Author Archives: Alan Cook

Buona Vs. Portillo’s – The Battle for the Best Italian Beef

Recently we spent a few weeks visiting friends in the Chicago area. I knew one of the foods I had to try in chicago was italian beef. My friends husband is celiac and reccomended Portillo’s as a must try spot. During my googling of the best gluten free italain beef places I found a thread debating weather Buona Beef or Portillo’s had better gluten free italian beef. Of course we had to try both places.

Since our thoughts on each place were the same I thought I would approach this post a little differently. I wrote the review on Buona and let Alan write the review for Portillo’s. Here’s what we thought.

Buona Beef

7417 S Cass Ave
Darien, IL
60561
(630) 963-2333

www.buona.com

Buona Beef Italian Beef

Buona Beef Italian Beef

First things first, Buona Beef has gluten free flat bread that can be used for all of theier sandwiches and as crust for their pizzas. I’ve read it is good but due to other allergies I did not want to chance trying it. That’s ok though. We wanted to order the exact same meal at both restaurants for a fair review.Alan and I both ordered the Naked Combo Bowl. This comes with Buona Beef, sausage, peppers (I got sweet and hot) and mozzarella cheese.The restaurant was quiet and comfortable when we walked in. When we ordered I almost forgot to tell the cashier I had Celiac. Thankfully Alan spoke up. The cashier said he was glad we alerted him since they take special precautions to keep things gluten free. He went on to explain that they change gloves, clean surfaces, and a few other things that I have since forgotten. I was very confident that my meal would be safe.

At Buona Beef your order is taken and you pick a table. The cashier brings the food out to you when it is ready and checks on you for drink refills etc throughout your meal. This was a nice touch at a semi fast food restaurant (they have a drive thru).

On to the food.

I have never eaten italian beef and did not know really what to expect. The bowls came out smelling wonderful. The beef was tender and there was quite a bit of it. I had to ask the cashier where the cheese was and he informed me that they put it between the meat so it melts really well. I thought that was a neat trick. The beef came in a thin gravy that was so flavorful Alan drank his, and mine, when we were done eating. I kept saying throughout the meal how I wanted to eat this and only this for the rest of my life.

I loved both the sweet and hot the gardineria as well. They were full of sliced carrots, green olives, onions, and sweet and hot peppers.

We will be back in Chicago area in a few weeks and along with Chicago’s Pizza I am definately going to be stopping back at Buona Beef.

Now I’ll let Alan take the wheel.

Rating by Laurie Clark: 5.0 stars
****

Portillo’s

15900 Harlem Ave
Tinley Park, IL
60477
(708) 444-1000

www.portillos.com

Portilo's

Portilo’s

We aren’t quite sure why this place is as busy as it is. Perhaps our experience was unique, maybe other people enjoy this place. Our visit, however, made this one of the worst places we have ever eaten.We were staying with some friends, one of which is also a celiac, and joined them for dinner at Portillo’s. When we arrive, the drive through line was backed up at least 20 cars deep. Inside, the wait was much shorter, and we were placing our order almost immediately. The greeter took our order of Beef Combo in a cup with peppers and cheese, written on a brown bag – not very green of them – which we handed to the cashier a minute or two later. A manager had to assist in translation, and stated what was written on the bag was “all wrong”. After making corrections on a new bag, and telling the cashier how to enter the order, the manager left; leaving the cashier to stumble through entering the information into the order screen.We made sure to mention that the order was gluten free, which Portillo’s website states they can handle, assuming at least glove changes would be done, but the cashier informed us after paying that the manager stated “gluten free could not be guaranteed”. Normally, this is where we would ask for a refund and eat somewhere else but, as our friends have never had an issue, we decided to press on.

Next, we waited for our food. And waited. And waited. Our friends were at the table with their food, and we waited. Number 70 was called all throughout our waiting process, we were number 78. We waited. The contents of number 70 were read out – hey, that sounds like our order. We showed the employee our ticket, and found out “they must have wrote the number wrong”. So… our food was ready for a while. We were not happy, but they did at least offer us cake for the problem. You know, cake, to go with the gluten free meals containing an allergy warning on the ticket. Cake.

At this point, we wanted out of the crowd of people waiting on their food, and to eat – we were pretty hungry. We joined our friends, and tried our food. This is where Portillo’s lived up to everything we had experienced thus far. There was no gravy to speak of in the bowl. There was some greasy sludge, but even it was limited. The sausage was dry, with burnt ends, and not very good. The mystery meet in the meal was the same consistency and flavor as steak-um – in fact, if we had to, we would venture to guess that it probably was some off brand frozen beef slices. Very, very greasy off brand beef slices.

The extra peppers – which costs – consisted of two or three small, greasy pepper pieces. As far as the double portion Alan ordered, it looked and felt the same size and weight as the smaller order. Either they screwed up there too, or an extra portion means one slice of steak-um.

Normally, this is where we would some things up in a nice sentence. With Portillo’s, that is simply “Wow.” Wow that any one visit could have everything go so wrong. Needless to say, we won’t be going back. We’ll stick with Buona.

There you have it guys. Buona Beef is the clear winner in our eyes. They had better customer service, better attention to detail, better ability to handle our gluten free meal, much larger portions, and most importantly much much much better tasting food.

Rating by Alan Cook: 1.0 stars
****

Ovation Bar and Grill

We LOVED Ovation Bistro and Bar

Ovation Bistro and Bar

42605 US-27
Davenport, FL
33837
(863) 354-6967

www.ovationbistro.com

The setting was pleasant. It wasn’t too crowded at lunch time. The server understood gluten free. The burgers were big juicy cooked to medium like we asked and delightful. They did my burger with no bun as they do not offer gluten free buns. The wedge salad was tasty with bacon, bleu cheese dressing and balsamic drizzle. I look forward to going back again.

Rating by Laurie Clark: 5.0 stars
****

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop is Fantastic Gluten Free New Orleans Goodness

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop

2309 N Causeway Blvd
Metairie, LA
70001
(504) 835-2022

www.gumbostop.com

Recently we spent a few days in New Orleans. It is a fantastic city. I knew I wanted to try some authentic New Orleans cuisine. Being a celiac with a corn intolerance I thought this would not be an easy task. Googling gluten free new orleans brought up tons of restaurants, but I couldn’t be sure any were actually any good with cross contamination issues. I did some reAding of reviews and most were iffy. That is until I stumbled upon Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop.

The reviews for this place were out of this world. I was feeling pretty comfortable with eating there as a celiac. Next step was to email and facebook message Chef Ron to see if he could accomodate my corn intolerance. He responded quickly and was sure he could make me something wonderful that would fit my diet. Since I am still mostly on the corn-lite side of the corn intolerance spectrum I decided to go for it.When we arrived we were greeted by a server and I let her know first thing about my celiac and corn intolerance. She sent out Chef Ron himself who went through the menu items with me that were gluten free and don’t contain corn. A large portion of the menu is gluten free or adaptable! Chef Ron even offered to make me his fried green tomatoes appetizer using Bob’s Redmill flour. I was super excited since I rarely get to eat any appetizers in a restaurant. We also chose the Jambalaya and the seafood gumbo.

Gluten Free Fried Green Tomatoes

Gluten Free Fried Green Tomatoes

The fried green tomatoes were out of this world! I have never had a fried green tomato in my life and did not know what to expect. They came out beautifully plated. They were so pretty I didn’t want to eat them but hunger took over. Alan liked them so much he actually licked the leftover spicy mayo off of the plate.

Gluten Free Gumbo

Gluten Free Gumbo

The gumbo was fantastic I’m sure, I am just not a fishy seafood person. I did enjoy tasting crawfish for the first time. I liked it more than I thought I would.

Gluten Free Jambalaya

Gluten Free Jambalaya

The jambalaya was fantastic! The sausage was grilled perfectly and very flavorful. The chunks of chicken and the tomatoey rice were spiced just right and made me want to eat way more than I should. Thankfully the portions are enormous. Even though Alan and I pigged out, we still had leftovers enough for a small dinner that evening.

Chef Ron is a really nice guy who cares a ton about his food and his guests. At one point he told me he was “here to nourish me”. That feeling of appreciation from the chef was a feeling I have not gotten at any other restaurant and it really made me feel great.

Photo of Chef Ron and Laurie

Photo of Chef Ron and Laurie

After the meal Chef Ron even took a moment to snap a photo with me. If you haven’t tried Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop please please go right now.

Rating by Laurie Clark: 5.0 stars
****

Chicago's PIzza Gluten Free Pizza

Chicago’s Pizza Gluten Free Pizza Restaurant Review

Chicago’s Pizza

3114 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL
60657
(773) 477-2777

www.chicagos-pizza.com

So our travels have led us to escape the heat of St Louis and head to Chicago. One thing on my food bucket list has been Chicago style deep dish pizza. I was really afriad that I would not find a gluten free deep dish pizza, but thanks to a little googling and a reccomendation from a friend, I came across the most amazing pizza I have ever had gluten free or otherwise! Chicago’s Pizza has seriously ruined me for any other gluten free restaurant pizza. I want to hitch the restaurant to my rv and take it with me.

When we arrived we were brought bread and dipping oil. I quickly told the server to take it away because we could only eat gluten free. To my surprise she said she would be back with gluten free bread! Free gluten free bread and dipping oil! It was amazingly soft and slightly crunchy on the outside. We went on to order gluten free cheesy garlic bread and a large gluten free deep dish pizza. We chose the Chicago Special with italian sausage, green pepper, onion, and mushroom and we added pepperoni because, why not?

Chicago's Pizza Cheesy Garlic Bread

Chicago’s Pizza Cheesy Garlic Bread

The cheesy garlic bread was out of this world. I was amazed that the bread held its structure while being soaked with garlic butter and topped with gooey stringy delicious cheese. Most gluten free breads don’t hold up well to liquids.We were so excited for our pizza to come out. I was not able to sit still and was practically dancing in my seat.

When it did come out the server plated us up slices of the large hot pie. It was a nice touch. The crust was tall and the toppings were really piled on. Despite being heavily topped the crust was not soggy. It was thick, chewy slightly crispy on the bottom and just perfect! It tasted like real pizza. Most pizza places that offer gluten free pizza go really sparse on the toppings because most crusts can not stand up to all the liquid that toppings produce. This is one aspect of pizza making that Chicago’s Pizza excels in. I believe it helps that chicago style pizza has the sauce on top of the cheese and toppings. The layer of cheese kind of seals the crust off from the toppings helping the crust stay dry. The toppings were fantastic too. I don’t think I’ve ever had tastier or larger chunks of sausage or more flavorful pepperoni in my life. The sauce was stand out as well. It had visible chunks of onion and tomato and a really robust flavor.

Slice of Chicago's Pizza Gluten Free Pizza

Slice of Chicago’s Pizza Gluten Free Pizza

Overall I can’t wait for another chance to go into the city and grab another pie or two. Chicago’s Pizza will half bake a pizza for you to finish in your own oven and they provide instructions on time and temp for best results. Want to know the most amazing thing about Chicago’s Pizza? They deliver gluten free pizza, pasta, sandwiches, calzones, sides, ect until 5 am! They also use a dedicated area and dedicated toppings to make every gluten free pizza as safe as possible. Out of all of the reviews I have read I have not seen mention of anyone having a bad gluten free experience. We travel non stop now and would love to hear recommendations of your favorite gluten free restaurants. Post them in the comments.

Rating by Laurie Clark: 5.0 stars ****

Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse, Huguenot Rd. & Robius Rd. Chesterfield, Virginia

Outback Steakhouse

We have visited this location on a few occasions, and they seem not to understand Gluten Free. More than once our gluten free burger has been brought out on a bun, requiring the entire meal to be replaced.

On 4/14, we ordered Outback using Midlothian Delivered. After our driver waited for an hour and twenty minutes, which is inexcusable on most nights and even more ridiculous on a Monday, our order was brought out and wrong. Our driver instructed the server if there is any chance the Gluten Free burger touched a bun, it needs to be remade. And, back the burger went. At least our driver, Ryan, knows about cross contamination. After another twentyfive minutes of waiting, the food was brought back out.

Let’s just skip the rest of the issues we had with our order, and move on to the following email sent to Outback, using their online contact form a couple of days later.

Hi,
I am writing due to repeated failures in your staff to understand how to create a safe gluten free meal. I have had multiple experiences where my gluten free burger was brought out to me on a bun. The Huguenot Road location is the location where this happens the most.
I am aware that your establishment has worked with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) to create a gluten free menu. I thought that adequate staff training was included in that GIG approved status.
My experience last night could have made me very ill.
I ordered Outback for my family through a great local delivery service Midlothian Delivered. The driver is well experienced with gluten free and saved me from getting ill.
He arrived at Outback and placed our order. After an hours wait for our food to be ready, he checked to make sure the order was right before leaving your establishment. He quickly realized that some of the burgers had the wrong toppings on them including my gluten free meal. He had to force the server to admit that my burger had at one point been on a bun and been taken off of it. The driver then explained again the seriousness of celiac and our food got remade. I ended up with a meal that was safe for me and I did not end up with any ill effects. If it had not been for that very knowledgeable driver for my delivery service, I would have been ill for up to 3 weeks from that one burger. Your staff really needs to understand the seriousness of this illness and understand the procedures for preparing a gluten free meal. If this can not be done please consider discontinuing your gluten free menu until it can be safely consumed on a regular basis.
I will be contacting the GIG about the multiple failures at that location ad maybe they can offer some staff retraining.
I ended up waiting a total of about 2 hours for our meal to arrive. That was not the fault of our delivery service. That was the fault of your restaurant directly.
I would like to also note that the others I ordered for were very unhappy with their meals as well. The bacon on the burgers was under cooked and two of the meals burgers had less that 6 french fries with them.
I previously enjoyed dining at Outback about once every two weeks. I will be discontinuing eating there from now on. My health is much more important than a juicy burger.
Thanks!
Laurie
http://www.mygfgirlfriend.com

A few days later, we had zero response from Outback; so, we tweeted them as well. As of this posting, we have still heard nothing. A “Gig Approved” restaurant, with a customer who had an issue, and Outback will not even respond. Sad, Outback, sad.

One last thing. This was my (Alan’s) and my dad’s meals. Have you ever seen so many fries in your life [sarcasm]. If you want a great burger and fries, and safe service, head to Five Guys. There locations do it right and faster than we can write their reviews.

Rating by Alan Cook: 0.5 stars
1/2

Gluten Free Pastas

Best Gluten Free Pasta Brands

Heartland Gluten Free Penne

Heartland Gluten Free Penne

Heartland Gluten Free Penne

A corn and Rice Blend Penne Pasta, which is Gluten Free, Wheat Free, and Dairy Free. Gluten Free Penne pasta can be used in place of standard pasta for dishes such as Penne Pasta Salad, Tomato Basil Penne Pasta, and Garlic Penne Pasta.

Heartland Gluten Free Fusilli

 

Heartland Gluten Free Fusilli

Heartland Gluten Free Fusilli

This corn and rice blend Fusilli pasta is Wheat Free, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free. Now you can again enjoy Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese and Fusilli with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms – all gluten free!

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Mac and Cheese

 

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Usually, Mac & Cheese is all you need to hear; but, with Gluten Free, not every brand steps up like Ancient Harvest. This Gluten Free Mac & Cheese is one of our favorites.

Heartland Gluten Free Spaghetti

Heartland Gluten Free Spaghetti

Heartland Gluten Free Spaghetti

Everyone loves spaghetti! Now, you can have it Gluten Free too.

Exas Fettuccine, Mung Bean

Mung Bean Fettuccine

Mung Bean Fettuccine

A new twist on Fettuccine. Mung Bean Fettuccine is Gluten Free and Vegan.

Schar Naturally Gluten-Free Spaghetti

Schar Spaghetti

Schar Spaghetti

Spaghetti options – the more the merrier, and that’s why you’ll be glad to see so many available!

Don’t forget…

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