While traveling last month we stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee for several reasons. We were hoping to catch a quick visit with my Sweet Cousin. The Husband also had to make a conference call in a parking lot. And it was lunch time, so I definitely needed to check out the gluten-free scene. Following my tried and true Eating Out Gluten Free Tip #1 Do Your Homework, I was confident that I’d be able find a safe place to eat.
Sweet Cousin and Me
I was all excited about The French Market Creperie. I can’t remember the last time I had crepes, and I had read that the French Market Crepery made Buckwheat Crepes!
I found several reviews that reported these buckwheat crepes to be gluten free! Yippeee! Should I choose a sweet or savory crepe? There were just so many to choose from. I finally settled on the Vegetarian Delux and pranced up to the counter to place my order.
Thankfully, I also followed Eating Out Gluten Free Tip #4 Ask Questions. It only took a few moments to learn that their flours come from France, and the buckwheat flour comes through the same chute as the regular wheat flour. Their crepes were not gluten free. Strike One Knoxville. I was very disappointed, but so thankful for a cognizant server who saved me from starting off vacation doubled over.
Since I had done my homework, and had a tip from the Sweet Cousin, we went to The Tomato Head. Sweet Cousin had told me that they were vegan/vegetarian friendly and that they had gluten-free pizza crust. Sweet!
The restaurant was packed with college kids, both behind the counters, in the line for take out, at the tables, and spilling out into the courtyard. And this cute little girl was attracting animal lovers like me out front.
After perusing the menu, I had my heart set on the #5. A gluten-free, vegetarian pizza with mushroom, artichoke heart, red and green peppers, and red onion was calling my name. But then I heard the dreaded phrase…
“We’re out of gluten-free crust.”
Strike Two. At this point, we had two choices. Walk out and try a third restaurant, or stay and see what other gluten free options they had. Considering that it was already late, we were hungry, and our travel destination was still 2 hours away, we opted to stay. And since we were staying, it was time to use Eating Out Gluten-Free Tip #2 Be Nice To Your Server. It wasn’t her fault that her restaurant was out of gluten-free dough.
I was immediately impressed when the server said that she could give me any of their sandwiches on a corn tortilla. This girl knew customer service. And she seemed to understand gluten. She knew that the baked tofu contained gluten, but the marinated tofu did not. She even pulled out a binder that listed all of their menu items that contained gluten and checked. BUT SHE WAS WRONG. (More on that later.)
We were starving. So we ordered hummus and organic blue corn chips. Guess what they were out of. Blue corn chips. Strike Three. But we asked for the hummus with corn tortillas, and she was glad to accomodate.
Their hummus, gluten-free of course, is out of this world. A little powerful on the garlic scale, which I love, and chunky. If we weren’t heading out of town I would have picked up a few of these for home.
I ordered the Veggie Chef Salad, and as soon as it arrived, all disappointment from not having gluten-free pizza dissipated. This salad was packed with color, flavor, textures, and nutrients.
Veggie Chef Salad with romaine lettuce, organic marinated tofu, broccoli, artichoke hearts, mushroom, red onion, cucumber, tomato, black olive, green pepper, carrot, red cabbage & sprouts
Incredible salad. And far healthier than any gluten-free pizza on the planet.
Or so I thought.
The marinated tofu was NOT gluten-free.
For the next day my stomach twisted and turned, and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought I had eaten a clean salad for lunch at The Tomato Head, and I had an incredible dinner at Posana, a 100% gluten free restaurant. Thankfully, my reaction was not severe. But I was exhausted, slept long hours, and I dealt with the intestinal distress knowing it would pass in a few days.
On the way home, we decided to stop through Knoxville again for a late lunch. Feeling better, I was hoping that The Tomato Head would have gluten-free pizza to try.
Strike Five. They were still out of gluten-free dough. So I tried to order that same delicious Veggie Chef Salad with marinated tofu, and I double checked that I was ordering the tofu that was gluten free. Apparently, NEITHER tofu option is gluten free! No wonder I had been sick over the weekend. Mystery solved, but I was more than a little miffed that a restaurant that claims to be gluten friendly could make such a terrible mistake.
The food at The Tomato Head is definitely delicious and fresh. I enjoyed this Southwestern Salad immensely (as well as my glutenous Veggie Chef Salad), but my recommendation comes with a caution. Ask lots of questions, and ask for proof. Look at that allergen binder yourself! The servers are not all on the same page.
How about that gluten-free pizza? I tried twice and they didn’t have any in. (Let me know if you ever have the chance to sample it, because this cat is done with The Tomato Head!)
The Tomato Head
12 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902
- Have you tried The Tomato Head?
- How do you handle disappointment when gluten-free options are not available?
- What is your favorite gluten-free pizza restaurant?