While living in St. Cloud, I had been well-informed that if I wanted pizza, a GOOD pizza, Green Mill down on the river was the place to go. It was like a common knowledge around St. Cloud. Ask anyone and that is where you will be directed. This was way back in 1998, so it has been a longstanding icon in the community. Unfortunately, eating grain free at the time was nearly impossible to eat out and Green Mill was no different. Options were few and far between. So I went with my friends and sat in the booth, savoring the smells, but never finding out if this iconic legend was, indeed, as tasty as it was made out to be.
Fast forward to present day and more and more restaurants are paying intention to the growing movement of gluten free idealism and/or necessity. Desiree, manager at the Green Mill in Willmar, MN said more and more customers are asking for gluten free, vegetarian choices and/or healthier options in general.
Once you identify a place as somewhere on your no-no list, you find yourself not re-checking. Now, as I am on this mission to help health seekers and the dietary restricted to find delicious food safe places for them to eat, I am finding more and more restaurants that are adapting, and on top of that, are WILLING to make the experience enjoyable.
Over the weekend I FINALLLY got to try the iconic Green Mill pizza, in the gluten free form, not in the St. Cloud location, but in Willmar, MN.
Here's the rundown. I took a picture of the menu when we arrived and as you can see, there are multiple strictly gluten free options that are actually chef quality, in it's own easy to find section of the menu, I might add. I was impressed. While I was there with young members of my family, however, I opted away from an entree and decided on pizza instead.
The crust is a made and purchased Udi's brand. On top of which are authentic Green Mill toppings and sauces. That makes a difference to me, because the worst experience when you want pizza is to go to places where they cut open a bagged frozen gluten free pizza, warm it and serve it on a plate. Yuck. I wanted a RESTAURANT experience, with a taste of a chef's delight and flavor. I certainly don't want to pay top dollar for a frozen makeshift substitution. However, when you are limited in diet, you often simply are grateful there is ANY option - period.
So I was grateful to discover the toppings were authentico - Green Mill.
However, and this is common...the specialty, awesome, delicious looking yummo masterpieces in the beautiful color brochure...yep, could NOT be used on a gluten free crust. Bummer on having to accept substitutions and 2nd best, but at least there is an option at all.
AND... I understand, it is a problem restaurants face...they have no idea how sensitive the diet restricted person is and so for liability, must do things to ensure the safety against cross contamination, whether that be serving it in it's own plastic bag, or with a generic crust and restricted toppings. I WOULD LOVE to help more restaurants by showing them how they can avoid this pitfall and give their more choosy customers a delightful restaurant experience. But ho hum, this is not Green Mill's fault, and merely a current status quo.
I will say, our caretakers, wait staff Brooke, and manager Desiree, were MORE than happy to see to our pleasure and answer any and all questions I had. It was a great experience in that sense and obvious from my discussion with Desiree that there is not only a need on the part of customers to have optional menus, but also on the very agreeable willingness on the part of Green Mill and their management to provide the options. Big thumbs up. (It's a major downer to be seen as a "problem" and often times diet restricted people get placed in this category. We hate being a burden).
They had made accommodations to their meal offerings, as noted in the menu with a convenient and easy to spot GF symbol. Big thumbs up. They offered a gluten free pizza, which surprisingly is very lack among many restaurants. Yep, thumbs up.
One thing that I have noticed as I have being doing this travel eats blog is that I should NEVER assume what I think the restaurant will be able to offer. I was pleasantly surprised indeed as Desiree told me they even adapt and are capable of making a vegetarian calzone if asked. Very cool! I was pleasantly surprised.
What they could do better:
Yes, I wish the picturesque delicacies were offered in the gluten free option. It is a super crush everywhere you go to have to settle for less on flavor, quality and quantity compared to the regular menu. I'm not going to complain, many restaurants are trying, where years ago, there weren't even options.
Oops, there were bread crumbs on my salad when it arrived. I am not going to fault them, to be noted, I never told them I was gluten free. Just because I ordered a gluten free option does not necessarily make somebody aware of everywhere else gluten would be found. If I were still that sensitive, it is my responsibility, nobody else's to ensure my safety. I can say that, though, because I am no longer in dire straits if I am subjected to bits of crumbs. I can simply remove them; others are not that lucky. Which leads me to believe wholeheartedly that staff needs to be trained by a professional aware of food sensitivities, intolerances, allergies and anaphylaxis, exactly what they should know when serving such a customer. People like me can help. I'm educated AND I've been there, I love helping adapt a menu and educate on how they can incorporate fantastic foods and provide a safe experience.
Overall, I was delighted by the experience and the attendance to my questions. Would I crave the pizza? Nah, but I'm certainly happy to know where I can go when the gang wants to order pizza. Also, I was psyched to know they deliver. Yay! Gluten free availability, AND you'll deliver to my hotel. Awesome.
In addition, as far as the rest of the gluten free options, I would definitely go back to sample them. It is with good feelings that I impart to you, the health seeker or diet restricted person, to definitely test your desires in this iconic establishment.