Reviews Written by HapiCmpur:  



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Facci
7530 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723


2.0 Palms
2.0 Palms
Disappointment at Facci

Reviewer: HapiCmpur
Reviewed on Mar 15, 2013

Facci is a pricey Italian restaurant just south of Columbia, MD that offers five Gluten Free entrees priced from $13 (Cheese Ravioli) to $24 (Atlantic Salmon). Most of these GF dishes come with a choice of Gluten Free pasta or vegetable medley.

I had the Pollo alla Toscana for 17 bucks. For that price, I was expecting some flavor, but I was greatly disappointed. The dish was as bland as hospital food, despite ingredients such as "button mushrooms, wood-fired red peppers, pine nuts, and rice wine sauce," to say nothing of the vegetable medley underneath. The two chicken breasts were exactly the same size and shape, suggesting that they had come from a factory. In addition to being flavorless, the chicken was also grainy in texture, hinting that it had been frozen.

My dinner companion's non-GF meal was similarly bland and equally expensive, so I conclude that the problem is with the kitchen as a whole, not merely with their specific handling of GF dishes.

I should mention that the dining area is so dark that my companion and I had a very hard time reading our menus. We also found it odd and unsettling that the music in the dining room was the same techno-club dance music that was playing in the bar.

I've heard great things about Facci Happy Hours from acquaintances and co-workers, so if I ever go back, it will be for that. It won't be for lunch or dinner.

I'm giving them 2 Palms for at least having some Gluten Free entrees on the menu.

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Chef Geoff's Downtown
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20004


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
Restaurant in Washington, DC -- great gluten free experience

Reviewer: HapiCmpur
Reviewed on Sep 30, 2012

I mentioned that I have celiac disease when I called the restaurant to confirm my reservation, and I was told that my diet presented no problems for the chef. In fact, I was instructed to ask for Benjamin, their food allergen specialist, when my party was seated. Benjamin not only guided me though the menu -- recommending some meals that were already Gluten Free and also some that could be altered to become Gluten Free -- he also made wine pairing recommendations for all my guests which turned out to be stellar choices. Our meals were outstanding and the service was superb. Benjamin's expertise regarding food allergies made me feel completely safe about my choices. For the record, I had an amazing dish called "Big Shrimp and Very Gouda Grits," which I highly recommend. Chef Geoff's is located right across the street from the Warner Theater and right around the corner from the National Theater, making it a perfect dinner spot when you're downtown to see a performance. The staff prides itself on getting their guests to the show on time without rushing anyone. It was truly a great night out for me and my friends.

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The Capital Grille
601 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20004


2.5 Palms
2.5 Palms
Expensive food, hold the flavor

Reviewer: HapiCmpur
Reviewed on May 06, 2012

The food at The Capital Grille was good but far too plain and ordinary to warrant the outrageous prices. My wife and I spent over $100 on dinner there, even though we split an entree, a side dish, and a dessert. Also, we each had only one glass of wine, not a bottle. The food is especially bland for those of us eating gluten-free, as The Capital Grille is one of those restaurants that "accommodates" gluten-free diners by telling us to "Have the steak, but order it without the sauce," or to "Have the salmon, but order it without the glaze." The service was outstanding and the location was exceedingly convenient to the National Gallery of Art, which we were visiting that day, and I suppose that's what The Capital uses to justify its prices. I also have to give them some credit for their knowledge of the Gluten Free diet and for training their staff to help GF diners navigate the menu. My wife and I, however, won't be going back.

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Seasons 52
11414 Rockville Pike
North Bethesda, MD 20852


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
A Gluten-Free Menu for All Seasons at restaurant in Rockville, MD

Reviewer: HapiCmpur
Reviewed on Sep 06, 2011

Seasons 52 in Rockville (or North Bethesda, if you prefer) is an outstanding restaurant and a safe haven for gluten-free dieters. The chef specializes in creating delicious meals that are naturally low in calories and also takes pride in offering an entire set of alternative menus, including, but not limited to, GF, vegan, and lactose-free: www.seasons52.com/menu/alternative_menus.asp. My wife and I have eaten lunch and dinner at the Rockville location on many occasions and have never been disappointed. The meals are consistently outstanding and the service is impeccable – that is, if you don’t mind chatty, sometimes overly-sociable waiters. My favorite GF entree is the Grilled Boneless Rainbow Trout, but the Cedar Plank Atlantic Salmon is also amazing.

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Santa Fe Grille
75 Visitors Center Drive
McHenry, MD 21541


1.0 Palms
1.0 Palms
Gluten Free Confusion at restaurant in McHenry, Maryland

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Feb 26, 2011

I'm not sure how to rate this restaurant because, on the one hand, they offer a gluten-free menu, but on the other hand, they don't seem to understand the gluten-free diet. For that reason, I feel the need to give them an even lower rating than I'd give a similar restaurant that had no gluten-free menu. What follows is an email message I sent to both managers of the Santa Fe Grille shortly after dining there. Neither manager replied, despite the fact that I sent this message to each one twice in two weeks: Dear Greta/Melissa, My wife and I dined at the Santa Fe Grille on Saturday, Feb. 12 and were thrilled to discover that you had a gluten-free menu to offer us. Throughout the evening, however, we saw several signs that the Grille is not really ready to safely serve people on a strict gluten-free diet. The Grille was far too busy that night for me to share my concerns with you at the time, but I'd like to share them with you now -- and solicit your response -- before I write a review for the Gluten-Free Travel Site. My first concern is that bleu cheese and bleu cheese dressing appeared on your gluten-free menu as safe choices. While it's true that there are a few sources of bleu cheese that are safe for gluten-free diners, most bleu cheeses are started from bread mold and are therefore toxic to people with celiac disease. My second concern is that although my wife and I ordered directly from your gluten-free menu, our meal arrived with a chunk of cornbread on the plate. I asked the waitress if the cornbread was gluten-free, and she was confused by the question. I had to inform her that most cornbread is made from corn AND wheat flour, not just from corn. When she grasped my point, she said, "Well, then I guess your wife can eat it but you can't," at which point I had to explain that I couldn't eat anything on the plate once the cornbread had been placed on it. We were then brought an entirely new meal (I think) and were very happy with the quality of the food. However, I do not feel that I had a safe dining experience at the Santa Fe Grille, and I usually don't feel that way at establishments that offer gluten-free menus. When I write my review of your restaurant, I'd like to be able to say that the Santa Fe Grille is making an effort to be gluten-free friendly and only needs to go another step or two to get there. In order to do that, I'll need answers to three questions: 1. Is your bleu cheese (and dressing) from a source that guarantees it as gluten-free, or were you just unaware of the dangers posed by bleu cheese to celiacs? 2. Does your kitchen and wait staff undergo any formal instruction on serving clients with specialty diets, especially medically-necessary diets such as mine? 3. How did you create your Gluten Free menu? Was it done, for instance, under the supervision of a dietitian or gastroenterologist? I look forward to your response.

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The Four Seasons
20160 Garrett Highway
Oakland, MD 21550


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
Restaurant at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland is well-versed in gluten-free meal preparation

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Feb 17, 2011

The Four Seasons restaurant is an elegant establishment that sits right on the shore of Deep Creek Lake, not ten minutes from Wisp Ski Resort. I mentioned my gluten-free diet to the hostess when I called to make my reservation, and without any prompting from me she put Chef Jason Fickes on the phone. Jason talked me through several menu options, explaining what he would do to make each of my choices gluten-free if it wasn’t already so. That was highly reassuring. Not long after we arrived and were seated, Jason came out to our table to meet my wife and me and to help us make our final decisions. He was quite knowledgeable about the gluten-free diet, and seemed very pleased to be able to serve me safely. The apple-ginger pork wasn’t just safe, though; it was magnificent! When it came time for dessert, our server wasn’t quite sure if the syrup for their chocolate sundae met gluten-free requirements, so she peeled the label off the container and brought it discreetly to our table for inspection. That was yet another nice touch. The only glitch of the evening was that my house salad arrived with croutons on it, but to be fair, I had forgotten to tell our server to leave them off. More important, the salad was whisked away immediately and replaced with a fresh one. I highly recommend the Four Seasons, not only for safe gluten free dining, but for a truly marvelous experience. The service, the food, and the atmosphere are equally excellent.

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Rapids Lodge and Restaurant
209 Rapids Lane
Grand Lake, CO 80447


4.5 Palms
4.5 Palms
Rapids Lodge and Restaurant can accommodate gluten-free diets

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Aug 06, 2010

The Rapids Lodge has a lot going for it. In addition to excellent food and service, the restaurant has a terrific view. It backs right up to the beautifully boulder-strewn Tonahutu Creek. There's so much glass on that side of the building that the creek can be seen from nearly every table in the dining room. The restaurant does not have a GF menu (half-palm deduction), but the chef claims to be able and eager to accommodate a wide variety of special diets, including GF and vegan. Our waiter that evening also seemed to know quite a bit out the GF diet, and he asked several questions that indicated to me that he understood the importance of getting it right. My wife and I eventually selected a plate of Elk medallions that were delicious. The restaurant at Rapids Lodge is quite pricey, but the high quality of the food must be taken into consideration, along with the superb view and atmosphere. And that's not even to mention the sense of security one gets from eating in what appears to be a very safe establishment.

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Caroline's Cuisine
9921 U.S. 34
Grand Lake, CO 80447


4.5 Palms
4.5 Palms
Caroline's Cuisine restaurant safe for gluten-free folks

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Aug 06, 2010

Caroline's Cuisine is an upscale restaurant that does an impressive job of combining Old World French cuisine and decor with that of the Colorado frontier. It's quite pricey, but the food is very good and the portions reasonable. They do not have a gluten-free menu, but the woman who took my order -- who I believe was the owner or manager -- claimed to know all about the GF diet and even dismissed my offer to send her back to the kitchen with a homemade GF dining card. I'm giving them a half-palm deduction for not at least giving me the chance to test their knowledge of the diet. She vanished from the table before I even had a chance to protest. Granted, I didn't get sick that evening, but I still feel that a good restaurant will let diners who are on special diets satisfy themselves that their meal is being prepared safely.

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Sagebrush BBQ and Grill
1101 Grand Avenue
Grand Lake, CO 80447


2.5 Palms
2.5 Palms
Sagebrush BBQ and Grill restaurant review

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Aug 06, 2010

I ate at the Sagebrush on a recent stay in Grand Lake because it was featured on a list of GF-friendly restaurants that I got from the town's Chamber of Commerce. Although I found Sagebrush staff eager to TRY, they were not adequately versed on the GF diet to warrant a good review. The manager himself took my order and tried to assure me by saying that he has a waitress on staff with celiac disease. He was clearly nervous, however, that she wasn't on hand that day. I selected an omelet from the menu that I thought would be safe and described in what ways it might need to be modified to meet my needs. I even gave him a homemade GF dining card to take back to the kitchen with my order. However, when the omelet came to the table, there was a pile of unsafe hash browns leaning up against it, despite the fact that he and I had discussed the shared deep-fryer. The manager also seemed surprised when I told him that I couldn't just scrape off the spuds and eat the omelet. He was perfectly kind and didn't object to starting over, but my confidence was shaken by the fact that I had to educate him about cross-contamination. Perhaps with time, their waitress will bring the entire staff up to speed on celiac disease; until then, however, I recommend avoiding the place.

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Max & T's Bar and Grill
1000 Grand Avenue
Grand Lake, CO 80447


4.5 Palms
4.5 Palms
Max & T's Bar and Grill for gluten-free

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Aug 06, 2010

Although Max & T's doesn't have a GF menu, I ate there confidently on two occasions during a five-day visit to Grand Lake. On both occasions -- one dinner and one lunch -- my waiters did not need to be educated on the GF diet and could point out several items on the menu that were safe for me. They were also more than happy to take my questions back to the chef, and they always returned with confident, definitive answers. Max & T's is a bit pricey, but that's not uncommon in a town situated right at the doorstep of a National Park. Moreover, the quality of the food is quite high, and the service is impeccable.

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Fat Cat Cafe
916 Grand Avenue
Grand Lake, CO 80447


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
Fat Cat Cafe in Grand Lake, Colorado is great for gluten-free

Reviewer: HapiCmpur from
Reviewed on Aug 06, 2010

The Fat Cat Cafe is a real find for celiacs and other gluten-free eaters. Sally is an outstanding chef and has a commanding knowledge of a variety of specialty diets, including GF, vegan, and diabetic. She and her staff are charming and personable, and the food is absolutely delicious. Prices are more than reasonable, especially considering the quality of ingredients. My only disappointment is that the Fat Cat is only open for breakfast and lunch. Nevertheless, I managed to eat there three times during a five-day stay in Grand Lake.

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Spottswood Dining Room, Big Meadows Lodge
25042 Skyline Drive Milepost 51
Stanley, VA 22827


1.5 Palms
1.5 Palms
Bad experience at Big Meadows

Reviewer: HapiCmpur
Reviewed on Oct 05, 2011

As a general rule, if one is staying overnight in Shenandoah National Park and is not camping, then one will be eating in a restaurant operated by Aramark, the park’s concessionaire. The reason for this is that very few rooms or cabins in the park are equipped with either microwaves or refrigerators, so preparing one’s own meals there is nearly impossible. This practically forces anyone staying at Skyland Lodge to eat in the Pollack Dining Room and anyone staying at Big Meadows Lodge (as was my case) to eat in the Spottswood Dining Room. Accordingly, I wrote to Aramark in advance of my visit to ask if it was safe for me to eat in the Spottswood Dining Room. I received the following response from Ted Floyd, Electronic Distribution Coordinator: “Yes, the restaurant at Big Meadows offers gluten-free options for all meals.” Unfortunately, I found that not to be the case. GF issues aside, dinners at the Spottswood were no more than mediocre, yet were priced like those in premier dining establishments. In addition, the dinner menu was quite limited. Fortunately, the breakfast menu was sufficiently varied and more reasonably priced. I did not have any lunches at the Spottswood. My waiter seemed downright frightened when I announced that I had celiac disease and would need his assistance in choosing a safe meal. He claimed that he had served gluten-free diners before, but he appeared to know nothing about the diet himself. He merely carried my questions to the chef. To start, I ordered a house salad with ranch dressing, and I asked the waiter to check the label on the dressing – or, better still – to bring me the label so that I could check it myself. Instead, he returned with a dressingless salad, dropped it on the table in front of me, and started to walk away while saying over his shoulder, “The ranch contains monosodium glutamate, so you can’t have it.” Setting aside the rudeness of slinging a naked salad at me without offering other options, I called him back and explained that not all foods with “glut” in their names contain gluten. From that point on, I dealt directly with the chef, who was kind and helpful but who was only vaguely familiar with the GF diet. For the next two days I selected dishes that I suspected would be naturally GF, then had the chef come out and describe that meal’s preparation in order to confirm the absence of gluten or to discuss modifications. This got me through the weekend, but it gave me very little confidence in the kitchen's ability to limit cross-contamination. I am not a sensitive celiac, so I have no way of knowing to what degree they succeeded. I'm afraid I cannot recommend the Spottswood for safe GF dining.

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