Feel Free

Feel Free

It’s a good bet you know someone seeking freedom from gluten, the near-ubiquitous and for some of us gastrointestinally distressing protein found in popular grains. I’ve recently joined the ranks, so, with help from a pair of local gluten-sensitive veterans, Rachel Dempsey and Keith Reed, I set out to find some great New Haven restaurant dishes that avoid this seemingly unavoidable ingredient.

To meet my brief, a dish had to be fully realized—no compromising on texture or flavor and capable of satisfying both the glutin-less and the glutinous. Bunless burgers and other dishes with subtractive modifiers were out. Standard gluten-free standbys were out as well, so, despite my love for a nice salad, that kind of thing couldn’t make the cut.

Here’s what did make it, organized by where I found it and, loosely, by the time of day you might want to eat it:

Choupette Crêperie & Cafè | 24 Whitney Ave
If you have a breakfast date, this charming French bistro is the move. You might expect a tight French menu to leave gluten-free diners out in the cold, but, lo and behold, buckwheat crepes are available and can be ordered with any of the sweet and savory options. The Choupette ($13), a classic combo of fig, prosciutto, goat cheese and arugula folded into the house-made buckwheat, was an absolute delight.

Somos Arepas | 63 Orange St
If you’re downtown and need a quick gluten-free bite, look up Somos. Located along perky south Orange Street, this fast-casual spot specializes in Venezuelan-style arepas. I went for the Carne Machada ($9.75), featuring seasoned shredded beef wrapped in thick gluten-free masa flatbread that, in my case, was stuffed with sweet plantains, black beans and pickled red onion finished with guasacaca (creamy avocado cilantro sauce). Have a seat at one of their clean and modern high tops or take your street-style food to go.

Three Sheets | 372 Elm St
It’s a dive bar, right? But a serious culinary effort complicates that reputation, even if the disposable dishware doesn’t. Over half the now Latin-leaning menu can be served gluten-free, including bar food favorites like fried pickles, buffalo wings and buffalo cauliflower. My favorite was the Yucatin Poutine—yucca fries smothered in chili adobo sauce, pulled chicken, cheese and minced onion. No need to moderate too much if you’re avoiding gluten and drinking at Three Sheets; you’ll have tasty options for soaking up the booze, including tacos and bowls.

Sherkaan | 65 Broadway
Along with energetic ambience, the menu of this trendy Indian fusion restaurant offers enough for almost anyone to feast on, including 20+ GF dishes. The Chili Chicken ($13), marinated in yogurt and chaat masala, fried and dressed with chili-garlic sauce, was more tangy than heated and is definitely a crowd-pleaser. If you’re a glutton for spice, try the Masala Dosa ($13), a crispy, thin chickpea pancake stuffed with spiced potato, dotted with black mustard seed and served with an array of sauces. Curries, stews and kebabs, among other dishes, are also gluten-free.

Much of the pain of being gluten-sensitive is in the head, not the bowels. You worry about what to feed yourself, sure, but also how to share a good meal out with friends and family.

At these places? Feel free.

Written and photographed by Katie Lloyd.

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