The Archer: comfort and confidence to Buffalo’s gluten-free diners

As someone with Celiac disease, going out to eat has always been challenging.

Not only do you have to do research beforehand to find out if there are gluten-free offerings, but you have to clearly communicate your allergies to the server, cross your fingers and hope they understand what you’re talking about.

However, I recently discovered a restaurant (within walking distance of my apartment; bonus!) that alleviates all of those concerns.

Meet The Archer, one of the most gluten-free and allergy-friendly eateries in Buffalo.

the archer scenaryEstablished in 2013, and located right in between Buffalo’s Theater District and HarborCenter, The Archer is a place for people to come to enjoy downtown and grab a bite to eat.

I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Gladys and Josh Archer, during my first trip to the restaurant on Friday, July 31.

I walked in and was surprised by the decor and ambiance; soft music filled the room and the hostess was extremely friendly.

Gladys came over to welcome us and immediately made me feel at home, as she detailed the restaurant’s passion and dedication to providing an incredible dining experience for eaters with severe allergies.

Three things I noticed, and loved, upon first glance:

  1. About 90 percent of the menu was naturally gluten-free.
  2. The menu was extremely eclectic; you can order seafood, wild game, pasta, wings or pizza.
  3. Both gluten-free buns and pasta are available.

The Archer’s ability to cater to the classy and the casual is just one of the things that sets it apart from other eateries in downtown Buffalo. Come dressed in jeans and grab some wings and a beer before the game. Or feel just as comfortable in a dress, demanding a filet.

the archer 2It is clear to see that both the menu and ambiance at The Archer were crafted with care.

With 90 percent of the menu being naturally gluten-free, The Archer is known as an eatery where even those with a laundry list of allergies can go and have a normal dining experience.

“We wanted to create a place for friends and families to come together to enjoy a hearty and healthy meal. We wanted people with allergies to feel comfortable and cared for when dining out,” said Gladys Archer.

The Chef, Josh Archer, got his Gluten Free Certification at a program sponsored by a national food distributor at the Chautauqua Institution. He takes great care in catering to a variety of allergies by preparing all meals separately.

gluten-free fish fry

gluten-free fish fry

If you think that’s dedication, you won’t believe this: The Archer has a designated gluten-free frier.

I repeat: The Archer has a frier solely dedicated to gluten-free food!

Why make an investment like that?

Because the Archers wanted their friends and family to be able to enjoy some deep-fried options – including a fish fry during Lent!

Hearing that was music to my ears.

After getting a number of canker sores in recent months (my typical reaction when I ingest gluten,) I have been hesitant to go out to eat recently out of fear of getting immediately sick, or developing a painful sore a few days later.

“Try alum,” suggested Gladys. “It’s a spice and if you just mix it with some water, you can make a paste that you can put on your sore to make it dry up.”

20150509_164026~2

A delicious meal and advice on how to shorten the lifespan of my killer canker sores? I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.

…Then the food came out.

We started with the Venison Sausage (which was featured in Step Out Buffalo’s 21 Favorite Dishes in 2014) and the Black and Bleu Clams Casino.

As someone who prefers fish and vegetables to meat any day, I was nervous to try the venison.

However, Gladys quickly convinced me after informing me of the health benefits that wild game has when compared to regular meat such as beef and chicken (both which are available at the archer as well.)

Venison Sausage

Venison Sausage

Wild game, a huge point of differentiation for The Archer, has incredible health benefits; it is generally lower in fat and cholesterol and, depending on the meat, typically has a greater percentage more protein when compared to beef.

The Venison Sausage (made with free range Axis Venison) was served over a flavorful bed of braised, sweet, red cabbage. It was cooked to perfection and tasted lean and clean.

The Black and Bleu Clams Casino is described on the menu as  a “bleu cheese twist on Cajun dusted classic clams.” It was served with a slice of lemon and scoop of basmati rice, and was rich, creamy and flavorful. I considered licking the plate, but didn’t want to offend Gladys.

We finished with the Scarlett Cupcake which is free of gluten, egg, dairy and nuts, and was created with Josh and Gladys’s daughter in mind.

Black and Bleu clams casino

Black and Bleu clams casino

When you remove all of those ingredients, you’re not usually left with something as flavorful and fluffy as this cupcake; I was pleasantly surprised.

Throughout our meal, I found myself taken aback by Gladys and Josh’s passion and knowledge of food allergies, wild game and the restaurant industry.

The Archers are a couple who have committed their life to creating a safe space for families and friends to eat and enjoy.

The Archers are also a couple that feels strongly about showing the Buffalo community that wild game isn’t something to fear.

“We wanted to make it approachable, so that you can make some indulgence a part of your lifestyle,” said Gladys.

the archer cardThey’ve clearly succeeded, as evidenced by the fact that the elk and venison are the most popular dishes.

“And the antelope burger,” Josh chimed in.

So, if you’re looking for a new and adventurous dining experience, or suffer from severe allergies, make a reservation at The Archer today!

One thing worth noting: you might have to wait a little longer for your food since the Archers take extra precautions to ensure there is no cross contamination.

“With the increase in the number of people who need or prefer this diet, I think a lot of diners need to understand that it changes the dynamics in the restaurant… There are certain steps that are taken in the kitchen,” explained Gladys.

It’s completely worth the wait.

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Buffalo’s best gluten-free grub (Part 2)

As a member of the Buffalo community and the “Celiac Club” (not a real club), I have spent a lot of time scoping out the best places to visit when looking for some gluten-free grub.

That being said, I’ve put together a simple guide to my favorite gluten-free-friendly eateries in Buffalo:

  • Thai Orchid: This little eatery is my favorite place to go when I’ve got a hankering for chicken satay, pad thai, or vegetable curry. They are very knowledgeable of the gluten-free diet and go above and beyond to alter or modify their menu offerings to accommodate food allergies.
  • Betty’s: Betty’s has quickly become one of my favorite places to frequent for weekend brunches and weekday lunches. The restaurant has a great vibe; it’s colorful and comfortable. Their specials menu changes daily and is filled with a variety of options for everyone. Even better is that they have top-notch gluten-free buns (they reportedly use Brian’s) which they are happy to serve any of their burgers or sandwiches on.top spots1
  • Globe Market: Globe has become my staple sandwich place. Globe has fresh, high quality ingredients which they use for all of their menu offerings. The sandwiches are delicious and creative; even better is that they provide diners with the option of having their sammie served on Udi’s bread (which is my personal favorite when it comes to GF bread brands).
  • Grover’s: Everyone in Buffalo knows that Grover’s is the best burger joint in the city; not only does the place have history, but it has dynamite gluten-free buns on which your 6 pound burger is served. Worth noting is that Grover’s doesn’t take reservations, nor do they accept credit cards; so if you’re planning a visit to Grover’s, make sure you have cash and an extra hour to spare.
  • Merge: This is one of my favorite hidden gems in the city. Merge has high-quality, fresh, healthy food which is all made in-house. Their menu is extremely accommodating to gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian dieters. Even more is that their prices are reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food. The service is both speedy and friendly and they have great live music and decor.
    Merge's caprese pizza

    Merge’s caprese pizza

  • The Pancake House: The pancake house is another Buffalo classic. They have great breakfast options and gluten-free pancakes. The only downside is that they don’t take reservations. If you’re looking for a hearty weekend breakfast or brunch they won’t disappoint, but expect to wait for at least 30 minutes.
  • Seabar: If you know me, you know that sushi is my favorite food. Ever since my first visit five years ago, Seabar has been my favorite sushi place in the city. The rolls are creative, the menu is eclectic and the staff is extremely friendly. If you haven’t yet, go try the Beef On Weck roll… now.

Dining in Denver: easy for the gluten-free

I recently vacationed in Denver and was blown away by how gluten-free friendly the city was.

As I always do when I travel, I tried to make it a point to scope out as many gluten-free friendly places I could find. It was extremely easy.

One of the best parts of vacationing in Colorado, other than the fantastic scenery and weather, was the wide availability of gluten-free food.

I didn’t have to actively seek out gluten-free food because every eatery (coffee shop, deli) that we popped into had gluten-free options.

Here’s the roundup of the best, most gluten-free friendly, places I happened to visit during my time in Denver, Boulder and Vail in Colorado.

Snooze: I had my first, most favorite, meal in Denver at Snooze. While they don’t take reservations, it is definitely worth the 1-2 hour wait to get a table for brunch. 

Snooze has a few locations throughout the state, and tons of options for gluten-free and vegetarian eaters.

The servers wear bright clothing and smiles. They have a creative list of brunch cocktails and an even more creative list of omelets and add-ons. 

Snooze is a must if you love brunching on weekends.

Colorado 1 - pablos

Pablo’s coffee

Pablo’s coffee: One of the first craft roasters in Denver, we stumbled upon this coffee shop shortly after eating brunch at Snooze.

Located right outside of the Baker neighborhood, this small cafe is a must-see for any artist or coffee-shop lover.

When I arrived, there were three different artists working on large pieces splayed across multiple tables; it is clear that artists are welcomed guests at Pablo’s. 

I treated myself to a delicious latte shortly after finding my favorite kind of cookie AND muffin for sale: oatmeal chocolate chip and banana chocolate chip.

Fat Sully’s: This laid back, late-night, pizza joint has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. 

It has a great atmosphere and customer service and seeing as it is open late and located in prime spots of the city (multiple locations), it’s a great place to go for a late-night slice.

For the gluten-free eaters, they serve an awesome 12″ pizza that tastes like it’s made in-house; it has a real crust! 

Not to mention, Fat Sully’s (at least the location I visited on Broadway St.) has games like Monopoly and Clue available to play while you eat and wait.

Colorado 2 - Europa

Europa coffee house

Europa Coffee House: Located in the heart of the Baker neighborhood in Denver, this cute cafe has a ton of options for breakfast and lunch. 

They also make a mean iced vanilla late. I was surprised to find gluten-free English muffins and toast on the menu.

The English Muffins were the best I’ve ever had; so much so, that we stopped by this little eatery twice.

Roostercat Coffee House: We stopped here for a quick bite and coffee on-the-go before heading to Boulder for a hike. 

I was surprised to find a wide variety of options, including gluten-free bread for sandwiches.

Colorado 3 - Mod Market

Modmarket

When I arrived, there were a number of people there; one couple was playing chess, another was working on a business plan and another was an artist working on a sketch.

 Roostercat Coffee House seems like a great place for those who work remotely and/or are looking for a warm, inviting atmosphere without much noise or distraction.

Modmarket: This modern eatery, with a variety of locations across Colorado, has a fantastic breakfast and lunch menu that features fresh, healthy ingredients. (We ate at Modmarket’s location on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.)

Modmarket offers gluten-free diners the option of getting any sandwich or wrap made gluten-free. 

I fell head-over-heels here as I devoured my first, real gluten-free breakfast sandwich.

Colorado 4 - Yeti's Grind

Yeti’s grind

Yeti’s Grind: This cute little cafe is a must-see if you’re in the Vail area. It’s located right in the heart of Vail Village. 

It has great music, comfy chairs and a friendly staff – and incredibly unique drinks.

Their latte menu is especially impressive and features a wide variety of flavor combinations. 

Plus, they serve gluten-free mini muffins (the best I’ve ever eaten, made by Rise Above Baking Co), as well as cookies and breads.

Do you have any gluten-free friendly eateries in Colorado to add to the list?

Please comment below and share them!

Buffalo’s best gluten-free grub

Going out to eat can be stressful and overwhelming for gluten-free newbies unsure of which local restaurants are knowledgeable and accommodating of gluten-free eaters.

“When I first transitioned to the gluten-free diet, I didn’t go out to eat because I was nervous. It was overwhelming,” remarked Yelp Elite member Bethany Mazur.

“Once I became knowledgeable, I started going to places that I was a regular at…places that I knew I could trust the chef,” Mazur added.

Thanks to the increased awareness and popularity of the gluten-free diet, dining out with Celiac has become much easier in recent years.

top spots9Similarly, thanks to resources like Yelp and Urbanspoon, finding gluten-free friendly eateries is a quick and seamless process.

“I use Yelp a lot, especially when traveling,” Mazur shared. “It’s a great way to get to know what options are around that suit my diet.”

Even better is that such resources contain personal ratings and reviews which, for the gluten-free community, are extremely valuable considering the bond that exists among those with Celiac.

The Celiac community is one of the most tight-knit, supportive groups of people I have ever known and I think that can be attributed to a few factors:

  • Scarcity: despite the fact that gluten-free products are taking up more shelf space by the day, there is a scarcity of quality products in the market, resulting in excitement when finding good gluten-free alternatives.
  • Low awareness: the lack of knowledge about Celiac results in a large number of sufferers taking on the role of ambassadors to spread awareness.
  • Expense: the high cost of gluten-free products means that it’s not easy to sample new brands or restaurants without breaking the bank.

For example, I recently found my new favorite brand of gluten-free bread, Canyon Bakehouse, and while definitely worth it for its quality, it cost $7.19 for one loaf!

top spots10That’s not exactly easy to squeeze into the budget for a young professional who has to juggle rent, bills and student loans on top of the everyday essentials such as toilet paper, detergent and chocolate.

The difficulty in finding and budgeting for gluten-free alternatives, the scarcity of high quality products in the market and the lack of awareness of the disease all result in the immense value of personal recommendations in the Celiac community.

Similarly, the level of knowledge that a restaurant has about Celiac disease is a big factor in shaping the comfort that gluten-free eaters have when going out to eat.

“I’m always skeptical of a restaurant when I receive puzzled looks after asking if a menu item has wheat or flour… I’m more comfortable eating at places that I know are knowledgeable of the gluten-free diet,” said Mazur.

Despite having different tastes and preferences, there is no doubt that you’d be more willing to splurge on a $7 loaf of bread, or visit a new restaurant, that was recommended by a friend rather than a commercial or a blog post written by a stranger.

Since my diagnosis a few years ago, I have made it my mission to scope out the most gluten-free friendly eateries in the Queen City.

I’ve decided to highlight my favorite spots to frequent for some quality gluten-free alternatives to help my fellow Buffalonians more easily adopt the gluten-free lifestyle without wasting precious time and money on sub-par products and places.

Break’n Eggs Creperie:

This quaint little Williamsville eatery has been making waves since opening 18 months ago. As one of the only establishments serving up crepes (both regular and buckwheat), Break’n Eggs has carved out its niche.

top spots8During my last visit (for brunch) to Break’n Eggs, I ended up devouring not one, but two buckwheat crepes.

I started with the Breakfast Crepe, ($11.50) which includes two eggs, cheese and meat. I opted for my eggs scrambled, my cheese cheddared, and sausage. I also decided to add spinach and caramelized onions to the crepe, resulting in a crepe the size of my face.

Hearty, delicious and filling, the breakfast crepe didn’t leave me with much room for more but I decided to throw caution to the wind and order a dessert crepe. (I figured it was a good way to work on growing that extra layer of insulation to survive this brutal winter.)

I opted for the Dulce De Leche Crepe ($7.75) which, according to the waitress, is the best sweet crepe on the menu. It consisted of cinnamon coated apples, candied walnuts, caramel sauce and resulted in pure happiness.

top spots7Both crepes were served warm and were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

While they don’t take reservations (possibly due to their small space), Break’n Eggs is a brunch must that is definitely worth the twenty minutes you might spend waiting for a table.

The servers are very friendly, and the wide selection of crepe options makes for an overwhelmingly enjoyable dining experience, which is guaranteed to satisfy your sweet (or savory) tooth.

Just Pizza:

With 10 locations around the city, Just Pizza is a great choice if you’re looking for a gluten-free pizza to grab on the go.

Like most other restaurants offering a gluten-free pizza option, Just Pizza uses a frozen crust. However, unlike most other restaurants, Just Pizza does a great job at making its gluten-free pizzas stand out with an expansive list of toppings.

Similarly, the gluten-free pizza crust (which comes from US Foods) is surprisingly doughy and hearty when considering the fact that it comes frozen and is quite thin.

top spots6While the list of specialty pizzas can be slightly overwhelming (including over 30 different varieties,) I’ve found that you can’t go wrong with any of Just Pizza’s specialty white pizzas.

Due to the thinness of the gluten-free crust, I have found that white pizzas are a better choice when ordering gluten-free rather than red-sauced pizzas.

I’m a big fan of Just Pizza’s Bruschetta, Spinach Pesto, and Roasted Garlic pizzas but my all time favorite is the Basilico White ($14), which has a herb crust and includes fresh sweet basil, chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and caramelized onions.

Brick Oven Bistro & Deli:

I’ve got to commend Brick Oven Bistro for its “Gluten-Free Good Neighbor” status. This hidden gem offers a trio of gluten-free delicacies: sandwiches, pizza and pasta, which is hard to come by.

What’s the catch, you might ask? The tremendous trio isn’t all served at the same time.

top spots5The gluten-free sandwiches are only offered during lunch hours and are made using bread from a local gluten-free bakery, Bon Bon’s.

The gluten-free pasta offered (usually RP’s fettuccine) is only available during dinner hours.

Just like Just Pizza, Brick Oven Bistro gets its gluten-free pizza dough from US Foods. Brick Oven Bistro’s gluten-free pizza is the one g-f option that is available all day long, and with good reason. According to the staff, the pizzas are the most popular gluten-free option on the menu.

My favorite pizza on the menu is the gluten-free Vegetarian Pizza ($14), which comes with herb ricotta, tomato relish, arugula & mozzarella. The herb ricotta and tomato relish work perfectly together and seem to take the place of a red sauce, keeping the crust sturdy.

The result is a flavorful but not overly filling pizza which is the perfect size for one ‘hangry’ individual.

Globe Market:

With locations on Main Street, Hertel and Elmwood, Globe Market is one of the more popular and well-known places to go for a quality soup, sandwich, salad or any combination of the three.

top spots4Considering my favorite lunch food is a sandwich, it’s understandable that Globe would be my No.1 lunch spot in Buffalo since it not only offers gluten-free sandwiches, but soups and salads too.

Globe’s staff is knowledgeable of the gluten-free diet, so employees will be quick to chime in on whether the soup or salad you desire is gluten-free. Globe makes its gluten-free sandwiches using Udi’s bread, which is one of my favorite brands.

Despite the wide selection of specialty sandwiches, I almost always end up ordering the Chipotle Turkey or Spicy Italian.

The Chipotle Turkey sandwich ($8.25) comes with roasted turkey, provolone, tomato, mesclun greens and the best condiment to ever pass my lips, chipotle bacon mayo.

top spots3The Spicy Italian sandwich ($8.25) consists of cappicola, salami, pepper jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, pesto and mayo, making it the perfect choice for meat lovers.

(*Note: Globe has two types of balsamic dressing, one of which contains gluten, so if you get the Caprese Sandwich or salad be sure to request the gluten-free balsamic.)

Merge:

As you can see from my previous restaurant profile, I’m a big fan of Merge.

Merge has one of the most gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian friendly menus in the city from start to finish.

Merge's caprese pizza

While I could rave about the restaurant’s dessert options for days, the single best item (and the most popular gluten-free item) on its menu is the Caprese Pizza.

The Caprese Pizza ($10) comes with tomatoes, red onion, basil, pesto and fresh mozzarella with a balsamic reduction drizzled on top. While the combination of flavors is delicious, the best part of the dish is the pizza crust itself.

Merge is the only restaurant I know of that makes their own gluten-free pizza dough fresh in-house resulting in a crust that is both moist and doughy.

Betty’s:

Last but not least, my favorite meal, brunch. When I think of brunch, I immediately think of Betty’s.

I became a regular at Betty’s shortly after my first visit years ago when I developed an infatuation with its specialty omelets and gluten-free buns. Betty’s has been my go-to brunch spot ever since.

top spots2In addition to catering to gluten-free diners by serving up the best buns in the city, Betty’s caters to the vegan and vegetarian diners as well.

All of Betty’s menus (breakfast, lunch, dinner, Saturday Blunch and Sunday brunch) boast an abundance of options for varying palates and diets.

I was surprised to learn that Betty’s dinner menu is the most gluten-free friendly, with six of the seven entrees listed as gluten-free.

While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, my favorite items at Betty’s are the specialty omelets (around $9.00), the Charbroiled Turkey Burger ($9.75) and the Cuban ($9.75). (Basically, anything that comes with a bun.)

Betty’s uses Brian’s Best buns for its gluten-free bun offering.

Brian’s Best Buns are the closest thing to gluten-based bread I have found in Buffalo. The rolls are moist, airy and fluffy, three characteristics which are hard to find in gluten-free bread.

top spots1Brian’s currently doesn’t sell to individual or retail stores, meaning that in order to get your gluten-free best-bun fix, you’ve got to visit Betty’s.

(Or Anderson’s for a gluten-free roast beef sandwich or Pizza Plant for a burger.)

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There is no doubt that Buffalo is becoming increasingly knowledgeable and accommodating of the gluten-free diet.

The restaurants above are my personal favorites but there are a number of resources available to visit for further assistance on navigating Buffalo’s restaurants as a gluten-free eater.

I find Yelp and Urbanspoon to be the two best resources, as they focus more on local restaurants than chains. Two other resources worth checking are the WNYGFDSG and Find Me Gluten Free.

Regardless of what resource you use, I can guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the level of awareness and accommodation of the gluten-free diet among local eateries.

Please comment below sharing your favorite restaurant which you think has earned its place as a Gluten-Free Good Neighbor.

[Canyon Bakehouse loaf of bread photo courtesy of Canyon Bakehouse.]