Restaurant Review: Hopdoddy Hoppin' With Gluten Free Know-How

Options: Dairy-free, Gluten-free.  Salads available for vegan/vegetarian. No protein option

If you miss the experience of a bursting burger, heaped high with all the fixings -- not to mention clean, grass-fred meats and fresh local, organic produce -- you may not need to miss it much longer.

I stopped off in Austin, TX on my recent jaunt across the U.S. to the Gluten Free Allergen Free  Event in St Louis, where one of my dearest friends lives. There, my friend wanted to show me all of the options for celiac-safe dining out, and around the corner was Hopdoddy: Austin-unique burger joint.

Oy, I'm still highly anxious in any environment where cross-contamination can occur.

But I was surprised and impressed by Hopdoddy's immediate awareness and understanding of cross-contamination, safe-handling procedures, and the risks of a shared kitchen to celiac diners. The cashier knew each ingredient added to the toppings on the Ahi Tuna Burger, and ticked off which they would need to remove and which they could add so that it would be wholly gluten-free.

The Magic Mushroom
She also assured me their gluten-free buns were baked in a separate oven, and stored in a separate part of the kitchen. (I could see them, actually, to my left -- and they were indeed far from their gluten-containing counterparts and isolated.)

I watched the assembly-line process like a hawk.  It's set up so that one can see from the counter. Burgers fry; burgers flip; burgers are bunned and placed on metal trays sheeted with parchment paper by gloved servers. When it came to my burger, the Hopdoddy fellow switched his gloves out, changed parchment papers, and then assembled the burger. (Burgers are also grilled apart. Fries are made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer, and celiac-safe.)

But he had patted the parchment with his pre-changed gloved hand. I grabbed the manager, asked about it, and they switched out my bun with safe gloves, on a new piece of parchment, to be dead sure no cross-contact had occurred.
One half down, one to go...

Production process aside, the food -- while in no way cheap as chips -- was proportionately ABUNDANT. (Big burger, yes? So it must be true things simply grow double in Texas…)

It was also superb, a curious but creative and fun blend of flavour and fresh ingredients.

The Magic Mushroom Burger, local grass-fed beef and goat-cheese, I loved. My friend and I halved our burgers to share. Medium-rare, piled with green-lettuce, tomato, and avocado as well, it was much too tall to bite into, but forked beautifully.  The Ahi was a bit disappointing, and the texture lingered limp on the tongue, fishy and chill, just seared on either side -- but I rather think this was because the wasabi sauce and pickled ginger usually included were not celiac-safe and thus excluded. All the same, I think sashimi shows simple fish can be excellent. But perhaps expecting a burger spot to do it is too much.

(Fries are also celiac-safe: dedicated fryer.)

What I was most impressed with was the solid knowledge of the restaurant's staff concerning safe preparation, understanding of the seriousness of their celiac diners' health, and the set procedures for smoothly making good food not just good, but safe.

On top of the celiac-expereience, Hopdoddy has a keen awareness of their contribution to the community, to sustainable food and their local roots. They get their gluten-free flour from local gluten-free Bona Dea Bakers; they source their meat from local ranches, and keep their beef grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic free.  They compost 95% of their waste.  And they serve organic fresh greens from local farmers the majority of the time.

Though I'm always a wary diner in situations where cross-contact is possible, Hopdoddy knew exactly what they were doing in regard to food allergies, and celiac disease.  They also cheerfully listened, explained, and let me watch anything I was curious about or needed to know.

They also have a sense of humor…

Er, my friend said, "Texas at its best: Meat, good people, and booze -- lots of all of it." I shall take her word for  it…

…and if you've Celiac Disease and need a hip, happy, full-plattered place to belly-up, try yourself some Hopdoddy.

Cool beans. So do I.


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