In the past, the News-Post has featured various gluten-free restaurants like Sanctuary: Modern Kitchen and GOOD Juju, but how safe is the food for those with celiac or a gluten allergy? More importantly, how good is the food?
I should also preface that this is not comprehensive of every place in downtown Frederick that offers gluten-free food. These are just places that I know and trust. Having celiac, so even a little gluten can make me sick for weeks.
Here are four downtown spots I frequent:
The juice bar, which opened in 2016, is my go-to in town. There are many options, from salads to sandwiches to smoothies — and even burgers (the patty is the Beyond Meat brand, which, fun fact, Bill Gates is an investor in). My favorite is the roasted root wrap.
I remember how excited I was for it to open that spring, peeking over at the little green building that would be the restaurant every time I walked down to Shab Row.
Although it advertises itself as a gluten-free restaurant, gluten-free is a substitute at GOOD Juju. It’s a dollar extra to substitute gluten free bread or wraps and some items on the menu don’t even have that option. Because the place is vegan-mandatory, gluten-optional, all the food is prepared in the same kitchen but staff members take extra care to make sure that the food stays safe.
There have been many times where I forgot to special request the gluten-free substitution when ordering (you order and pay at the counter), but when I let them know, they were more than fine with making a last-minute change — and without the extra charge.
However, if you also have an egg allergy or choose to not eat eggs, beware. The gluten-free bread and wraps they use contain egg. To this, I ask: Why can GOOD Juju source the ingredients for gluten-free, vegan pancakes, but they can’t find a gluten-free, vegan bread brand? Schär is my recommendation.
North Market Pop Shop
While known for its hundreds of sodas, this place has
something else to be recognized for: its ice cream.
Usually when going to an ice cream shop, I have to get a scoop in a cup, while looking at my brother holding his gluten-full cone. The Pop Shop is different. They have not just one type of gluten free cone, but two: sugar and cake. Crunchy and crispy, I’m satisfied (I still ask for a cup, though, for when the ice cream starts to melt).
On their list of ice creams written on the wall, they specify what flavors are gluten free and they even have dairy free options, for those who are dairy-free by choice or by allergy. They also have scoopers specifically for those with a gluten-allergy (they do not go in the water bin with the regular scoopers).
The staff members are also more than happy to show or read you the ingredients list of any behind-the-counter food you might be concerned about.
When I went in to order a cone, I had forgotten to let them know about my celiac. As I was being rung up, I asked if they used separate scoopers for those who are gluten-free.
It popped into my head that ice cream scoopers are usually set in a bucket of water to be cleaned off in between scoops. If you have celiac or a gluten allergy, even the minuscule cookie dough particles floating in the water can be enough to make you sick.
The employee who scooped my ice cream and rang me up (very streamlined service at the Pop Shop) asked if I had a gluten allergy. When I said “yes” (sometimes it’s easier for people to understand “gluten allergy” than “auto-immune disorder with a non-descriptive name”), he immediately offered me a new scoop with a gluten-free scooper, which are kept separately, at no charge.
“The scoop is bigger, anyway,” he told me.
However, with all the scoopers going into the same multi-gallon ice cream containers, there’s still a chance for contamination. Lick at your own risk.
Sanctuary: Modern Kitchen
This is the only restaurant in town with a completely gluten-free kitchen. Muffins, cookies, French fries, pot pies — salty and sweet, they’ve got it.
Although hidden behind Talbots, the space has an open design and lots of sunlight (without shade from the racks of slacks), so you can see how things are prepared while chowing down on a fresh chicken tender (yes, they serve those as well).
Besides eating in, you can also take out. There is an array of foods that are frozen and ready to heat in the oven without the fear that your mother accidentally used the same cooking utensils to make a gluten-full something.
To be honest, I don’t frequent the restaurant quite so much, since I don’t frequently eat animal products (and it’s in a lot of what they serve), but I do like that I know that I’m safe whenever I catch a bite there.
Pistarro Ristorante Pizzeria Italiana
If you’re looking for gluten-free pizza, this is it.
Typically, if you find a pizza place that has a gluten-free option, the crust is store-bought. At Pistarro’s they make their own crust with a gluten-free flour imported from Italy (who knows if it’s from Naples, but we’re close enough).
The crust is chewy and burns just like a typical thin crust. By looking, I can’t even tell the difference between the “regular” and gluten-free pies. As for the taste, I don’t know, I have celiac.
Another bonus is that they don’t restrict you to specific pies. You can get whatever type of pizza you want (just make sure that the toppings are gluten free) with a gluten-free crust. I like to get the verdure, with fennel, vegan pesto, caponata and mushrooms.
The servers are attentive to the dietary preference (I always throw in a good “I have a gluten allergy” for good measure) and don’t make you wait longer than everyone else for your pie. As for contamination, I’m not sure if they reserve a part of their brick oven just for us special somebodies, but I haven’t been glutened yet.
I prefer this pizza over all others and I’m willing to pay the price ($5 extra).