Technomic’s MenuMonitor online resource finds that “gluten‐free” is currently the top health claim on Canadian menus, beating out other health-related terms such as “vegetarian,” “organic” and “natural.” The rise of gluten-free offerings to appeal to not just to those with a gluten intolerance but also those avoiding the wheat protein for different dietary reasons has been one of the most salient trends in foodservice in the past several years, and it doesn’t appear ready to fade anytime soon.
In March, Restaurants Canada named gluten-free/food-allergy-conscious menu items as the No. 1 hot trend for 2014, based on a poll of more than 400 professional chefs. “The Canadian diner has a heightened awareness of food intolerances, allergies and ingredients, and chefs are taking note,” Restaurants Canada CEO Garth Whyte said in a news release about the survey. Indeed, MenuMonitor found a 35% increase in the number of Canadian restaurant operators offering gluten-free menu choices from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014.
What are some of the most popular applications of “gluten‐free” on Canadian menus? Gluten-free sandwich breads/buns and pizza crusts, to start. Hero Certified Burgers has a dedicated gluten-free menu section, and The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro and Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill are among several chains offering gluten-free burger buns. With regard to pizza, chains ranging from quick-service pizza specialists such as Greco Pizza (which added a new gluten-free crust this spring), Pizza 73 and Domino’s Pizza to casual-dining varied-menu concepts such as Gabby’s and Redwater Rustic Grille offer gluten-free pies.
Beyond these, add-ons, desserts, and sides/extras are menu parts where we’re seeing significant growth in the number of items specified as gluten-free. Operators increasingly are calling out, for example, which of their sandwich/burger/pizza toppings—from honey-mustard sauce to sautéed mushrooms to grilled chicken—are gluten-free. And they’re highlighting dairy-based desserts and flourless chocolate tortes as sweet-treat options for gluten-free diners.
Here’s a look at some of the varied offerings Canadian restaurant operators have developed to better serve those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity:
- Chicken Pesto Pizza, Pizza Delight: Gluten-free signature pizza made with sun-dried-tomato pesto, gourmet tomato sauce, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, spinach, mozzarella and goat cheese on a gluten-free crust
- Build Your Own Pizza, Gino’s: Choice of gluten-free toppings on a gluten-free crust
- Gluten-Free Hero Burger, Hero Certified Burgers: 100% Canadian Angus beef patty topped with gluten-free Hero Certified Sauce and choice of gluten-free toppings on a gluten-free bun
- Protein Style Burger, Joey Restaurants: Hand-pressed burger with all the groceries, wrapped in lettuce
- Babewatch Burger, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro: With fresh avocado slices and Monterey Jack on a gluten-free bun
- Hold the Beef Burger, Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill: A meatless, gluten-free patty topped with goat cheese, bruschetta tomatoes, arugula and roasted-garlic lemon aioli and drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze, served on a gluten-free bun
- Truffle Pizza, Saege Bistro (Halifax): With roasted mushrooms, sage, caramelized onions, white truffle oil and bechamel sauce on a gluten-free crust
- Gluten-Free Pulled Pork Sandwich, Gabby’s: A toasted gluten-free bun with tender pulled pork in a bold barbecue sauce
- Prince Edward Island Beef Duo, Chives (Halifax): Grilled beef tenderloin and braised short rib with spinach and Old Growler gouda risotto, roasted field tomato, buttermilk onion rings and short rib jus reduction
- Berry Crunch Bowl, The Pickle Barrel: Roasted chicken, carrots, crisp green apple, blueberries, roasted pumpkin seeds, feta, chopped mint, green pea shoots and balsamic vinaigrette over quinoa
- Chocolate Torte, Biercraft Tap & Tapas Bar (Vancouver): Gluten-free Belgian chocolate torte with crème anglaise and caramel sauce
- Flourless Cashew Cookie, Fresh: Certified Kosher and baked without preservatives
- Salted Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake, Moxie’s Grill & Bar: House-made caramel-scented cheesecake with fresh blackberries and orange segments
- Trio of Homemade Gelatos, Centini (Calgary): Rotating selection