Gluten free guide to the Quad Cities


Margaret Huang

Senior Dilan Nair enjoys his gluten free Thai food at Exotic Thai in Davenport.

Margaret Huang, Feature Editor

Life without bread is hard enough, but the social consequences of a restricted diet add on even more tribulations to the gluten-free lifestyle.

Luckily, the world has broadened its culinary landscape, and the Quad Cities has joined the movement. Just as food has sustained its role as a uniter across cultures and nations, dining remains at the center of the modern social scene.

Friends, families and co-workers often meet up, catch up and unwind at a table over a plate of something scrumptious. For those who simply cannot enjoy the same things as everyone else, life is more complicated.

Senior Amy Oberhart attempted a gluten free diet and has since stopped. “It was really challenging finding new places to try food, you never knew if they had a gluten free alternative to what everyone else was getting. You also have to think a step further than everyone else. Are the tortillas corn or flour based? Will they have gluten free soy sauce?” said Oberhart.

Although there are no completely dedicated gluten-free facilities in the Quad Cities thus far, an admirable number of restaurants have adapted by offering gluten-free options and menus. While the internet and all of its useful tools serve as a great place to start the gluten-free search, no other app seamlessly delivers the most relevant and easy to navigate information than Find Me Gluten Free.

The gluten free guide is available on both IOS and Android and allows users to search area restaurants with gluten free options, as well as provide a platform for reviews and questions and answers.

For those who prefer more simple advice for a gluten free night on the town and feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume spewed by apps and the internet, ethnic restaurants are almost always a safe choice for an enjoyable meal. Due to the nature of many Asian foods and Mexican foods, these types of cuisines (as long as they are removed from major Western influence) utilize rice, corn or other grains as their main component. 

For example, popular Thai restaurants in the area, such as The LemonGrass Cafe in Moline or Tantra Asian Bistro in Davenport serve several rice dishes and clearly mark gluten-free options on their menus. 

Senior Aditya Desai understands how different cuisines can play a role in a gluten free diet. “Many Indian dishes contain mostly rice and can be slightly modified, or sometimes not modified at all, in order to suit the needs of a gluten-free individual,” he stated.

Popular Mexican restaurants, like Azteca, Blue Iguana or even fast food restaurants like Chipotle, often feature rice and corn as the bulk of their grain. Instead of wheat flour tortillas, opt for corn tortillas and rice as sides. 

Many popular restaurants will have gluten-free alternatives either visible on a menu or available upon request. Even Italian restaurants — despite being known for their abundance of wheat pasta and bread — will often possess gluten free pasta made from rice flour or another grain. Biaggi’s in Davenport boasts of a separate gluten-free menu, offering many of its signature pasta dishes as well as gluten-free bread as an appetizer.

Senior Maddy Licea, who has Celiac’s disease, prefers the simplification of eating at home. “Eating gluten free is much easier at home due to the wide variety of options. However, going out to eat can be frustrating when options are so limited,” she said.

Finally, if one does find themselves stuck in a situation with no desirable gluten-free options, the soup and salad section of the menu is one ally that can almost always be counted on. Request no croutons, and suddenly a couple of plates will be digestible; add protein or a special dressing to transform a boring bowl of leaves into a zesty jungle of God’s natural creation. Remember: the gluten-free world is what you make of it.