Culinary Chaos: Surviving gluten-free life

My number one enemy is bread. I love devouring carbs from those fluffy, bubbly products that contain gluten, but gluten does not love me back. Little known fact: gluten is what killed Swifty, our last food writer.

I have never been diagnosed with celiac. Little things — like the wheat in soy sauce or cross contamination — don’t usually bother me. But if I ingest a box of Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-A, a Box Combo from Cane’s or a Krispy Kreme donut, I regret it for days.

I have lived in Colorado Springs my whole life, and it is hard to avoid gluten in this town. As my allergy has worsened over the years, I’ve gained a better understanding of how to survive the food scene in Colorado Springs. These are my tips for anyone struggling to navigate a gluten-free lifestyle.


Bread is incredibly hard to live without. I eat a meal with bread at least once a day. Luckily, gluten-free bread doesn’t taste like soap anymore.

Canyon Bakehouse is a locally operated, fully gluten-free facility. Their bread can be found in most grocery stores around town. Sprouts, King Soopers and Costco carry their products regularly.

I love Canyon Bakehouse because they have so many options for bread products, and while their products run around $7 to $10, it’s the best alternative I have found in terms of texture and taste. They make everything from a white bread to Hawaiian sweet rolls and brioche loaves. The bread is delicious and free of other common allergens, like dairy and nuts.

For my non-celiac friends, sourdough is also a good option. During a food tour in Seattle, I learned sourdough culture disrupts the way gluten develops, making it easier to digest for those with mild to moderate gluten intolerances. Sourdough often comes in handy for me at restaurants that don’t carry gluten-free bread.

However: if you have celiac, I wouldn’t advise you to run out and try sourdough. Sourdough bread still contains more gluten than the FDA allows for a gluten-free distinction.

Chicken nuggets and tenders

When I broke up with gluten, fried chicken was the thing I missed the most. I frequently cheated for Cane’s and Chick-Fil-A until even one meal became too much for me. Luckily, there are still some menu options for gluten-free nuggets and tenders.

Chick-Fil-A’s grilled nuggets are over-seasoned and a little greasy in my opinion, but they’ll do in a pinch dipped in some Chick-Fil-A sauce. Slim Chickens has decent grilled tenders and a variety of sauce options, and Birdcall, located on Tutt Blvd., has immaculate gluten-free chicken nuggets, grilled patties and gluten free buns.

I recently discovered that Cane’s makes “naked chicken” upon request. They leave the batter off but still fry the chicken, making for a crisp outside and moist inside. I recommend opting for more fingers, since the chicken is less filling without the batter.

Fast food facilities are generally not reliable for people with celiac disease. Applegate Naturals makes certified gluten-free chicken nuggets and tenders that can be found in the frozen section at most grocery stores. They are a quick and delicious meal and safe for people with celiac.

Campus Dining

Eating around campus with a gluten intolerance can be challenging. When I lived on campus, there were some days the Roaring Fork had allergens labeled and gluten-free bread options thawed and ready. Other days, there was nothing for me to eat besides salad.

I have had the most success at Cafe65. The Taqueria has corn tortillas and is happy to sanitize surfaces and change gloves to accommodate for celiac.

My favorite place on campus is the Corner Deli at Cafe65. They change gloves and sanitize surfaces at any request for gluten-free bread. They sell gluten-free foot-long loaves, grilled chicken and a variety of other cold cuts.

Because the gluten-free bread is individually packaged, you get the entire sandwich for the price of a small sandwich, making Corner Deli the only place that charges you less for gluten free eating.

Other miscellaneous gluten-free goods

I use King Arthur and Pamela’s brands for baking goods. Pamela’s has a great gluten-free flour for baking from scratch, and King Arthur has marvelous boxed cakes and brownies.

I love brunch, and while it is pricey, Urban Egg is the most trustworthy brunch place in town for gluten-free eating. Urban Egg has gluten-free English muffins and pancakes and mark all gluten-free dishes with a toothpick to ensure a safe kitchen.

Snarf’s Sandwiches makes their own gluten-free hoagies. At a $3 upcharge, I prefer the Corner Deli, but Snarf’s has a more traditional deli menu. Their kitchen is not gluten-free, but it’s a good option for gluten-sensitive people.

Noodles and Co. offers some options too. They have rice noodles for Asian dishes and gluten-free shells for other pasta dishes. Their kitchen is not free of cross contamination, but they always do a glove change and note allergies for people like me who cannot live without mac-n-cheese.

Graphic by Neako Hallisey.