You might think that the first installment of "Pizza Tried to Kill Me" would be about pizza, but it’s not. In this new series dedicated to the best in Richmond's gluten-free eats, I must be certain that I have sampled every single gluten-free pizza in town before I vanquish The Pie in the Sky. Until then, I ask that you enter any of your favorite restaurants that serve GF pizza in the comments. I’ll go there, I promise.
Today we’re starting small, simple and essential: with sandwiches. I have celiac disease, so I have to ask all of the annoying questions about where the bread is toasted, whether there’s a dedicated gluten-free grill/fryer/oven, if sandwich assemblers wash their hands or change their gloves before they touch the GF bread, if the chef’s mother’s maiden name was an anagram of WHEAT, etc.
Some folks get annoyed. I totally get it. It is annoying — most of all to me, because I was raised on the good Southern principles that pickiness is unmannerly and allergies are falsities imagined by unmannerly, picky people. But if I don’t ask the questions, I might end up in the hospital.
Here’s a quick explanation of the gluten sensitivity spectrum: Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that kills the cilia in your small intestine and prevents you from absorbing nutrients. It’s cumulative, so each time you get “glutened,” you’re a little bit the worse for wear, for good. Gluten intolerance is not an auto-immune issue, but for those who have it, eating gluten does affect the GI system, to sometimes devastating result. A wheat allergy is a wheat allergy — same deal as with most allergies, it's an inflammatory response of varying degrees depending on how acute the intolerance is.
So this list, and future lists, represent praises sung for Richmond spots that serve carefully prepared and super tasty gluten-free food. The sandwich is often at the top of the most-missed list when someone gets a celiac or gluten intolerance diagnosis, but our city's got it well covered. Behold, my all-time favorite gluten-free sandwiches:
1. Lunch. I don’t know what they do to the bread, but I hope they keep doing it forever. It’s pillowy and buttery and toasty and perfect. Get the Jimmy K, made with house-smoked turkey breast, Swiss, avocado and bacon; it’s absolutely killer.
2. Garnett’s. Garnett’s has one of the most massive sandwich menus in town and you can get anything on GF bread. I’m a sucker for the German-style sammie with Black Forest ham, cheddar cheese, apple butter and dijon mustard.
3. Coppola’s. In a truly shocking turn of events, the old favorite Italian deli that I was certain would never stock GF bread did just that. Cheese Columbo, anyone? It’s fried cheese, and it will bring you to your knees.
4. Lamplighter Coffee. These sandwiches come out on a fluffy bread-biscuit hybrid. Get the Bianchi — it’s like the Italian sub’s li'l Southern cousin.
5. Continental. I’m fairly certain that this is the only place GF folks can eat a true Sailor sandwich with legit pastrami and kielbasa. Crucial.
Got a gluten-free favorite that needs to be recognized? Hit up the comments section! There’s always room for more when it comes to delicious food options that thwart dastardly dietary restrictions. Next up: baked goods.