I finally got a chance to stop by Broadway Pizza and try their new “gluten friendly” menu.
Broadway Pizza is a Minnesota-based chain of restaurants. There are 14 restaurants, plus two more areopening this summer. Most of them are located in the Twin Cities, but there is one in Rochester and one of them opening this summer is in Garrison.
We learned about the new menu in April. It is specifically called the Gluten Friendly Menu (not gluten-free) — we’ll get into that later.
When I heard about it and I was able to see the menu online, I emailed the company and got a response from the CEO. I asked a few questions out of the gate, but it wasn’t until last Thursday that I was able to give the menu a test run (actually I tried one location at the end of April, but the menu and training wasn’t in place yet).
First, let me tell you about the insight I received earlier this spring from Broadway Pizza CEO James Kruizenga.
I asked him what precautions they are taking to “lessen the risk of cross contamination”; specifically about separate utensils, ingredients…etc. “We take a great many prep precautions in preparing the gluten-free food items,” Kruizenga said. “All separate utensils, containers, gloves, cooking utensils, pans, etc. We do our best to eliminate all cross contamination, however in our small kitchens we realize that zero cross contamination is almost impossible. Thus, the gluten-friendly designation. We use all gluten-free items, but some cross contamination is inevitable. There is flour in the are in our kitchens.”
The sweet potato waffle fries are the french fry option on the menu. They are baked and not put in the oil. They have gluten-free bread with a separate garlic butter and spreader, Kruizenga explained. He says they even have a toaster for their hamburger buns or they go in their own pan in the oven– they are not grilled.
I specifically asked about why they named the menu gluten-friendly versus gluten-free (because really when you think about it, aren’t all menus “gluten friendly”?). “The gluten-friendly menu designation was done to alert all that there is probable wheat contamination in our kitchen, despite our best efforts,” Kruizenga said. “We wanted to convey a true picture of what we are able to accomplish given our environment. Not knowing the level of intolerance each of our customers have, I wanted to make sure they are aware of this and make an intelligent decison for themselves.”
Experiencing Broadway Pizza’s Gluten Friendly Menu
Last Thursday my husband and I went there for lunch. I wanted to order from the new menu, ask questions and see how the food was. Just a reminder that I do not have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. So if there were any cross contamination issues, I would not know.
But I did ask questions. First off, I asked the waitress at the Blaine, MN location, whether the sauce and toppings for the gluten “friendly” pizza on the menu were shared with gluten-containing pizza. The waitress explained that YES, all of the ingredients are shared. Well that eliminates pizza as an option for anyone with celiac disease. Cross contamination with shared pizza ingredients is impossible to avoid, especially the sauce.
I was not expecting to hear that from the server based on the information Mr. Kruizenga gave me in April. So I sent an inquiry about it to him. Kruizenga was unavailable but he asked his marketing coordinator Tiffany Downing to respond and she did on June 4th, 2014. (Editor note: update from original post:) She said “I am very sorry to hear that our server told you the sauce containers are shared between regular menu pizzas and GF menu pizzas, this in fact is not the case at all.”
She confirmed with the Blaine, MN location that indeed they are following protocol and not sharing the sauce but the server had it wrong. However, she said, “the rest of our toppings are housed in the same containers…we simply do not have the kitchen space to house all toppings in two locations (hence, the Gluten-Friendly dedication, we want to be honest in what we are able to do).”
Downing added that employees must follow the protocol they have created when someone orders off the gluten friendly menu, including, “washing hands thoroughly to wash away any flour that may be on their hands and there is a designated GF menu preparation area in which nothing off our regular menu is made there. This area also contains separate utensils and baking sheets to eliminate as much flour exposure as possible.” All utensils in that special area are wrapped in plastic when not in use to reduce flour exposure.
So I moved on. I ended up ordering a cheese burger on a gluten free bun and the sweet potato waffle fries. That was GREAT! I really liked it! The bun was toasted slightly so it was warm and “squishy”. And the fries were better than others I have had that were fried in oil. They were not greasy…just good! I didn’t order everything off the menu so if you have had an experience here please comment below.
In general, we all know dining out is risky for people with celiac and a gluten sensitivity, because we are not in control of our food. Hopefully this information gives you additional insight to help you decide whether to try Broadway Pizza.
The menu is not available in all of the restaurants. Mr. Kruizenga told me last April it was available in all 12 full service locations, however, of their 14 locations that are currently open for business only nine of them have the gluten-friendly menu listed on their website. So you may want to inquire directly with your restaurant before expecting the menu.