June 18th, 2018

Tiny Travels: Gluten-free dining options abound in McMinnville

Traveling while gluten-free: It’s not a crime, but it can certainly feel punitive if you’re in the wrong destination. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially if the place is McMinnville, a town where farm and foodie culture mingle to great results.

I’ve been living the gluten-free lifestyle for five years now and still eat my way through every restaurant in this tiny and charming wine country burg. Here are my time-tested picks for the best gluten-free options in Oregon’s wine country capital.

Best options in a single restaurant

Pura Vida Cocina is where all of the gluten-free lifestyle gurus hang out (meaning, all of us). With its inventive Latin American dishes where corn reigns supreme, a dedicated staff committed to serving those on exclusion diets, and a menu featuring more gluten-free options than not, it is the single best place to be assured a satisfying and varied gluten-free lunch and dinner.  La Rambla is another all-around pleaser with an upscale feel and Spanish tapas choices that make you forget you ever even liked bread.

Gluten-free picnic options

Sandwiches feel so passé when you’re kicking it GF. And so, a couple of quick stops not to miss for your wine country picnic adventure: Pierano & Daughters, the fabulous Italian delicatessen run by the owner of famed Nick’s Italian Café, has enough charcuterie, olives, cheeses, fresh salads (think Beluga lentils and beets) to make an entire meal. Right on 3rd Street, Harvest Fresh Grocery & Deli has a deli case brimming with GF options and will put together a fresh GF sandwich (if you must) and Local Flow health bar can put together a giant, veggie-laden 3rd Street bowl with quinoa or rice to take with you.

Burgers

You can get a dripping, juicy burger sans bun all around town, at Valley Commissary, Bistro Maison, Hotel Oregon, Nancy Jo’s, and Golden Valley Brewery come first to mind, but for the best gluten-free bun head to brand-new Bless Your Heart Burgers, where the Udi’s rolls come toasted and soft.

GF beer and cider options

You can snag an Evasion GF beer at more than a dozen locations around town, but as of this spring (2018), you can also go directly to the source at Evasion’s location on Riverside Drive. Traveling with a friend growling for regular old brew? All the breweries in town carry a cider option, or check out the latest from regional producers at the Bitter Monk on 3rd Street.  Or, opt for a “Felix” by homegrown McMinnville brewers Bierly Brewing, who make a sorghum and brown rice-based pilsner you can snag at Harvest Fresh, Mac Taps and on tap at Pura Vida Cocina. Check back soon on this one as Bierly’s tasting room in McMinnville opens this Fall!

Best Takeout

It just happens sometimes. You just can’t leave your hotel room but you still feel like a real meal. In this case, your best choice is to go to the family-owned Thai Country Restaurant, right on Third Street, and get takeout. Reasonably-priced, packed with flavor, and more than willing to accommodate any dietary request, this is easy and fast.

Gluten-free desserts to die for

If chocolate is your postprandial sin of choice, I will always send you to Nick’s Italian Café for the Budino (a chocolate pot de crème), or to La Rambla for a slice of flourless chocolate cake. If you dream of caramel, the flan at Pura Vida is your go-to. If you’re lucky, Brie Blankenship, the head baker at Valley Commissary, often has a surprising macaroon selection at Valley Commissary. Surprise yourself with one of the home-made ice cream selections at Bistro Maison or go for the golden with the crème brûlée and crème caramel duo.

And, lest I forget the obvious, Pinot noir is, and has always been, gluten-free.

Emily Grosvenor is the Editor of Oregon Home and the voice behind Tiny Travels. Follow her adventures at www.beathomeintheworld.com.