At a business lunch, you probably want to be remembered for your smart chat and social skills, not for a long discussion with the waiter about whether the French fries contain gluten.
These days a growing number of restaurants are offering dishes free of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that can give some people painful cramps and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. National chains like P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Uno and Chipotle Mexican Grill also are getting into the act. We scoured Manhattan to find additional places suitable for business meals with gluten-free options.
“Diners just want a normal lunch, they don’t want to have to negotiate with waiters,” said Mark Maynard-Parisi, managing partner of Blue Smoke, a barbecue restaurant on E. 27th Street that caters to the gluten intolerant.
Blue Smoke started its gluten-free menu after the staff said more and more customers were seeking it out, Maynard-Parisi said. “There’s a lot out there now on the market that maybe we couldn’t get 20 years ago,” he said. “We have things like quinoa on the menu, and grits, that are gluten-free and people order them.”
The place is hopping even on weeknights, so expect a wait at the bar. One bite into the perfectly smoked chipotle wings ($10.50) shows you have nothing to fear about any loss of flavor. The gluten-free menu has a good selection, including the restaurant’s best-known barbecue items. Texas salt-and-pepper beef ribs (half rack for $14.95) are well-seasoned, if a bit dry, while brisket ($18.95) is tender and moist.
Blue Smoke, 116 E. 27th St., also has vegetarian and nut- free menus, and a jazz club downstairs. Information: +1-212-447- 7733; http://www.jazzstandard.net/blue
Lilli and Loo
One of the most popular gluten-free selections at Lilli and Loo on Lexington Avenue is Crispy General T’so Chicken ($10.95 at lunch, $15.95 at dinner). It’s even popular with customers who couldn’t care less whether their food contains the protein.
Alfred Chong, co-owner and creator of the separate gluten- free menu, says the secret is in the sauce. The gluten-free version includes wheat-free soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, instead of white vinegar, which makes for a richer flavor.
When Lilli and Loo introduced a gluten-free menu three years ago, only a small percentage of people ordered from it. “When we first started our main goal was to educate people about gluten intolerance. First we educated our staff, then our diners.” Now, Chong says, 10 percent of his business eats gluten-free.
Lilli & Loo, 792 Lexington Avenue, sells gluten-free Redbridge Beer for $5. Information: +1-212-421-7800; http://www.lilliandloo.com
The restaurant’s moniker is Italian for the French city of Nice, and French-Italian sums up this eatery just about perfectly. Nizza has always sold socca, crisp chickpea pancakes that are big in Nice and are also gluten-free, according to co- owner Robert Guarino.
In the pizza-like quattro formaggi socca ($13.50), the cheeses marry well with the crepe. Pasta (ziti al forno, $14.75, for example) and bread are served along with Bard’s beer ($6.50), all gluten-free.
Feedback was “so positive” about the socca that co-owner Andy D’Amico, also the executive chef, came up with an entire gluten-free menu, Guarino said. “In some ways we stumbled into it, but once we found it, it’s been great.”
Nizza, 630 Ninth Ave. Information: +1-212-956-1800; http://www.nizzanyc.com
People who avoid gluten are often looking for foods they miss, like French fries. At Bar Breton, the potatoes ($5) have their own fryer, so stray gluten won’t taint them. Galettes, a traditional cake in chef Cyril Renaud’s home of Brittany, are also on the menu in both savory and sweet forms.
The Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese galette ($16) is served with an egg sunny-side up and would suit breakfast-for- dinner tastes. The BB Burger ($16), a tasty brisket and short- rib mix served sans bun, comes with fries. Add a glass of Cotes du Rhone Ferme de Suzon ‘08 ($14) and you have a perfect gluten- free dinner.
Renaud, whose fans include comedian Jimmy Fallon, says, “My favorite dessert is the galette with Nutella ($7). I love the contrast; it’s a beautiful wedding of flavors.”
Bar Breton, 254 Fifth Ave. Information: +1-212-213-4999; http://www.barbreton.com
Mozzarelli’s, near Madison Square Park, is one of the only pizzerias in town offering gluten-free slices ($3.95 for cheese). Whole pies are $24. Pesto and ricotta cheese pizza ($32) is so good one slice won’t be enough.
Elan Malina, “chef and chemist,” says the secret to their great tasting gluten-free crust is the blend of brown rice and beans. It’s also available frozen for home pizza-making($9.95).
And if you’ve been missing out on typical desserts, try gluten-free tiramisu brownies ($4.95), carrot cake ($4.95) or cookies ($5.95 per pack).
Mozzarelli’s, 38 E. 23rd St., has been known to give away gluten-free goods just before their closing time of 8:30. Information: +1-212-475-6777; http://www.mozzarellis.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.