Someone recently recommended the Vietnamese restaurant “Bol” after seeing their many “gluten free” advertisements in their restaurant.
I love the space. It is tiny, casual, and intimate. The service is friendly and the alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks are creative! Almost everything there is gluten free and the food I have tried (mostly “Bun”) has been delicious.
My only complaint about Bol is the “almost gluten free” aspect. Because there is wheat-flour-based hoisin sauce on every table, and they have normal baguette for their Bahn Mi sandwiches, it makes me hesitant and concerned about how they write “Gluten Free” on their menus and on their walls.
In my humble opinion, for that kind of advertising and labeling, ditch all of the gluten! They are so so so close to being a completely gluten free establishment that it is saddening to me that they don’t just go for it! So far, I’ve had good luck at Bol, so I’ll keep going, but I would be ecstatic to see them get rid of all of that hoisin sauce!
Thank you Bol!
Portage Bay Cafe is an affordable, fun, and delicious brunch spot. They have 3 locations: South Lake Union, Ballard, and the University District. The University District Portage Bay is smaller and cozier than the Ballard location which has more of a warehouse-meets-cafeteria vibe. It is much brighter, though, and I actually prefer it to the University District location which always seems too out of control and hectic for my taste. If you are without a reservation on a weekend, be prepared to wait for a table at either location!
Atmosphere aside, all of my Portage Bay experiences have been positive. I have, however, learned that it is important to be very clear and diligent with the servers. On one occasion, my eggs arrived with a piece of (not gluten free) toast perched atop. And it is also worth noting that Portage Bay Cafe has a self-service “fruit bar” which comes with many of the brunch items. I have never tried it because of the likelihood of cross contamination (see ‘self-service’), but I hear it is a lot of fun!
The menu makes life very easy for people on a gluten free diet. They mark gluten free items very clearly and accurately. They even make their own gluten free bread for toast or french toast! I like the swedish pancakes so much, though, that I have a hard time ordering anything else. The swedish pancakes are rice & tapioca flour and come with lingonberries and lingonberry-butter, both of which are amazing.
Portage Bay Cafe’s Swedish Pancakes
I was not expecting to write a negative review of The Whale Wins. There has been a lot of buzz around it, so we had high expectations. Perhaps it was over-hyped because this is Renee Erickson (of The Walrus and the Carpenter)’s latest creation. But I’m sad to say that it was not a memorable experience. For us, The Whale did not, in fact, Win.
The service, ambience, and design were stellar: an open layout with plenty of natural light (we sat near the windows). They managed to use their warehouse-like space cleverly and did a great job decorating it in a fun, yet simple, way. I especially liked the big neon letters hanging from the ceiling!
One big advantage of their menu is that most items can be prepared gluten free (yay!). But it might not be worth the price or the high expectations. We were a small group and shared the Lettuces Salad, Roasted Carrots and Fennel, Brown Butter Roasted Turnips, Roasted Dungeness Crab (with Harissa butter), and the Roasted Whole Trout.
The highlights were the Trout and the Turnips (everything is relative). The other dishes were a major disappointment –especially the crab. There were only wisps of crab meat and the harissa was completely overwhelming. It was impossible to taste anything else and we had to ask for clean plates to the save the other dishes from harissa-contamination! The carrots and fennel suffered the same fate. The salad was fine, but it ends there. It was very very simple.
The bad crab:
We did not try any desserts or drinks, so I cannot comment on those. Next time I’m in the area, I’ll skip the Whale Wins and head next door to give Joule a try instead!
We finally had the opportunity to try out Trophy’s new gluten free cupcakes today! My expectations were high, having known the glory of their non-GF cupcakes, but I am pleased to say that they did not disappoint. The options today were red velvet, chocolate-vanilla, and chocolate-espresso. We tried the chocolate-vanilla which was great. (Almost as fabulous as the gf cupcakes from Delish in Austin, TX.) The cake was over the top moist and chocolately; and the frosting was smooth, sweet and, well, perfect. If only they were healthy ….
Although Trophy does not have designated gluten free equipment and space, they make every effort to avoid cross contamination. The gluten free cupcakes are the first to be made and baked each day and it sounds like they will be expanding their gluten free operation and becoming even more gluten-free-friendly.