If your guest has special dietary needs
Oh my goodness! I have guests coming to town! One has a tree-nut allergy, the rest have various diet restrictions ... Where can we eat that will work for everyone?
Never fear! Duluth has a robust and motley bunch of options for the diner with dietary needs that offers much more than a head of lettuce on a plate.
Sometimes what looks nitpicky is just your guest being particular for health's sake. Clarification with a manager or chef may need to be sought in order to gain information to make an informed decision. Being persistent and patient, but kind, is sometimes necessary.
Unfortunately some servers just don't have the training to provide accurate information. The server's best intent to make a happy customer may not be in the best interest of those with dietary needs. A server unaware of cooking methods or the customer being told the plain baked potato contains gluten (true story) ... further inquiry may be needed. If you have an allergy or celiac disease or are very sensitive, always double-check and ask questions.
Considering feedback I've received and personal experience, I'm going to highlight some restaurants that are very popular among those in the dietary-needs community. Due to limited space certainly not all restaurants are covered. If you don't see your favorite listed, contact them to learn about their menu options.
Duluth Grill stands out to many as the go-to place. They have set an atmosphere of awareness and customer service. Questions answered with "I don't know" are followed by "I'll check" and a speedy answer. Space is created in the kitchen for the safest prep possible; ask if you'd like to see it. They are straightforward with what they can and cannot do. They have many gluten-free options and cater to many diets, right off the menu.
Sara's Table/Chester Creek Café frequently comes up in special-diet conversations. They also score high when it comes to fast and accurate answers. Their general manager and head chef, Jillian Forte, have taken extra steps getting certified allergy safety training. Their menu creatively spans dietary needs and preferences.
Va Bene: Looking for a pasta fix? If you are gluten-free you will never miss the gluten in your pasta. They have taught me to LOVE pasta.
Toasty's turns the basic grilled cheese sandwich into an experience with vegetarian options and more. They have a dedicated grill for those with gluten allergies.
Pizza Luce: Vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free is noted on the menu. Offering pizza, salads, pasta and a gluten-free spinach artichoke dip.
How Sweet It Is Cakes: Gluten-free meals and treats. They have a creative variety and are always looking to improve their special diet options. They even have sparkly cupcakes.
Whole Foods Co-op's two locations provide packaged foods along with basic groceries and bulk items. Many gluten-free items are marked right on the shelf. A savvy, customer-focused staff will help you prep for your guests. Their deli has clearly marked ingredients and allergens. They have a full espresso bar with a wide variety of non-dairy milk options. You can get a complete meal and eat inside.
If you're in Hermantown:
Do North makes a mean gluten-free pizza at a great price. I have overheard the owner training staff to make a gluten-free pizza. He stressed the different cooking method; the care to avoid cross contact was thorough.
Pelican Coffee also has options and awareness. They are upfront when there are cross-contact concerns when you make them aware of dietary needs.
Throwing a party? Many of the above places have catering options. Ask for food labels with ingredient lists.
With a little bit of planning and awareness, you can keep dietary needs from taking away from the joy and time with your guests and enjoy what Duluth has to offer!