Gluten Free in a Panera World

By Chloe Williams

As a true gluten freer, let me give you some advice: If you’re someone living without any dietary restrictions, indulge in the cuisine of Philadelphia, daily, if possible. Please, just do it for me. My ‘gluten free-ness’ is not self-inflicted, trust me if I could be eating a Pat’s cheese steak with onions and whiz right now, I would. Almost two years ago exactly, my doctor informed me that I have Celiac disease and therefore on a regular basis I find myself walking past the likes of Shake Shack and Federal Donuts, shielding my eyes. It’s a rough world out there for our clan, but after two years of navigating the gluten-ridden waters you become a seasoned professional. Here is how I survived.

Find your grocery store and shop there religiously: Mine happens to be Acme on East Passyunk Ave in South Philadelphia. If you’re gluten-free, you know that Penn’s Fresh Grocer just doesn’t cut it if you want to eat anything other than salad. Acme carries everything from Annie’s Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese to Pillsbury Gluten Free Pizza Dough. If I hadn’t found Acme, I would be severely malnourished.

Pack snacks whenever you leave your apartment: I don’t know how many times I had ventured into Center City with friends to find that I had zero snack options before I realized this necessity. Snacks are the hardest when you’re gluten free because most options involve a muffin, a soft pretzel, or a chocolate chip cookie. I now never leave the house without an apple and a bag of Snyder’s Gluten Free Honey Mustard Pretzels in my bag.

Create a ‘Gluten Free Restaurant’ black book and memorize it: I have a roster of MVP gluten-free restaurants in Philadelphia ranging from sandwiches to Italian food. With this list, I am always ready with a place to eat when my friends decide they want to eat out for dinner. My personal favorites include: Sabrina’s (Powelton Village), Sampan (13th Street) and Giorgio’s on Pine (Pine Street). Philadelphia actually has a great array of restaurants with gluten-free options; you just have to find them.

Download the ‘Gluten Free Around Me’ app immediately: This app has saved me on numerous occasions, especially when I’m out of town and unfamiliar with an area. As the name advertises, the app searches for gluten-free food around your area, provides menus, and will direct you to the chosen location. When you’re running around New York during co-op and have 20 minutes to find sustenance, this app will be your best friend.

Get your friends on the gluten-free bandwagon: You can’t eat gluten, but they can eat gluten-free. The general consensus is that gluten-free food doesn’t taste good, but honestly that couldn’t be further from the truth. If your friends love you they’ll try it, and I promise they won’t mind trekking to gluten-free restaurants with you. I recommend starting them with the Gluten-Free Truffle Pizza from Slice in Rittenhouse Square.

Start with these tips and I swear that your gluten-free journey will become a lot more bearable. It’s a gluten filled world out there and we have to stick together.

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