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Gluten Free Finds in Missoula

by Karen on June 23rd, 2010

The University of Montana-Missoula

Missoula is a haven for the gluten intolerant!   If you like to hike, river raft, bike, visit a great small town, go to Glacier National Park and EAT this is the place to visit. Plan your vacation now!

Our first meal was at the Finn and Porter restaurant at the Doubletree hotel.  We were seated at a window table overlooking the Clark Fork River around sunset. This river offers a peaceful setting and after a long day it was a perfect place to relax.  In the warm months the river is famous for inner-tubing college students. Some students take the bus to school and float home in the afternoon.

Finn & Porter restaurant on the Clark Fork River

We ordered the antipasto plate which you can customize with your selection of sun-dried tomatoes, chevre’, feta, fire roasted peppers, kalamata olives, proscuitto, hard salami, artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, tomato basil salad or cherry peppers. Dinner was a fabulous tower of Seared Ahi Tuna.  The waitress understood the gluten-free diet and consulted with the chef on several menu items. Plan to spend about $70 on dinner for two.

The next morning we headed to The Hob Nob Cafe on Higgins for an amazing scramble of sausage, eggs, swiss cheese, asparagus, tomato, mushrooms, and onions. The roasted potatoes were good as well.  The coffee was great and the atmosphere was cozy.  Everything was freshly made and the counter staff handled our gluten-free requests easily.  It helped that we arrived early (around 7am) when few people were there so we had a chance to ask questions.

 University of Montana, Gluten Free Options

We spent the day at the University of Montana but during lunch we walked back to Higgins St. to Bridge Pizza (across from the Hob Nob) .  While walking from campus to Bridge Pizza we called to be sure they had some gluten-free pizza crust on hand (a good thing to do since they sometimes run out).  We were amazed to find that the pizza crust is actually better than the one we make at home!!!!!  This is amazing indeed….. there is a first time for everything.  Bridge Pizza also delivers.  The University of Montana should strongly support these great local businesses (if they don’t already) because they are an important reason that gluten-free students choose UMT.  Another pizza place in town called Biga Pizza uses the same gluten-free crusts and we have heard that their toppings are a bit more gourmet.

A great gluten free selection

After our day on campus we went to the Good Food Store (about a mile away) and discovered what seemed like a whole aisle of gluten-free frozen food items.  In Seattle I would have to go to three different stores to find all of the GF items the Good Food Store offered.  This is good news for prospective UMT students on the gluten-free diet– if you have a small freezer in your dorm it is just a quick bus ride to this store to stock up for a few weeks of supplemental meals to the food plan on campus.  The UMT dietitian also understands the GF diet, you can log onto their Dining Services website and see which items on today’s menu are GF.  Every month their offerings are improved upon.

Later that evening we went to James Bar for dinner.  We knew we could order gluten-free fish and chips, onion rings etc. which we happily ordered and enjoyed.  My favorite was the fish and chips but I look forward to visiting again and trying other items.  I wish we had gone around 6:30 or 6:45—a table by the fire would have been perfect but by 7 pm those tables had been seated.  James Bar is a cozy, hip and probably later in the evening a “happening place” for UMT students.

Great Coffee at The Break

The next morning we went to our favorite coffee place called The Break (also on Higgins) for lattes and then walked down to the Saturday market because we had heard that some bakery vendors offer gluten-free baked goods.  We were one weekend too early though–they don’t begin the season until May 1st so we missed out on that but hope to try it another time.  Instead we headed down Main St. to The Shack which offers an inexpensive, basic breakfast.  We ordered omelets and hash browns which were ok and the first batch of coffee wasn’t that great (it improved by the second refill) but I can see it being a good option for students and the price was right.

Caffe Dolce

On a previous trip we fell in love with Caffe Dolce (Brooks and Beckwith) for their coffee served in Italian Deruta ceramic mugs though we couldn’t eat any of their pastries.  On this trip we went back to grab some salads for the airport.  We ordered two Chop Chop salads of romaine, basil, smoked turkey, salami, mozzerella, parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette.  The menu didn’t mention croutons at all.  Once at the airport we noticed one salad had croutons and the other did not.  Next time I will be sure to talk to the staff more carefully and check the order before leaving the restaurant.  The salads were good but for $7.00 they should have been a bit bigger.

Beautiful tile work at Caffe Dolce

Caffe Dolce

For a small town Missoula really has a lot of businesses that understand the gluten-free diet. Of course you should ask plenty of questions along the way.  In addition there is an Outback Steak House and an Applebees both offering gluten-free menus. I feel like we have just scratched the surface on our gluten-free journey in Missoula and look forward to a return trip.

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