Being diagnosed with Celiac Disease immediately makes you a member of a unique gluten free community that goes beyond being just a local support group. It is a community of over 3 million people across the United States. All of whom share this autoimmune disease that causes individuals, like myself, to be allergic to gluten. Not only does this diagnose change your diet, but it also changes your entire social life. Traveling now requires packing just as much food as clothing and the prospect of eating out now becomes more like an interrogation about cross-contact prevention and ingredients than a vacation to be enjoyed.
That is why the restaurants on this Top 10 list are such a blessing for those traveling to Michigan. The first five restaurants on this list have 100% gluten-free environments—no wheat, rye or barley ever crosses the threshold. The following five have taken great lengths to prevent “cross-contact”, the interaction of gluten containing ingredients with one’s meal, because they understand that eating gluten-free isn’t just a dietary choice. It is a prescription for someone living with a very serious disease. Restaurants like these that gladly accommodate dietary needs are just one more reason why the Mitten is so awesome.
#1 – Renee’s Pizzeria
1937 W Maple Rd, Troy MI 48084
Renee’s Pizzeria is a little slice of heaven. This restaurant isn’t just a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, it’s also a dedicated peanut-free facility. It is a godsend for those with life-threatening allergies to peanuts as well as gluten. When Gabe Hertz’s daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and a nut allergy, he quickly realized that this establishment was more than just a lifesaver for her, but for others in their community. He opened Renee’s in her owner and they’ve been busy ever since. They are so dedicated to providing a safe dining experience that they don’t even let outside food in, which is clearly noted on signs on every door.
Renee’s Pizzaria is receiving rave reviews not only from individuals with a gluten or nut intolerance but also many other customers without allergies. Everyone is in love with this place, and it’s listed as the #3 restaurant out of 236 restaurants in Troy on Trip Advisor. They’re even rated higher than finer dining restaurants like Ocean Prime and J. Alexander’s.
The allergy-friendly setting is just one of the reasons people are willing to drive from out of state to Michigan just for this eatery. The food here is absolutely scrumptious! Their deep dish and thin crust pizzas, as well as calzones, will fill not just your stomach but your soul. Make sure to leave room for dessert though because their cinnamon dough sticks and elephant ears take you straight into euphoria.
1602 E. Sternberg Rd, Norton Shores MI 49441
Price: $8-$11 for meals, cupcakes $3+
Live Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe is the newest 100% dedicated gluten-free restaurant in Michigan. After only being open six months, they already have local loyal customers and ship orders across the country. This is because of its delicious food and the obvious touches of love owner Sandi Hillis has put into every inch of her restaurant. From making the tables and chairs with her own hands to bringing the outdoor fencing from her own house to create a rustic appeal, her eatery is definitely a place that feels like home.
If the atmosphere is nice, the food is even better. Live GF Bakery & Cafe is well known for their macaroni and cheese and their pasta carbonara. Their breakfast menu includes quiche, pancakes, french toast and more. Their lunch menu has an assortments of sandwiches and the aforementioned pasta dishes. If I’m honest, the major draw for me is the beautiful cupcakes.
Hillis has been nicknamed the “mad scientist,” and is up to the challenge of creating new items for those with multiple allergies. The stories of customers moved to tears with gratitude for her desire to accommodate their additional allergen needs are plentiful and heart-warming.
51111 Washington St, New Baltimore MI 48087
Price: $6 and up
To say that this restaurant is a labor of love is almost an understatement. Owner Kathy Cox has been eating organic since her teens, but changed her cooking style further when they learned of her own daughter’s food intolerances. While going through their own learning process at home, it became apparent that her family wasn’t the only one needing help eating with these dietary restrictions. For years Cox would make baked goods out of her own kitchen for friends and neighbors. In 2013, she took a step of faith and opened her own restaurant, adding to the resurgence of New Baltimore’s charming downtown district.
The Mustard Seed Cafe is not only 100% gluten-free, but it is also completely organic. It even offers many vegetarian and vegan dishes. While there I sampled their Mediterranean sandwich, made on homemade bread, as well as their chili and a fresh cinnamon roll, straight out of the oven. Cox and her staff were so attentive and friendly, as they explained how much they truly feel the mission to love their neighbor, through healthy food and and an encouraging environment.
#4 – Moo Cluck Moo **CLOSED**
42126 Ford Rd, Canton MI 48187
Moo Cluck Moo, located in Canton, is a pioneer when it comes to a dedicated gluten-free fast casual restaurant. The menu is developed in part by Jimmy Schmidt, who has been a restaurateur for over 20 years and has received the prestigious James Beard award for the Best Chef in the Midwest.
When it first opened, Moo Cluck Moo didn’t have a 100% gluten-free menu. However, when owner Harry Moorhouse wanted to start offering fresh homemade gluten-free buns, he realized the only truly safe way to do so was to change his whole establishment. This wasn’t an easy decision, and it was met with some backlash from their regulars. The facility’s empathy for those needing to eat gluten-free, doubled with the owners continued dedication to continually improving their menu, has won over the community. Their regulars are back to enjoying their locally sourced food.
All buns for their burgers are made fresh, in-house daily and their beef and chicken are never raised with antibiotics or hormones. They even use beef bacon. Moo Cluck Moo has no high-fructose corn syrup in any of its condiments, and they use Michigan-made Northwoods sodas and locally raised Calder Dairy for all of their milkshakes. While they have an awesome standard menu, they also have a rotating Craveables menu that features new and creative dishes every month.
#5 – Without Wheat **CLOSED**
1754 Central Park Dr, Okemos MI 48864
Like many of the other restaurants on this list, owner Steve Pollard decided to rework his pizza establishment a family member was diagnose with Celiac Disease. When Pollard’s stepmother explained her difficulty in eating out safely, he reworked his Guido’s franchise to have a dedicated gluten-free prep space. Without Wheat is the only restaurant which has graduated from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ GREAT Kitchens program. Going through this training is no small endeavor. They learn safe gluten-free food service from front-of-house to the back of the kitchen, and even get insight on menu development. You can be guaranteed that GREAT kitchens have your safety in mind.
All gluten free items at Without Wheat are made in a dedicated gluten-free kitchen. Without Wheat carries deep dish and thin crust pizza, sandwiches, as well as baked goods. For those wanting to recreate his products in their own kitchen, he sells his flour blends at the store as well. Pollard is eager to accommodate other allergens as well, so please make mention of it early on when you order. If you’re in town for a game at Michigan State University, make sure to make the short trek here for GREAT pizza!
#6 – Marie Catrib’s
1001 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506
I could literally wax poetic about Marie Catrib’s. One thing is for certain, this is an establishment built on its love for each other and community.The restaurant’s namesake started making gluten-free items years ago simply because her customers asked. When Catrib passed a few years ago, I distinctly remember sitting at my computer crying as I read about it on MLive. Even though she was born and raised in Lebanon, she somehow made you feel like you’d always been part of her family. “I’ll never forget that in our family’s darkest hours you comforted us with food as no one else could,” said customer Regina Buckroe Gort to MLive, about Catrib’s passing. “All I can say is that God will be so well fed.”
The restaurant is now run by Catrib’s son, Fouad. Having encouraged and worked along side her for years, he carries on in his mother’s footsteps, serving each guest with enthusiasm and compassion. Although Marie Catrib’s is not a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, they take great care in the food they prepare. “People are getting what they deserve,” Catrib said in an interview with The Grand Rapids Press. “A product that’s fresh and wholesome and made right there.”
My favorite is their Vermaire Chicken Cranberry sandwich on gluten free herb bread, smothered with cream cheese and cranberries. Their deli counter has some of the most amazing deli salads I’ve ever had, and they have many vegetarian items that even voracious meat eaters enjoy. There is no such thing as eating there once. You’ll definitely be going back.
#7 – Noble Restaurant
1851 44th St SW, Wyoming MI 49519
“Feeding people real food has always been a good, noble task,” wrote Christian author Jen Hatmaker. A philosophy shared by Andrew Lamppa and inspired him to open Noble Restaurant. Previously known as 44th St. Diner, known for serving regular inexpensive fare, Lamppa felt a need to make a change to “align the way they eat personally with the food they serve professionally”. I had the pleasure of watching Lamppa in action one Saturday afternoon as he talked with guests not just about how they liked their dinner but honestly asking how they were doing. You can read more about my experience and others in my blog MI Gluten Free Gal.
While not a 100% dedicated gluten-free environment, Noble Restaurant does have a waffle maker, toaster, and deep fryer specified for making only gluten-free items. Their menu is free of artificial colors and flavors, added MSG, and high-fructose corn syrup. Their beef and chicken are free of antibiotics and their fish is caught fresh. All of it is absolutely DELICIOUS! My husband tried their Summer BBQ burger with fresh homemade coleslaw, french fried onions and the most amazing sweet potato chips I’ve ever tasted. Their fried chicken left me almost speechless. I’m eager to go back to try their fried chicken and waffle sandwich!
12800 Old US 27, Dewitt MI 48820
When I was a small child, the Flap Jack Shack was the place to go. I have memories of pancake breakfasts with grandparents, high school hangouts, and warm cups of hot cocoa on cold Michigan evenings. This small chain of restaurants was part of what made greater Lansing so great. However, when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in my mid 20’s, I had to say goodbye to my favorite hangout because there weren’t many items on the menu that were safe for me to eat.
Fast forward 15 years. Thanks to Eleanor Wasson, owner of the Dewitt location, all of my childhood memories have come back life. When Wasson’s grandchildren were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she learned all there was to know about gluten-free food and preventing cross-contact with allergens. She dedicated a special grill for only gluten-free pancakes, and made sure that the cooking surface for eggs and potatoes never saw a crumb of bread. I can’t begin to tell you the joy I felt, eating chocolate chip pancakes drizzled with syrup, knowing that someone had taken the care to prepare my meal safely. Even though we now life in Flint, my family and I go back to this establishment as often as possible!
**The Flap Jack Shack in Dewitt is the ONLY location that offers gluten-free items.**
#9 – Buon Gusto
501 W Main St, Brighton MI 48116
This small family owned restaurant, located in Downtown Brighton, makes you feel like you are a member of their family. Owners Sal and Silvia Viviano have been serving Michigan residents for over 40 years, and have a loyal following because of their delicious food and excellent customer service. When Silvia learned that her grandchildren needed to follow a gluten-free diet, she wanted to offer the same allergy-safe dining options to the rest of her customers.
The lasagna and eggplant parmesan are delectable. My grandmother says that their chicken marsala is the best she’s ever tasted. The chicken apple salad is nothing to sneeze at either. Then there are the desserts. Buon Gusto is one of the only places I know of that serves authentic gluten-free tiramisu.
#10 – Fenton Fire Hall
201 S Leroy St Fenton MI 48430
Fenton Fire Hall is a great, unique addition to Union Joints. This chain is known for taking a fixture in the community, such as an old church or car shop, and turning it into a memorable restaurant. Union Joints has done the same in Fenton, where they transformed a 1930s fire station into a place where friends and food can be enjoyed in abundance. The three story staircase still has the fireman’s pole running through it and the walls are lined with portraits of local firefighters, young and old, that continue to serve this community today. Even the old pump house has been reimagined and turned into an ice cream stand. The preservation of this building reflects the same care the owners have for the citizens of this area.
While the restaurant is known mostly for its in-house made sausage links and slow roasted meats, they also offer lots of great vegetarian options as well. On most of my visits, I opted for the shaved brussel sprout salad with goat cheese, walnuts, dates and their house mustard dressing. They have an extensive beer list, as well as hard ciders and gluten-free beers. I’m a huge fan of their ice cream, which is made right in front of you with the use of liquid nitrogen.
I asked Fenton Fire Hall’s chef John Wentworth what encouraged the eatery to offer gluten-free items and what their steps were to provide a safe gluten-free eating experience. He explained that Union Joints’ executive chef Aaron Cozadd has lived with food allergies his whole life and understands the need for a safe dining experience. All staff are trained on food allergies, and throughout the training they are tested with questions and menu orders. They take great care in preventing cross-contact by using freshly cleaned utensils, pots, and pans. The chefs never hesitate to talk to dinner guests, as they want to ensure accuracy and let guests know that your safety is their focus.
Looking for more? Check out part two here!
What restaurants would you like to see added to the list? Come across any gems using the FindMeGlutenFree app? The Awesome Mitten would love to hear about your experiences and your favorite independent gluten free restaurants in Michigan!