Shortly after my official celiac disease diagnosis, we went out for my first gluten free dining experience. I was extremely nervous. I was finally feeling good and my body was starting to heal. I did not want to mess up and get sick again. Otro Cafe, in central Phoenix, was chosen to accommodate my celiac disease and J’s parents, who are vegetarians.
I struggle with telling complete strangers that I have an autoimmune disease. Four months after my diagnosis I still struggle, imagine how hard it was a few days after my diagnosis, my very first time out. I did it though, I told the waitress that I have celiac disease and cannot have anything with gluten. She seemed to understand the importance.
We started with the guacamole classico and ceviche. We made sure to order the raw vegetables, as the chips were not gluten free. Many restaurants dust their corn tortillas with flour before frying. Seriously, they add gluten to everything. The guacamole and ceviche were tasty but eating them with vegetables just wasn’t the same as chips. I’m not sure I would order either of these unless I knew I could have the chips with them.
Despite reading online reviews stating how many gluten free entrees, I found the menu to be lacking. Only three entrees were marked gluten free and ironically were all served with a side of flour tortillas. I hate to break it to you but adding flour tortillas means it is no longer gluten free.
I ordered the paella Mexicana and reminded the waitress that I had celiac and did not want the flour tortillas. Of course when my entree comes out there are flour tortillas. Thankfully they were on the side and not on top of the food but it really made me question the staff’s willingness to be careful with gluten when someone has informed them of having celiac disease.
The entree was decent. It wasn’t something where I would go, I need to have it again. It was lacking something, probably the tortillas. It had decent heat to it, but I was expecting more. I also thought it needed more meat. There was chicken, pork and chorizo in the dish, but it seemed the kitchen added them sparingly. I have also found out since that many chorizos have flour in them and it makes me wonder if this dish truly was gluten free.
Otro Cafe also did not have any gluten free desserts on the menu. I had to sit while everyone else enjoyed desserts that looked amazing. I had to listen to them go on about how great the desserts were. I want to have amazing desserts at restaurants too, and not just flourless chocolate cake which is the standard gluten free dessert.
Overall, I was not impressed with Otro Cafe and their claims of having gluten-free items on their menu. The gluten free options were limited and came with items that have gluten. I don’t know if I trust their staff to take care for cross contamination, since I asked for no tortillas and still received tortillas. The food I was able to eat was not anything impressive. I am able to get the same, or similar, items elsewhere that taste better.
If I have my choice, I would choose not to go back to Otro Cafe and would not recommend it to those who have celiac disease. If you are just avoiding wheat because it is the hipster thing to do, this could be a place for you. But when my health is involved I want places to take it seriously.