By Gale Hemmann
Fortunately, things have come a long way. While not many people had heard the term “gluten-free” a decade ago, today more and more restaurants are catching on to the need to serve gluten-free customers.
There are quite a few terrific options right here in Grays Harbor. From seafood to burgers to vegetarian fare, there is something for everyone. While many restaurants feature at least one entrée suitable for a gluten-free diner, these are some spots that excel in their options for gluten-free customers and their knowledge about gluten-containing ingredients
If you or someone you know has to avoid gluten, I recommend checking out one of these places for your next restaurant trip. During my research (also known as eating), I learned that some restaurants offer gluten-free substitutions, like bread and pasta, that aren’t listed on the menu. If you’re not sure if something can be prepared gluten-free, it’s always worth asking. All of the owners and chefs I talked to are proud of their gluten-free offerings and are happy to make sure customers leave full and satisfied.
Gluten-Free Dining Options around the Harbor
- Duffy’s Restaurant: A local classic, Duffy’s Restaurant offers several options for gluten-free, homestyle meals. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they also have a full lounge for adult diners. Some good menu choices include breakfast meals (hold the toast), steak dinners, broiled salmon and, for the brave, yak specials. You can also get your meal to-go.
- Mazatlan: Mexican and Latin American food is usually a good bet for gluten-free diners (just remember to choose dishes made with corn tortillas rather than flour). The long-standing Mazatlan offers plenty of options. You might try the tacos, nachos, or rice with chicken.
- Rediviva: There’s been a lot of buzz about Rediviva, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. This refined restaurant and wine bar features fresh, locally-sourced food, and the menu changes daily based on what’s available. Executive Chef Andrew Bickar assured me they always have plenty of options for the gluten-free diner. Their gluten-free clam chowder is always a hit. He says that at any given time, about three-quarters of the menu items are already free of gluten, and almost any dish can be prepared gluten-free if requested. Because they only use fresh ingredients and no “fillers” (notorious for containing modified food starch and other glutinous products), they can easily tell which dishes are safe. Rediviva also hosts private events.
- Taquerias: Whenever I’m in Aberdeen for lunch, I look forward to stopping at Taqueria y Mariscos el Mar. This little family-owned spot offers friendly service and quick, affordable lunches. Taqueria Las Mulitas is also one of my favorites – this budget-friendly venue offers dine-in and take-out options, making it a popular lunch choice as well. And their fresh salsa bar can’t be beat. Both spots offer plenty of options for the gluten-free. For a Salvadoran option, try La Salvadorena – their authentic tamales and other specialties should offer plenty of choices.
- Amore Italian Restaurant: Up for some Italian fare? Amore (also known as Mangiamo) serves up gluten-free pasta for any of their pasta dishes, as well as a gluten-free pizza crust. (The gluten-free pasta is not listed on the menu – ask your server.) The Amore staff is very knowledgeable about gluten and eager to make sure diners’ needs are met.
- Casa Mia: For a family-friendly pizza experience, head to Casa Mia. This comfortable Italian restaurant has been a staple in Grays Harbor since 1952. They offer a cashew-based gluten-free crust on any of their pizzas. Casa Mia has plenty of options for both vegetarians and meat-lovers, from pastas to steaks.
- Gepetto’s: At Gepetto’s Italian Restaurant and Sports Bar, you can enjoy casual Italian-style dining, watch the game on the big screen, relax at the full bar, and catch live entertainment. Owners Bob and Sue McEndoo offer ample choices for the gluten-free diner, including seven of their trademark hot sandwiches (available on gluten-free bread) and a gluten-free pizza. Most of their entrée salads are gluten-free as well. Family-owned for over 20 years, Gepetto’s also features pasta, salads and calzones, along with a kids’ menu, so there’s something for all to enjoy.
- Alec’s by the Sea: This restaurant offers a full menu page dedicated to gluten-free dishes, making it a must-visit place. Kitchen Manager Dan Schnettler tells me they have gluten-free burger buns and pasta. They can also pan-fry fish for gluten-free fish and chips. Alec’s by the Sea also offers fresh-caught seafood and vegetarian options.
- Mill 109 Restaurant: The bustling Mill 109 Restaurant & Pub has an abundance of gluten-free options. You can get gluten-free buns on any of their burgers, and the Pacific Beach Fish Tacos come in corn tortillas, making them another good choice. You’ll also find an array of unique salads both with and without meat. Nestled in the Seabrook community, Mill 109’s full bar, live entertainment, and hip atmosphere make them a popular nightspot. (Check out their menu here.)
- Salmon House Restaurant: This family-friendly spot on Lake Quinault features smoked salmon as their specialty. The Salmon House Restaurant offers several salmon dishes on their menu that gluten-free diners could enjoy, as well as steak dinners and an extensive wine list. They also offer a kids’ menu.
- Sand Verbena: Just over the Pacific County line, the Sand Verbena Seafood & Grille brings something new to the beaches. The recently-opened restaurant is already getting great reviews for its water views and creative entrees (see their menu here). Operated by the Shoalwater Bay Casino, the Sand Verbena features fresh seafood, Native American specialties, and local produce. For a gluten-free appetizer, try the steamer clams or pan-fried oysters with dill aioli. You can choose their vegetarian Hemp Burger, served on a gluten-free bun, or ask for a gluten-free bun substitution on any of their other burgers. Seafood, steak, and entrée-sized salads round out the gluten-free selections.
- Mermaid Deli and Pub: This cozy little spot offers tasty gluten-free sandwiches, free wifi, and a full bar, making it a perfect place to stop and unwind after a day at the beach. Owners (and sisters) Susan Heichel and Carol Glover cater to their gluten-free customers: any sandwich can be made into a gluten-free wrap. The Mermaid Deli and Pub also offers several entrée-sized salads on their menu, and prices are very reasonable. The cozy fire pit, fresh-brewed coffee, and outdoor patio (on warmer days) make this a stop everyone will enjoy. The Mermaid Deli and Pub is open seven days a week.
At most places I spoke with, gluten-free substitutions can cost a little more. But as anyone with dietary restriction knows, the extra couple of dollars is well worth it to have a safe, enjoyable dining experience.
I hope this gives you some fresh ideas for dining out around the Harbor. By visiting these businesses, you are letting them know you appreciate their gluten-free items and support them in continuing to offer them.