It sounds like an advertiser’s tagline: Gluten-free doesn’t have to mean flavour-free. For those who can’t handle gluten, or simply want to embrace gluten-free options, choices can be limited. But, we went out in search of gluten-free dishes that, well, don’t feel like substitutions.
at Highlevel Diner
I’m not a picky eater. When I dine, I let chefs guide me through the flavour profiles they design. After all, they are the experts, right?
Needless to say, I’ve never made a special request for a gluten-free meal, so the experience was one I dreaded when I arrived at Highlevel Diner.
Would the waitress give me that exasperated look? Would I be an inconvenience?
Is there some sort of special gluten-free handshake I’m not aware of?
But my fears were quickly put to rest. Not only was the staff accommodating, but Highlevel Diner has a variety of gluten-free options for everything from brunch to dinner – as well as specials throughout the week.
I opted for the pulled pork enchilada with a side of brown rice and refried beans from the lunch menu. The enchilada is massive – almost intimidating. It stretches from one side of the plate to the other, stuffed nearly two inches high with a pile of succulent pulled pork (made in-house), grilled peppers, onions and Monterey jack cheese. Topped with tomato jalapeo sauce that gives the dish just a small bit of heat, the ivory teff tortilla (the gluten-free aspect to the dish) holds up under the sauce. It didn’t crumble. It didn’t taste of cardboard and, to be honest, it may have paired better with the refried beans than most white flour or corn tortillas. By the time I was done, the only fear I had left was of just how many holes deep I’d have to loosen my belt. –Cory Haller
10912 88 Ave., 780-433-0993, highleveldiner.com
at Cafe Mosaics
There’s a tendency to substitute the wheat ingredient for a vegetable (like lettuce in place of a bun) or to omit it altogether (“I’ll get the burger, but hold the bun”) to make a dish gluten-free. Thankfully, the Against All Grain Benny at Cafe Mosaics is true to its name by simply swapping the traditional English muffin for hash-brown “pancakes” instead. This variation places two poached eggs (you can swap this for tofu if you’re vegan) on a concoction of green onions with shredded hash-brown pancakes made from pumpkin, yam and golden potatoes in a hot skillet and covered in a creamy, vegan hollandaise sauce. The pumpkin and yam took a bit of a backseat here – the underwhelming pumpkin flavour wasn’t too much of a problem for me as I was a bit weary of its taste overpowering the dish – allowing the hollandaise to really shine through. Sure, it’s a carb overload, but the grilled asparagus and grapefruit sides provide some colourful and delicious variation. –Jasmine Salazar
10844 82 Ave., 780-433-9702, cafemosaics.com
at Blue Plate Diner
Traditional shepherd’s pie is prepared with lamb, cooked in a sauce often thickened with flour. In its veggie interpretation, Blue Plate Diner has taken out the meat entirely, instead replacing it with black beans, grilled onions, corn, red pepper and quinoa. The mixture is coated in a tangy tomato-herb sauce that is completely gluten free and topped with a vibrant, silky-smooth mash of butternut squash and potato.
Though it might seem like you’re missing all the key components that make a shepherd’s pie so delectable, don’t fret – the dish is flavourful enough to please even the most adamant carnivore or carb-lover. It’s the perfect comforting dish to combat the winter chill.-Adrianna Szenthe
10145 104 St., 780-429-0740, blueplatediner.ca
at Mini Mango
If you’re steering clear of gluten, one of the first things you’ll likely miss is digging into a big plate of pasta. And, while the pad Thai at Mini Mango won’t satisfy any Italian cravings, it’ll more than satisfy your desire for a bowl of saucy noodles. The rice noodles are coated in a peanut satay sauce and tossed with bean sprouts, eggs, chicken and prawns, and the dish is topped with roasted peanuts to add a bit of texture and nutty flavour. A word to the wise – you have the option to add extra peanut satay sauce, and you absolutely should. It’s an intoxicating combination of sweet yet savoury, brightened up with a squeeze of lime juice, and you’ll find yourself scraping the plate for every last bit. –A.S.
1056 91 St. SW, 780-756-6464, minimango.ca
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