When it comes to eating gluten-free in Central Oregon, my family has tried it all. Having an eleven-year-old who’s very sensitive to gluten, we’ve spent the past decade researching recipes, grocery stores and restaurants. I’m happy to report that Central Oregon has some of the best choices around for gluten-free dining. While we have a growing list of eateries that we like to frequent, I’ve narrowed it down to a few favorites.
Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails
This is our special occasion place. Located on Bond Street, in downtown Bend, Zydeco offers a hip, urban vibe with a southern flare. I love the contemporary menu, complete with a separate gluten-free menu that includes French fries (they have a dedicated fryer unlike most places). Hands down, the best appetizer is the BBQ shrimp. From the ribs to jambalaya, Zydeco is definitely a crowd pleaser.
Located in the Old Mill District is a family favorite for lunch or dinner. Actually, if you asked my three pizza-loving kids, they’d chose to visit Flatbread any time of day. They enjoy eating at Flatbread because of the opportunity to make their own pizza right at the table. After ordering up all kinds of toppings like bacon, sausage and pepperoni, they eagerly fix their child-sized crust with shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce and the works before handing over their culinary creation to servers who then deliver them a wood-fired oven. Even better, Flatbread also offers a gluten-free crust for my daughter. The restaurant makes sure to bake this dough on a separate tray, doing their best to avoid cross contamination. At the end of the meal, all the kids get a big cookie or gluten-free gelato. Happy kids makes for happy parents.
Right next door to Flatbread is another family restaurant serving yummy Italian fare. Pastini is decorated with cozy booths and window tables with a view of the Deschutes River. The restaurant serves up several nice choices of gluten-free pastas and sauces. Dine here in the warm seasons and ask to sit outside. You can watch paddle boarders and kayakers float down the river as the sun sets behind the Cascades Range. A truly picturesque setting. An added bonus is the fairly good-sized lawn out front, which allows for kids to run and play tag while you’re waiting for a table!
Some of the best weekends we’ve spent as a family, have been on our mini-vacations at Sunriver Resort. No matter what our activity of choice is, whether it’s bike riding or paddle boarding, we usually end our day with a sunset dinner at the Owl’s Nest. Located in the main lodge, with stunning views of the Cascades, this restaurant and bar is a great stop for visitors of all ages. Even if the temperature is dropping, our family likes to wrap up in sweaters and sit outside on the patio to enjoy a view of the rolling meadows and beyond. Our kids order burgers while my husband and I usually chose seared salmon and flat iron steak. My eleven-year-old loves that the menu includes gluten-free items for her needs as well. The service is friendly and the setting is unmatched by anything else around. It’s truly a treat.
(editor’s note: Most Central Oregon eateries include several gluten free options on their menus now – some of the region’s award-winning brewpubs even offer gluten free beers.)