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For those in the Estes Park (Colorado) area:
Individuals using a gluten free or wheat free diet are getting together for dinner (Feb. 6, 2012 @ 6:00pm). We will meet at Poppy's Pizza and Grill to trade ideas on HOW to be gluten free. What works for you? How do you explain? etc. etc. Anyone interested in joining us?
I only trust 2 fast food restaurants so far. Carl's is one of them -- but I only have experience with ONE of their restaurants. They were around the corner from my office. They were often an easy answer to a harried work day. (We have now moved so it has been 3 months since I ate there.) The first time there I was very nervous. We asked for fresh gloves -- explaining just how very sick I can get from cross contamination. Thereafter, Maria (the manager) would see us walk in. She has been CONSISTENTLY careful with my food amd she trained at least one other manager.
Unless something has changed, Carl's does not cook buns ON the GRILL but the area AROUND the grill is no man's land. It is necessary at the onset to impress upon them that your food cannot touch the counter. I would get the lettuce wrapped burger with tomato, lettuce, onion, and cheese. Maria would get my meat cheese, onion, and lettuce from the cooler -- not using what was readily available. Coca Cola is normally safe but I was not impressed with the cup handling so I provided ny own beverage. DO NOT eat the mayo. I also had them omit mustard, catsup, and relish as unidentified. (We stocked such things at our office.) I was NEVER brave enough to try their fries. Most fast food restaurants cross handle and use one fryer for ALL foods. I hope this helps.
After a long time without gluten issues -- I think I got over confident. My husband actually asked me OUT to breakfast, having discovered Notchtop Bakery and Cafe which serves gluten free breads. Even after the owner decried any cross contamination protocol -- I suggested a fruit plate, which he prepared himself, to accompany ny gluten-free muffin (baked and wrapped at a separate location). He was right. I was wrong. Lesson: Listen when a restauranteur tells you not to eat there.
My family loves Red Robin and we find their support of the gluten free community is excellent. So we eat there often -- dating back years, before they ad a gluten free menu. Our local Red Robin (Greeley Colorado) has a dedicated fryer. (Yes, I always ask -- just in case they got so busy they used it for something else.) ad they have recently ( a year? + - ) added gluten free hamburger buns. Their staff is well trained, perhaps because some wait staff must BE gluten free. But, then, I have eaten at Red Robin in other towns and in other states. I find them to be dependable, patient, willing, and very well trained.
As we understand it, bacon, ham, and sausage can attract gluten during the curing process. Fillers may be added to meat (most notably sausage). Turkey may be injected with gluten (to appear plump). Marinades may be used on any prepared meat. We have only come across bacon containing gluten once. It was an inexpensive package in a house brand. I read all labels -- including those in restaurants that do not have an acceptable gluten free protocol in place.
I must be gluten free as I am EXTREMELY sensitive to even the slightest cross contamination. I now live in Estes Park, Colorado. While many restaurants in my former town have learned to serve gluten free dishes, I am just beginning to learn about Estes.
Many Estes Park restaurants offer gluten free options. Most do not offer the printed gluten-free menus common in franchise restaurants. This makes it a bit more difficult to discover which restaurants are safest and what to order from the menu. Some input from the gluten free community would be helpful, especially if the wait staff on duty that day is not up to speed.
While Poppy's Pizza ad Grill and Mama Rose's Homemade Italian are my favorites so far, I have also eaten safely at Village Pizza and the Stanley Hotel. Several others have said they can feed me and I will add other posts as I try them out. My next venture is Notchtop Bakery & Cafe.
Poppy's serves a gluten free "pizza" which substitutes shredded zucchini in place of crust. (Actually quite good as well as healthy -- I had my doubts before trying it.) Of the 5 sauces, I prefer the traditional marinara. All toppings except vegetarian pepperoni are gluten free -- even the sausage! However, it is always smart to check for updates or substitutions.
We ate at Mama Rose's for Christmas dinner (with 9 people). The gluten free pasta (not made in house, but very good), makes holiday meals much more festive -- because I get as good a meal as everyone else.
READERS -- If you have one favorite Estes Park restaurant, or know of several options, please contribute that information here. In a tourist based economy, there are always people looking for this information. If you live here or are visiting Estes Park, I hope the information will be helpful.
I have Celiac Disease and EXTREMELY sensitive to ANY cross contamination. I now live in Estes Park and I eat regularly at Poppy's and occasionally at Mama Rosa's. (both owned by the same couple). I trust them implicitly.
When I was searching the web for additional Estes Park restaurant possibilities, I came across a posting (from 2006) on your site that called into question the food handling at Mama Rosa's. Yes, the post is 4 years old and hez did not actually eat the zucchini in question. He (or she) was relying on information from the wait staff. Perhaps things have changed in the last four years or perhaps the individual Hez asked did not understand the protocols in place at the time. Both these restaurants are extremely conscientious. You may have to wait for the water to heat -- but you can rest assured clean pans are used to boil gluten free items. They even stop to wash a non-contaminated pan that has been sitting out in the kitchen. I have never had a problem.
In 2009, after reading this review, I avoided Mama Rosa's when in Estes for a family reunion -- and ate a very plain, very expensive meal elsewhere. Luckily, I had forgotten all about that when (about 18 months ago), we discovered these 2 fine restaurants. Otherwise, I would have missed many excellent opportunities to enjoy a meal out with my family.