FeaturesFeb/Mar 2014 Issue

Dining Along: A Road-Trip Search for Celiac-Safe Food

While driving from Denver to Des Moines, our author finds few roadside eateries. So where’s a celiac to eat?

Interstate 80 sign © Shutterstock;

“Look—cows!” My city-bred husband points to a herd grazing on a roadside pasture as we drive through the country’s heartland on I-80, the second-longest interstate in the nation. Tim and I are traveling from our home in Colorado to attend The Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo in Des Moines. Along with the occasional herd, there are exit signs every six miles with no town in sight and wide-open spaces as far as the eye can see.

The 9-hour road trip along the 1-80 corridor doesn’t seem like a big deal except for the fact that we need to eat along the way. And not just any food will do. As a celiac chef, I’ve come to demand the best of my food. No naked salads. No plain burgers.

On this trip, I am determined to seek out the new breed of restaurants that embrace gluten-free, allergy-friendly cuisine. My criteria for each dining stop is that the restaurant have (1) a gluten-free menu, from appetizers to desserts, (2) a wait staff that is well informed about special dietary needs, and (3) a kitchen staff that uses safe practices. In addition, I want to frequent local eateries (not chains) that offer imaginative dishes with gourmet flair.

It’s a tall order. So I needed a little help from my friends. I turned to local chapters of the Celiac Sprue Association, whose members gave me the skinny on their favorite hangouts.

Thanks to them and other helpful resources (see "Tell Me More" box at right), we found restaurants that cater to special dietary needs, well-versed chefs and lots of healthy, delicious food on our 670-mile road trip. Here’s how my husband and I ate our way along a segment of Interstate 80.

Next: Lincoln, Nebraska

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