Updated: Jul 9
When I was invited on a beach trip with my boyfriend's family, I was hesitant to accept the offer because of my gluten intolerance. I like to use the app Find Me Gluten Free to read reviews and easily find restaurants that offer gluten-free items, and after checking available restaurants on the island, I was more than excited to make the trip there. Visit our "Travel With Us" page to locate the places discussed in this article on the map.
If you are Celiac or gluten intolerant and you don't live in a big city, you might not ever go out for breakfast because of the lack of options in your area. I learned that there was a restaurant on the island, Stacks Pancakes, that offered a variety of breakfast foods and took several precautions to ensure safe food.
After browsing the menu (which listed GF options including waffles and pancakes), I ordered the chocolate pancakes, toast, and cheesy grits. I informed my server that I was gluten-free and she asked if I was Celiac or not. I always feel more comfortable when employees ask if I'm Celiac because it shows that they have at least a little knowledge of the disease and will take measures to keep me safe.
One precaution at this restaurant that I had a lot of appreciation for, was the presentation of the food. My pancakes and toast were delivered to me in styrofoam boxes rather than on plates to prevent any excess cross-contamination from the kitchen.
Just look at these pancakes. YUM!
I was only able to eat one and a half of the four before being completely stuffed. There was a pourable syrup container available, but if the possibility of being "glutened" from said container might steer you clear from using syrup, there are prepackaged jellies and butter on the table available for use.
How often do I get to eat toast at a restaurant? Never.
I know, it's a piece of bread, but knowing that it was safe drove me to order it. There were four halves of toast and four different flavors of jellies on the table.
I bet you can guess what I experimented with here - one flavor per piece of bread.
The final breakfast item I ordered was cheesy grits. When my server mentioned that the grits were gluten-free, I was hesitant to order. Typically grits do contain gluten, so I asked my server three separate times if she was sure they were gluten-free. She was 100% confident that they were gluten-free, so I ordered them.
When they were brought out in a regular bowl, I asked the employee who delivered the food to also double check that they are gluten-free. When he came back out he said something along the lines of "They are made with corn, so, I guess they are gluten-free".
Did this make me a little nervous to eat them?
Did I eat them anyway?
Were they absolutely delicious?
It's up to you to make decisions about which foods to eat, but after repetitive confirmation, I felt safe eating the grits.
For dinners, we visited two gluten-free restaurants. There were quite a few dinner options available, and for those of you who like to bring your furry friend on vacations with you, many were pet friendly!
The first night there, we went to Marleys Island Grille. Marleys has a separate gluten-free menu available upon request, and it contains a surprising amount of options including appetizers and desserts. I ordered the potato skins appetizer which included three potato skins topped with bacon, cheddar jack cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, and chives. They were delicious, but if you order them for just yourself be prepared to potentially skip out on the main course as these will fill you up!
For my main course, I ordered the salmon platter. This included salmon, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots, and a lemon. This meal was yummy and due to its simplicity, and it was an obvious choice for a gluten-free meal. Potatoes are served with this meal, but if the mashed potatoes are a little overboard after eating the potato skins appetizer, it is possible to substitute for a different side item.
Dessert options include crème brûlée and a slice of flourless chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was not listed on the menu, so make sure to ask your server about it!
On our last night in town, we made our way to The Salty Dog Cafe. I had heard of this restaurant before, so when I saw they had gluten-free options I made sure to make plans to go. A gluten-free menu is available here upon request. Like other places in town, the menu had quite a few gluten-free options, a big change from the usual. This area also hosted the Salty Dog gift shop and t-shirt factory. Even if you don't eat here, I recommend stopping in for some entertainment!
I chose the Surf and Turf Pesto for my main course and scarfed it down in about five minutes. This was my favorite meal of the entire trip! That can either be attributed to the fact that it was 9 PM and I hadn't eaten all day or the amount of butter slathered all over it. Either way, it was a delicious meal and I would love to go back again. Angry Orchard ciders were also available here.
The G-Free Spot Bakery. How often do you find a 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery? Not too often if you are from a smaller city or town. We hit this bakery on the way out and wanted to visit it so bad we walked around town waiting for it to open.
They primarily serve baked goods, but also serve coffee and sandwiches! For sandwich bread, they use loaves of Udi's bread.
I'm used to being offered...a cookie or maybe a brownie at normal bakeries, but still question the cross-contamination my baked good may have endured. At The G-Free Spot - key lime pie? Lemon square? Cupcake? Muffin? You can have it all! I ordered a chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting, a lemon squares, and a grab bag of 6 oatmeal raisin cookies.
It has been years since I had a lemon square, so this was a real treat for me. It tasted wonderful and was a great beginning to my road trip home. As I sit here and write this article while munching on an oatmeal raisin cookie I have to say - they are to die for. My cupcake was yummy too! I definitely recommend a stop here if you visit the island.
Overall this trip was a great success. Not only did I enjoy the food and the opportunity to CHOOSE a restaurant rather than settle for the only place around for miles, but the stress of ensuring I wouldn't get sick was gone as well. I was thoroughly impressed by the safety precautions taken at each place we visited, and I can't wait to go back!
Have any questions or comments? Have a favorite restaurant on Hilton Head Island? Let us know in the comments below!