Gluten Free Pizza – Garlic Jims and Eat Pizza

I almost called this post “The Gluten-Free Pizza Smack-Down!” Maybe I should have. We have two separate pizza places in Portland that offer gluten-free pizza. Garlic Jim’s has had it for quite a while. Eat Pizza! has just joined the pack. Did I mention that we have a list of places in town that serve gluten-free pizza?

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: When you walk in to most pizza places, you will see that everybody who works there is covered with flour. It’s usually pretty safe to assume that the work surfaces and ovens are also covered with flour (although Garlic Jim’s is accredited gluten-free and so it should be OK – see more on that below). While I didn’t have any problems with the Garlic Jim’s pizza, I did end up having a little trouble after the eating the Eat Pizza.

Garlic Jim’s

Garlic Jim’s is a chain with locations in Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, and Colorado. Strangely enough, their website doesn’t list all the locations in the Portland area, so you’ll get more accurate results with Google Maps. There are two in Vancouver WA, one in Clackamas, and two in Beaverton. We went to the Clackamas Garlic Jim’s, which is located in a strip mall on SE Sunnyside, across the street from the Sunnyside Kaiser Permanente hospital.

Garlic Jim’s is definitely a carry-out or delivery pizza place. There is some seating, but the ambiance is strictly strip mall. If you’re looking for a cozy neighborhood pizza joint with a pinball machine and booths, this is not it. The staff there was friendly and helpful when we went. The people who work there all looked like clean cut college kids. The transaction was smooth. The pizza was boxed and ready to go when we arrived.

Garlic Jim's Gluten Free Pizza

We got a pepperoni with half mushrooms and half olives. We really liked the pizza. In fact, this is now Sienna’s favorite gluten-free pizza in Portland (I still like Sellwood Pizza Kitchen best, but think this is a close second). They have a thin crust going on. Unlike most of the rest of the gluten-free pizza in Portland, the crust here is thin and crunchy, so if that’s the way you like your pizza, you should probably try Garlic Jim’s. True to their name, the pizza is garlicky. Since the crust is thin, you don’t get the phenomena with some other pizzas where they end up being like chewing on a flavorless sponge. We’ve had it twice now and the second time wasn’t as good as the first, so there may be some problems with consistency, but we still liked it.

Garlic Jim’s also has an impressive gluten-free FAQ page, where they talk about how they prevent cross-contamination and how they have a Gluten Free Food Service Accreditation from the Gluten Intolerance Group. That’s pretty awesome! Also, the gluten-free crust happens to be vegan.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Add $3 for the large size.

Garlic Jim’s
www.garlicjims.com
Multiple Locations

Eat Pizza

Like Garlic Jim’s, Eat Pizza isn’t exactly a cozy restaurant, but there is seating. If we had to choose a place to sit down between the two, based only on ambiance and people-watching, we would definitely pick Eat Pizza. It’s a small place with character on Burnside at 21st that does mostly delivery and carry-out. The staff was very friendly and resemble the Garlic Jim’s staff except with tattoos and piercings. The pizza was hot and ready to go when we arrived. We did this with a Groupon, so we also ordered a Mediterranean salad.

Eat Pizza! is unique in the gluten-free pizza market for having three sizes of pizza available: Mini, In-Between, and Giant. They are also vegan-friendly and have vegan cheese available.

Eat Pizza! Gluten Free Pizza

We got a pepperoni pizza with half mushrooms and half olives. Despite the rave reviews we were hearing from our readers, we weren’t as enamored with the pizza at Eat Pizza. The pizza wasn’t as flavorful. There wasn’t enough sauce (or maybe the sauce wasn’t flavorful enough). We thought that the crust was kind of spongy and too dense. I see pizza as being one of those really subjective things. Some people really like thick crust pizza, and if that’s your thing, then maybe you would like them better than we did. I probably would have liked the pizza better if we had ordered it with extra garlic. We’re also scratching our heads a little, because we’ve always thought that New York Style pizza is thin. Maybe their regular pizza is thin?

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Avoid if you’re really sensitive.
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: 1 to 3 dollars more, depending on the size.

Eat Pizza!
www.eatpizzaportland.com
2037 SW Morrison St. Portland, OR / 503.243.FOOD

Summary

When it comes to pizza, being gluten-free is especially painful. It’s this thing we all love to eat. Part of me feels ungrateful for writing a lukewarm review for a pizza joint that has gone out of its way to offer something I can eat. At the same, there are places in town to get excellent gluten-free pizza. Our favorites are Sellwood Pizza Kitchen (our review here), the Oasis Cafe on Hawthorne (see our review), and now we can add Garlic Jim’s to the list. We have another winner!

We want to know: What kind of pizza do you like best? Got a favorite pizza place in Portland that I didn’t mention in the review? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Dinner at Your Door

It seems strange to call Dinner at Your Door a restaurant, when in fact it is a dinner delivery service. Like many people out there, we participate in Groupon deals when they’re interesting. We heard about the Groupon for Dinner at Your Door from someone we know and went for it because they offer some gluten-free options.

Before I get into this review, I just have to say that when we go places and try things, we take notes when we do. While I’m always rooting for the home team, we have to count things as they fall.

Here is how Dinner at Your Door works. As it sounds, it is a company that delivers a meal to your door. They only deliver meals to each area of Portland once a week. The meals have to be purchased in multiples of two and you must buy meals for two weeks at a time. So really, you’re buying at least four meals. Got it? It’s really quite simple, and I think their site probably does a better job of explaining it, here. The price for a meal for two is currently $28/week. So since you have to get two weeks worth, that’s $56. For this you get two meals that will feed two people each on two consecutive weeks. (whew)

I do have to say that their website is set up really well, and while you’re ordering your meals, things get explained very clearly so that you know what is going on. When I ordered, they had three main entrees to choose from. Two were gluten-free and one of these was also vegetarian. Along with the website, they also have a system of sending emails to notify you about when a meal is coming, and also when to leave the dishes on your porch for them to pick up. I was really impressed with the automation that they have set up, and think that whoever designed and built their website deserves a bonus.

Having been impressed with the website, you can imagine my disappointment when our food didn’t show up the morning that our first delivery was scheduled. I happened to have the day off from work, and when the food didn’t show up by 10:00 AM, I called them. Someone answered the phone immediately, and they were apologetic, but they told me that they had already delivered all the food that morning and couldn’t get us anything. This is going to sound kind of goofy, maybe, but Sienna and I had planned out a whole multi-day meal schedule based on the assumption that we were going to have dinner delivered that night, so it really threw a wrench into our plans. About a half hour later, they called me back and said that they had some meals available, but they weren’t from the two choices we had picked off of the menu. The good news was that they were gluten-free. So I agreed.

Somewhere in all this, she mentioned that they were really busy because of the Groupon.

Dinner at Your Door delivered.

Dinner at Your Door delivery contents

Here’s what we got. A bag with three containers of food, some dressing in a small plastic container, and two pre-packaged cookies. The meal was Mushroom and Wild Rice Pilaf, Broccoli with Garlic, and a mixed-greens salad with a vinaigrette. The meals come in glass containers, so Dinner at Your Door gets green points for not using disposable containers.

Dinner at Your Door Keating Instructions

Twenty minutes later, we had a hot meal:

Mushroom and Wild Rice Pilaf

Neither of us were particularly impressed with the dinner. The salad struck us as being a lot like the kind they sell in bags at Trader Joes with some bell peppers mixed in. The salad dressing was a rather uninspired and generic Italian dressing. The pilaf was mostly tasteless and one-dimensional. It could have used some garlic and seasoning. We liked the broccoli. The broccoli didn’t come with instructions, so we just threw it in the oven with the pilaf and hoped for the best. Luckily, it turned out great and was tasty.

Le Cookie Monkey

As mentioned above, the meal came with cookies, which are made by Le Cookie Monkey. Unfortunately, there were no ingredients listed on the cookie package, and no markings for whether or not it was gluten-free. So I called up Dinner at Your Door to find out if it was OK to eat. It was after hours by then, so I wasn’t too surprised when nobody answered. I left a message and nobody got back to me that night. The next day was a Friday and they didn’t call me that day either. I ended up being kind of busy, so I didn’t call them. The weekend passed, and on Monday I finally got tired of looking at the cookie, so I called them again and got the same person. She informed me that while she had got my message, she hadn’t had a chance to call me yet. I got my answer: the cookies are not gluten-free. So it’s a good thing I didn’t eat mine.

Thursday rolled around again, so it was time for another delivery. On Wednesday, we had got an email confirmation that our meal would be delivered the next day, so I was waiting for them, figuring that they would get there soon and I could put the meal in the fridge. The email said that the delivery would happen between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM. By 9:15 AM I was imagining that they were going to miss us like last time. At 9:30 AM, I called again. Someone answered the phone. She was helpful and said she would check the status on our meal and call me back. She called back almost immediately, and told me that my meal was being delivered that morning, but wouldn’t be there until much later. She offered to leave extra ice packs, and reassured me that the weather was cold enough that nothing would spoil. Again, she mentioned that they had been really busy because of the Groupon.

Mexican Cassarole

Mexican Chicken Cassarole

This time we got the Layered Mexican Chicken Casserole, which came with the same broccoli and salad as last time. We enjoyed the casserole a lot more than the pilaf, and we substituted our own dressing for the lackluster Italian.

After the second meal, Dinner at Your Door sends an email where you can arrange to continue to get meals, or cancel. They also send instructions on when to leave the dirty containers out for them to pick up. We opted to cancel. For one thing, we felt that the service was unreliable. While I can relate to being over-worked because of something like a Groupon (we keep hearing restaurant Groupon horror stories), I don’t think it’s a good thing to pass the suffering on to your customers. Maybe a few months from now Dinner at Your Door will have recovered from the Groupon problems. But we still feel kind of burned by it. Last, we tend to feel that when things go awry at restaurants, they will usually make an effort to make things better. We didn’t get that experience with Dinner at Your Door.

I’m betting that our delivery and service problems were not the norm. At the same time, we were left with the feeling that this is a lot of money and trouble for something that we didn’t think was that great. We can think of any number of places to eat in Portland where better fare can be had more cheaply. If we go out to eat, we don’t have to mess with a website, no matter how well it’s put together, and we don’t have to fire up the oven for 20 minutes. We don’t have to dirty our own dishes. We like going out. So for us, it just doesn’t make sense. I could see Dinner at Your Door being a great service if you really hate going out but want to have someone else cook for you one day a week. If that describes you, then Dinner at Your Door is probably a good choice, and I would say give it a try.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Dinner at Your Door
www.dinneratyourdoor.com
Portland, OR / 503.701.4531

We want to know: Do you have any opinions about Dinner at Your Door? Do you have a restaurant Groupon horror story? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Dick’s Kitchen

When we heard about Dick’s Kitchen we knew that we would need to check it out. They’re another place in town using the excellent Jensen’s Better Buns to serve gluten-free burgers. The Dick in Dick’s Kitchen is the owner of Laughing Planet. Dick’s Kitchen is something of a diner-style burger joint with a twist, the twist being that they serve “paleo” food.

The idea behind paleo food is that you shouldn’t eat food that our ancestors didn’t. So there is an emphasis on avoiding processed foods, dairy, cereal grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, salty foods, soft drinks, and refined sugars. During a conversation we had with him, the owner mentioned that this diet also aligns pretty well with the kind of anti-inflammatory diet that a person with rheumatoid arthritis might want to be on. The restaurant doesn’t completely cut out all the items in the above list, but it does make it easy to avoid them.

The place itself is half New York subway (although it reminds me more of the San Francisco Muni subway) and half diner. It has a kind of stark black and white aesthetic going on. Both times we went, the place was packed. The first time we visited, we were able to sit down immediately. The second time we had a considerable wait. The staff is very friendly and were able to answer our questions about what on the menu was gluten free. On the plus side, they do their best to keep everything very clean and do care about cross-contamination. On the minus side, they use the same toaster and cooking surfaces, so like most restaurants, the very sensitive should probably steer clear of Dick’s Kitchen. As for the fries though, they’re not actually fried, so there isn’t any cross-contamination from the deep fryer.

Dick’s Kitchen has a relationship with a cattle rancher in Eastern Oregon where they get grass-fed, grass-finished beef for their burgers. They also don’t salt things. Instead of serving fries, they serve “not fries.” These are fingerling potatoes that have been air baked instead of having been fried in oil. Besides burgers, they serve various kinds of sausage and hot dogs, a few different salads, some burgers made with other kinds of meat and fish, some alternate sandwiches, some extremely expensive shakes, and some vegetarian and vegan options. All of their sides are vegan. There are two flavors of vegan sausage, and also vegan buns. And vegan milkshakes!

Dick’s Kitchen also makes their own condiments. They have: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, tomato chutney special sauce, horseradish sauce, Cambodian garlic sauce BBQ, wasabi aioli, and chipotle aioli persillade. Along with not adding salt to their food, they don’t automatically add any of the condiments, so you have to ask for them. They are all pretty good. A friend of ours (hi Dr. B!) told us that she opts to bring her own ketchup because they just don’t give you enough.

Vegan Chocolate Shake

Did we mention that they have vegan milkshakes? We tried the vegan chocolate shake. It’s made with Coconut Bliss ice cream and oat milk and is awesome. Obviously, people who should stay away from oats should probably get the regular shake. I always just risk oats because they don’t seem to ever make me sick. We also tried the papaya drink, which is advertised as a “healthful aid to digestion.” I wasn’t particularly hot about it, but Sienna liked it.

gluten-free dinner at Dick's Kitchen

We both got the burgers. This is a burger, coleslaw, gluten-free bun, the trimmings, and a side of yam “not-fries.” The burgers are great. The coleslaw is good. The gluten-free buns are, as mentioned, made by Jensen’s and so they are awesome. We also really liked the “not-fries.” I got a chance to sample the regular “not-fries” and definitely enjoyed the yam variety better. Sienna preferred the regular ones, which I have to admit are a little bit more crispy.

Vegan Gluten-Free Dessert

The second time we visited, the owner stopped by, and after talking to us about food and gluten, encouraged us to try one of the desserts. He called it a cobbler, but I seem to recall that it was called something else on the dessert menu. It’s basically nuts over cooked fruit, and it’s really delicious.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 3 (So we feel pretty good about this rating.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Dick’s Kitchen
www.dkportland.com
3312 SE Belmont St / 503.235.0146

We want to know: Do you have an opinion about Paleo food? Have you been to Dick’s Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Pastini Pastaria Redux

We reviewed Pastini about two years ago when I first started this blog, and it was kind of a disaster. I was just now writing an email to someone where I told them about how I hate giving bad reviews. I just naturally want everyone to do well. At the same time, when we have a bad experience at a restaurant, we have to be honest, and I try to make sure that I am specific about what went wrong with the hope that the owner will be able to fix it. Although I doubt that I can claim credit for the improvements at Pastini since we last visited, they definitely took care of my two main complaints.

Gluten Free Flag at Pastini Pastaria

When you get a plate of gluten-free pasta at Pastini Pastaria, they bring it out with a little flag to mark that it’s gluten-free. That’s awesome! That way everyone knows that it’s gluten free and you won’t end up with food getting mixed up, or bread being added to the dish. Our other main complaint with the restaurant in our last review was that the pasta had been overcooked. They definitely solved that problem as well. Another score.

Pastini Pastaria cocktail

In case you’ve missed Pastini, they are an Italian restaurant chain based in Portland. They have four locations in Portland, and a location in each of: Beaverton, Tigard, Bend, and Corvallis. We went to the Pastini on NE Broadway near 14th. Check here for a map of locations. Here is their gluten-free “menu,” which is more like a page that talks about their gluten free pasta and Tiramisu.

The restaurant is popular. We went there with our friends, who go there a lot. Pastini has a lot going for it. It’s a little family, a little upscale, and a little casual. They have a full bar. It’s got a happy energy. It’s a popular place so there’s usually a little wait before you get seated.

Pastini Gluten Free Ziti

Sienna got the Capellini Primavera, which is a simple dish with zucchini, mushrooms, sweet peas, roasted peppers, broccolini, fresh basil and garlic. She got it with gluten-free Ziti pasta and had them add chicken.

Pastini Gluten-free spagetti

I decided to get the gluten-free Spaghetti with Marinara, which is my all-around favorite way to eat pasta. Our friends got the Ziti Vegetariano, which is pasta with zucchini, tomatoes and yellow squash tossed with olive oil, garlic, tomato pesto, fresh herbs, and Kalamata olives. All of our dishes were delicious. The pasta was cooked just right, and the sauces were rich and flavorful.

Our waiter was very helpful and knowledgeable. As we mentioned in our past review, Pastini takes basic steps to prevent cross-contamination, like boiling the gluten-free pasta in different water. Our dishes came out in a reasonable amount of time and everything was the right temperature. Now I just need to talk them into making the meatballs gluten-free!

We didn’t sample the gluten-free Tiramisu, but our waiter told us that it’s a very popular item. I, for one, love and miss Tiramisu, so it’s only a matter of time before we give it a try. But we had other dessert plans that night. For the vegetarians and vegans out there, you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of vegetarian options, and the menu is also rather vegan-friendly.

We’ll have to go back sometime soon to solidify our feelings about Pastini, but this visit left us with a much more positive feeling about the place.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Pastini Pastaria
www.pastini.com
Multiple Locations

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free Italian restaurant in town? Have you been to Pastini Pastaria? Let us know in the comments!

50 Plates, Gluten Free Classes, and Halloween

50 Plates Reader Review

Jenn from Grain Damaged sent us this great email about a place in town called 50 Plates:

Just thought I’d direct your attention to 50 Plates. I had a great dining experience there last night. While their GF menu is a regular menu with handmade notations on it (as to what’s safe), they were most accommodating.  I was very nervous eating out somewhere new.  I’m both very sensitive to gluten as well as having a list of other food allergies including dairy and eggs, I don’t think I’m very easy to cook for. We got there early in the evening and the chef came out to take the time to talk to me about what I might have off their menu.  He was even willing to “frankenstein” something together for me if I didn’t see any one menu item I could have.  He was knowledgeable and could recommend a few things that I could safely eat.  I went for the “fish and chips” which had to be the most sophisticated version of this meal I’ve ever had.  The light white fish was wrapped in a single strand of never ending potato “shoelace” and browned to perfection, it was laid over a bed of bok choy and accompanied by steamed asparagus.  The whole delightful meal was drizzled with an amazing sauce that he’d come up with just for me.  (Normally this dish is served with a sauce that uses malt vinegar as the base), instead he replaced it with a sauce of lemon, sweet wine and magic. It was delicious and above all I felt full and happy and quite gluten free when I left the table.

Wow! Doesn’t that sound awesome??? Speaking of Grain Damaged, they are a really great Portland-based gluten-free information site, so you should check them out.

50 Plates is located at 333 NW 13th Ave. in Portland. Phone: 503-228-5050

Gluten Free Classes at Sprout Health

Next Up, this is late and I’m sorry about that, but there are still dates available. Here is the email from Skylor at Sprout Health.

Sprout Health has just opened on 44th and Hawthorne. We are a health coaching and donation based yoga studio. We guide people through cleanses and have cooking classes. We have a gluten free, dairy free cooking class series starting on October 3rd–4 classes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Here is our site.

Gluten-free Candy List

Thanks to Heather for sending us this list of gluten-free Halloween candies.

Restaurant Review: Meat Cheese Bread

We love the block where Meat Cheese Bread is located. It’s a tiny island of hip art, fun buildings, a Thai restaurant that lights up a night, and now it has gluten-free bread. We heard that they had gluten-free bread at Meat Cheese Bread, and of course we had to go check it out. It turns out that they are making their own bread using the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread Mix and adding honey.

Meat Cheese Bread Menu

Here was the sandwich menu when we went. It bears noting that they: A) Have a plentiful salad menu in addition to the sandwich menu, and B) Will make any sandwich into a salad for a little extra cash. So, it’s not like we couldn’t enjoy a meal there before (and we had). At the same time, it’s a sandwich! Who doesn’t love sandwiches? I love sandwiches, and I especially love steak sandwiches. So I was happy when we were quizzing the guy behind the counter about which sandwiches are best with the gluten-free bread, and he said that the Park Kitchen is really good on it.

Gluten-free steak sandwich

The Park Kitchen is a cold sandwich with flank steak, pickled onions, blue cheese aoili, lettuce, and vinaigrette. My sandwich was really amazing. Good steak. Good cheese. Perfect amount of dressing. Fresh greens. The bread is tasty, although it doesn’t hold together as well as wheat bread probably would, that was OK with me.

The not-so-good news is that they don’t have a dedicated toaster. When grilled further about their cross-contamination policies, they said that while they keep things as clean as possible, they do have wheat around and so people who are terribly sensitive may want to steer clear.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Meat Cheese Bread
www.meatcheesebread.com
1406 SE Stark St. / 503.234.1700

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly sandwich in town? Had any experience with the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Bread Mix? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Thai Fresh

We got an email from reader Montserrat about a Thai place at Division and 84th named Thai Fresh. Here’s what they had to say about the restaurant:

hey, just wanted to give you a heads up on a Thai restaurant called Thai fresh. it is located on 84th and division on the north side of the street. i had dinner there last night and the food was great. the best part is that if you tell them you can’t have gluten they will modify the use of their spices (including using wheat free soy sauce) and if you are eating family style they will also leave gluten out of the rest of the dishes! they are super nice, very accommodating and the food was delicious.

We love it when people email us about restaurants and, coincidentally, we love Thai food! Portland has great Thai food in general, and it’s good to hear about new places. So it was natural that we would have to give it a try. We’ve been there twice now and think it’s pretty good.

Both times we’ve gone, the restaurant has been pretty full, but both times we were able to sit down immediately. Both times the wait staff were extremely helpful and discussed food allergies and gluten very thoroughly. You can order almost the entire menu gluten-free. That’s really awesome. The friendly wait staff also made me relax almost instantly. Sometimes I go to restaurants and I feel like I’m taking a risk trusting the staff, but not here.

Here’s a rundown of the dishes we sampled: Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, Tom Kha (Coconut Soup), Yellow Curry, and Lemongrass Chicken.

The Spring Rolls are the deep fried kind with ground pork (or vegetarian), carrots, onions, mushrooms, and clear noodles. They are served with the standard Thai sweet & sour sauce. These are really amazing.

Gluten Free Pad Thai at Thai Fress

The Pad Thai is good. It’s a little different from some of the Pad Thai around town in that it doesn’t seem quite as sweet and maybe has tomato sauce in it? The flavor is good, the noodles were done perfectly, and the sauce has a little bit of an afterburn, which makes it interesting.

Tom Kha is one of our favorite dishes. There’s nothing quite like coconut soup. We felt like theirs was certainly acceptable, but thought it was missing something. Like maybe some hot pepper oil.

Gluten-Free Yellow Curry at Thai Fresh

We also had some Yellow Curry. This is the standard dish that comes with potatoes, carrots, onions, and your meat of choice. We had it with chicken. To us, the curry seemed a little watery. Also, there was a little bit of an anise taste to it that Sienna wasn’t really into. When we asked the waitress about how it tasted a bit like anise, she figured that it was the basil we were tasting. Some people like anise, and others don’t. I wasn’t bothered by the anise flavor, but I kept wishing that the sauce was a little thicker. Maybe they don’t use a thickener with the gluten-free version?

We both really loved the Lemongrass Chicken. This is chicken breast, marinated with lemongrass, with vegetables over rice. It comes with peanut sauce. We’re both real suckers for peanut sauce. The chicken and vegetables were perfectly prepared, and everything was really amazing.

Both our visits left us with a positive impression of the restaurant. It’s small, clean, and has a nice energy. Our food came out in a reasonable amount of time, and the staff was friendly and attentive. We didn’t feel like it’s the best Thai food in town, but then there’s a lot of rather stiff competition in Portland, and we were generally pleased with our selections. If you’re gluten-free, it’s great to go somewhere that you don’t have to feel like you’re taking a huge risk. Did I mention that you can substitute brown rice for $2? That’s really cool too.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Thai Fresh
www.thaifreshpdx.com
8409 SE Division St. / 503.774.2186

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly Thai restaurant in town? Do you have a great gluten-free Yellow Curry recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Horn of Africa

We were alerted about Horn of Africa by reader Gaile at Fidgety Budgie, who reviewed Horn of Africa on her website, here. It sounded like an interesting place to check out. I don’t have that much experience with African food, and so it’s always an adventure to try. Regular readers will know that I’m on a diet to lose weight because of some minor health problems, so our ability to go out to eat has been curtailed quite a bit, and we always pick places we want to review when we do go out.

The Horn of Africa has a little something for everyone on their menu. Besides the variety of African chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, they also serve the standard Mediterranean favorites like kebabs, gyros, and falafel. Their falafel plate is the vegan choice. Gaile mentioned in her review that, on her visit, there were worryingly few customers at prime dinner time, but we didn’t find that to be the case on our visit. The place is just a block or two north of NE Alberta on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and is easy to find. The decor is a little dull and the ambiance is strictly no-frills family dining. Our one biggest complaint of the night was the speed (or rather, slowness) with which everything happened. On the plus side, almost everything on the menu is gluten-free, and our waitress was very friendly and helpful.

Bajiya - gluten-free chickpea fritter

For an appetizer, we got Bajiya. These are described as “Seasoned patties of ground garbanzos and split peas, lightly fried.” Of course, our first choice would have been the Sambusas (which are basically Samosas by another name), but we were pleased to find that the Bajiya was a lot like a Samosa. This item was tasty, hot, and had obviously been prepared right then, so our expectations were raised. If you order these, however, keep in mind that you only get one patty per appetizer. They are only $1.00 but still, if you are expecting a more appetizer sized appetizer, you might order extra.

Gluten Free African Flatbread

The next thing I got excited about is that they have gluten-free flat bread. It comes out in rolls like this. The bread is spongy like something made with rice flour, but is very flavorful and reminded me of the teff bread we made a long time ago. It has a yeasty flavor that is very reminiscent of light rye bread. It’s the perfect thing for sopping up some sauce to go with your next bite. Our waitress mentioned that we got lucky that they had it when we visited, and that it’s the sort of item where they can make sure to have some available if you call them the day before.

Horn of Africa Gluten Free African Food

For our entrees, we ordered the Keluna with Wild Salmon and the Marakha Lukku. The Marakha Lukku is described as “Chicken breast stewed in house-made Beri-Beri Sauce with garlic and onions.” Beri Beri is a sauce made with a lot of spices like cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek, ginger, and the like, combined with wine, oil, and hot chillies. I ordered mine “medium spicy” and felt like it was pretty mild. The chicken was well done, but I felt like the dish ended up being a little one-dimensional. Like it needed some veggies, or maybe some yogurt on the side.

Horn of Africa Keluna with Salmon

The Keluna is their fish dish and comes with whatever happens to be in season. It is described as “Seafood in season marinated in Zanzibar-style herbs and spices, pan-seared and stewed with fresh vegetables.” This dish was a little bit like a curry but had its own character. We both really liked it and felt that it was the superior dish of the two. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the veggies were excellent.

All in all the food was good, and it seemed to me like it had been prepared when we ordered it. I have to mention as well that their rice was really awesome. As I said, the waitress was friendly and informative, but it seemed like it took a long time for our food to come out. Checking other reviews on the Internet, it seems like we’re not the only ones who have had this problem. We thought that the food was good, but not spectacular. I would summarize our feeling about the restaurant as “satisfied and curious to try more, but not blown away.”

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Horn of Africa
www.hornofafrica.net
5237 NE MLK Blvd / 503.331.9844

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly African restaurant in town? Got a teff bread recipe for making flat bread? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Beaches Restaurant

Beaches Restaurant is in Vancouver WA. We went there after taking a day trip over to Beacon Rock in Washington. Beacon Rock is far enough to make it a “trip” but close enough for people who didn’t manage to get an early start on the day. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to climb to the top. It’s got a great view! On our way back, we debated where to grab some dinner, and decided to consult our own Restaurant List. Because we were going West on the Washington side, we decided to dine in Vancouver. Beaches Restaurant came up.

We used to have Beaches on our gluten-free pizza list but they stopped carrying gluten-free pizza. This ended up being a disappointment because we were in the mood for some. Although they do not have a gluten-free menu, Beaches does make points with us for having a kind of informal printed-out guide to things you can get there. They are a bar and grill, and have a number of dishes that are easy to modify and make gluten-free. I decided to get a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun. Sienna got the Mandarin Chicken Rice Bowl (and I don’t think the sauce for this was gluten-free).

Beaches Mandarin Chicken Rice Bowl

Beaches Restaurant Grilled Chicken and Fries

The staff at Beaches was friendly, and they were happy to answer my questions about how things were prepared. The place was packed and everyone there seemed happy to be there. We got seated pretty quickly. Our food came out in a reasonable amount of time and was a good temperature. It became apparent, though, that I got the safe dish. Grilled chicken at a grill. How can you go wrong? The grilled chicken was indeed rather good. Sadly, Sienna thought that her rice bowl was lackluster. My fries were a little disappointing, being a little soft and less than fresh.

If we had gone to a small grill in town and spent under ten bucks for an entree, we would have felt pretty good about the meal, but entrees at Beaches start at around ten and go higher than that. For that many clams, we tend to look for a little better quality. For the same price, a person would do much better to hit Deschutes Brewery here in town (see our review). Sorry Beaches. They do seem to be rather popular with the locals, so maybe there’s something more to it that we missed, or maybe we went on an off night.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Beaches Restaurant & Bar
beachesrestaurantandbar.com
1919 SE Columbia River Dr., Vancouver, Washington 98661 / 360.699.1592

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly place in Vancouver WA? Have you eaten at Beaches and disagree with our opinion? Let us know in the comments!

News Bites: Portobello Opening and FAAN Walk

Portobello Grand Opening

Vegan and gluten-free friendly restaurant, Portobello Trattoria, has been closed for a month while moving and will be hosting an opening celebration at its new location this Wednesday. See our review of Portobello, here.

Hello Peoples!  We will be opening up on June 9th in our new digs at 1125 SE Division Street.  It’s right on the corner of 12th and Division, in the “Banana Building”…the one with the big Andy Warhol banana inspired mural (ya’ know…like on the Velvet Underground album…anyway…).  So! Come on down for din-din or a cocktail/mocktail and have a nice time with us. We’re opening around 5ish.

FAAN Walk

Reader Kristal notified us about a walk to benefit the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). The Portland Oregon walk for food allergies will happen August 28th, so mark your calendars. The location will be at Kenilworth Park, SE 34th and Holgate Blvd. More information here. Says Kristal:

This is going to be a great day for everyone who is affected by food allergies… There will be a lot of fun stuff for the kids and lots of Sponsors with booths and freebies. I am also having a donation raffle of yummy food allergy sensitive treats!!

About FAAN (from their website):

Founded in 1991 by Anne Munoz Furlong, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is the world leader in information about food allergy, a potentially life-threatening medical condition that affects approximately 12 million Americans, or one out of every 25, and is rapidly increasing in prevalence.

FAAN continues to lay the groundwork for a brighter future for those with food allergies. We work throughout the year on initiatives that will improve the quality of life for those with food allergies. Our focus is to provide advocacy and education while advancing research on behalf of those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.

Gluten Free Class at Hipcooks

Hipcooks will be offering their gluten-free cooking class Saturday, July 11 from 1-4pm. Check their Portland class schedule for more details. (See our review of their cooking classes here and here.)

June GIG Meeting is this Saturday

Mike & Maria Smith of Bavaria Mills Gluten Free Bakery will be presenting at this month’s Portland Metro Gluten Intolerance Group meeting this Saturday, June 12th. The GIG meetings are currently held at Legacy Emanuel Hospital – 2801 N Gantenbein Ave., Portland, OR 97227, in Conference Room 1075. More information on the Portland GIG here.

Lots of Additions to Our Restaurant Lists

We have heard from a lot of readers and restaurant owners and have added a bunch of new entries to our gluten free restaurant list and gluten-free pizza list. So if you haven’t looked at them recently, you should take a gander. Also, with each restaurant on the list, there is a place to leave your own comments. We’ve had a great response with this, and hope that more people will leave comments with their experiences.

And note that it’s become much more easy for restaurants to submit their information with our handy restaurant submission form.

Whew that’s it. Hope everybody has a great week!