A good chunk of The Savvy Celiac readers are from the Midwest and the question is often asked, “I am taking my family up to Duluth, MN for the weekend, where can we eat gluten free?”
Duluth is a great port city in northeastern Minnesota. Summer is a huge tourism time when people come to see Lake Superior (the largest of the Great Lakes), while some others come for Grandma’s Marathon.
Gluten Free Duluth is very doable. There are several gluten-free friendly spots. So as of January 2014, here is a good list for you as you plan your next getaway to Canal Park, the marathon, the Edgewater Waterpark, or for a hockey tournament.
Blackwoods Grill or Black Water Lounge
Blackwoods has three locations: Proctor, Duluth and Two Harbors. They also run the Black Water Lounge in Duluth, plus they do catering- including at the Greysolon Ballroom. I recently asked Benjamin Thoen, Corporate Chef for New London Corporation (owner of the businesses) about how they handle gluten-free requests.
He says they do have gluten free options on their lunch and dinner menus (the menu links may get updated so if you can’t get to it, click here). Options include pasta (yes they use separate water). Steak and chicken done on their broiler which is gluten free. And they keep one of their two flat tops gluten free, which would be used to sear the salmon, for example. They use Udi’s for their bread too.
The kitchen makes more than 35 different sauces, dressings and soups as well. “We take all of the necessary steps to make sure that those [sauces, dressings and soups] we claim to be gluten free are actually so by using separate cutting boards, cooking surfaces, and utensils while preparing any and all of our gluten free items and label and wrap them securely so we don’t have to worry about cross contamination while in our coolers,” Thoen says.
The french fries are cooked in a shared oil with breaded foods, so that is not an option here. But they do have other sides like rice pilaf, veggies and Idaho or Sweet potatoes for alternative sides.
When they cater a large buffet-style meal, they keep the gluten free food separate. “We’ve set up an entirely separate buffet table with all of our gluten free options well labeled,” Thoen says. “We’ve found that having a completely separate table ensures serving utensils aren’t accidentally mis-placed…This is something that’s been very well received by our guests concerned about gluten.”
Thoen says the organization has really invested itself into preparing good and safe gluten free food, “Myself and other key members of Black Woods continue to attend Celiac Conferences and Cooking Classes to better train not only our kitchen staff but also our service staff.” He says the front of the house is also trained, but if they can’t answer a question, they will be happy to go back and get the answer for you.
I personally have not tried to eat gluten free at this restaurant. They do have a great location right where Interstate 35 meets with London Road/Highway 61 to take you up the North Shore. Plus, Two Harbors is about 20 minutes up the North Shore so that location could be an option if you are headed past Duluth for the day.
Valentini’s is an Italian restaurant on London Road in Duluth, located near the Lakewalk next to Leif Erickson Park. I have been here with my parents. My dad eats gluten free and orders gluten free pasta here. I would recommend calling ahead and inquiring about their gluten free options because their menu does not show them.
My one experience there was very tasty, but the waiter did mess up my dad’s order by putting a gluteny breadstick right on top of his gluten-free dish and they had to remake it. This was even after my dad said “no breadstick”. So that might be a tactic you’ll want to employ.
If you want to try this place, it would be great in the summer to walk from a hotel in Canal Park along the Lakewalk, then grab dinner and head home. That would be roughly a 1.25 mile walk one-way.
If you live in the Twin Cities, you probably have gone to Pizza Luce. They do a GREAT gluten free pizza, salads and we love their Molly Bar Sundae which is gluten free! Their education is top-notch. This is their Duluth location. They also have gluten free options for brunch!
It is located on Superior Street and intersects with Lake Street. If you are staying at Canal Park, it is only about a third of a mile walk over the interstate from the hotels to Pizza Luce. This is my daughter’s favorite place ever. We have had luck purchasing their pizza crusts and bringing them home as well.
Duluth Grill is located on the west side of Duluth. It has a significant options for gluten free eaters. You may not see them all on the menu, so you can always call ahead and ask. We have eaten breakfast and lunch there before with no troubles.
The owners are very knowledgeable with the gluten free diet and will help you have a great meal.
(updated 1-17-14) Duluth/Cloquet, MN and Superior, WI was a test market for gluten free Subway sandwiches. Employees at the shops in Duluth say the gluten free sandwich ended for them on January 1, 2014 after two years of being a test market.
Erbert and Gerbert’s
Erbert and Gerbert’s is another sandwich chain that has added gluten free options. It uses a sub-size bun but I would recommend calling ahead or pulling a manager aside to ask about creating a safe gluten free sandwich. The two I have been to have needed a little assistance in this area. For example, I had to ask them to use fresh ingredients from the back to make her sandwich. My gluten free brother eats and enjoys these.
So to wrap it up, there are many gluten free options for you — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Head on up to Duluth and enjoy! If you need more information on what else you can do or where you can stay in Duluth, go to VisitDuluth.com.