Considering that I have lived in Denver for about 9 months now, I can safely say that I have tried most of the gluten free restaurant offerings here in Denver. Well, at least most of the places within a 10 mile radius of the University of Denver. Come on people, I don’t have a car, and my legs can only take me so far. Hey, that rhymed.
Anyways, I thought that I would start a little thing called “Tried, True, and Tested” where I will make a record of the good, the bad, and the ugly gluten free foods within a city that I go to. Denver seemed to be the obvious first post.
Although Denver is not the most hippie city in Colorado (wink wink, Boulder), it definitely has it’s fair share of hipsters. And those of you who have been gluten free for a bit can agree that if you want to find gluten free food, follow the hipsters. I consider myself lucky that I chose to go to college in this city, seeing as I was unaware of my celiac-ness when I sent in my confirmation deposit. Going back and forth between Denver and Seattle (hint on the next location for Tried, True, and Tested) could not be more of a perfect situation when it comes to finding great gluten free eats. So here it is, my list of Denver’s good, bad, and ugly gluten free food options:
Luckily, this category of g-free foods is the largest of the three! First off, as an proper follow-up of my previous post, I would like to honor…
Udi’s Bread Cafe.
Ironically, this place is also in my “ugly” category, but more on that later… The reason that this has made my “good” list is because of one thing: Bacon. Avocado. Cheeseburgers. This is the one place that I have discovered that has burgers on gluten free buns (Udi’s gluten free buns, of course!). I got myself a big fat burger this past Friday, and let me tell you… I could have died right there in the car as I stuffed my face much too full with crispy sweet potato fries, juicy beef with melted cheese and fresh onion, and of course a crunchy dill pickle. I couldn’t eat it fast enough and the amount of burger juice running down my face was inappropriate.
I couldn’t find a picture of Udi’s burger and I left my own camera back in Seattle (boo), so here is a picture of a random burger that resembles Udi’s. Vegetarians: we can’t be friends.
Snooze A.M Diner
Ok, so if you are EVER in Denver, please just do yourself a favor and go here. It is where I get my pancake fix, and in all three times that I have been there so far, I have never felt sick afterwards. Only pleasantly full of delicious pancake. My favorite flavor is the Pineapple Upside Down pancake. Unfortunately the Red Velvet and Sweet Potato pancakes do not come in gluten free, but I haven’t felt as if I have missed out too much. What I do is order the 3 Egg Omelette with onion, basil, and cheddar cheese then replace toast with a single pancake. HEAVEN. I will be frequenting this place often next year. In fact I am going there next Saturday morning with my roommate, a brand spankin’ new celiac Selina, and Selina’s roommate. I plan on peer pressuring Selina into ordering just about every pancake on the menu to comfort that part of her that is probably missing gluten-y foods.
That stuff you see on top of the pancake is the delicious vanilla creme anglaise with cinnamon butter and pineapple chunks. This is not your ordinary pancake place!
Beau Jo’s Pizza
If I for any reason had to make a list of the most inclusive, accepting restaurants, Beau Jo’s would be on the top of the list. They offer gluten free crust (prepared separately from glutenous foods), dairy free cheese, and even brail menus. Talk about inclusion. Declared by gluten eaters as the best pizza in Denver, this place is definitely a win for the gluten free community. Fun fact: Man vs. Food (the Travel Channel tv show) came here to do a pizza challenge. Non-so-fun-fact-but-relevant-to-my-life: They accept Flex money from DU Student IDs!
I always order pineapple, canadian bacon, mozzerella cheese, and maybe some basil if I’m feeling fancy. Add some honey to that and you’ve got the best g-free pizza you will ever eat— maybe the best pizza (g-free or not) you’ll ever eat period.
While there are more good g-free options than bad, not all g-free efforts are successful. I’ll start off this list with…
Noodles & Company
This is a frequent dinner stop for DU students which is why I really wanted to like it here. Of course, it is a pasta place so it would only seem obvious that it is not quite gluten free central, but still. They offer only pad thai as a gluten free option and it is about $8 for the smallest plate of noodles and chicken they can get away with giving you. I might mention that the founder of Noodles & CO is a Denver native and his daughter actually goes to DU. To her I say please, do not come and murder me in my sleep for disliking your family’s source of well- being. Just make them offer more (and better) gluten free options, and we might even become friends.
DU Dining Hall
They try, they really do. But despite all the meetings with the dining hall manager that I went through at the beginning of the year, they still kind of suck at having gluten free options. My biggest pet peeve with them is that they serve foods that could EASILY be prepared gluten free but its like they go out of their way to put gluten in foods like sweet potato fries, potato pancakes, salad dressings, rice, and cole slaw. Even the brand of ketchup that they use isn’t gluten free when it would be just as easy to get Heinz which IS gluten free and more mainstream anyways. While the dining hall does label their food with allergens, that doesn’t help the fact that everything says it contains gluten. That doesn’t make me feel better. I only go to dining hall for omelettes in the morning but otherwise, they don’t see my face over there.
As mentioned before in the “good” section, this is a bit of an odd repeat…
Udi’s Bread Cafe
Udi’s Bread Cafe is by no means an ugly PLACE but the service there is pretty bad enough to call it ugly. I feel that a good restaurant should have you leaving the place with a warm and fuzzy feeling, having just been treated well by the employees. Udi’s Bread Cafe, however, just leaves me with a feeling more along the lines of “the food may be worth it, but I don’t want a cent of my money to go towards the people working there.” I know that sounds awful but really, nobody there has acted friendly or helpful towards me. Not to mention, I have read pretty dreadful reviews about this place from other people. Multiple stories of celiacs getting glutenous breads after ordering gluten free bread– the worst crime a “gluten free friendly” restaurant can make. I get in the habit of doing the gluten free test (pulling apart any baked good to see if it sticks together–bad, or falls apart–good) when I go here, just to be safe. The first time I went here to eat, I didn’t get gluten-ed but my burger came out completely raw in the middle. Nasty. They’ve got their menu down, now they need to work on customer service.
Pei Wei Asian Diner
The fact that Pei Wei’s offers gluten free asian foods may make it appear less like crappy asian food at first, but it really is no better than Panda Express. The sauces glisten all too unnaturally under the florescent buffet lights, and the sodium levels are through the roof. I don’t have much to say about this place except ew. I wouldn’t go here again.
So there you have it! The good, the bad, and the ugly of gluten free dining in Denver! I had to cut out a few places from my “good” list since there were so many so here are these honorable mentions:
-Garbanzo’s (just be careful of getting hummus- it can have pita crumbs in it!)
-Chipotle (the original is right next to DU!)