Have you ever been at the store swiping your card when you get a nervous feeling that you don’t have enough funds? That’s what ordering gluten-free at a restaurant can feel like. The dining experience can be a bit of a gamble, and the repercussions for eating even a bite of something contaminated can be a buzz kill. If I eat gluten on accident, I get immediately sick, and the substance takes 3-4 days to finally leave my body. At times, it makes dining out not worthwhile due to the anxiety that my allergies and intolerances will not be taken seriously. However, when I find places where I have positive experiences, I want to celebrate them.

With food allergies and intolerances, it’s important to note that everyone reacts differently, and there are different levels of severity. I recommend always doing research before going to establishments. Even if you’ve dined somewhere 100 times, make sure to communicate with your server about what you cannot eat. 

In 2019, Sarah Meilike wrote an article about her recent diagnosis of celiac disease and where to eat. Unlike Sarah, I do not have celiac disease, but rather a corn allergy that runs alongside fructose malabsorption syndrome, which requires me to be dairy-free, gluten-free, and cautious to any food that produces more fructose than glucose in the digestive process. With more people requiring limited gluten, I wanted to do a follow up to her article with additional options for those who are gluten-free while trying to eat at gluten-friendly establishments. Gluten-friendly means the restaurant does not meet the FDA code to be certified gluten-free as there is a high possibility for cross-contamination.

A bed of greens with tomatoes and flaky salmon are in a white ceramic bowl on a wooden table. Above and to the left is a small bowl of olives. On the top right is a glass of tea with a paper tea bag. Photo by Kate Aldridge.Salmon Salad at Bread Company. Photo by Kate Aldridge.

Bread Company

The atmosphere in the Bread Company is my favorite in Champaign-Urbana, but the name itself used to scare me away. I would call this restaurant a high risk, gluten-friendly establishment, but I have had success with not feeling sick afterwards. There are few items that can be eaten on a gluten-free diet. On my visit there recently, I customized the salmon salad to meet my needs — which sometimes felt like the restaurant scene from the 90s rom-com When Harry Met Sally. For $13, I ordered the salad with no dressing, no croutons, no cheese, and no seasoning on the salmon. Unfortunately, the salad had dressing and seasoning on it, but my server was quick to apologize and have it remade. Along with the salad, I ordered an appetizer of olives to share with my partner. After tasting one, I became hesitant. I was assured the olives were only seasoned with lemon juice, but I opted out of eating them just in case.  

The Bread Company
706 S Goodwin Ave
Urbana
M-Th 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

A stryofoam container holds pickled ginger in the top left divider, a mackerel sashimi in the top right, and the bottom half has a sushi roll with crab and orange roe.  Photo by Kate Aldridge.Canada roll from Sushi Kame. Photo by Kate Aldridge.

Sushi Kame

Sushi has been a bit of a debate in the gluten-free world. It is a bit of a risk due to cross contamination and hidden ingredients in sauces and sushi rice. At Sushi Kame, I have had few issues as long as I communicate with the server and order appropriately. Sometimes I miss a cheap California roll; California rolls are not gluten-free because imitation crab and crab stick contain gluten. At my recent visit to Sushi Kame, I ordered the Canada roll: a California roll made with real crab meat. I ordered a cup of steamed black rice along with a piece of mackerel sashimi. It was a lot of food for $12.50.

Sushi Kame
132 W Church St
Champaign
T-Th 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m
F 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sa noon to 10:30 p.m.
Su 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A bed of greens with cucumbers, shaved carrots, seared kale, and sunflower seeds is in a large, white bowl on a red table at Red Herring. Photo by Kate Aldridge.Build-your-own salad at Red Herring. Photo by Kate Aldridge.

Red Herring

This is a local establishment that is on campus with vegan and gluten-free options. The atmosphere has a cool vibe, and the food is nothing short of fresh. Everything on the menu looked delicious — especially the desserts. I built my own salad for $9.50 and filled it with fresh veggies, seared kale, and sunflower seeds. I opted out of dressing and any other additional proteins due to my other intolerances and allergy. The seared kale was delicious. I highly recommend this restaurant for gluten-free needs as they accommodate utilizing different cooking utensils and spaces for those with intolerances, and many of their options do not contain gluten.

Red Herring
1209 W Oregon St
Urbana, IL 61801
M + T 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
W 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Th + F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

A bowl Hwe Dup Bap, rice with a variety of green lettuces on top with thin strings of cucumber, sliced jalepenos, sashimi, and onions in a brown metallic bowl on a light green table at Kofusion. Photo by Kate Aldridge.Hwe Dup Bap at KoFusion. Photo by Kate Aldridge. 

KoFusion

I was blown away a few weeks ago by the staff’s compassion with my food limitations. When I went to KoFusion, the manager had my order memorized from the times over the past few years when I went there. My server made sure to accommodate all of my needs, talk with me about my experience, and let me know I am more than welcome at their restaurant. I had the Hwe Dup Bap for $20 which was a dish of rice, bed of lettuce, and sashimi. In order it to be safe for me, I substituted sushi rice for steamed white rice, opted out of the red sauce, and left off the egg omelet and crab sticks. When having food limitations, the key is being able to have a restaurant experience where you don’t feel like an inconvenience. On this visit, KoFusion went above and beyond for me.

KoFusion
1 E Main St
Champaign
Su + M 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
T-Th 11a.m. to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

A plain baked potato sliced and open on a white plate next to haddock with three lemon slices. Above on the right, there are two bowls of blueberries, blackberries, and sliced pineapple. Photo by Kate Aldridge. Grilled haddock with baked potato and fruit cups. Photo by Kate Aldridge.

Cracker Barrel

I have zero shame about acknowledging my passion for Cracker Barrel. I used to love ordering their pancakes, dumplings, and biscuits with honey. Unfortunately, I can only drool over the memories of those foods. However, the Cracker Barrel in Urbana is one of my favorite places to eat in Champaign because they are so welcoming to my limitations. For $12, I ordered the haddock grilled with no batter and seasoning. I paired it with a plain baked potato and two fresh fruit cups. Every single time I have ordered that meal, the people I’m with are envious they didn’t get it.

Cracker Barrel
2101 N Kenyon Rd
Urbana
Su-Th 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.