When Bev Lieven was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD) 25 years ago and forced to go on a gluten-free diet, she found it difficult to eat outside the home.
"Back then, I had to constantly explain to people what 'gluten-free' means," says Lieven, coordinator of the Milwaukee Celiac Sprue-Crew, an organization serving Milwaukeeans with CD since 1982. "Now, the Internet has made it a lot easier for people (on the gluten-free diet) to find the resources and information they need."
People with Celiac Disease, food allergies and certain types of autism are usually restricted to gluten-free diets. To serve the needs of these large groups, Linda and John Kramer opened The Gluten-Free Trading Co., 3116 S. Chase St., in March 2000. At the time, it was America's first gluten-free store of its kind.
"We wanted to give people on gluten-free diets the chance to shop and not have to read labels," says Linda, whose husband, John, has been on a gluten-free diet since 1987. "Here, people can shop like they used to, knowing that every product is safe."
It is estimated that 2.2 million people have Celiac Disease, and thousands more have the disease, but don't know it. According to Lieven, CD is commonly misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, anemia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Plus, millions more people are allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. This makes the consumption of foods like pasta, cereal, bread, cookies and pizza crust -- among many others -- completely off limits.
For people with CD, ingesting even a tiny amount of gluten causes an immune reaction in the small intestines, which damages the intestines and prohibits the body from absorbing certain nutrients.
"If I hadn't stayed on a gluten-free diet all these years, I'd be dead by now," says Lieven.
Recently, Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery produced New Grist, the first beer made without malted barley or gluten-containing products. New Grist is made from sorghum, hops, water, rice and gluten-free yeast grown on molasses.
"This has made a lot of people very happy," says Lieven, whose two sons, now grown, were diagnosed with CD as young children. Lieven also has a daughter who does not have the disease.
Today, many local restaurants and businesses are able to accommodate people on gluten-free diets, and Lieven says that even more places are willing to prepare consumable food even if they don't have a designated gluten-free menu.
"Being on a gluten-free diet can be socially isolating, because it seems easier sometimes just to eat at home (rather than go out to eat with friends)," says Lieven. "But I've had good luck at a lot of restaurants, including places like the Bartolotta restaurants that don't have 'gluten-free' menu items but are willing to help."
Here's a list of restaurants and grocery stores in Milwaukee with gluten-free items. Use the talkback feature to recommend any other places.
Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave., (414) 278-7878
Beans & Barley has many gluten-free options in its grocery store and dining area, including stir fries, fajitas, burritos, sandwiches and more. The menu items are not specifically marked as "gluten-free," but all Beans employees are trained to explain which items are safe, and which items can be slightly altered to accommodate the diet. For example, all of their burritos can be made with corn tortillas instead of flour, and sandwiches can be made with rice bread. Occasionally, Beans offers gluten-free entrée specials-of-the-day.
18355 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield, (262) 797-0166
The Bonefish Grill has a separate menu identifying gluten-free items, which includes appetizers, entrees and desserts. Popular gluten-free foods include saucy shrimp, bacon-wrapped scallops, salads, garlic whipped potatoes (with butter and seasoning omitted), grilled fish, chicken, filet mignon, sirloin steak and crème brulee.
6414 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 778-2228
Crawdaddy's doesn’t have a separate gluten-free menu, but they can adjust entrees to accommodate the GF diet.
Good Harvest Market
1850 Meadow Ln., Pewaukee, (262) 544-9380
Many gluten-free items available.
Molly's Gluten-Free Bakery
N47W28270 Lynndale Rd., Pewaukee, (262) 369-1404
The entire bakery is stocked with gluten-free goodies.
Outback has many gluten-free menu options, as well as items that easily adapt, including salads, steaks, shrimp, pork chops, lobster tails and more. Everyone on staff receives training on the gluten-free diet and their menu can be viewed online.
Many gluten-free products and bakery items are available at all Outpost locations.
2500 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa, (414) 607-1029
P.F. Chang's has a separate menu for their gluten-free Asian food, which includes 20 items such as a lettuce wrap, chicken salad, Singapore Street Noodles and a "chocolate dome" dessert.
1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480
Roots offers a variety of gluten-free entrees, including steak tenderloin, tilapia (with the removal of soy sauce) and cioppino. Customers on a gluten-free diet can also request other meals, more or less "custom building" their meal to reflect what they feel like eating, from Asian to American cuisine. Talk to a server for more information.
Saz's State House
5539 W. State St., (414) 453-2410
Because Saz's barbeque sauce is gluten-free, most of their menu items are, too. Saz's sauce is available at most grocery stores, as well as the Gluten-Free Trading Company.
Silly Yak Bakery
7866 Mineral Point Rd., Madison, (608) 833-5965
This Madison bakery will ship gluten-free foods to your door.
209 W. Florida St., (414) 270-1040
Gluten-free soups are often available, but since soups change daily, please call ahead.
2499 N. Bartlett Ave., (414) 964-8377
All Tess entrees, with the exception of two, are gluten free. Tess provides free gluten-free bread for each table, and two gluten-free beers are available. Owners Joe Volpe and Mitch Wakefield work closely with the Gluten Free Trading Company.
Whole Foods Market
2305 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 223-1500
Whole Foods offers packets of information about their gluten-free items . Concierge Emily Schnadt offers tours to introduce gluten-free products to shoppers. Please call ahead to request a tour.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.