During the past decade, eating gluten-free has grown from an anomaly to a norm. According to the Food Allergy Initiative, 3 million Americans suffer from Celiac disease, a condition in which chronic failure to digest food is triggered by hypersensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Millions more exclude gluten from their diet for other health reasons: It's believed that eating gluten-free can lead to weight loss and lower cholesterol, among other advantages.
Although it used to be nearly impossible to find gluten-free products at area stores and restaurants, many venues throughout the Hudson Valley have adapted to the growing consumer need, and today bakeries and restaurants serving gluten-free dishes are prevalent. Whether you have Celiac disease or are merely health-conscious, here are six area establishments with safe and extensive gluten-free menus worth checking out.
THREE DOGS BAKERY IN BRIARCLIFF MANOR
From savory rolls and pizza crusts to cupcakes and made-to-order wedding cakes, everything at Three Dogs Gluten-Free Bakery, a low-key store and cafe in Briarcliff Manor, is gluten-free and handmade from scratch (510 N. State Rd., Briarcliff Manor; 914-762-2121; www.threedogsgfbakery.com).
Owner Karen Miller opened Three Dogs in October 2008 after she developed Celiac disease. After her diagnosis, she immediately started baking her own products and was eager to help the gluten-free community.
"I'm not riding a trend," said Miller, who sits on the board of directors for the Westchester Celiac Disease Support Group. "The goal from the very beginning was to make good, gluten-free food accessible to everybody."
Not-to-miss items at Three Dogs include its various muffins ($1.50), coffee cake ($12) and cake balls ($1). The menu changes around each holiday to offer seasonal items such as gingerbread, Irish soda bread and turkey stuffing. Miller even made her own gluten-free wedding cake last year.
Food from Three Dogs can be found in DeCicco's Family Markets in Westchester and Orange counties and the Stop & Shops in Bedford, Scarsdale and Thornwood. The Melting Pot in White Plains, which features an extensive gluten-free menu, also sells the bakery's bread, cheesecakes and brownies.
BY THE WAY BAKERY IN HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON
By The Way Bakery, a small, old-fashioned, grab-and-go shop, is the perfect place to pick up anything from dessert to an elegant layer cake for a party (574 Warburton Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson; 914-278-0555; www.btwbakery.com). Although the venue doesn't offer seating, patrons can eat cupcakes or ginger cookies on a small bench outside on a nice day.
Open for just under two years, By The Way sells exclusively gluten-free food. Many items in the shop are also dairy-free, although not vegan. "I use a lot of eggs," said Helene Godin, the shop's owner and baker.
According to Godin, patrons vary from "a 2-year-old who wants a chocolate chip cookie to an 80-year-old who needs a carrot cake. It reflects the demographic of the towns, and people will travel to us from Long Island or Connecticut based on their needs or their family's needs."
Godin herself does not live a gluten-free lifestyle, and although those without allergies frequent the bakery, she finds that about half of her customers have Celiac disease.
Recommended items include the lemony lemon layer cake ($24.95), which won a Westchester magazine award last year; the almond flour cake ($27.50); and the tea cakes, which are also available on the dessert menu at Red Hat in Irvington.
By The Way accepts custom orders, including birthday and wedding cakes. Select treats from the venue can be found at the Hastings Metro-North station, in DeCicco Family Markets in Westchester and in Gourmet Garage stores in Manhattan.
BABYCAKES CAFE IN POUGHKEEPSIE
Babycakes, a cafe by day and upscale restaurant by night, serves gluten-free items like pasta, sandwiches and a flourless chocolate cake, mixed in with items containing gluten (1-3 Collegeview Ave., Poughkeepsie; 845-485-8411; www.babycakescafe.com).
Susan Wysocki opened Babycakes in June of 2002 after teaching at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park for 13 years. Though she does not live a gluten-free lifestyle, she said she's "always been health-conscious" and started modifying her cuisine to include gluten-free options after customers started asking for dishes that would fit their diet about four years ago.
The extensive list of sandwiches, including a mozzarella pesto melt and curried tofu wrap, can all be made gluten-free ($9-$13). Gluten-free dinner options include tofu rice noodles ($17), thyme-roasted chicken ($19) and a skillet-seared branzino with risotto ($22). Gluten-free beer is also available.
Wyscocki also owns Soul Dog, an entirely gluten-free cafe that seats about 35 people (107 Main St., Poughkeepsie; 845-454-3254; www.souldog.biz). Much more casual than Babycakes, Soul Dog serves gluten-free baked goods, hot dogs, pizzas and chicken fingers, among other items.
97 LAKE SPORTS CAFE & RESTAURANT IN WEST HARRISON
97 Lake Sports Cafe & Restaurant, which opened in 2010, is a sports bar in the front (boasting 28 flat-screen HD televisions) and a kid-friendly, family-style restaurant in the back (97 Lake St., West Harrison; 914-328-1414; www.97lake.com).
"We say no drunks in the back and no kids in the front," joked owner Alan Smith, who is also a partner at Harry's Of Hartsdale.
The restaurant has a full gluten-free menu and serves five gluten-free beers, largely because the owner and his daughter have Celiac disease. About 50 percent of the venue's sales are from gluten-free products, Smith said.
In the family-friendly back room, kids who adhere to a gluten-free diet can eat all of their favorite dishes. "When you come to our restaurant, our gluten-free menu is exactly the same as the regular menu," Smith said. "Kids can come in with their friends and they can order whatever their friends order. They don't have to feel different."
Great gluten-free items unique to the restaurant include pretzel bites (10 for $8), onion rings ($6), popcorn shrimp ($15) and chicken tenders ($10 for the kids' portion and $14 for the adult dish).
BELLIZZI IN MOUNT KISCO
Open since 1991, Bellizzi, a family-oriented quick-service restaurant, started serving gluten-free products in 2008 after a customer's son developed Celiac disease and no longer could eat the restaurant's pizza (153 E. Main St., Mount Kisco; 914-241-1200; www.bellizzifood.com).
"The customer had done some research and found a company called Still Riding Pizza that made gluten-free crusts," said Natalie Swatz, Bellizzi's general manager. "She thought we could bring their product here."
Swatz, who has a gluten intolerance, was happy to make the pizza available for all the restaurant's customers. She orders crusts from Still Riding Pizza and worked with the Gluten Intolerance Group to train her staff, ensuring that the restaurant avoids cross-contamination.
Serving gluten-free options like baked ziti ($15), chicken parmigiana ($12) and the margherita pizza ($12-$16, depending on size), Belizzi has three separate dining rooms, plus a kids play area for smaller children and an arcade for teenagers. It also has a designated party room with capacity for 50 people, and it caters outside and corporate events.
FLOURBUDS IN NYACK
Offering an array of gluten-free desserts and freshly baked food like bread, lasagna, quiche and empanadas, FlourBuds, a dedicated, gluten-free bakery in Nyack, is a dream spot for any diner with Celiac disease (116A Main St., Nyack; 845-353-0383; www.flourbuds.com).
Owner Pam Goldberg, who graduated from The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in Manhattan in 2007, opened FlourBuds in February 2012. Gluten-sensitive and health-conscious, Goldberg provides high-quality, gluten-free products for her customers, often using local produce from farmers' markets. She also bakes vegan, dairy-free, casein-free, corn-free and sugar-free products.
The 1,700-square-foot bakery seats 12, and there's a room in the back that can be used for birthday parties. During the week, FlourBuds serves wholesale items and prepares pre-ordered cakes; it's open to the public only on Saturday and Sunday.
Originally serving only desserts like chocolate chunk cookies ($2) and pumpkin whoopie pies ($3), Goldberg decided to expand the menu to include savory items based on customer demand.
"People can live without a brownie, but they can't live without eating," she said, noting that the bakery makes a pan a day of items like macaroni and cheese and lasagna and always runs out.
FlourBuds products are available locally at Lulu's Cafe in West Nyack, Hungry Hallow Coop in Chestnut Ridge, The Best of Little Italy in Monroe and Zabar's in Manhattan.