Eating out at restaurants with food allergies or sensitivities, or even celiac, can be very difficult! Add in travel on vacations, and you increase your time to find a restaurant that will work within your particular limitations. I thought I’d compile a list of gluten-free options for my own hometown, Fort Collins, a city one hour north of Denver, along the Front Range (the mountains before the Rockies.) Lucky for you, I have the inside track on safe fries and other foods in Fort Collins, thanks to a good friend, who has celiac in her family.
French fries are normally gluten-free, but are sometimes fried in the same hot fat as onion rings, which are breaded with wheat. Obviously, this makes them wheat-infused, and not OK for celiacs or anyone wheat intolerant.
These restaurants listed below have either dedicated gluten-free fryers, or gluten-free options, in the city of Fort Collins, Colorado. I’ve included locations, but you could look them up in an internet search or restaurant websites.
Dickie’s – Most meat and sides are gluten-free. The balsamic vinegar dressing is ok, too. FRIES? (Location: On West side of College, just South of Drake & College Avenue, in the JoAnn’s plaza.
Red Robin’s – They have a new, better gluten free bun option. (The old one resisted softening even with a lot of olive oil, and wasn’t worth eating. Insert comparisons to hockey pucks here-)
I usually get a beef burger with bacon and guacamole, lettuce wrapped, with steamed broccoli on the side. It’s really good and I’ve eaten here at least seven times with no bad results.
Red Robin’s also have unlimited steamed broccoli and salad, which is pretty nice. Note that the salad has cheese on it. (Location:
On Harmony at Lemay, in SE Fort Collins, CO. Sam’s Club plaza)
Big Al’s – I’m told this popular downtown hot dog spot has the best gluten-free bun. Their hot dogs are good, too. One of their hot dogs (don’t recall which) was too spicy for a kid under 6 – you might ask them for recommendations if you have kids with you. (Location: On the north side of Mountain Ave., West of College, in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado. Just next to Snooze.)
Larkburger: I really like their burgers, which I usually get lettuce-wrapped. The meat is really good Angus beef, and there’s just meat in the burger, no soy, corn or fillers. (You might think this would be the case with other burger joints, but it is NOT.) I would call this an upscale fast-food place. They also have turkey burgers (not impressed – a bit bad) and veggie burgers from black bean, too.
They have a gluten-free bun and ice cream cone, and several salads made with things like kale and the gluten-free grains like quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) They are messy when lettuce-wrapped (I found out, with permanent splotches on my shirt) unless you request the sauce on the side. Also don’t recommend driving while eating them.
They offer delicious, shoestring french fries with parmesan and truffle oil – yum! I think they are gluten-free, as there are no onion rings on the menu, but you should ask. I think they have batter-fried jalapeno strips.
They have online ordering. It’s real food, so it be patient during the roughly ten minutes. It’s usually cool in there, so bring a sweater.
JAX Fish House – I’m told by good sources that they have the BEST gluten-free calamari, dipped in rice flour, and made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. I really need to try these, as I’ve pined for good calamari for a while. They have a great Happy Hour from 4-6 pm. (Location: Downtown Fort Collins, West side of College, I think just South of Mountain, about 200 numbers.)
Macaroni Grill: I’m not sure about their fryer, but they have delicious gluten-free pasta. I like the Pasta Carmelita, with mushrooms, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and red sauce. If you’re avoiding tomatoes, too, I’ve asked for this dish with olive oil and garlic in place of red tomato sauce, and had a happy palate.
Hunan Chinese Food: When someone with celiac or wheat intolerance orders, one of the owners goes into the back and prepares the meal personally!! The owner (1 or both) has experienced being celiac, I’m told.
They do well with helping diners with multiple sensitivities, if you are also avoiding soy, beans, nuts or dairy. They have a white sauce made from chicken broth. It may be thickened with corn starch. They have chicken and broccoli with white sauce, and there are others, too. I think they also had some nice shrimp, perhaps on a skewer. (Location: On Harmony, at Harmony and Lemay, SE corner, in the Sam’s Club plaza. They are in a small strip of stores just to the East of Red Robin, which is on the corner. In South East Fort Collins city.)
Fish: This small restaurant has a great assortment of seafood that anyone would be impressed with. Their fish chowder is just tomato, onions and fish, with no thickeners! It’s really good! (It’s been a while since I dined there, though, so please double check with your server that the recipe hasn’t changed.) I really like shrimp in a curry sauce. (Location: Downtown Fort Collins, on Oak Street, very close to Mason Street, which is 1 block West of College Ave. Going west, you’ll probably feel like you’re running out of street.)
Egg & I: This Colorado chain serves breakfasts and lunches only. Their sausage is safely gluten-free, and I’ve enjoyed it many times with sides of sauteed vegetables and avocado. (Locations: two in Fort Collins, West side of College about 2-3 short blocks south of Drake, and 1 block southeast of Harmony and Lemay.)
Carrabba’s Italian Food: I have eaten here yet, but I’m told that they are great for gluten free foods. (I guess all Italian restaurants had to adapt.) (Location: On Harmony on the South side, across from Safeway on the north side of this large road. In South East Fort Collins city.)
Young’s Vietnamese: They have many dishes that can be made with gluten-free rice noodles, and they have rice paper wrappers, too. Their rice is either served white or “fried rice” with soy sauce with gluten. They don’t have gluten-free soy sauce available. They also seem very kind here. (Location: 3307 S College Ave, just north and west of Horsetooth. Mid-city in Fort Collins. Note that there is another Young’s at Drake and Taft that has great egg rolls (made from wheat), but it’s not this restaurant.)
Applebee’s – This quick restaurant has beef and chicken burgers that they can serve over the greens. I haven’t asked about the fries yet. (Location: on East side of College in South Fort Collins, just south of Troutman, north of Harmony.)
Home Depot Hot Dog Cart: You may scoff all you wish, but his brats are amazingly delicious! I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Our local food blogger wrote about him in Feasting Fort Collins. I think I read that he gets them made himself.
Order your brat or hotdog without the bun. Sometimes he has elk brats! I haven’t tried the hot dogs, but have heard they are good, too. I think you would be taking a chance with the condiments like white onions and relish, because they are in an open trays. I think its possible that someone might touch their bun with the spoons and then put it back. The mustard and ketchup is in bottles, though.
He offers drinks and small chips, too. (Location: Southeast Fort Collins at John F Kennedy Parkway (1 large block East of College Ave.) and Harmony Blvd. I think he also sells at the other Home Depot in the northeast Fort Collins, at the northeast plaza of Mulberry at Lemay. This is just east of downtown.)
Wendy’s Burgers: I have eaten here several times with no bad result. Not fancy, but at least the burgers are real meat, with no fillers. (Location: East side of College Ave., about 150′ south of Horsetooth Ave. In mid-city Fort Collins, Colorado.)
Grocery Store Gluten Free Options: Make your own picnic! Get the Applegate lunchmeat or cured salmon at Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers or any King Soopers store. Buy sides like artichoke hearts, olives (hmmm – green or black? Try Castlevarano greens), guacamole, cut celery and carrots, spinach bag, olive oil.
These Restaurants are Less Safe, in My Opinion:
Panera: you can get their salads, and hold the bread side, but I’m not sure about the dressings. They used to offer olive oil packets, but stopped. (I have been meaning to get a flask just to carry my own olive oil around, because most restaurants serve lemon and salt. Et voila – my own dressing.)
The Panera morning sausage was not OK for me, but I have yet to investigate the ingredients. I think it may have corn in it, but not sure. (Some foods can react like wheat in the body. Corn, sesame and some grains among them.)
They are starting to offer gluten-friendly cookies, which are oats-based. They’re in the same case as the others wheat cookies, though, so you’ll have to judge your level of adventure. I think they should wrap them up after baking.
Burger King: These burgers (served without the bun) have both corn and soy in them, which I found out after calling them, three days after an airport trip. Not recommended.
These are offered for informational purposes only. If you have a serious allergy please always check with your server about your menu item.
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Did you try any of these restaurants? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!