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Travel & Restaurant Review: Sedona, AZ

Traveling to Sedona, AZ on a special diet (gluten and dairy free)

On our holiday roadtrip, Gabe and I stopped for a few short hours in Sedona on the way home from “up north.” For those who don’t know, Sedona is a hidden gem, just a short detour between Flagstaff and Phoenix. It is most known for the red rocks and artsy culture. I had been once before, but not for long, and Gabe had never been so we decided to drive the extra 30-60 minutes to check it out.

Driving in to town, the week between Christmas and New Years, proved to be anything but easy. There were a huge number of tourists, especially foreigners, just as there were at the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. It took us nearly 20 minutes to go 4 miles on the two lane street. We took a little jig and drove up on some residential streets where we stumbled upon a beautiful church built into the rocks!

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The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of the most scenic churches I have ever seen, and if weddings were allowed at the chapel, there’s a good chance I would want to get married there! We parked at the bottom of the steep hill and hiked our way up to find a beautiful view, with tall windows, and lit memorial candles with even a gift shop inside the chapel. The entry doors reflect the red rock from behind – quite a view. If you find yourself there at 5 pm on a Monday, you can join for a prayer service.

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This church is not the only spiritual aspect of Sedona, however. In fact there are even vortexes, where people claim to have found a very spiritual connection. We didn’t get to check any out, but it’s worth looking into. I’ve also heard the Pink Jeep tours are pretty awesome for a tourist-y vacation.

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Restaurant Review: El Charro Cafe

El Charro Cafe

Tucson, AZ (3 locations: NE, Downtown, NW)

Website and Menu (GF denotes Gluten Free)

“high grade Mexican foods since 1922…Established in 1922, El Charro Café of Tucson, Arizona is The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.”

El Charro, in my opinion, defines mexican food in Tucson. Everyone has their own opinion, and some would rather go to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the south side, but most of those places don’t cater easily to gluten-free customers and typically have a more difficult language barrier. One restaurant that many argue is better than El Charro, or more authentic, is La Parrilla Suiza. While I agree that they have amazing flan, since going gluten-free I have only dined-in one time, and it was a scary experience. I arrived armed with my spanish translation cards, defining what I could not eat, and was given a completely blank stare. I doubt the card ever made it back to the chef, but I had to have faith in the fact that most mexican food is safe.

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Restaurant Review: Zayna Mediterranean

Zayna Mediterranean

Family-owned restaurant

Tucson, AZ: Central (Speedway/ E. of Alvernon)

Website and Menu

Step into the quaint restaurant of Zayna and you have found a mediterranean gem in the middle of the Sonoran desert. The entire building consists of two rooms, (during the weekdays and non-busy times, only one room) with seating for about 30 in each room. Although the restaurant does not explicitly offer a gluten-free menu, there are an abundance of options of those with food allergies.

When it comes to gluten, the only menu items that do contain gluten, are the gyro meat, pita bread, tabbouleh (bulgar wheat), sandwiches, beer, and all desserts including the obvious baklava. Check it out – you can have falafel and fries (which are both fried in a fryer without any gluten), hummus, chicken shawarma, and more!

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If you’ve never had Mediterranean food, don’t let that keep you from going! If you like chicken and some seasoning (nothing too crazy), then you will love the chicken shawarma. It comes with green beens (which I sub for rice), hummus, a tomato, pickle, and garlic sauce. Be sure to let them know you’re gluten free so they don’t bring hummus on your plate, and if they make a mistake and bring it out with hummus (which they never have for me before) just be sure and ask them to re-make it! The staff is friendly and the restaurant is family-owned, so all the cooks are related and truly care about the authentic food they make. When I go to Zayna, there’s no competition, I order the chicken shawarma plate every time.

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If you order a side of fries (which I highly recommend :] ) Be sure to ask for a side of garlic sauce. It compliments the fries beautifully (as well as the chicken shawarma plate, which comes with the sauce). This garlic sauce is also dairy free, because it’s basically mayo and lemon juice. Some other entrees come with yogurt sauce which is not dairy free and has a completely different flavor with cucumber, garlic, and mint. Be sure to read the menu and talk to your waiter if you are dairy free, as I’m sure you can sub the garlic sauce.

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The fries are safe in their own fryer with the falafal, which is a great thing for gluten-free folks! My understanding is that as in any restaurant cross contamination is always an issue, but generally all the chicken is cooked on one side of the grill, separate from the gluten-containing foods. You can also tell the chef if you have celiac or need them to be extra-careful and they are willing to wipe down the grill. Going in at a slower time, such as a weekday or between lunch and dinner is always a good idea for your first visit.

It’s a great to-go dinner too!

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Zayna Mediterranean specializes in light and healthy vegetarian, Middle Eastern & Mediterranean cuisine made from fresh ingredients and served in a casual setting.

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Restaurant Review: Chick-a-Biddy

Chick-a-Biddy

Atlanta, GA (downtown)

Website and Menu

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A southern Celiac heaven! Serving up a huge gluten free menu, in a kitchen where everything that’s fried is gluten free! That means no cross-contamination in the fryer. Not only that, but Chick-a-Biddy specializes in fried foods, so that means you can find fried chicken, wings, french fries, chicken tenders, and alllll the sides you want. Not to mention the mac & cheese!

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Gluten Free in the Atlanta Airport

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport:

Gluten Free Food Options

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A few years ago, had I written this post, it would have been filled with disappointment and a lot more empty space. I am proud to say that this Delta Airlines hub has made huge improvements in their restaurants offering gluten free items since that time. If you find a new restaurant, or notice that one has closed, please comment below to let me know. The airport is constantly adding new restaurants and switching out old ones so it can be hard to keep up! I hope this helps serves as a guide to navigating what can be a very large and stressful airport, during difficult times for those with food allergies/ intolerances.

*The options with asterisks are my favorites.

**Those with 2 asterisks are the safest for celiacs, based on my experience.

Note: Not all options on this list have been verified, and ingredients always change, as does employee knowledge and level of cross contamination. Use this list as a guide, but always speak up and ask about cross contamination and current ingredients.

Terminal T
Terminal A
Terminal B
Terminal C
Terminal D
Terminal E
Terminal F
Domestic Terminal

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Restaurant Review: Sticky Fingers

Sticky fingers:

Mt. Pleasant location in Charleston, SC

Website and Allergy Guide

Walking into Sticky Fingers, I found an Applebee’s, or TGI Fridays type of atmosphere (relaxed & family-friendly) with wood tables and benches, playing country music. This was refreshing, since it can often be hard to find moderately-priced restaurants with safe, gluten free options.

I was greeted by the hostess and upon asking for gluten free menu they handed me this:

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Gluten Free menu online by Gluten Free Guide HQ Link

I sat down and when the waitress came by and I asked if the wings were fried with gluten-containing items (since the menu says they are “flash fried”). She nearly interrupted me to happily say, yes they are shared but we can make them gluten free by just asking the chef to bake them! It was like she was so confident in her answer and couldn’t wait to share, before I could even get all the words out (and I talk fast).

Other menu options include pulled chicken salad, pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, and various chicken plates. They have several potato and veggie sides that are gluten free. Additionally, all the BBQ sauces are gf and several other dressings including ranch, blue cheese, and honey mustard.

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I ordered the small order of mild wings, and there was nothing spicey about them. They almost didn’t have sauce, just seasoning, which makes me happy because there is likely less sugar than those drenched in sauce. Someone from the kitchen, or a manager, not sure which, brought my meal. This could have been coincidence, or it could have been because mine was “special” and gluten free. Not to mention, the food came out less than 10 minutes after I ordered (keep in mind this was an appetizer dish). *This dish usually comes with celery and ranch or blue cheese, but I asked for just the wings.

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Overall I am thoroughly impressed with Sticky Fingers due to their impressive gluten free menu, knowledgeable staff, and relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. I felt safe eating the food and was very satisfied with the price. I give Sticky Fingers 5 thumbs up!

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Chicago Gluten Free Restaurants

Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Chicago during my spring break! Lucky for me, we were there on St. Patty’s Day and got to see the green river. Nevermind that the visit was to see a doctor and the weather in the city was drastically different from my 80* home: the food was amazing!

I planned this trip to a “T” including all reservations on open table for each meal prior to leaving. That way, I had looked up locations, menus, and reserved my times before getting too busy on the road. The plus to making reservations is you know there will be a table for you AND the table will most likely be a good one, like a booth or table on the outside. This is so important, when your dietary restrictions prevent you from just going across the street if they are booked.

Gluten Free in Chicago

Weber Grill Restaurant

GF Menu (upon request)
3 Locations in Chicago (I visited Chicago location)
Rating: 8/10

This place is fantastic with food allergies! As soon as we sat down the waitress said “I noticed you have a gluten free menu” and asked if I had any other allergies.

She proceeded to tell me that they take food allergies very seriously and after she takes our order she will write it up on a separate red allergy alert card, which is then reviewed by the manager or chef and is sent through the kitchen with my order written on it.  I didn’t even have to tell her about how serious it was, she just assumed! Continue reading