Gluten free lifestyles seem to be all the rage these days, with more people eliminating the grain food group from their diets, and gluten free alternatives— including pasta, bread, rice, and bars—popping up in restaurants and markets all over the country. The majority of gluten free people lead these lifestyles because they Celiac disease or other intolerances to gluten. Wesleyan’s student body is no exception, and as gluten intolerance grows, the need for gluten free alternatives increases as well. The question is, how can you enjoy the complete college kid experience without pigging out on huge bowls of pasta, devouring ridiculously large sandwiches, and stuffing cookies in your mouth at three a.m.? Not to fear, my gluten free comrades!

Our very own campus offers an impressive amount of options  for gluten-free eaters, not to mention the many restaurants that cater towards gluten free clientele in town. So regardless of what your taste buds are telling you, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your cravings.

“I think Bon Appetit Has done a lot–especially since my freshman year to accommodate gluten-free people.”, expresses junior Hannah Korevaar. “The staff have been extremely receptive to the need on campus and always want to know if more needs to be done. This year they are doing a much better job labeling food in Usdan and supplying the gluten-free section with various substitutes.” This was the general consensus among all three of the students I spoke with. Frankel informed me that “there is one staff member who’s in charge of gluten-free section and she’s super nice. I always see her in the section asking students what kinds of new foods they want to see.” Although not every dining option on campus is as gluten-free-friendly as others, it’s possible to find at least one gluten free meal or snack at every dining option on campus.

Meal Swipes:

Usdan Marketplace- Usdan Marketplace is probably the best option, especially if you have a condition that prevents you from eating anything that might have possibly touched gluten. The gluten free section, which is located directly across from the kosher section, is said to be on an upward spiral, with the variety and quality improving everyday. Student Gabe Frankel ‘15 raved about the baked goods, premade pasta dishes, and fresh blueberries and blackberries that are sometimes available.

As far as finding gluten free options in other sections of the marketplace is concerned, Erin Kelly, a graduate of 2012 states that  “It’s a kind of dangerous place because nothing on the floor can be guaranteed gluten free, but you can definitely get creative, especially if you use veggies from the salad bar to make sandwiches with stuff from the gluten free section.” Korevaar is a zealot for the salad bar as well “When I eat at Usdan, I get a lot of salad. The vegan is often gluten-free, so I eat that a lot. I get pretty excited about the spicy chick peas.” She told me. If vegetarian eating isn’t for you, don’t worry! Frankel, a self proclaimed carnivore, often gets the gluten free turkey burgers, as well as other meat products from the grill section, “classics”, and the kosher station. These make for great meals on their own, as well as good supplements to items located in the gluten free area. Frankel also advises that gluten free students keep their eyes peeled for the occasional gluten free specials offered in other stations, like stir fry in classics, corn tortillas on quesadilla night in Mongolian, or the occasional memorable special, like make-your-own-pizza with gluten free crust that was available last year at the front of the marketplace.

Be warned, however, that unless an item is in the gluten free section, it is not guaranteed not to have been contaminated.

Summerfields- Summerfields can be a bit tricky, since much of the menu relies on grain products. Hannah Korevaar ‘13 usually opts for a salad when she and her friends hit up Summies. Taqueria options are also doable, with corn tortillas available for students interested in making their Mexican-style meals gluten free.

Usdan and Pi Cafes- Frankel brings up an interesting point about American culture, which is particularly evident on college campuses. “The majority of snacks and quick lunches that we eat contain gluten.” He told me.  “Think about the last time you were on the run. You probably grabbed chips, cookies, pretzels, or some kind of breakfast bar.” When you think about it, you realize that he’s right!  Quick lunches are no different. The go to options are sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and fries. Even though Usdan Cafe and Pi don’t offer gluten free bread, it’s definitely possible to eat gluten free when you’re in a rush.

The marketplace has a to-go option during lunch hours. If you know what you’re looking for, you can grab a box, fill it with goodies, and skedaddle to your next appointment within five minutes. If that just won’t cut it, stop downstairs at the cafe. You can get a cup of soup and a salad (the fresh mozzarella and tomato is particularly delicious) or a sushi roll (try the teriyaki chicken for a very filling meal). As far as snacks are concerned, Ronnybrook yogurt and yogurt drinks are some of the freshest and most organic products you can find at Wesleyan. They also come in a variety of flavors, all of which are gluten free. If you’re not feeling dairy, Frankel highly recommends “NuGo Free” bars. These gluten free snacks are packed with healthy ingredients and covered in chocolate. “They’re amazing” he gushed. “You need to try one.”

WesShop- WesShop has a fair amount of gluten free offerings, but the traditional “WesShop lunch”, which can be purchased with a meal instead of points, is impossible for gluten free students. It’s pretty much a wheat-fest, with a sandwich, cookie, chips, and an apple. But coming from a gluten eater, you can take my word for it that you’re not missing out on much. The pre-made sandwiches are far from delicious, and I would substitute a sushi roll for one of those soggy masses of bread any day, meal swipe or not.

As far as groceries are concerned, WesShop’s selection is so diverse that you’re probably better off there than many places off campus. There are a variety of gluten free snacks, including chips, cookies, and bars, as well as gluten free granola, oats, pasta, macaroni and cheese, rice, bread, and a variety of frozen meals.

Frankel recommends the “Food Should Taste Good” tortilla chips, as well as the coconut macaroons. Kelly says that during her four years at Wesleyan, she often picked up picnic food at WesShop, like hummus, tortilla chips, and rice cakes. She’s also a big fan of the Luna Protein Bars they sell. I tasted a couple gluten free snacks to see if any of them were up to par with the gluten alternatives, and was highly impressed by Dr. Lucy’s Cookies. The cinnamon thins are particularly delicious. Also, the gluten free Annie’s mac & cheese, which substitutes rice noodles, is just as delicious as any of the gluten containing varieties!

Non- Bon Appetit on Campus

Red and Black Cafe- If you’re going to Red and Black for brunch, you won’t have any trouble, asserted every gluten free student I talked to. The egg dishes and smoothies, which make up the majority of the menu, are completely gluten free. Lunch and dinner, however, are a little tougher. After hearing woes from the interviewees about struggling to find lunch and dinner options in the cafe, I called Red and Black myself to see what they recommended for their gluten free customers. They told me that although sandwiches were not an option because they don’t have gluten free bread, they do offer gluten free soups, salads, and deli salads that are gluten free. Try making one of the delicious gourmet sandwiches into a platter. Take the Paisano for example, which combines fresh mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, tomato, and fresh basil with a drizzle of olive oil on ciabatta bread. Without the bread, this is just like a caprese salad, with the prosciutto adding some protein and uniqueness.

WesWings- WesWings is a little easier, especially for meat eaters, like Mr. Frankel, who frequents the eatery often and usually orders the honey-ginger wings. Meat dishes and salads can all be made without gluten, and any sandwich can be served without the bread. For a super healthy meal that’s gluten free to boot, ask for a piece of marinated grilled chicken without the sandwich, and get it with a small salad, hummus and vegetables, the veggie platter, or a cup of soup.

Off Campus- it seems like pretty much every restaurant off campus has something on the menu that doesn’t contain gluten. Additionally, many places will modify a dish to suit your specific dietary needs. For this list, I have compiled number of the most popular restaurants among the Wesleyan community that have a fair share of gluten free
alternatives.

Italian:
Mondo- Mondo is one of the best place for pizza in town. Its artisan, thin crust pies are incredibly delicious. Luckily, they’ll be happy to give you a gluten free crust. Korevaar raves about the pizza, which she says is probably her favorite meal out in Middletown. The toppings are sublime, with choices ranging from pineapple to gourmet cheeses to oozy egg to sausage. If you’re not feeling pizza, there are also several gluten free salads on the menu. 

Jerry’s Pizza- Somehow Jerry’s Pizza has seemed to hit every food blog on the internet, and yet remain fairly below the radar among the Wesleyan Community. Probably because it’s on South Main Street (across the street from the Athenian Diner), and requires a very tedious and inconvenient two minute drive. Well, if you’re into seriously good pizza, regardless of whether or not you can eat gluten, find a car and check this place out. Their gluten free menu includes pizza, meatballs, stuffed shells, ravioli, and eggplant and chicken parmesan.


Amici- Amici is one of the most popular Italian restaurants on Main Street. It’s especially good for birthdays, dates, and when parents are in town. If you’re gluten free, don’t worry! They have gluten free penne, and can modify several of their other dishes to fit your needs. 

Tuscany Grill- Although they don’t have gluten free pasta, Tuscany Grill stands out for their separate gluten free menu, which includes items like risotto, grilled salmon, and coffee encrusted pork tenderloin.

Fiore- If you’re looking for a meal that is more authentic, choose Fiore over Amici. They can make any pasta dish with gluten free penne, and will do their best to accommodate customers with regards to dietary modifications.

Esca- While still having enough pasta dishes to be deemed an Italian restaurant, Esca definitely leans a bit more towards the continental end than some other options in town.  Any item on their menu with a star next to it can be made gluten free, and gluten free pasta can be substituted in any noodle dish.


Mexican:
La Boca- At La Boca, gluten free customers have a small menu from which they can order. This includes enchiladas, cilantro green tortillas, roja sauce, fajitas, tacos with corn tortillas, and any burger or chicken sandwich without the bun. 
Iguanas Ranas- Similar to La Boca, at Iguanas, tacos, as well as other menu items, can be made with corn tortillas. One of the most popular gluten free dishes that they recommend is a corn tortilla with refried beans, cabbage, guacamole, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes.


Cafes:
Brew Bakers- Brew Bakers works hard to be gluten-free-friendly, especially to cater to the Wesleyan community. Any of their sandwiches can be made on gluten free bread and wraps, except for the paninis. Frankel recommends the smoked salmon and egg sandwich, and Korevaar agrees that the omelette sandwiches are definitely the way to go.

New England EmporiumThere’s no need for gluten free students to jealously watch as their friends consume delightful crepe creations. The Emporium has a special recipe, so any of the large selection of crepes on the menu can be made gluten free! This is supplemented by the wide variety of salads, omelettes, and daily soups.

Javapalooza- Upon analyzing the menu at Java the other day, It became evident that this establishment too is very accommodating towards gluten free people. Any of their crepes can be made without gluten, and they also serve omelettes and salads.

Neon Deli- Unfortunately, our favorite almost on campus eatery has not yet jumped on the bandwagon. However, in a recent discussion with co-owner Fran Galle, I learned that the one thing preventing him from hopping on board is the fact that gluten free bread needs to be kept frozen, and therefore all sandwiches would need to be served toasted. “Would that bother people?” He asked me. As far as I’m concerned, as long are there are options for the gluten free eaters among us, people will be happy, but what do you think? Fran wants your opinions, so either come into the store or email him at frangalle@gmail.com, to let him know if toasted bread is a deal breaker for you. As far as eating gluten free at this point is concerned, there are still some options. Kelly recommends going for one of the bean and lentil combinations offered in the deli salad section.

Cafe 56- This new breakfast, brunch, and lunch restaurant is already getting rave reviews. It’s definitely a location to check out, and they’re  serving up gluten free bread for their sandwiches. They also have a wide selection of omelettes for gluten free customers.

Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery- Sweet Harmony also offers gluten free bread, meaning that all of their sandwiches can be made gluten free. The rest of the lunch menu pretty much consists of salads and chicken dishes, but if you came to Sweet Harmony  to satisfy your sweet tooth, don’t worry! See desserts below.

It’s Only Natural Restaurant- I.O.N, not surprisingly, does a lot to accommodate gluten free customers. Their offerings range from miso soup to sweet potato enchiladas to vegetarian fried rice, to a macrobiotic plate, to any sandwich served on a gluten free buns, or using lettuce instead of bread. Kelly recommends the Cali melt, which includes hummus, avocado, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese.  They also typically have a gluten free dessert available. See dessert selections below.

Desserts: There’s more than just ice cream and frozen yogurt for gluten free people to munch on when that sweet tooth rolls around. Several of the bakeries in Middletown serve up exceptional goods completely free of the product!

Fusion BakeryFusion’s gluten free menu is on a rotating schedule, but they typically have at least three choices at all time. Popular selections include flourless chocolate cake, chocolate pot de creme, gluten free tiramisu, chocolate cupcakes, and coconut macaroons.

NoRa Cupcake Company- At NoRa, you can always find at least one gluten free cupcake. Recent offerings include “oreo” mudslide, chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter explosion, and vanilla chai latte. 


Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery- Going along with the general theme, Sweet Harmony offers gluten free baked goods on a rotating basis. Popular selections include gluten free brownies and carrot cake.

It’s Only Natural Restaurant- I.O.N’s gluten free bakery is on a rotating schedule as well, with chocolate bundt cake posing as a regular on the menu. 

Grocery:

It’s Only Natural Market- If WesShop isn’t cutting it, The I.O.N Market is sure to have the gluten free products you’re looking for. As I walked through, I was highly impressed with the amount of frozen, canned, and packaged items. Frankel raves about Udi’s gluten free bread, and their double chocolate and blueberry frozen muffins, which he referred to as “the best things ever”. He also advised that no one leave without purchasing the frozen mini gluten free brownies by French Meadow bakery. 

Long story short, whether you’re looking for pasta, pizza, sandwiches, enchiladas, or baked goods, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your cravings either on or off campus. The other good news? As gluten-free living plays a larger role in society everyday, more and more eating establishments are altering their menus to cater towards the increasingly prominent customer demographic. WIthin the next few years, we’re expecting to see a ton more options both on and off campus, so check back soon to get the scoop on what’s happening in Wesleyan and Middletown’s gluten free revolution!

-Ari Rudess

Are we missing anything? What’s your favorite gluten free restaurant or dish at or around Wesleyan?