5 Unexpected Gluten-Free Menu Items to Try in Denver

For those with Celiac and gluten allergies, dining out can be a mixed bag. It can be disheartening to go out with friends to see nothing on the menu you can eat, and the discomfort of eating gluten, knowingly or not, discourages many from eating out at all. Finding good gluten-free options for wheat-y comfort foods like baked goods and pizza can be a chore, but the Denver restaurant scene is becoming more and more accommodating to those with gluten allergies. Here are some ideas to get you started.

DiFranco’s: Chicken Parm and Gluten-Free Pasta

DiFranco's Gluten-Free Chicken Parm Sandwich
Gluten-Free Chicken Parm Sandwich. Photo by Danielle Webster.

Where: 955 N Lincoln St Unit D, Denver

Neighborhood: Golden Triangle

When: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Closed Sundays

Fresh, seasonal Italian is the name of the game at DiFranco’s. Alongside classic pasta dishes and colorful salads are some delicious sandwiches. The Chicken Parm ($11.50, +$1 for gluten-free), for example, is a tender cut of chicken between two fantastic, toasty slices of Canyon BakeHouse bread, a dollop of rich marinara, sliced mozzarella and the freshest parsley this side of the Atlantic. And if you come before 5 p.m., the lunch special ($13, +$1 for gluten-free) comes with a delightful greens salad with tomato, corn, shaved cucumber and a peperoncino pepper on the side. And everything on the menu, including the pasta (exception for the ravioli) can be made gluten-free, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Glazed and Confuzed: Gluten-Free Donuts

Glazed and Confuzed Donuts. Photo by Lindsey Bartlett.
Glazed and Confuzed Donuts. Photo by Lindsey Bartlett.

Where: 5301 Leetdale Ave., Denver

Neighborhood: Southeast Denver

When: Tuesday-Sunday, 6 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Adhering to a motto of local, organic and seasonal ingredients, Glazed and Confuzed sports a rotating selection of designer doughnuts (anywhere from $2 for a simple glazed to $5 for its weekend cronuts), from the bacon-topped Breakfast of Champz to the jalapeño-and-cream-cheese-filled Jalapeño Popper. But Thursday, Saturday and Sunday you can get a doughnut sans gluten ($3). Usually offering two rotating varieties gluten-free, such as the Girl Scout cookie nostalgia-inducing Confuzed Samoa, or its chocolate or vanilla glazed, you’ll want to come back to try them all. And for the doughnut aesthete, you can even dip ‘em into a hot cup of Pablo’s coffee ($2.50) while you’re at it. Pro tip: call in on a Tuesday and you can request a flavor to be made gluten-free!

Gaia Bistro: Sweet and Savory Crêpes

Gaia Bistro's patio
Gaia Bistro’s patio. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Where: 1551 South Pearl St., Denver

Neighborhood: Platt Park/South Pearl

When: Closed Mondays; Breakfast: Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.- 2 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Dinner: Wednesday – Thursday, 5-8:30 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 5-9 p.m. (no crepes at dinner service).

The Gaia Bistro is a quaint country-house-of-a-restaurant on Old South Pearl Street with a menu of breakfast favorites and seasonal dinner selections. Whether you sit in the homey interior or on the garden-enclosed patio, the environment is perfect for catching up with old friends over a pot of French press coffee ($2.50 for a small, or $4.50 for a pot big enough to share) and some of Gaia’s fantastic food. But the gluten-free sweet and savory crêpes made from organic buckwheat flour are a special treat. Whether you want to keep it simple with just a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar ($5.50, +$1 for gluten-free) or sample one of its more adventurous savory crêpes, there’s enough variety for at least half a dozen visits to this neighborhood spot. A light, grainy crêpe filled with rich prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms and melty brie ($11, +$1 gluten-free) makes a good start to any day, and while the menu doesn’t mention it, Gaia is more than happy to make the sweet crêpes with the gluten-free buckwheat flour.

Cart-Driver: Chickpea Crust Pizza

Cart-Driver Wood Fire Pizza
Cart-Driver Wood Fire Pizza

Where: 2500 Larimer St #100, Denver

Neighborhood: RiNo

When: Everyday, 12 p.m.- 12 a.m., Happy hour 3-6 p.m., 10 p.m.-12 a.m.

The cosy Cart-Driver, named one of Eater’s 21 best new restaurants of 2015, serves a modern take on an American-Italian tradition, the humble pizza. And while some of the other restaurants in the city also offer a gluten-free crust, the chickpea crust at Cart-Driver is a majestic, melt-in-your-mouth experience. Watching the chef behind the counter tend the wood-fired stove only increases the anticipation. The Peppers Pizza ($13, +$3 for gluten-free) is a lovely red and white thing with soft mounds of mozzarella, spicy pepperoni, and sliced beans of aromatic garlic atop a golden-brown, crunchy-on-the-edges crust. Do yourself a favor and stop by for pizza and prosecco ($9, $5 3-6 p.m.) on its patio on a cool, Colorado summer night.

Duck Soup: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Photo courtesy of Duck Soup's Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Duck Soup’s Facebook.

Where: 303 16th St. Suite 130, Denver

Neighborhood: Downtown

When: Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.- 3 p.m; Closed Sundays

Featuring a seasonal menu of rotating soups, Duck Soup is a quick-serve soup and sandwich spot on the 16th Street Mall. Whether you’re on the go or picking something up on the way home, you’re sure to find something that’s not only soothing and delicious, but gluten-free as well. Take one of its summer soups, the Chicken Soup for the Soul: a simple, lightly salted traditional broth with chunks of toothsome chicken, still-crispy carrots and celery and rice noodles, which comes with your choice of gluten-free bread for dipping or fruit on the side. The soups come in a variety of sizes, from $5.85 for a cup to $12.25 for a 32 ounce family size, and all soups are marked for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. Be sure to check out its gluten-free Mardi Gras gumbo in the fall!

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