Gluten-free Austin: A #nimatested Dining Guide
Updated on Thursday, July 6 to include infographic.
We just returned (again) from Austin this week after the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest, and it feels like just yesterday when we were there for SXSW in March as well. We were better prepared for dining out on this trip, since we did a lot of testing last month at various gluten-free Austin restaurants that were recommended to us because of their accommodations. Unfortunately, Austin wasn’t the easiest city to navigate for gluten-free food. We had some successful dining experiences, and some not so successful dining experiences. We’ve highlighted a few of our dining adventures below and included our favorites in a gluten-free dining guide for your next visit!
Gluten-free Austin – Nima Tested & Approved
At SXSW, we attended a food tech mixer at El Naranjo, and while I’m usually pretty wary of passed appetizers because you have to grill every server about every ingredient of every plate with which they walk by. It’s exhausting. However, we had our Nima, so we asked the server a few questions (Are these corn or flour tortillas? Do you share the fryer with gluten-containing items?) and decided to take one and test. Both items we tested were gluten-free as specified, and we decided to eat them.
Add the fresh margaritas to the Nima-tested food, and we had a great time and didn’t go hungry.
We decided to go back to El Naranjo with some gluten-free friends last week, and both the empanadas and molotes were Nima tested and approved again! We can’t express how nice it feels to sit with gluten-free folks and not worry if the food we’re serving them will make them sick. Menu
Pharmacies aren’t just for meds anymore – Peoples RX looks unassuming from the outside, but inside is a hidden gem of a kitchen with gluten-free, vegetarian AND paleo breakfast taco options. The paleo tortilla is made of almond flour and tasted that much better when I saw the Nima smile.
Escaping the San Francisco dreary drizzle, I also opted for an almond milk and fruit smoothie with my tacos, which also tested gluten-free and really hit the spot. You can order one of their concoctions or make your own! Menu
Food trucks have small cooking spaces, probably rife with chances for cross-contamination. I didn’t have much faith that a food truck could really serve something gluten-free.
We were pleasantly surprised! A number of food trucks served gluten-free options, and Nima backed up the claims stamped proudly on the side of their trucks. We tested everything from tamales to tacos (it is Austin, of course) and salad.
Trips to Austin typically come with late nights. This 24-hour diner isn’t your typical 24/7 establishment – they have a whole separate gluten-free menu with veggie and vegan options as well. But, you say breakfast all-day, and I’m there to try it.
We ordered the hash off the GF menu, Nima smiled upon it, we smiled upon it and the rest is delicious history. Seriously good food in a casual setting – we’ll be going back to 24 Diner for sure. Gluten-free menu
Gluten-free Austin – Nima Tested & Gluten Found
So, we did have some difficulties in Austin, despite the few gluten-free successes above. More often that not, Nima found gluten in our dishes either labeled or specified gluten-free. We gave gluten-free brownie points to the establishments that really cared to rectify the situation, which we really appreciate!
Max’s Wine Dive
Gluten-free fried chicken salad was not so gluten-free at Max’s Wine Dive.
We did revisit Max’s Wine Dive on this trip (we held an event there last year at SXSW), this time just for dinner. We ordered the gluten-free fried chicken for the buffet that is supposed to be in a dedicated fryer. Last year, Nima detected trace amounts of gluten. They were really interested in Nima and were very curious as to how the chicken was contaminated. A year later, we were equally curious if their practices had changed.
Unfortunately, the gluten-free fried chicken still had trace amounts of gluten in it. We appreciate that they have quite a few gluten-free options well labeled on the menu, but we’re left wondering why contamination is happening, as they don’t have a good explanation for it yet. Menu
Croque-monsieur at Forthright Cafe in Austin can’t be made GF (even with GF bread).
A small cafe with gluten-free options on the menu, Forthright is very centrally located and a cute space to grab a breakfast or lunch bite. I ordered the croque-monsieur gluten-free (the menu has GF option for the sandwiches). The sandwich looked delicious and crisp from the grill, but since it wasn’t a dedicated GF restaurant, I was curious about cross contact. I tested a piece of the gluten-free bread and sure enough, Nima found gluten.
In email exchanges afterward, the Forthright team graciously told us that the cashier should have informed us that the croque-monsieur couldn’t be made GF because there is a béchamel sauce on it that starts with a roux, and that they would be letting the cashier know immediately. They take great strides in offering gluten-free options, so they really wanted to make it right. So if you end up going to Forthright, make sure you steer clear of the croque-monsieur (or order it with GF bread and without béchamel).
At another SXSW event, Carla on our team tested scrambled eggs that were offered at a breakfast buffet at Forthright. Nima also detected gluten there. To be fair, they were not labeled gluten-free, but you wouldn’t expect there to be gluten in eggs (unless it’s IHOP).
We’d be interested to go back and see how things test in the future. Menu
True Food Kitchen
After many “gluten found” results, finally got a smile at True Food Kitchen in Austin.
As you can see, my final entree at True Food tested gluten-free, but it took a while to get there. Three Nima team members and myself ordered three or four appetizers off the gluten-free options on the menu to share, and I ordered the spaghetti squash casserole as my entree (also listed as gluten-free on the menu). We made sure to double-check that everything we ordered was gluten-free and told them I was the person at the table who needed to be gluten-free.
Our appetizers came out looking delicious – cauliflower, kale guacamole (ordered with GF dippers instead of pita) and more. We were ravenous after a long day at SXSW and eager to dig in. I resisted the urge and tested first. One by one, each GF appetizer came back with gluten. Bummer, but I decided to just wait for my entree.
Unfortunately, when I got my spaghetti squash casserole, that too tested positive for gluten. I had to eat something, so I called the waitress over and let her know what Nima was and that it detected gluten in all the dishes, but more importantly I couldn’t have my entree. I asked if maybe they could try making it again because I wasn’t sure of their prep process. She said they would try.
So, as I’m waiting for my second attempt at dinner, the waitress came back and asked to show the sensor to her manager. (He didn’t believe it existed.) Later, the manager came out to chat more about the sensor, how it works and how much gluten it can detect. When my second entree came out, it tested gluten-free. Clearly, they did something in the kitchen that fixed the cross-contact issue, and hopefully they learned more about how to serve truly gluten-free dishes.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen a few other social posts from the Nima community that show other locations of True Food that aren’t testing gluten-free either. We’re hoping the more that word spreads about Nima, the more educated they become about cross-contact in the kitchen and accurate labeling on their menu. Menu
Our breakfast at Picnik was a true testament to the realities of hot spots. Picnik is a dedicated gluten-free restaurant with tasty locally sourced food. Carla and I both ordered the harvest hash, but mine had sausage and hers didn’t.
We both tested our hashes. Carla’s came up gluten-free, and mine came up with gluten. I couldn’t believe it and thought it must have been the meat, since that was the only difference between our dishes. So I tested again.
Let’s say someone ate a croissant and then didn’t wash their hands and touched my food – that could create one spot of cross contact on my dish, and that’s enough for Nima to detect as well (which is what the waiter asked us). It’s likely that there was some sort of hot spot on my plate, and Nima happened to catch it first.
The waiter was very curious about Nima and was interested to learn how these hot spots can happen. We’re hoping they learned a bit more and understand how it’s not just ingredients that have to be gluten-free, but staffers have to be properly trained as well. Menu
Wild Wood Bakehouse
After the Picnik debacle, we headed to another dedicated gluten-free restaurant and bakery, Wild Wood Bakehouse. We heard rave reviews and couldn’t wait to try and test some of their food.
We were joined by blogger Erica Dermer at Celiac and the Beast – she enjoyed a sweet treat in the gluten-free, vegan Ding Dong. However, when we opened the packaged cookie made in-house, Nima detected gluten. We tested again. Gluten found. We let the manager know what Nima was and how it found gluten. We asked if there were any new ingredients sourced, and he would check with the owner.
We’re hoping they took the cookies off the shelf. We’re hoping Nima saved future diners from eating cookies that weren’t really gluten-free. One of the most rewarding parts of working at Nima is hearing how one Nima test can pay it forward when restaurants change their practices because of it. Menu
We’re headed back to Austin (yes, again!) in May for Paleo f(x). What tops your list of gluten-free Austin? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Share your Nima tests in Austin using #nimatested.
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