-free pasta. The chef has a family member with celiac disease.
9. Jose’s in Springdale and Fayetteville: Ask for the gluten-free menu.
10. World Garden in Bentonville: They have a limited gluten-free bakery. It depends what time you visit whether there are items available. Note: World Garden let me know that they stopped making the gluten-free bakery items. So sad to hear that.
11. Chili’s in Rogers and Fayetteville: Talk to the manager and tell him or her you need a gluten-free meal.
12. On The Border in Rogers: Again, tell the manager you are gluten-free and ask for his help.
13. Fast foods: Chick-fil-a in Rogers, Bentonville, and Fayetteville: Grilled chicken without the bun, cole slaw and fruit bowl. Arby’s in Rogers, Bentonville, Springdale, and Fayetteville: Roast beef with no bun and apple market salad. Be careful with French fries in general. French fries are usually blanched with wheat. Dairy Queen in Bella Vista, Springdale, Lowell, and Fayetteville: Ice cream here is gluten-free. In general, you need to be careful with milk shakes and ice cream to make sure they do not contain wheat.
14. Starbuck’s in Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville: Now offers Lucy’s branded cookies. Caution: If you are newly diagnosed, give it three years before you eat products with oat fiber. Lucy’s cookies have oat fiber.
15. PJ’s Bakery in Joplin: Every Monday PJ sets aside the entire day for gluten-free only. You name it, she makes it. She has awesome hamburger buns, muffins, biscuits, apple walnut bread, and even pre-made dough where you can make your own pizzas, strombroli, and calzone. While you can drive up to Joplin yourself, those of us in the Celiac Support Association will often group order and share the pick-up and delivery duties. PJ’s Bakery is located at 3500 Apricot Drive in Joplin, Missouri. You can pre-order, pick-up or have these products shipped to you. She can be reached at 417-781-5854. Note: PJs is closed on Mondays (this is the day she is making gluten-free items in the kitchen).
nwafoodie: These are great! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve really enjoyed my time getting to know you and picking your brain. Thank you Carolyn!
Carolyn: Thank you!
Hopefully you have enjoyed this three-part series and found Carolyn’s advice, expertise, and honesty as stirring as I did. Carolyn can be reached via email or facebook and welcomes your comments!