Our Top Five Gluten-free Spots

I admit it: I have a one-track mind. I’m always thinking about food. I want to know what’s good and who’s serving it. That’s why this job is perfect for me. And when my friends John and Athena came to Kaua’i for a visit, I was happy to show them some of my favorite dining spots.

It was tricky because they are gluten-free; she’s intolerant and he’s sensitive to gluten, of course! They’re not gluten-free because it’s the “in” thing to do, but because gluten makes them physically sick.

The joy of eating quickly became frustrating as ill-informed waitstaff and unprepared restaurants couldn’t provide a decent meal or answer a simple question. What do you have that’s gluten-free? One waiter said glutenfree eggs, which is funny because that’s how nature makes them.

I was speaking to the new owners of Caffe Coco about their upcoming profile in this column, and learned that co-owner Hollan Hamid is gluten sensitive. “So many places only offer a salad,” she says. “When you go out to dinner, you don’t want a salad, you want a good meal.”

I agree, and fortunately for Kaua’i, there are many restaurants that create exciting, gluten-free meals. This week, I’d like to share my friends’ top five picks.

John and Athena enjoyed going to Sweet Marie’s Bakery as much as they enjoyed her food. “She was friendly, personable, energetic and knowledgeable,” says John, who also appreciated the large portion sizes. “My favorite was the coffee cake,” says Athena. “It was fluffy and not crumbly like most gluten-free stuff.”

Verde offers fresh and filling New Mexico-style meals, and most of the menu is gluten-free, including the green chili. “I loved being able to get tacos without being scared that the meat was flavored with gluten,” recalls Athena.

“I liked the green salsa; it was super fresh and very tasty,” adds John, who likes atomic heat levels.

John and Athena went for it tapas-style and ordered eight plates at Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill. “We liked the large gluten-free selection,” says Athena, whose favorite was the seared diver scallops with cauliflower puree and raisin jalapeno foam. “The entire staff was welleducated about food allergies,” adds John. His favorite was the roasted feta cheese with charred tomato, olives, avocado and baby greens.

Oasis on the Beach, a tapas-style restaurant on the East side, was the one they went back to. “The waitress was extremely educated about ingredients and allergies,” says Athena. “The food was unique, flavorful, and they had a good variety.”

“I liked the portion sizes because I could get full, but not overdo it,” says John. “The oxtail risotto was our favorite dish.”

The Hukilau Lanai is why they missed their plane. Well, I should say the Island Orchid made with Hawaiian vanilla bean vodka and macadamia nut liquor was responsible, along with the beautiful atmosphere and delicious food. “I loved the candied ahi and jumbo shrimp fettuccine,” says John. “The muffins were fantastic,” adds Athena. “They reminded me of how my sister used to make her rosemary Italian bread.”

There you have it, five gluten-free favorites from two gluten-free foodies. Who’d have known that was even possible? I guess it’s proof that you can enjoy a gluten-free meal on Kaua’i.

SweetMariesKauai.com VerdeHawaii.com Josselins.com OasisKauai.com HukilauKauai.com