By Evie Fowler
Are you gluten-free, thinking about becoming gluten-free, or just looking to try new foods? If so you are in luck, because Memphis is home to many restaurants that serve up delicious and satisfying meals that can accommodate your gluten-free needs.
A common misconception is that a gluten-free diet and an enjoyable meal cannot be one in the same. However, people are increasingly making the switch to non-gluten foods. Chloe Young (9) says she tries to eat gluten-free food “because it’s healthier and I feel better when I eat healthier food.” Whether it is merely a preference or a medical gluten intolerance, gluten-conscious Memphians have their pick at many restaurants that have begun to accommodate gluten-free diets. As someone who is both gluten intolerant and a lover of good food, I am constantly looking for local gluten-free restaurants, and some of my favorites are Zaka Bowl, Huey’s, and Ecco on Overton Park.
In fall of 2016, Zaka Bowl opened as a vegan restaurant, but since has expanded to include more gluten-free options per customer requests. Zaka Bowl’s owners, Ed and Brittany Cabigao, say they opened because they “just wanted to bring a healthier option to Memphis.”
The restaurant is constructed to allow customers to build their own bowl or order a featured bowl off of the menu. The two most popular bowls are the O.G. Bowl ($9.00) and the Tuna Poke Bowl ($13.00). The O.G. Bowl features quinoa, chopped spinach, agave brussels sprouts, spicy roasted chickpeas, warm black bean salad, edamame, and apple jicama slaw, which makes it a great option for vegans. However, all orders have the option to add additional proteins including chicken, portabella mushroom, or falafel. The Tuna Poke Bowl, my personal favorite, is comprised of edamame, cherry tomatoes, seaweed, sesame seeds, avocado spread, pickled red onions, pickled carrots, spinach, sushi rice, and topped with tuna. There are endless variations possible when creating one’s bowl, guaranteeing that there is always something to please everyone - dietary restrictions and all.
Gluten-free or not, when looking for a classic Memphis meal there’s one place that instinctively comes to mind: Huey’s. However, customer favorites such as Huey’s famous burgers, sandwiches, nachos, and, of course, the loaded cheese fries keep most people from discovering that Huey’s, in fact, has a gluten-free menu. This lesser-known menu features items from the normal menu that are either originally gluten-free or are modified to be gluten-free. Modified meals include “The World Famous Huey Burger” ($6.40) served without the bun and the Cheese and Sausage Plate Appetizer ($8.95) served with no barbecue sauce and crackers - my favorite item on the menu. Some originally gluten-free meals are the Grilled Salmon Plate ($11.95) and the Grilled Mahi Mahi Plate ($11.95).
In addition to Zaka Bowl and Huey’s gluten free offerings, Ecco on Overton Park presents an array of gluten free alternatives. Ecco, which I like to describe as fancy without the schmancy, provides an elegant atmosphere and upscale dining experience, while maintaining a comfortable and casual atmosphere. Sabine Bachmann, Ecco’s owner, is also the brains behind Fratelli’s Cafe and Libro at the newly opened Novel. Some of the most popular items on Ecco’s dinner menu are the Antipasto Plate Appetizer ($17), the Panzanella Salad ($10), and my favorite entrée, the Seared Scallops ($30) - all of which are gluten-free.
Diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that prohibits her from digesting gluten, at age 7, Ella Trotz (9) spends plenty of time discovering gluten-free restaurants and brands that she enjoys. When discussing her gluten-free lifestyle, Ella says, “The hardest thing is seeing other people eat [gluten] when I can’t.”
Ella highly recommends Mellow Mushroom’s gluten-free pizza, Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels, and Nut Thins. Additionally, she suggests Raw Girls food truck and City Silo Table + Pantry as other healthy, and largely gluten free, choices.
Even if you still maintain that gluten free and delicious cannot be synonymous, these Memphis favorites are sure to change your mind. Gluten intolerance or not, go test these places out to try some tasty Memphis food that also happens to be gluten free. And, as always, be sure to inform your waiter or waitress if you do have an allergy in order to have a safe and delicious meal.