Gluten has become a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many. This protein found in wheat and other grains adds spring to breads and pizza dough. But it's also become a phobia for many diners who profess to have a sensitivity that makes them feel bloated and ill.
Eating gluten-free has become one of the most popular forms of dieting, even beating out programs like Jenny Craig. According to one survey, nearly a third of Americans are reducing or eliminating gluten from their diets.
Once upon a time, they called this "low carb," but nowadays grocery stores have entire gluten-free aisles. Restaurants are on the gluten-free bandwagon too: National "healthy" chains like Seasons 52 and True Food Kitchen — plus not-so-healthy ones like Johnny Carino's — have all created special menus featuring GF dishes. And many ethnic cuisines are GF-friendly, especially Asian and Mexican.
Above and beyond that, here's our list of local spots with a big commitment to gluten-free.
Be Raw Food & Juice
With 100 percent raw food, there are no wheat breads and therefore no gluten. Plus think of all the nutrients and enzymes you get. From appetizer to dessert, Be Raw lets you enjoy everything without having a furrow in your gluten-phobic brow. Try the coconut curry soup, spaghetti and "meatballs," and brownie for a three-course meal that's wheat-, dairy- and meat-free.
Company Cafe was early on the gluten-free scene, and the restaurant has a wide selection of dishes that are usually hard to find in GF versions, including pancakes, waffles, bagels, chicken-fried steak and granola. The cakes and pastries are heavy on the dairy, and the pancakes and waffles come with maple syrup, whipped cream and butter. But where else can you get a gluten-free bagel? Or chicken-fried steak with jalapeño-honey gravy?
HG Sply Co.
The focus at this Greenville Avenue restaurant is Paleolithic, which claims to re-create the diet of our caveman ancestors. That claim has been debunked by numerous sources, including Scientific American, unmasking Paleo as this year's Atkins diet. Just as Atkins despised carbs, so does Paleo. No carbs means no gluten, and you won't find many here – just meat, fish, veggies and the occasional grain of quinoa.
First on the GF scene in Dallas, Kozy was gluten-free before it became the hot trend it is today. Like many GF places, Kozy loads up on the sweets, including gluten-free carrot cake, chocolate cake, New York cheesecake, chocolate marble cheesecake, praline cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies. Kozy also does something called "mush," a gluten-free hot cereal with honey and cream.
Linda Fitzerman opened Local Oven after discovering she had a gluten intolerance. The bakery makes gluten-free baked goods, especially breads such as the mixed olive baguette, which Local Oven provides to many local restaurants. The big seller is hamburger buns, and they also make cookies and treats such as cherry pecan biscotti.
The main excitement about this Richardson bakery is its vegan-ness: It's the area's first vegan bakery, from friends and cake decorators Nancy Castillo and Racene Mendoza. But some of the cupcakes, doughnuts, Danish pastries, croissants, cookies, cakes and cheesecakes are also gluten-free. Oatmeal cookies are scrumptious, and dairy-free cheesecakes are divine.
Dallas-Fort Worth's first and best known vegan restaurant serves faux-meat dishes and an awesome selection of vegan sweets such as cakes, brownies and ice cream. Its menu features a page dedicated to gluten-free options. Top picks: pasta primavera with brown rice noodles, marinara and veggies, as well as the "ate" layer burrito with taco "meat," quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, green onion, avocado, black olives, corn, sour cream and chipotle mayonnaise in corn tortillas.
Tu-Lu's Gluten-Free Bakery
This New York-bred gluten-free bakery serves sweets and lunches on Sherry Lane. Pumpkin and banana breads, Mallomars — chocolate-covered marshmallow and graham cracker rounds — cookies, cakes and granola will have you fooled. Lunch items include panini made with house-made bread and savory quiches.
Mother-and-daughter celiacs have taken allergen-free baking to a new level at Unrefined. They don't use chemicals, preservatives or GMOs. They're gluten-free, soy-free, 99 percent corn-free and dairy-free, 80 percent egg-free, with nut-free, tapioca-free, grain-free, sugar-free and yeast-free options. Consider a sweet potato cake filled with mashed sweet potato-cranberry-orange filling and iced with a maple cranberry "un-buttercream."