Before my diagnosis, you would find me devouring a basket (or two) of Texas Roadhouse rolls or a large chimichanga smothered in queso. In 2006, I moved to Springfield from Boston, MA, the mecca of delicious diverse food. Shortly after my move, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and a dairy allergy; just like that my world was turned upside down.
My name is Andrea Kirchhoefer, and I represent a growing gluten-free community in Springfield. Since starting my Instagram page @springfieldglutenfree, I’ve found that there continues to be a tremendously high demand for allergy-safe foods and it’s changing the local food scene. Restaurants are becoming more and more allergy-aware and are building better allergy-friendly menu options and educating employees about, and the prevention of, cross-contamination.
In my pre-Celiac years, I never cared much about what was “in” my food; I only cared about its taste. However, after years of being my own gluten-free food detective, I developed a passion for clean ingredients that makes both my body and my taste buds happy. These are some of my favorite gluten-free spots in the 417 and the dishes that I’m hooked on.
The Peaceful Baker: Sold at Culture Counter, Piccolo in Nixa and by order, these gluten-free/vegan sweets have saved me over the years. Even the pickiest of eaters have enjoyed her carrot cake, banana bread, and cinnamon rolls. The owner Julie, is one of the coolest cats I’ve ever met and always hits a home run with my custom orders!
Culture Counter Ice Cream: We can’t always have it all, but here we can. With both dairy and vegan options, my vegan scoop at Culture Counter is made with a coconut milk base and sweetened with agave nectar making it much better on your system than regular sugar. It’s made in-house with fresh locally-sourced ingredients.
The Urban Cup: Grab gluten-free cupcakes and beautifully designed custom-ordered cakes with regular or vegan/gluten-free frosting.
Sweet Emotion SGF: Late night cravings? Head downtown to the walk-up window for vegan-based, gluten-free chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Make your own concoction from a huge list of toppings or pick a gluten-free option from their weekly specials.
Pineapple Whip: This icy Queen City staple brings you to tropical places even when it’s chilly out. I’m a purist and prefer the original pineapple flavor. Heads up, they are cash only; bring your paper and be prepared for some brain freeze from eating it too fast.
Culture Counter: Finally waffles in the 417! I favor the gluten-free/vegan cinnamon batter waffle with egg, sweet potato, pesto and microgreens. It’s a full meal that is nourishing and satisfying.
Van Gogh's Eeterie: Another genius creation from Chef Joe, owner of Cafe Cusco. The gluten-free dutch-style pancakes here are incredible. They come out on a huge platter, are thin like a crepe, and are topped with fruits or savory mixes.
First Watch: The quinoa power bowl is a savory mix of quinoa and sauteed veggies topped with sausage and eggs. Their website has a full menu allergen guide that can help you pick safe foods. As always, it’s important to let your server know of your allergy needs so the kitchen staff can be careful.
Culture Counter: Locally sourced produce, honey, meats, eggs and even a selection of fresh mushrooms like lion's mane and shitake from their local mushroom farmer.
Mama Jeans Natural Market: When you need some staples for your own kitchen, look for the green tag under the price tag, this denotes that the item is gluten-free. I LOVE that they do this, making scanning the aisle so much easier.
Hy-Vee: The Health Food area includes a double-sided gluten-free aisle containing specialty items. This is where you’ll find the majority of your gluten-free and vegan options. I typically shop the entire Health Food area and the one frozen aisle where gluten-free items can be combined with other healthy options.
Cafe Cusco: The black beans and rice is a vegan, gluten-free dish loaded with flavors! Seasoned black beans over garlic rice are topped with fresh pico de gallo, pickled onions (yum), avocado, cilantro and fresh greens. Spice it up with their house-made hot sauce.
Greek Belly: In my hometown on the east coast, there’s a heavy Greek and Italian influence, so I have a high flavor standard. While I’ll always start with the dolmades, my go-to entrée is the falafel pita (Gyro) with the creamy garlic sauce. It’s loaded with falafel, fries, tomato, and cucumber wrapped up in a soft thick gluten-free pita; it’s so delicious! The owner, John Tsahiridis, has taken MUCH time and effort to ensure a pleasant dining experience for all diners, including those with dietary restrictions.
The Wheelhouse: Get your Asian-Mexican fusion fix here! The owners have made many dishes gluten-free here but my top two are the pineapple fried rice and the peanut chicken nachos with guacamole.
The Press: Taco Tuesdays done right with a healthy urban vibe! Plus if you’re a kimchi fan, their kimchi fried rice is a really wonderful tangy twist on a fried rice dish topped with an over-easy egg.
Van Gogh's Eeterie: This Netherlands-influenced restaurant built its menu around naturally gluten-free ingredients! For lunch or dinner I’m usually getting the kapsalon beef ((without cheese) a plate of fries topped with beef shoarma, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickled onions, arugula and curry ketchup) or daubigney’s garden (a vegan/gf pancake topped with a savory mix of tomato, onion, pepper, pesto vegan stamppot (mashed urban greens and potato) and arugula).
Piccolo: My picky Italian tastebuds strike again. But this time they were not disappointed! Not only are there a ton of gluten-free yummy Italian dishes, dairy-free cheese options are also on the menu. For example, you can enjoy a wonderful caesar salad (no croutons) and massive vegan pesto over gluten-free penne. SCORE! (Don’t forget The Peaceful Baker’s desserts on hand here, save room!)
Related Post: The Vegan Guide To Springfield
Jersey Mike’s: Again, east coast style foods are my weakness. Jersey Mike’s uses a separate prep surface, knife and mayo dispenser. This is my favorite place to get a sub on the “Udi’s gluten-free sub roll” or in a bowl over lettuce for a lower-calorie/carb option. Check their website for all their gluten-free options.
Asian and Sushi
Pho Kim: My go-to Vietnamese spot for pho Thai bo vien (Rare eye round beef with meatballs) and fresh spring rolls.
Rama Thai: While there are many dishes that are gluten-free like the curry and fresh spring rolls, it’s the pad Thai for me. As always, make sure to let your server know to make it gluten-free.
Craft Sushi: Ten thousand points to the owners who understand Celiac disease so well! Whether it be a huge poke bowl (with rice, quinoa or fresh greens), all the fresh veggies and yummy sauces, or a custom-made sushi roll this place prepares it on a separate prep station with separate ingredients for orders with allergy requests. A helpful menu card shows you all your options and I’ve tried something new every time I’ve gone. And they even have gluten-free soy sauce!
Chameleon Cusine: Lobster nachos, oh em gee!!! A STANDING OVATION to this local downtown restaurant that has its own gluten-free fryer and is making the most amazing dishes in it. If you love your ‘lobstah’ as much as this New England native, you’ll enjoy this beautifully layered dish of chopped garlic and butter sautéed lobster, onion, cilantro, grilled corn, pinto beans, cotija cheese, then drizzled with a creamy sriracha sauce. Stahp it, so good! And for you taco lovers…yeah, lobster tacos are AMAZING too!
The Ozark Mill at Finley Farms: This is a modern rustic masterpiece remodel with a menu that challenges what you think you know about flavors. As hands-down one of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever had. The roasted salmon with spaghetti squash and broccolini with a lemon and caper sauce is INSANE!
Red Robin: While I always try to hit up local spots, it’s hard to stray from a chain that has a dedicated gluten-free fryer. Community fryers are where a lot of cross-contamination can happen so when I find a place that has invested in one, I keep coming back. Their website has a stellar list of safe gluten-free items so it makes picking a burger easy! Order a gluten-free bun, and GET SOME FRIES Y’ALL, because they are fried in that gluten-free fryer! Woo! The sweet potato fries are my fave. Be sure to remind your server about your allergy when you reorder fries.
Cafe Cusco: It’s the black bean quinoa burger for me on the gluten-free bun. Add some mayo and their incredible homemade hot sauce on the side with the super crispy sweet potato fries, and I’m a very happy camper. For years this was my go-to meal whenever I went out and I’m definitely not tired of it.
Houlihans: The Houlihan’s burger with a gluten-free bun (or impossible burger for vegan). Double-check with your server about the sides as some may be prepared in the community fryer.
With the options growing every day, there’s always something new for me to try, so come with me. Follow me on Instagram @springfieldglutenfree to share your experiences and ask me any questions!