Another year, another diet craze that restaurants rush to accommodate. A few years ago the Atkins diet was all the rage. Menus all over the country highlighted dishes that fit its low-carb criteria. Then it was trans fat, and later high-fructose corn syrup. Now glutens, a protein found in wheat and grains, have replaced carbohydrates as the dietary enemy of happiness. I’m no dietician, but I do find it strange that suddenly half of the world is allergic to glutens, and countless other people have eliminated them from their diet voluntarily. I have a friend who (surprise!) recently found out she has a gluten allergy. Pal that I am, I planned a couple of meals around her newfound malady (and also to see how difficult it is to find a decent place in this city to eat gluten-free).
Maybe Taverna (450 Throckmorton St.) is lacking in local media attention because it’s part of a Dallas-based chain, albeit a small one, but its seasonal Italian haute cuisine has never let me down. It was also the first stop on my gluten-free Fort Worth quest, and I was half-expecting a cynical eye roll when I asked my polite, professional server for the special menu. Instead, he told me that he had done without gluten for a while now and felt 10 years younger. From the looks of him, that would have been when he was about 13.
My guest and I started with the warm, fragrant rosemary focaccia bread ($5.95), topped with parmesan cheese and served with olive oil. The dough is gluten-free, though I never would have guessed it after tasting the buttery, salty treat.
For an entrée, I opted for the creamy risotto con capesante (a species of scallop) ($19), served with perfectly browned and caramelized seared diver scallops, artichokes, roasted grape tomatoes, and a hefty dose of lemon juice. My guest went for the floppy, simple pizza Bianca ($15.50), topped with prosciutto, arugula, and slivers of shaved parmesan that melted beautifully into the pie.
For lunch the next day we headed out Keller way to Elote Mexican Kitchen (12584 N. Beach St.). Fort Worth Weekly scribe Laurie James recommended the place and told me one of the owners had adopted a gluten-free diet. The place was impressively progressive for a fast-casual Tex-Mex place in a strip mall. The menu was not only mostly gluten free but also offered vegan choices like soy cheese and tofu sour cream.
It’s a straightforward walk-up counter operation with a simple choose-your-own-adventure/mix-and-match menu: Pick a protein, add some ingredients, lather, rinse, repeat. We started strong with the Elote especial ($2.99), the place’s take on Mexican street corn, prepared with mayo and cotija cheese, all of it coated in chili powder and lime. I went for the slow-cooked pulled-pork taco plate ($6.49) for my entrée. The meat was fork-tender and melt-in-your-mouth tasty, though the salsa was on the bland side. My pal ordered the shrimp taco plate ($6.50) and added “angry chiles,” which were punishingly piquant. She pretended not to be overwhelmed by the heat, but her streaming tears told a different story. If I was gluten-leery, Elote would definitely be a destination.
There are other more obvious places to get gluten-free dishes: The well-established vegan eatery Spiral Diner (1314 W. Magnolia Av.) and the upstart trendy, healthy Righteous Foods (3405 W. 7th St.) come to mind. Most restaurant kitchens can accommodate gluten-free diners by now. So it’s not as difficult to eat gluten-free as it to get a decent vegan meal. But it’s nice to know that the anti-gluteneers have plenty of good options.
I can’t wait for the next fad food allergy. I’m hoping someone in this town will find that grilling lettuce causes gout, and we’ll be rid of that culinary plague forever.
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