An in-depth review of gluten free options at Big Bowl. This review is entirely my own opinion and from personal experiences, and is meant to be a guide. When choosing a gluten free restaurant, please use caution according to your individual needs.
Finding gluten free options at restaurants these days seems second nature. There are so many more options, even new dedicated gluten free menus, that make meal choices that much easier. However, finding restaurants that are Celiac safe is a whole separate story. Not many places seem to cater toward Celiac Disease anymore. Because so many people have decided to go gluten free by choice, restaurant staff and chefs seem to forget the issue of cross-contamination for those who truly cannot handle any gluten. After my recent diagnoses, I found it hard to figure out where I could eat that was safe. One of my first safe places I found was Big Bowl.
Big Bowl is a chain restaurant that features Thai and Chinese cuisine. They have locations across Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia, and also have an “Express” restaurant found in some local grocery stores – but this review is for the main sit-down restaurant. I generally try to avoid chain restaurants, even if they have gluten free menus, because not every location is the same. This means it’s possible that not every location has staff that understands the importance of allergies or cross-contamination. But I have to say, Big Bowl does it right. And not just right, they exceed my expectations.
First, they do showcase their gluten free menu online with the following statement:
“Our gluten free menu provides an assortment of Big Bowl favorites. From summer rolls and lettuce wraps to kung pao chicken and pad thai, as well as several gluten-free sauces to enjoy at the stir fry bar, our gluten-free guests have a wide variety to choose from. With much staff training and care, we are happy to accommodate our guests with dietary restrictions and additional allergies, so just alert your server.”
If you are gluten free by choice, they have a huge gluten free menu with a good amount of variety ranging from appetizers to main stir fry dishes. They even have gluten free desserts! But you are a Celiac like me, they do more than just offer gluten free dishes. After notifying staff of my condition, the waiter or waitress immediately talks to you about their cooking and handling process to insure you they do everything they can to limit cross-contamination. All of their gluten free dishes are cooked in a separate wok or pan, with separate cooking utensils. Even better, the manager oversees the cooking process and hand delivers all gluten free dishes – which are marked with a red detail around the rim of the plate. Talk about attention to detail!
I’ve had several different dishes at Big Bowl, and have NEVER become sick after eating there. I love getting they shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer, and have tried stir fry dishes with both rice and pad thai noodles. They do have a stir fry bar, where you can pick out your own veggies and put them in a bowl to be given to the chef, but I always feel safer choosing the “Chef’s Choice” veggies (pre-selected in the kitchen and set aside for stir fry dishes). Most of their sauces use Tamari instead of soy sauce, or otherwise have a citrus or coconut milk base. All options are delicious, not to mention the portion sizes are huge! Get ready to take home some leftovers.
Gluten free stir fry with shrimp and rice
So, whether you are gluten free by choice or have Celiac Disease, Big Bowl is a great place to add to your restaurant list.