Tuscaloosa’s Gluten-Free Goodness
Traveling is tricky when you have to avoid gluten.
Sometimes it can take hours of research and pluck the fun of spontaneity right out of the day when exploring a new city.
I get it, and I want to help solve that for your visit to Tuscaloosa.
As a resident with Celiac, I want to walk you through the best gluten-free options T-Town has to offer to make your dining experience a wonderful part of — if not the best part of — your visit!
Also, you probably already do this, but no matter how well I know the restaurant and their staff, I communicate my dietary restrictions with our server every time, just in case there are any menu updates or ingredient substitutions the kitchen is working with for the day.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
Start Your Day Right
A hearty breakfast is the best way to kick off your stay in Tuscaloosa. Another Broken Egg Cafe offers many selections, but my hands-down favorite are their lemon blueberry goat cheese pancakes, made gluten free, with hot cups of rich coffee while enjoying a morning on the porch overlooking the Black Warrior River is hard to beat. While their online menu makes you wonder if I’m lying, be sure to ask for the GF menu when you get there. The servers are always happy to go over the selections with me.
A relative new-comer to the Tuscaloosa scene, Just Love Coffee Cafe has some tasty womelettes (omelettes cooked in a waffle iron) to choose from. They have a gluten friendly disclaimer prominently displayed on their overhead menu, but they always double check and use a clean machine when I’ve let them know I’m celiac.
Looking for a great cup of coffee and something light like granola? Monarch Espresso Bar’s homemade granola is perfect in a bowl with your favorite way to enjoy coffee. These folks understand gluten free. We’ll catch up with their other local business for dessert!
Do Break for Lunch
Antojitos Izcalli consistently ranks at the top of the lists for best Latin food in Alabama for good reason. You absolutely can’t go wrong with their authentic Mexican tacos, sopes and cold horchata.
When I want a light but filling lunch, I head to Hooligans for their Greek salad with grilled chicken. The Alhaija family has been serving their American-Mediterranean mix to Tuscaloosa for more than 20 years. They’re happy to accommodate but remind them no pita.
Sometimes nothing hits like sushi, and Ichiban Japanese Grill is THE place to go. Their online menu even includes a box on each item to let them know your dietary needs. Owner Hiu-Tung is likely the first person to greet you at the counter where she rolls the sushi and makes some great suggestions. If you like a little heat, you can’t go wrong with the spicy escolar and the Adam rolls.
Even chains like Mellow Mushroom and Five Guys are upping their game in the gluten aware department. Both of these restaurants have local management that get it and regularly take the extra precautions to deliver a safe dining experience.
Enjoy Local Taps
As the popularity of craft beer breweries and taprooms grow, Tuscaloosa is not being left behind. Loosa Brews is the best place to find something for everyone’s taste, and they have dedicated gluten free tap lines with a cider and a mead always ready to go.
Delight in Dinner
A great option for a delicious dinner or a special occasion is DePalma’s Italian Cafe. Don’t be dismayed by their online menu; the servers and management are wonderful about walking you through menu options and accommodations to make your meal gluten free. Pesto stuffed mushrooms and the gorgonzola steak melt with a delicious glass of wine.
For more casual dining, Mr. Chen’s offers authentic Chinese cuisine with all of its salty spiciness and robust flavors. Check with your server if your favorite dish can be made adjusted and enjoy! We love to split gluten free versions of the cumin lamb and basil chicken.
Dessert Is Back
Moonshot Creamery (same owners as Monarch Espresso Bar) does gluten free so well without needing to ask, that it made me tear up on our first visit. Fresh ice cream scoops with each dip to avoid cross contamination, clearly stated safe flavors on a handout at the counter, and a gluten free cone option to boot — do NOT miss these guys and their amazing flavors!
I confess that I have not made it to Forté yet, but I have it on good authority from Chef Jacob Stull himself that they take care of their gluten free guests. Friends have raved about the Noel soufflé and the chocolate marquise paired with one of the restaurant’s own craft cocktails for a special treat.
Late Night Bites
There’s no excuse to sleep on the late night scene in Tuscaloosa. SoCal Cantina keeps tasty drinks and tacos flowing until the early hours. And if you’re really craving a pub favorite, grab the carne asada fries. Everything is gluten free except the burrito tortillas, and they don’t go in the fryer.
What about Groceries?
My happy place is often in the kitchen, cooking seasonal ingredients plucked from markets and shops local to the regions I visit. If you’re staying in a short-term rental while visiting Tuscaloosa and plan to do some of your own cooking, Manna Grocery & Deli is a great one-stop shop for many gluten free and natural items you might need. They also stock meats and vegetables from local farms if you miss the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.
Enjoy your stay in Tuscaloosa, and let us know how we can help!
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
I moved to Tuscaloosa in 2009 and was diagnosed with Celiac in 2012. I love to travel and try new foods along the way, and I know firsthand how those two things don’t always get along.
I want to welcome you to our city and offer some friendly help on the best gluten-free options T-Town has to offer to make your dining experience a wonderful part of — if not the best part of — your visit!
Also, no matter how well I know the restaurant and their staff, I communicate my dietary restrictions with our server every time, just in case there are any menu updates or ingredient substitutions the kitchen is working with for the day. Be sure to speak up for yourself and welcome to Tuscaloosa! – ELISA JOHNSON
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