This past weekend, I visited my sister who lives in Boston. I was definitely excited to be in a city with limitless gluten free options (well, compared to Orono, Maine). I knew that there wouldn’t actually be endless amounts of gluten free food, but I was excited anyway, as I was visiting the “big” city. I’ll take you through a tour of eating gluten free for a (long) weekend (since it was Veteran’s Day) in Boston.
Day 1: Friday
I arrived at South Station in the early afternoon, tired, stiff from the bus, and hungry. I ended up having to wait for 40 minutes (ahem, Boston traffic) which is why my sister was late to pick me up in her Uber. What a city lifestyle! After another ride through crazy holiday traffic to the Fenway neighborhood, we finally grabbed some food at what is actually one of my favorite fast food (if you can call it that) restaurants for eating gluten free food: b.Good. I love their turkey burgers and sweet potato fries! And the beet ginger lemonade. Okay, I love everything. It’s awesome because they have gluten free buns there, which are actually bigger and better than the regular buns they serve in my opinion, and all of the fries are gluten free. They have amazing ketchup too.
If you aren’t familiar with b.Good, it’s a chain restaurant that uses local ingredients from whatever area they are in to make their food. It is a little bit pricer for a burger and fries than your typical McDonald’s, but its healthier, more fresh, and more delicious. They also serve really big portions. Everything there is labeled gluten free. They also serve salads and large grain bowls which I have yet to try as I just can’t steer away from my trusty burgers and fries just yet.
That was meal number one, a mid-afternoon lunch. We ate so much- I’m telling you the portions are really big- that we were so stuffed and ended up not really eating dinner after that. We snacked on Boom Chicka Pop popcorn.
Day 2: Saturday
I woke up kind of late, around 9:30 or 10, (I’m a college student!) and we didn’t really make it out the door until 10:30. We were struggling to find a breakfast place with gluten free food in the area, because we didn’t really feel like going on the T. We ended up going to Chipotle a little after 11 when they open to just eat lunch. If I had to pick my two favorite fast food restaurants as a gluten free person, they would be b. Good and Chipotle, so I was having a good weekend. If you are gluten free and don’t know about the wonders of Chipotle, please listen up: the restaurant is set up like a buffet-style like Subway, so you go down the line and pick what you want. Salads, burrito bowls and corn tortilla tacos are all gluten free options at Chipotle. All of the ingredients are naturally gluten free except for the flour tortillas, which are in their burritos. Everything else is gluten free, which is awesome. All of this nutrition info can be found online too.
I always get a burrito bowl. When you step up to the front of the line, before you start ordering, be sure to tell the employee that you are gluten free. At this point, they should change their gloves (because they’ve likely been handling flour tortillas), wipe down the counters, and then ask what you want. If you want to be extra careful (sometimes they just do it anyway) they will remove all the spoons from every ingredient you want to order and replace them with new clean ones.
If you are getting cheese or lettuce, items which the employees grab with their hands, you should make sure they get out new gluten free versions of this, because they could be reaching into the same lettuce with hands that just touched flour tortillas. They take a lot of precautions here, so it’s really nice to know that it is safe for gluten free folks to eat here. My typical order, once they have done all of this is: burrito bowl, white rice, chicken, fajita veggies, medium salsa, lettuce, and sometimes guac, depending on if I want to be extra full/ pay the extra $2.05. But it is SO good. Pro-tip: ask for guac on the side if you don’t want a mountain of it on your bowl. You can also ask for extra free rice/ get all the salsas at the same time if you want (because they are technically free, as are the fajita veggies) and extra lettuce too. The only thing that factors into the price is whether you get a burrito bowl, salad, taco, or burrito, which type of meat you order, and if you get guac. Everything else you can order as much or as little as you want.
Okay, enough about Chipotle. For dinner that night, we had a hard time initially deciding. We wanted to visit an Asian fusion restaurant in the Fenway neighborhood called Tiger Mama, but it is apparently very trendy and popular, and since we didn’t make reservations, it was going to be a long wait. We then decided to go to Basho, a Japanese restaurant. I was a little dismayed because i had previously looked up the menu for Tiger Mama as I always try to do in advance, and was planning on eating somewhere gluten free.
Japanese food is honestly always tricky: sushi really depends. A lot of the sauces and “spicy” rolls and any condiments they add to the rolls are often not gluten free. Soy sauce is not, but almost every restaurant will have gluten free soy sauce if you ask. Tempuras not gluten free, and neither are are udon noodles or ramen. Miso soup usually is, but again, you need to ask. Raw fish like sashimi is always safe. This restaurant had a surprisingly limited menu for a sushi/Japanese restaurant, and it did label everything gluten free. As I skimmed the menu, I realized that hardly ANYthing was gluten free there at all. They even labeled all the sushi, and only one roll was gluten free, the salmon avocado. I didn’t really want it- I love spicy tuna rolls which often aren’t gluten free.
I debated for a while about if I should just drink at the restaurant and find something to eat later. I finally asked the server to make me the tofu fried rice with gluten free soy sauce and he said he definitely could, so it ended up working out well. The friends I was with wanted to drink scorpion bowls with dinner. I had to double check on the menu what was in this scorpion bowl, as alcohol is another thing to always check for. This scorpion bowl seemed safe as it was only made with rum and juices, so I went ahead with sharing one with my sister and I was fine.
Day 3: Sunday
My last meal in Boston. If you can’t tell already, my sister eats out a LOT. Us Maine folks aren’t quite used to that lifestyle, but she’s a city girl and lives in a triple dorm room with only a mini fridge and a microwave for cooking. Her dining hall has odd hours and is very small with limited offerings, so she tends to eat out during the weekend, especially with visitors. My last meal in Boston was breakfast on Sunday before leaving at South Station. We again didn’t want to travel into downtown or another neighborhood, so I checked out gluten free breakfast nearby on Yelp. I found a restaurant called Neighborhoods, which my sister had been to a few times, and enjoyed. It was a crepe restaurant, which had gluten free crepes.
It was a very hipster vibe. The cafe was tiny and had wooden tables, both inside and out. The theme was white and minimalist. I was expecting a sit-down breakfast restaurant, but instead about five staff crowded behind a small counter where they made crepes, poured coffee, and took orders on a touchscreen cash register.
When I ordered gluten free, the employee informed me that while they do make gluten free crepes and wipe down the pan after each use,cross contamination can occur. Well, there was nothing I could do, I was already there. You will be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t cross contaminate unless it is an entirely gluten free facility like Bam Bam Bakery in Portland, Maine.
I sighed, and ordered my food. I liked the restaurant but it was way too small and I ended up having to eat outside. It was good, but nothing amazing. I’m also not someone who ever really craves crepes.
Overall, my weekend of eating was okay. I ate at some of my staples: Chipotle, b.Good, but I had been missing b. Good because as far as I know the only restaurants in Maine are in Portland and South Portland. I enjoyed the crepe, but the fried rice at Basho was overpriced and nothing special. The scorpion bowls were good, though. Eating gluten free in a new city is always going to be a challenge, but with some research on Yelp and some experimentation, it can work!