For the last year I have been writing about my gluten-free travels around the world. I have a passion for tasty gluten-free food and I search for it everywhere I go. I am so excited for the chance to share my gluten-free adventures in my favorite city, Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve been a gluten-free diner here for almost 9 years, and Madison has never let me down. This city provided me everything I needed to start my gluten-free journey.
The biggest challenge I faced with this first post was how I would keep it contained. I wanted to start out with a Top Five of Madison, but I just couldn’t; I could barely limit myself to nine. There are simply too many places on the Isthmus and the surrounding area. I finally settled on a nice, little list of standouts that it would well worth your time to try.
If you don’t like limits, then these spots are where you should be pulling up a seat. Jac’s and Charlie’s have all the things you thought you may never get to eat again. Since going gluten-free, have you missed those gooey cheese curds, Friday night fish fries, breads, or beer on tap? These two will reunite you with your culinary loves.
Overall, the aesthetic and many menu options are similar in both these restaurants, so depending on where you live, pick one and enjoy!
I crave Pad Thai and Panang Curry weekly, seriously, I’m not joking. Thankfully, Ha Long Bay will let you make almost any dish gluten-free without losing any flavor. Many restaurants simply remove the soy sauce to accommodate your request, but the dish is not the same. At these two locations you can expect the same great taste in any dish you order, even when you request it gluten-free.
I am always looking for gluten-free versions of traditional comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese. For a long time I could not have the IndoMac, the Indonesian version of macaroni and cheese, at Bandung. I still enjoyed many other delicious gluten-free options there, but I longed to try this intriguing dish. Dreams do come true and the day the dish was listed on the gluten-free I never looked back. Be sure to go on Wednesdays and eat in the attached Nutty Bar, that’s when they typically provide great, free music, as well as half price wine.
A Nice Night Out — Estrellon
Kyle, my husband, and I travelled to Spain for our honeymoon. We spent two amazing weeks there then and returned this summer for a week. Tapas are my jam.
Estrellon, a local tapas restaurant owned by Madison’s own James Beard award winning chef, Tory Miller, features endless gluten-free options and many affordable Tempranillos, a delicious Spanish grape that you should try sooner rather than later.
I’ve had the best experiences working with staff here to find gluten-free options. They are educated and helpful, something that is missing in the industry. They also have gluten-free bread! Estrellon is a great place to go with friends so you can try everything! The Spanish tortilla ranks high for me.
Brunch — Manna Cafe
Madison loves breakfast! There are so many places for breakfast and brunch here, that it is hard to narrow this area down. The problem is exacerbated by the fact, I love so many brunch places. How much do I love brunch? My second post will be specifically on this meal-of-meals. Manna is, however, a cut above. They offer great gluten-free bread and gluten-less baked goods. How great is that? I have always eaten the baked goods with zero issues, but I’ve also learned to listen to my body, ask questions, and decide for myself at each place I explore. The banana chocolate chip muffin and the Away in Provence Omelet top my favorites here.
This one was so hard for me because these two places have very different crusts and styles, but they both do gluten-free right. Be sure to try both and experience their approaches.
Sal’s has two locations, Madison and Sun Prairie. I prefer the new space in downtown Sun Prairie as they offer caramelized onions. Give me caramelized onions with goat cheese any day and I’m sold. The one on E. Johnson Street is in the heart of a great part of the Isthmus.. Both have gluten-free crusts and unique pizza creations.
Grampa’s, located next to Lazy Jane’s on Williamson Street (affectionately known as Willy Street) do amazing pizzas and I love their atmosphere. Tuesday is the day to go and get a bottle of wine, appetizer, pizza and dessert for $40 (plus $3 for gluten-free). If there is a wait, grab a drink at Gib’s, next door. Their homemade ginger beer for Moscow Mules is out of this world.
My husband, who can eat any crust he would like, will share a pizza with me at either of these places. That tells you everything you need to know about the quality of their gluten-free crusts.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more to come! Keep coming back to the I Love Madison Show to learn more about this great city. In the meantime, checkout my ultimate list of gluten-free bread for restaurants where you don’t have to go bunless.