Gluten-Free Dining: Have your Cake (and Pasta and Meatloaf) and Eat it Too!

I once had a friend who grilled every restaurant server on the ingredients in her meal to ensure there was no trace of wheat. At first, I just thought she had jumped on the Atkins bandwagon and was a little hardcore about it. Turns out she had Celiac Disease, an inherited condition that causes the body to be damaged by eating wheat and other sources of gluten. 

According to a University of Maryland study cited in a Food & Drink Magazine article, 1 in 133 Americans has it. Many more are sensitive to gluten, though their symptoms are milder than those with Celiac. Crazy, isn't it? Apparently, some restaurant owners are paying attention and creating special menus or items for the gluten-free crowd. Here are just a few of the ones I found...feel free to add your own favorite in the comments: 

On January 25, Sprinkles Cupcakes stores across the nation launched a gluten-free version of their popular red velvet cupcake. Wheat or no, you can't go wrong with tangy cake topped with decadent cream cheese frosting. Get yours at the Scottsdale Sprinkles store, 4501 N. Scottsdale Rd.   

Courtesy of P.F. Chang's

​Apparently, P.F. Chang's China Bistro has been offering gluten-free shrimp, vegetable and chicken dishes for a while. This month, they added a bunch of new entrees and appetizers to their gluten-free menu -- including beef dishes. 

Look for gluten-free lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef, vegetarian Buddha's Feast, better lemon chicken, moo goo gai pan, Singapore street noodles and more. They've even got GF versions of five lunch bowls and a flourless chocolate cake. Tip: Ask specifically for the gluten-free version, as Chang's does offer regular versions of these dishes. 

Gluten-Free Creations Bakery at 2940 E. Thomas Rd. in Phoenix makes gluten-free everything, from bread to pasta to the donuts we sampled for a recent Battle of the Dishes. They may not taste exactly like the real thing, but it's pretty darn close. Especially when you've been without a donut for the past two years (can you imagine???).

You'll also spot Gluten-Free Creations products on the shelves at Luci's Healthy Marketplace, 16th St. and Bethany Home Rd. in Phoenix. Luci's makes a tasty gluten-free meatloaf, and offers gluten-free versions of their pot pie, pesto pasta and burger dishes. Bonus: Most of these (not the burgers and loaf, natch) are also vegan.   

True Food Kitchen at Biltmore Fashion Park has ten gluten-free offerings. Most are salads or veggie platters, but the turkey bolognese with brown rice pasta and curry with rice noodles, cauliflower and cashews sounds amazing.

All of the soups, salads and side dishes at Babaloo's Cuban Cafe, 1241 E. Chandler Blvd. Suite 127 in Phoenix are gluten-free, as are dishes like Lechón Asado (marinated roast pork), pollo cubano and ropa vieja. Bonus: the sweet and crispy Yuca Frites are gluten-free too!!  

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