Southern Hospitality and Plenty of Gluten Free in The South!

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I have been so fortunate to take some pretty awesome trips recently, and, you know what has been the icing on the cake (sometimes, literally)? The abundance of GLUTEN FREE options I have come across at most of my stops!

We just got back from a gorgeous Fall trip to the south. With stops in Memphis and Huntsville, I admit I was a little skeptical for this trek. I had images of the south being lots of fields and not much to do. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is Memphis quite the metropolitan city, and Huntsville combines the small town life with plenty for the family to do, but, nearly all restaurants we dined at had gluten-free menus!

After our day at The Memphis Zoo (I don’t know where to start at telling you about this amazing zoo and aquarium), we were famished and I encouraged Michael to pick where he would like to go. I knew he had one thing on the brain: Southern BBQ! We all know this was not a thrill for me, but, seeing him so happy made me happy 😉

Central BBQ is a small local chain with many awards under their belt for “Best Ribs” and “Best BBQ.” Its a fast casual diner with a small dining room of tables and chairs, and lots of room on their patio to enjoy  their smoked delights.

What. Will. I. Order. Here? Were my main thoughts. I figured people in the south are all about the BBQ and fried foods, I bet they won’t know what gluten-free is! were my ignorant thoughts.

Well, folks–I was pleasantly proven wrong! The cashier was super helpful and when she realized I was attempting to order my Portobello Mushroom Sandwich without as bun due to my gluten issues, she showed me their gluten-free and allergen menu! Granted, the only dishes that could be prepped gluten-free were the meat items. I went ahead and tried the mushroom sandwich without the bread….or, the sauce….or the slaw. These were indicated as not safe on their specialty menu. I got a sad but humongous smoked and BBQ mushroom with a slab of amazingly smoked Gouda cheese on top. I piled up on the french fries much more, but, I know Central sandwiches must be delicious.

It was Michael approved and I did end up with a southern souvenir! 😉

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On Saturday, we were in Huntsville, Alabama and headed out for lunch. When we pulled up at Jason’s Deli, once again, gluten-free anxiety attack going on here. A sandwich shop?!!?? I never go to deli’s! They’ve got bread in there!

And, guess what? The southern folks really had my back. Jason’s Deli proudly offers Udi’s Bread for those with gluten concerns and even a display of their Snickerdoodle cookies. I chose their Caprese Panini along with baked chips. I was mistaken and thought the chips were baked in-house. I inquired if they are also gluten-free, and they searched the entire back to check on this for me. When I discovered its their tortilla chips made in-house and the chips are simply Lay’s, I felt so bad for sending them on that goose chase (Lays are gluten-free).

The Caprese was spot on. It rivaled my usual I get in Santa Monica. Before it was ready, the cashier found me to alert me that my bread would be cross contaminated in the toaster, would I prefer the oven which is safe? I opted for that and loved every bit of it. Jason’s Deli is my go-to from now on when in Alabama!

For a fun date night and on the town in Huntsville, we headed to a local favorite, I Love Sushi. Once again, I was prepared for taking a risk but at-least having my gluten-free soy sauce bottle in tow. The menu at I Love Sushi was filled with “GF” symbols and GF soy sauce.  See a pattern here?! We shared a bunch of savory, delicious rolls and a highlight for me was The Tropical as it had mango on it. It sounded like a great idea, yet, I did not get much of the tropical taste I had hoped for. I did heart the Philly Roll. It had a great balance of cream to the fresh salmon.

Gluten free Red Velvet Cake. Photo: Mason Dixon's website
Gluten free Red Velvet Cake. Photo: Mason Dixon’s website

Did I mention its my birthday month? I happen to share my birthday with our friends son, Ryan (he calls us “Birthday Buddies”) and we decided to have an early celebration on our trip with a gluten-free cake from Mason Dixon.

Mason Dixon is proudly the only gluten-free dedicated bakery in Alabama. They also can make dishes vegan, too! I was surprised with a Rammer Jammer cake. When I first saw it on the table, I thought it looked yummy and the kids would be lucky to be enjoying that. When I realized it was gluten-free, I could not WAIT to try this baby!

Let me tell you, it was sweet as hell. You could easily share this cake with 6 or more guests as a small slab is aplenty. The cake was moist and filled with flavor, but, what really made it was the cream cheese frosting. If I were handed a bowl of this, we’d be in trouble.

On top of these wonderful eateries, you’ll be happy to know that all of the local stores have a gluten-free selection. From Target to Walmart and Publix, all my favorites were there.

Well done, Alabama and Tennessee. Well done!

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