Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gluten Free Raleigh - The Irregardless Cafe

Laura & Birthday Girl Cara today

Today I met Laura and Cara at The Irregardless Cafe for Cara's birthday lunch. The Irregardless Cafe is a Raleigh institution. It's a little green house turned into an award winning restaurant that is known as a farm to fork, vegetarian and green establishment.

Christmas Laura waiting for her Chili Relleno!
But honestly I wasn't bowled over the first two visits. The first time was an anniversary dinner with Chris a few years ago. He'd checked it out and read they did gluten free meals well. Cute, funky building and great atmosphere made for a nice date night feel. Our new-ish waiter wasn't trained in gluten free and brought out pita bread in spite of careful no-pita ordering on my part. He really didn't get there being a safety issue but begrudgingly brought out another plate. It was a busy night and we never could make eye contact with management. An off night - every place can have one - but it didn't make me want to try it again soon.

Delicious? Yes! Pad Thai? Close.
Fast forward to three months ago when Laura and I met at the Irregardless for lunch. I was excited to try it again - after all gluten free has come a long way since our first visit and I continued to hear or read great things about it so I was ready. It was busy and noisy with Christmas celebrations so we had to wait a while for our server but this gal was spot on - she knew what Laura needed to know to order a yummy vegan lunch and was really helpful in helping me decide on a gluten free lunch between the two, yes just two entree choices.  I settled on the Pad Thai which needs to be carefully ordered because the seitan listed on the menu contains wheat.

While the Pad Thai was good, it wasn't anything like any Pad Thai I've had anywhere else or have made at home. I was initially disappointed because I expected what I know to be Pad Thai, but I could appreciate the freshness and flavors and over all really enjoyed my lunch.

I had even told Chris later that I felt like it was a safe, good gluten free meal and even told him that I'd go back if that is where a friend wanted to go, but it just wasn't a spot I would probably choose myself.

When Laura invited me to join in on Cara's birthday I jumped at the chance to meet Cara who I only knew over the phone. I wanted to try The Irregardless Cafe one more time to see how I felt - I figured it would be a three strikes and you're out or a third time's the charm meal.

While the Irregardless lunch menu only has a few gluten free options, the dinner menu shows many more. When I compared the two I realized one of the things marked gluten free at dinner were on the lunch menu but not marked as gluten free. It was the amazing Chile Rellenos that Laura had at Christmas.

Today the Irregardless was quieter and we had a great waitress. Wait staff can make or break any dining experience but all the more so when you have to avoid gluten. I mentioned to her that I'd looked at the dinner menu and noticed the discrepancies and she assured me the Chile Rellanos were, in fact, gluten free so I quickly ordered them.
Happiness on a plate!

Oh my goodness, third time was the charm! A large poblano pepper is sitting atop a roasted tomato and balsamic reduction - so yummy you want to lick the plate. Between the sauce and the stuffed pepper is a black bean cake. And the stuffed pepper is full of a Spanish ratatouille rice. Every bit of it was amazing. I ordered the vegan version - without the smoked gouda or cream fraiche - I can't imagine it being any better than it was.

So now I want to drag Chris there as soon as we can get him there so he can try it, but I think we'll go for dinner when there are a few more gluten free choices to check out. I'm glad to have tried one more time because now I have a special spot I can really look forward to.

It was so great getting to catch up with Laura and to hear about her move and getting to meet sweet Cara. I felt blessed to have been able to sneak away from my responsibilities for a couple of hours and enjoy some fellowship with these wonderful women.

Check out Laura's post today and her healthy mocha shake. It sounds amazing!


gabbyfek said...

hooray for third time's the charm!!!!!!!!! :)))

chacha said...

Have you been to The Irregardless before? I meant to ask you. xoxo

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Great review! Each experience at the same restaurant can be totally different in many cases. There are so many factors. Glad to hear that you've found food you love there and that you got to meet your girlfriends! Special times for sure! :-)

Have a great weekend, Kathryn!

Laura said...

Hey that was a great afternoon to relax. I soooo needed that. Thanks for meeting us. :)
Let's get our January scheduled lunch back on the calendar.

chacha said...

Thanks again Shirley!

You name the day Laura!