As more people look to fill their diet with gluten-free options that don't skimp on flavor or texture, many food establishments in Nashville have taken note, not only offering gluten-free versions of their regular menu, but adding the option to make most regular dishes GF as well. The venerable Kalamata's has been doing this for years, thanks to the naturally gluten-free nature of many Mediterranean dishes. But spots you would never suspect of being tolerant of food allergies are surprising diners all over the city. Devotees of Burger Up's juicy burgers no longer have to opt for going bun-free to enjoy since they now offer the option to choose a GF bun. Same with the sandwiches at Jason's Deli. Of course, A Matter Of Taste has devoted their whole menu to being GF, and fans are flocking to their many options that don't sacrifice flavor or texture, including their pastrami and melted Swiss with Dijon mustard or their rotating supply of gooey cookies. Even carb lovers can get what they crave at Amerigo with their designated GF menu. All that said, there has never been a better time to have a gluten allergy in Nashville, and the options get better all the time.
The three locations of Kalamata's are always hopping at lunch and dinner, thanks to the light and healthy Mediterranean fare. There are total devotees to the tuna salad for example, thanks to its briny capers, bold red onions, lemon zest and olive oil instead of mayo. Vegetarians have plenty of options, from the falafel salad to the baba ghanouj and stuffed grape leaves. Perfect for sitting down for a quick meal, you can call in ahead of time to pick up some of their specially-prepared dinners on the way home and avoid cooking, even if you can't avoid the intolerable Green Hills traffic. (615-383-8700)
Jason's Deli is all about healthy food. In fact, they say they are the first major restaurant concept to ban artificial trans fats in the U.S. and also the first to eliminate high fructose corn syrup. Thankfully gluten-free diets are not restricted from enjoying almost everything on the menu as well. GF salad dressings are available, as well as GF bread at no extra cost which is pretty rare. Even kids get their own GF menu, with everything from grilled cheese to to hot dogs available. Pastas, salads, muffalettas, soups and more make up this extensive deli menu that keeps good for you tasting good. ((615) 340-9991)
The Smiling Elephant
Authentic and healthy, The Smiling Elephant is always packed with diners who love the fresh ingredients and special care that goes into each dish. Food allergies and dietary restrictions are addressed with no attitude, and they will even cook off the menu if they have the right stuff on hand. The tamarind pork-moo sahm rhot comes with sauteed sweet and sour pork drizzled with three flavor tamarind sauce and sprinkled with fresh lemongrass and served with Jasmine Rice. The larb lettuce wraps are filled with minced pork tossed with fresh cilantro, scallions, onions, fresh-squeezed lime juice and roasted rice. Make it a set and add on Tom Kha or Thom Yum soup and dessert. Space is small and the room can get packed. When that happens, lingering loses its luster.
Considered a favorite among locals, casual and energetic Amerigo prides itself on serving some of the city's best and most innovative dishes. Although the decor is brighter and more modern than at this regional chain than at the traditional Italian ristorantes, make no mistake, the upscale cuisine is definitively Italian. The menu includes everything from traditional pasta and pizza dishes to more modern grilled fish and vegetarian options. Warm and inviting, with friendly yet professional service, it's no wonder locals continue to flock to Amerigo despite the rising number of competing Italian restaurants. (615-320-1740)
At Burger Up you won't find anything but the utmost respect for the meat. The menu and ingredients revolve around the notion of thoughtful consuming, sourcing as many products as possible from local sustainable farms, with new locales and their goodies added all the time. Start with fried oysters with spicy lemon-lime remoulade and seasonal cheese plate, then move on to one of the burgers that includes more than beef. Guests can enjoy turkey, veggie, salmon, bison and lamb burgers too. Custom cocktails are a draw all their own, but of course go down great with a burger too. The Doc Holiday with Bellemeade bourbon, muddled orange and cherry goes down smooth, as does the Humphrey's Primm's Cup. (615-279-3767)
Popular as a "power lunch" spot, Midtown Cafe offers a great place to take the date you want to impress or the client you're hoping to work with. The sleek and sophisticated dining room is complemented by a lunch menu with items such as grilled salmon, Midtown Meatloaf and chicken croquettes. The wine list features 50 by-the-glass wines, and some people consider Midtown the place to have a martini. Owner Randy Rayburn, chef Brian Uhl and their long-time staff have created a winning combo that not only keeps the longtime regulars coming back, but continues to draw newbies to Hillsboro Village. (615-320-7176)
The Wild Cow
The Wild Cow is a restaurant on a mission. Serving vegetarian, vegan and sometimes gluten-free fare in casual East Nashville, the aim of the restaurant - other than to serve incredibly delicious food - is to make sure that food is cruelty-free and as local and organic as possible. In fact, they don't even have a microwave and their one freezer is only stocked with beer mugs and vegan ice cream. Menu items include Mexican options like sweet potato and black bean or chipotle seitan tacos and sandwiches so delicious you won't miss the meat. Don't believe us? Try the soy-free black bean patty burger animal style with onions and homemade Thousand Island dressing. Beverages run more toward hot tea, coconut water and kombucha than sugary sodas - they refuse to support corporations like Coke and Pepsi. Come during off-peak hours to avoid parking nightmares. (615-262-2717)
Butterbean Bakery and Bistro
You don't get more fresh than your own backyard, and since Butterbean is located on 33 green acres in Gallatin, you can bet the ingredients used in the completely gluten-free menu are as fresh as you can get. Chef Meredith Jones is committed to keeping everything as local as possible, and even meets with area schools at the start of the growing season to learn what she will be able to buy from what the students grow in class, then makes sure not to plant those items herself. The Miss Piggy with caramelized bacon, fresh spinach, tomato and avocado is the perfect mix of salty and sweet while the Gettin' Figgy With It panini capitalizes on the delicious combo of prosciutto, fig preserves, caramelized onions and brie. With a cup of the homemade soup like creamy corn and poblano, Butterbean is mouthwatering. (615-452-4877)
About Hollie Deese
Hollie Deese is a Nashville-based writer who has spent the past 10 years falling in love with the sights, sounds and flavors of Music City. Hollie has 15 years experience as a writer and editor for regional and national publications, including The Tennessean, USA Today, Nashville Interiors, and the Nashville Ledger.
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