Eating out for me is bittersweet.
I am quite particular about where I eat and who makes my food, contacting chefs ahead of time, grilling the restaurant staff and even returning a meal littered with gluten, refusing to allow the kitchen to correct the meal. Serve me gluten in a restaurant, it's over, plain and simple, no second changes. I won't eat anything and I won't go back. Over time I have come to trust only a few spots and usually stick to those places that have a gluten-free menu. More and more places are getting gluten-free savvy, and well they should. When I go out I tote anywhere from 1-8 people with me. Were it not for the gluten-free menu, we would not be there. I understand it is difficult for restaurants, it requires training, retraining and maintaining strict practices in a kitchen to provide safe gluten-free meals. Restaurant owners shouldn't underestimate the economic power of the food allergy community! For more on this subject check out this article. http://www.allergyeats.com/blog/index.php/how-much-are-food-allergic-diners-worth/comment-page-1/#comment-2354 Kudos to those of you who are willing to make the effort and go the extra mile.
Recently I read a restaurant review by Amy Legar over at thesavvyceliac.com. If you haven't already discovered her blog, it is a must read for anyone with Celiac Disease. She posts very informative material on the disease, parenting a child with Celiac Disease, and helpful information on maintaining a gluten-free diet. Recently Amy wrote a post, Mad Jacks Gluten-Free Fare, reviewing a local spot that serves up good old American Bar food, noting that Mad Jack's had a dedicated fryer. A dedicated fryer means french fries. I AM IN!
A few nights later my partner and our friends Craig and Kristen, who are always up for a restaurant adventure headed out to Mad Jacks Sports Cafe, in Vadnais Heights, MN. Mad Jack's had something to make everyone happy, including flat screen T.V. in each booth so the football fans in the group could keep their eye on the playoff games taking place. It was warm, cozy and abuzz with business, a good sign.
We started with Szechuan Green Beans and some Spinach Artichoke dip served with crisp tortilla chips. The beans were to die for. I have really missed good spicy Szechuan beans. They were coated in a tangy spicy, almost Asian BBQ like sauce. I'd go back to Mad Jacks just for the beans. Everyone at the table ordered the french fries, just in case I didn't get enough with my Fish Sandwich. The fries were fantastic and of course there were plenty to go all around. My Tilapia sandwhich was wonderful, hand breaded and fried, served on lightly toasted Ener-G, gluten-free bread. It wasn't Udi's but it was really good, Ener-G probably being my second choice for a gluten-free bread. My partner got a Chicken Caesar with gluten-free croutons. It was just so so, but seriously who orders a salad at a sports bar.
The highlight of the evening, a Bucket of Sweet Potato Tots that my friend Kristen ordered. I am not sure I can adequately describe the delight of these delicious bites of fried sweet potato served with a sweet chipolte sour cream. They were sweet and savory at the same time. The bucket was huge, we couldn't finish them. I am going back to Mad Jacks, just for these! In fact, I am going back Friday evening to celebrate my birthday!
If you are gluten-free Mad Jacks is great, bar food at its best. It is festive spot, especially when there is a big televised sporting event and most importantly they take gluten-free diners seriously!