Eating Gluten-Free in Spokane Restaurants

I’m not a doctor and this isn’t advice. Based on my personal experiences with GF only. Always ask your server about every item–I have gotten in trouble with assumptions before. 

What do you mean, GF?

GF = Gluten Free. It is my understanding that people with a gluten intolerance or allergy should avoid:

  • wheat flour (watch for bulgar, durham, farina, or other types you may not know)
  • cheap soy sauce (made from wheat, like imitation maple syrup = high-fructose corn syrup). 
    • I buy GF soy sauce at Rosauers and take it with me to Asian restaurants.  
  • breadcrumb filler in meat
    • the crumbled beef at Taco Bell makes me sick, as do MacDonald’s hamburger and sausage patties. Crumbled beef at Taco Time does not make me sick.
  • barley, rye or oats
    • I buy GF oats at Rosauers–Bob’s Red Mill and instant
  • cheap caramel coloring or Red Dye #5
  • hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • imitation bacon bits
  • imitation seafood (watch out for fake crab in pre-packaged sushi)
  • seitan
  • brewer’s yeast
  • malt or malt vinegar
  • Worchester sauce
  • Yoghurt, unless it says GF on the label
    • I buy Zoi’s GF yoghurt at Rosauers
  • Au jus sauce (I order prime rib with no au jus. French dip sandwiches are a no-no.)

OLESTRA WARNING: After several disastrous experiences with GF potato chips, I started researching ingredients. Olestra/Olean is an indigestible fat substitute in “low fat” processed foods. It can cause uncontrollable, sudden onset diarrhea in people sensitive to it. Now I stay away from anything containing this harmful ingredient. I have never had this problem with corn chips. Never.

What the heck is Buckwheat? Can I eat it or not?

“Buckwheat” is a misnomer, like eggplant. Buckwheat is safe for me to eat, just like eggplant is safe to eat for people who are allergic to eggs. I recently had a delicious Buckwheat waffle at Molly’s and was not sick. Hooray!

Ash Street Tacos

Their menu has three marked areas for GF items:

  • Traditional St. Tacos
    • 4-inch soft corn tortilla with cilantro and onions, choice of beef, pork or chicken (I had pork–tasty, a bit spicy from the onion)
  • Hard Shell Taco
    • Ground beef
  • Ash St. Tacos
    • 5-inch soft corn tortilla
    • Choice of beef, chicken, chorizo, fish, pork or shrimp with exotic toppings
      • I had the chicken one, with comes with honey-lime marinade and a pineapple/mango salsa. Tasty.

Atilanos

I really love their deep-fried, GF corn tacos. So yummy. Also, their tater tots don’t make me sick.

Azteca

  • Large gluten-free menu (8-10 items) with items you normally can’t eat in a Mexican restaurant, like quesadillas
  • Always ask if entrees, appetizers, and drinks are GF. Tequila should be safe, as it is made from the agave plant.
    • HOWEVER I saw a poster at Azteca recently advertising a tequila that is brewed with BEER in wooden barrels. Turns out it is a “tequila-flavored beer” but if I just ordered Oculto on the assumption that it was safe, I would be very sick.

Azar’s

  • Alas, no baklava, no gyros, and no lamb from here.
    • Cashier says: lamb comes pre-coated with a flour/spice mixture, though it doesn’t look breaded.
  • I like the rice/green bean/salsa dinner. I mix in a side of hummus to add some zing!

Boots Bakery

  • Organic, vegan, hipster –lots of GF salads, pasta and potato dishes.
  • Usually one GF soup.
  • Weekend waffles: GF pumpkin – awesome! Some weekends.
  • I don’t like their coffee, but so what. They are a wonderful resource if you’re GF.

Central Foods

  • New menu since I was there last — GF items not clearly marked, you must hunt.
  • Sides – Sweet potato jo-jos are wonderful and GF.
  • GF bread available for sandwiches. I had a chicken pate with a side of chipotle sauce and banana peppers. It was great.

Chili’s

Props to Chili’s for having an allergen menu for everything from soy to shellfish. Love it!

WARNING: Don’t eat the tortilla strips. Corn chips and salsa are usually safe at Mexican restaurants, but an online celiac expert says Chili’s their chips and salsa are not safe and I confirmed it with Chili’s own allergen and sensitivity menu.

Here is their limited GF menu.

Cole’s GF Bakery and Fine Foods (Extreme North Spokane)

Go there Saturday mornings as soon as they open for GF doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. Maple bars. Pumpkin fritters. Old-fashioneds in regular and chocolate. Delicious heaven.

They also offer a freezer full of other GF pastry treats–bagels were wonderful!!!

Das Stein Haus

Spokane’s only surviving sit-down German restaurant that I know of. Almost all sauces are made with flour. Obviously beer is a no-no.

  • Delicious German potato salad–ask them to warm it up for you
  • 3 bratwurst combo plate w/sauerkraut is my regular order. The sausage does not have breadcrumb filler.

Be extra careful here: the regular waitstaff knows GF well, but a new waitress the other day was pretty sure I could have the pork medallions in apple/brandy sauce because the pork was not breaded. I asked her to check with the kitchen and sure enough, the sauce was not safe.

Delish Hamburgers

  • The ONLY fast food restaurant I’ve found where the meat doesn’t make me sick.
  • Local, family-owned.
  • I get the Bunflinger.
  • The fries are safe at the time of this writing – not coated. Fry sauce hasn’t made me sick yet.

Europa

  • My favorite GF pizza. You can’t tell it isn’t real pizza the texture is so awesome. Lots of topping choices.
  • GF chocolate mousse usually available.
  • GF vodka available (Tito’s) – Dirty martinis with gorgonzola-stuffed olives! Happy, happy.
  • Blue cheese dressing GF at this time.

The letter FFerarros

One GF pasta – currently a spaghetti. Sometimes a penne pasta.

Frank’s Diner

Fantastic egg breakfasts–lunch/dinner tends to be average or below. Watch out for the corned beef–I seem to remember it has flour added.

Recently added GF bread (packaged and pre-sliced) to their menu. Eggs Benedict atop sliced tomatoes instead of bread, if you prefer.

Fusion

  • Delicious GF sandwiches–on bread from Alpine Bakery.
  • Fusion owner used to work at White Box Pies.
  • Best bread since Glutenbusters.
  • Taco salad should be GF–haven’t ordered it so don’t know about the dressing.

Happiness

  • Chinese and Mongolian restaurants? Always bring your own GF soy sauce, since in my experience they never have any. Then you can enjoy your white rice.
  • Server gave me a huge mound of Mu Shu vegetables (minus pork, which is marinated in soy). Veggies had only salt, sugar, and a tiny bit of Chinese mustard. Delicious!
  • My non GF companion said his food was excellent as well.
  • For dessert they have started giving you slices of watermelon along with the off-limits fortune cookies. Genius!
  • You can also order pork-fried rice with no soy sauce, only salt and pepper. So good.

Linnie’s Thai

  • Family-owned. Yummy.
  • Large menu of GF choices available. Only a few menu items contain wheat.

Luigis

  • Servers very knowledegable about gluten.
  • One GF pasta: either penne or spaghetti.
  • GF minestrone soup is tasty and available every day.
  • One or two GF desserts – flourless chocolate cake or crème brulee.

Main Street Market (Deli and Store)

  • Vegan, GF, organic, fair trade co-op downtown.
  • Many GF offerings – my favorite is their GF soup, made fresh daily. GF coconut kale is yummy.
  • Deli sometimes has GF bread/rolls. Usually fresh GF cookies.

Mama Mia’s

  • Good GF pizza.
  • Stuffed mushrooms/cheese with no breading–that’s unusual.
  • Family-owned.
  • They also offer a GF pasta made from scratch! Super tasty.

Method Juice Café

  • GF veggie and fruit juices are very tasty. They used to blend them right in front of you, but now only sell bottled juices in the cooler, unfortunately.
  • GF soup–1 or 2 kinds daily.
  • May have GF rice bowls.

Molly’s

  • Buckwheat waffles and Buckwheat pancakes: both are GF. Delicious.
  • This restaurant serves lunch also–I just like their breakfasts.
  • If you get the prime rib and eggs, watch out for the au jus sauce. I don’t know why, but this almost always contains gluten.

Monterey Café

  • Good GF pizza and they’ll do it to go also.
  • Parking is a pain.

Olive Garden 😦

  • I used to love the soup/salad/breadsticks. Sadly, the creamy sausage/potato/kale has gluten.
  • My dear mother made this soup without gluten–it isn’t hard–really, OG, would it kill you to leave out the flour?!–Thanks, Mom!
  • I will probably never eat at the Olive Garden again – too many competing GF options that offer more.
  • I think they may have GF pasta if you really want to eat there.

Keep calm eat gluten freeOutback Steakhouse

Fairly large GF menu: Servers I’ve had all very GF savvy, bartenders too. If you’re not sure, ask. They know.

Washington State Law:

A server told me the rules recently changed in Washington, so they can’t list items as GF if they are served with a non-GF side. For example:

* the raw ahi tuna because it rests on a bed of lettuce and soy. I request it without soy and it has never made me sick.

Crab is another entrée not on the GF menu that I’ve had safely before. Steamed I think.

Definitely Not Safe: Blue cheese dressing – the latest server told me that the reason it isn’t GF is because of the tarragon/vinegar ingredient. To get around this, I request a side of blue cheese crumbles to sprinkle on your salad. Those are safe for me because it is pure blue cheese, nothing added.

Pete’s Pizza

The GF pizza is good here–a cut above Pizza Rita’s for sure. Just be prepared to wait a fairly long time for them to make it.

Pho City

Vietnamese food generally contains glass noodles, which are made of rice. I have safely eaten the pho here and it’s very tasty!

Queen of Sheba

  • Beware: Yes, Ethiopian bread, injera, is made from teff, a GF grain, but it also contains barley. The restaurant offers both regular and GF injera.
  • Sauces are thickened with potato so you can order most of them.
  • Dessert is a GF Nutella cake. I didn’t try it but it sounds yummy.

the letter RRancho Chico

Servers know about GF – you can’t have the rice or the refried beans so they will give you rancho or black beans instead. Their original margaritas are made with tequila and Cointreau. Excellent!

Recommended:

  • * GF shrimp and mushrooms in garlic butter
  • * GF tortilla soup with cilantro, chicken, and avocado
  • * Spinach/mushroom enchiladas in corn tortillas
  • *The chips you get for dessert w/whipped cream, ice cream and strawberry syrup? I just slide everything off the wheat chip onto a corn chip.

Red Lobster 😦

  • I had one terrible experience here after having to go GF, and I will never go back.
  • At that time there was no GF menu, and nothing marked on the regular menu. I ordered something and the waitress had to go and check if I could eat it. Then she would come back – no. Then we’d do it again.
  • I seem to remember that almost everything had gluten in it, including a garlic lemon butter sauce they put on the lobster.
  • And of course, their famous corn muffins are off-limits.
  • I am much better off at the Outback Steakhouse which has a nice large GF menu and GF-knowledgeable staff.

Rock City Grill

I hate the way their menu is written.

  1. GF items are not clearly marked.
  2.  NOT a good place for the newly-gluten free, as you have to depend on your server to know which salads and soups you can eat.
  3. GF pasta and pizza crust are available, but the entire dish isn’t marked GF or non-GF, so I don’t know if the sausage, for example, or the Korean fish sauce contains gluten.
  4.  In July, all the servers were wearing T-shirts that said FREE BEER AND PIZZA. I have no idea what that was about, but I didn’t bother to ask since I can’t have either beer or pizza (probably the offer would not extend to specialty GF crust)…

I was lucky in that my server seemed very confident about the GF offerings, but you can’t assume they all will be.

  • If you order a GF pizza crust you must order a regular sized pizza (no minis). I had the New York Cheese pizza and it was really good. While not Fusion Flours, the crust had a chewy but firm texture. It was super tasty!!!
  • GF pastas are available, either spaghetti or fettucine.
  • They also offer a chocolate lava cake that’s GF, I believe with raspberry sauce.

Ruins

  • A little pricy–limited menu, BUT % of GF items on menu is high. Organic, locally-sourced, hipster. New in 2015.
  • Wonderful GF roasted beet risotto. I would have told you I don’t like beets. I loved these.

Starbucks

The iconic Washington chain coffee place now offers a GF breakfast sandwich. It’s a GF English Muffin with egg and smoked Canadian bacon. Delicious.

Soulful Soups

Six kinds of soup daily.

Non GF Staples (for your friends)

  • Beer/cheese soup and tasty beer bread

GF Staples

  • Tomato basil soup
  • Other varieties change by the day. Some of my favorites are the chicken artichoke spinach soup, and the chicken and chickpea soup. Also broccoli and cheddar.

Stein Haus, das

Good news: the German sausages are safe.
Bad news: the spatzele isn’t.

  • Boy I used to love that, and those big fluffy German pretzels too. And strudel. Alas.
  • While bier is out of the question, the Liebfraumilch (wine) is tasty. The sauerkraut is GF and they’ll do any kind of potatoes for you.

Sweet Frostings

  • One GF cupcake available – usually vanilla with chocolate frosting or visa-versa. (Yawn.)
  • They bake their own macaroons. Macaroons are naturally GF and oh, so good. MANY flavors from pistachio to lemon to violet.

Swinging Doors

  • For a bar, they have wonderful food–very little of it is GF.
  • Best bets: Breakfast: Eggs, hashbrowns, bacon. Lunch/Dinner: Chef salad–no blue cheese. Not GF.
  • Drinks: Bartenders make the Bloody Mary mix from scratch rather than a package. One sat down with me to list the ingredients she uses. So any Bloody Mary should be ok if you just ask them to skip the Worchester sauce. I like the Bakon Bloody Mary and the Cucumber Mary. And the Doors Mary too.

Taco Time

I have had the tacos with ground beef a few times and they don’t make me sick. Avoid the cheaper Taco Bell, however, that meat has NOT been safe for me.

Taste

  • Daily GF tomato quinoa soup.
  • A coworker told me they have GF muffins every Thursday – get there early before the lunch rush.
  • A bit pricy for what you get.

But: Their GF toffee oatmeal cookies are to die for. Delicious!

Update: Sometimes Taste has tasty GF salads: The other day these included a GF Waldorf, GF potato salad, GF curried lentil salad, and GF vegetable salad.

Thai Bamboo

A huge menu of GF items. Wheat was never a big thing in Thailand, lucky for me and you! Some of my favorite GF items:

  • Peanut satay
  • Pork-fried rice
  • Crab-fried rice

The Yards

No GF wrapped baked goods to go at this time.

Twigs

  • HUGE menu of GF items, not just one or two.
  • Pizzas, pastas, even sandwiches.
  • Once I had a warm pear bread pudding GF with brandy sauce.
  • A little pricy, but so worth it.

Tomato Street

5-6 GF pasta offerings marked on their regular menu.

Veraci Pizza

GF pizza crust available but you must buy an entire pie. A bit pricy, and gentrified, if you know what I mean. Toppings are upscale. I had the artichoke, basil and roasted red pepper pizza on GF crust. The crust was limp and chewy. It wasn’t bad, just not as good as Europa, for my taste. It is thin crust, but it wasn’t crispy like the thin-crust pizza I used to get at Toll Station Pizza in McCall, Idaho.

White Box Pies ***** (Five stars)

When my husband asked me how my GF pork tenderloin sandwich was, I told him I was dancing around the couch singing hallelujia. True story. The pork was breaded and the sandwich was on a great-tasting and thin bun. (Mariah, I owe you one–you were SO right about this place.)

  • HUGE GF menu for eat-in or take-out.
  • GF pie by the slice or you can buy whole pies. Many flavors. I tried a slice of the huckleberry pie: what a treat.
  • Unusual GF bakery items: Eclairs and cheesecake along with the more common muffins and cookies.
  • GF Breakfast options including baked French toast, waffles in 6 different flavors, quiche, and biscuits and gravy.
  • GF hamburgers, hot dogs and soup.

Wild Sage ***** (Five stars. Pricy but so worth it for special dinners.)

  • Large menu of GF items – current chef is GF himself.
  • Servers know all about gluten, including alcohols.
  • GF miniature rolls/popovers served before your meal: best bready-thing ever.
  • Meat fondue appetizer with roasted pears and a gorgonzola dipping sauce is the most tender beef my husband and I have ever had.

Stores

Main Street Market: It’s a fair-trade, organic, vegan, GF type of restaurant/store. It’s a co-op. Very cool. Downtown Spokane, close to Boots Bakery (another good GF option).

Rosauers (small one in Browne’s Addition)

Bakery usually has:

  • GF muffins or GF banana bread or GF ginger cookies – especially good! Sometimes GF peanut butter cookies or shortbread cookies with icing.

Small GF selection of packaged foods including pasta, flours, pretzels and cookies.

Safeway

  • Large Safeways have GF frozen waffles.
  • Fresh pasta in the aisle with the eggs, hot dogs, and yoghurt. There were 2 GF choices last time I looked and one was butternut squash ravioli.

Trader Joe’s

  • Smaller GF section than you  would think, but I haven’t been in a while.
  • They do usually have GF chocolate cupcakes. Corn and rice GF pasta. (I have found the corn pasta falls apart. Rice pasta doesn’t.)

Hey, this is a project still in the works! Please come back. I’m adding to it this month (April 2017). If you know of something NOT on this list, or has changed, please leave me a comment and I’ll add your info! 

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