With its unique blend of cosmopolitan culture and Western style, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area invites visitors to explore everything from its impressive arts districts and lush gardens to its fascinating historical sites and thriving culinary scenes. My visits to gluten-free Texas don’t happen as often as I’d like, but at long last, I was eager to discover what the two cities had to offer.
Get fueled up first
I never turn down a hearty breakfast, so I was glad to find the Kozy Kitchen. It’s the ideal place to fuel up for a full day of exploring Dallas. I wasn’t alone in thinking so. This cozy spot on the southern edge of Dallas’ Highland Park neighborhood was buzzing with activity on a weekday morning.
Over 75 percent of Kozy’s menu is gluten free, but you might not realize that without talking with chef Nick Pavageaux. Being gluten intolerant himself, he began learning how to cook and bake without gluten by necessity. Several years ago, he established Kozy as a gluten-free pioneer. Pavageaux has been a creative force in Dallas’ culinary scene ever since.
The breakfast menu here is extensive, so be prepared for a tough decision. If you’re thinking savory, try one of the many Paleo bowls. Go for the popular Hangover Helper, which comes with grass-fed buffalo, veggies and guacamole. Or be adventurous and order the Bowl of Doom from the secret menu.
If you prefer starting your day with something sweet instead, treat yourself to the gluten-free Stuffed French Toast. This impressive dish comes piled high with layers of gluten-free French toast, a yogurt and cream cheese filling, bananas and a house-made berry compote. Like many of Kozy’s generous portions, the French toast is large enough to share.
Can’t make it for breakfast? Kozy also serves lunch and dinner, when you’ll find a full range of protein-packed salads, hearty pasta dishes and meaty mains. No matter when you dine here, you’ll want to save room for dessert. Kozy’s dessert case is packed with over a dozen gluten-free cakes every day of the week. If you ask nicely, you can even have a slice of the Oh My God or Peanut Butter Cookie Monster cake for breakfast.
After fueling up for the day, head over to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden to walk off your meal. It’s just a short drive east from Kozy Kitchen, and the arboretum offers a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of Dallas.
On a warm day, escape to the shady cool of the Palmer Fern Fell and the Crape Myrtle Allee. Don’t miss over a dozen other themed gardens scattered throughout the grounds or the numerous seasonal displays.
Hip food-filled neighborhoods
Downtown Dallas also has plenty to offer, whether you prefer dynamic art or sunny green spaces. Take some time to peruse the Dallas Arts District, a cultural hub that’s home to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and several performing arts venues. With a mix of groundbreaking performances and traditional exhibitions, there’s something for everyone here.
If you find yourself hankering for some fun in the sun, just head across the street to Klyde Warren Park. This urban park is a great place to wander along the shady lanes, get lost in the butterfly garden, stop to play a board game or check out a performance in one of the many pavilions.
When you’re ready for a bite to eat, head over to Lower Greenville, one of Dallas’ hippest neighborhoods. This area hasn’t always been packed with fun places to drink and dine. Today, it’s lined with more than 2 miles of cafés, bars and restaurants.
On the southern end of the strip, one of my favorite spots is Company Café & Bar. It serves up some of the best gluten-free comfort food in town. Whether you come for breakfast, brunch or lunch, almost everything on the menu here is gluten free.
If you’re feeling like breakfast, you can’t go wrong with the creatively named Benedict dishes. I recommend the Benedict Cumberbatch, a classic that comes with poached eggs, veggies and hollandaise sauce on top of the most buttery gluten-free biscuit I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for something that really packs a punch, I recommend the Johnny Rooster, which features gluten-free pancakes, crispy fried chicken, and an amazing bacon and jalapeño marmalade.
Company Café recently debuted its own line of baked goods, so treat yourself to something sweet on site or take a treat to go. The sour cream coffee cake here is top notch, and the coconut macaroons and Crownies—chocolate chip brownies—are excellent picks. You can also order these goodies online if you’d like to try them from home.
For one of the healthiest and most satisfying meals on Lower Greenville, head down the street to HG SPLY CO., where you’ll find a menu that celebrates whole foods and simple ingredients. HG SPLY CO. emphasizes fresh vegetables and lean proteins that pack tons of flavor and nutrition, so it’s tough not to dig every bite.
Everything can be served gluten free here, and each dish is easy to customize with your choice of protein. Split the smoked carrot hummus or some Cochinita Nachos with your table, or dig into the stir fry with locally raised chicken or the yellow curry bowl with dorper lamb meatballs. Can’t make it to Lower Greenville? You’ll find the same fun atmosphere at HG SPLY CO.’s Fort Worth location.
Get wild in Fort Worth
Fort Worth might be just a 30-minute drive away from Dallas, but the two cities seem wonderfully distinct, thanks in part to Fort Worth’s claim to fame as the true beginning of the West. And the best place to experience the city’s Cowtown identity is in Fort Worth’s Stockyards National Historic District.
To jump right in, take a tour of the Stockyards Museum. This attraction houses memorabilia related to the stockyards, legendary cowboys and life in the Wild West. Don’t get so immersed in the photos and artifacts that you lose track of time. Make sure you’re outside on East Exchange Avenue for the cattle drive. This Fort Worth herd happens every morning and afternoon. It’s your chance to get up close and personal with the steers and chat with real-life cowboys as the cattle amble to their stables.
After the cattle drive, head across the street to Riscky’s
BAR-B-Q, a Fort Worth classic. For more than 90 years, this legendary barbecue restaurant has made a name for itself by serving up huge platters of ribs and Texas-sized meals. Snag a table in the outdoor patio area, and you can watch all the stockyards action while enjoying a hearty meal.
All Riscky’s BAR-B-Q locations offer a gluten-free menu. The all-you-can-eat beef ribs are the most popular menu item here, and for good reason. The slow-smoked ribs sprinkled with Riscky dust will definitely give you a taste of the West. You can’t go wrong with the two- or three-meat combo or a platter piled high with beef brisket or smoked chicken.
While the Stockyards National Historic District was one of my favorite spots in town, there’s much more to see. To experience another side of the city, visit Fort Worth’s Cultural District. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art easily match Dallas’ Arts District.
I also recommend exploring Fort Worth’s West Seventh neighborhood. You’ll find numerous bars, coffee shops and boutiques to check out in this lively district. For a drink or a bite to eat, my top pick is Mash’d. This funky spot is named for its moonshine, which the Mash’d team infuses in-house. You can try individual flavors, but your best bet is the fruit-infused moonshine flight. This option gives you a taste of four delicious varieties of this corn-based liquor.
Of course, that isn’t all you’ll want to try at Mash’d. The gluten-free menu features a range of brunch and lunchtime favorites. For brunch, stay healthy with a kale-stuffed egg white K&Q Omelet or dig into the hearty Migas.
For lunch, start with the grilled wings, a rare gluten-free find. These zesty wings come with a cool dipping sauce, making them a delicious accompaniment to the signature moonshine. Follow them up with popular picks like the bacon-topped Rebellious Burger or the superfood-packed Power Bowl. Don’t hesitate to kick back and stay awhile at this welcoming spot before exploring more of the West Seventh area.
Finish your meal with a sweet treat from Steel City Pops, located right around the corner from Mash’d. This spot might be small, but it serves mouthwatering gluten-free popsicles made in-house. Treating yourself to an ice-cold cherry limeade or strawberry shortcake popsicle is the perfect way to cool down.
Whether you’re looking for a flight of moonshine, a killer breakfast or a Paleo-style meal, you’ll find it all in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. I can’t wait to return to the Lone Star State to discover even more of its excellent gluten-free destinations, cultural attractions and outdoor spaces.
Travel Editor Anna Sonnenberg is a food and travel writer. She has journeyed around the world gluten free since being diagnosed with celiac in 2012.
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