Back in college, there was a girl who people secretly nicknamed Ball of Nerves (referred to as BON from here on out). She was by nature a nervous little creature, but in addition to that, she was allergic to gluten, nuts, dairy, strawberries, the list goes on. You name it, she was probably allergic to it. Adding insult to injury, she was a vegetarian by choice. There was no going out to dinner with her. Anything and everything could make her blow up the way Will Smith did in Hitch.
Her dietary restrictions made it almost impossible for any social interactions that required eating, and since eating is one of my favorite activities, this drove a deep wedge between us. I wish I had kept in touch with BON since these days, because the popularity of a gluten-free diet has encouraged many eateries to include gluten-free and vegan items and by the powers of Gwyneth Paltrow and Dr. Oz combined, the paleo method has also made its way onto menus from cafes to high-end restaurants.
Upon entering Bruce Molzan’s Corner Table, I was not expecting any healthy options. The fancy chairs and chandeliers led me to believe that it was a ladies-who-lunch type place offering the usual salads and grilled fish. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that there was an entire paleo section on their menu.
Both the turkey Bolognese and paleo shrimp came steaming hot to our table. The Bolognese sauce was flavorful with just a slight kick and the spaghetti squash noodles dish was a nice, guilt-free, low carb alternative. The paleo shrimp were huge and fresh and swam in one of the most delicious coconut sesame curry I have ever had, including the many I’ve tasted off of almost every Indian restaurants on Hillcroft.
If your friends are not into paleo, don’t worry. There are plenty of fun indulgences for them, too. My favorites are the fried organic pickles and the slow roasted short rib pizza.
It's a Snap
As a lover of all things carbs, I cannot imagine a life without pizzas, pastas, and bread. A friend of mine recently found out she has celiac disease and she, if you can believe it, is an even bigger lover of carbs than I am. I immediately sent her a slew of gluten-free recipes, but she informed me that as am other of two, she rarely has time to cook. Snap Kitchen to the rescue! Not only are almost all of their entrees gluten free, including the pastas.
Snap accommodates paleo diets, diabetic-friendly, lower sodium, non-dairy, and vegetarian. Although the bright green and orange microwaveable containers may be off-putting to some, the flagship store on Kirby was recently renovated and sitting down at a lush purple booth, I felt more like I was dining at a chic eatery instead of a counter-service health store.
My favorites of the bunch were the Thai green curry (just as spicy as the hole-in-the-wall places on Hillcroft!) and the naked beef. For dessert, we munched on chewy and soft chocolate chip cookies and gooey brownies, both of which were also gluten-free. We washed everything down with Snap’s fresh pressed juices. Our favorite was the beet apple juice with cayenne pepper, garlic, lemon, carrots, jalapeno and cilantro. I’m tempted to bring this one home and adding vodka to it for the full Bloody Mary effect!
If you’re looking for a more upscale pasta experience, check out Prego in Rice Village, which has an entire section on their menu dedicated to gluten-free dishes. For outerloopers, Johnny Carino's also offers gluten-free versions of classic Italian dishes.
I have to confess...I kind of hate The Counter. It feels like it has no soul when you compare it to other burger joints like Petrol Station or the Burger Guys. But I will say this: it is an excellent alternative when you’re trying to eat healthy.
The service is always excellent, the 50/50 fries are finger-lickin' good, and the selection of burgers is wide, ranging from a salmon burger to a quarter-pounder with bacon and a fried egg. If you’re like Bundle of Nerves, you can even get it on a gluten-free bun. I tried it and, to my surprise, it wasn't terrible. It didn’t soak up the yolk as nicely as a brioche bun would have, but it comes pretty darn close. And if you’re a paleo freak, you can make any of the burgers a salad bowl.
Fast food choices
If you’re on a shoe string budget, McDonalds can make any of their sandwiches on a bed of lettuce, Burger King makes bunless Whoppers, and Hardee's and Carl's Jr. offer burgers wrapped in lettuce. Bernie’s Burger Bus will serve on bed of lettuce, and their fresh ground Black Angus beef, all homemade condiments follows the paleo rules to a T.
Although not very calorie-friendly, sometimes you just need to sink your teeth into a cupcake. Jody Stevens' cupcake business, Jodycakes, offer vegan and gluten-free cupcakes that are silky smooth and delicious. They're now available at Revival Market.
Crave Cupcakes offers gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan cupcakes. Who can resist those adorable mixer buttons that top every cupcake in those glass cases?
No more excuses to avoid your friends who have dietary restrictions, and now that summer is here, these restaurants make it easy for you to stick to your diet, whichever it may be.