Durham eateries consider gluten-free
Mac and cheese. Cookies. Pizza. Now even those who are gluten-free can enjoy the delicacies that others indulge in on a regular basis now that restaurants in downtown Durham cater to the health-conscious and people with allergies. Restaurants in downtown Durham are starting to add gluten-free foods to their menus. The Candy Bar, Mama Mac's, Franz's Foods and Durham House of Pizza have started to change their menus to fit their clients' needs.
Karen Larson, owner of The Candy Bar in downtown Durham, recognizes the current trend towards gluten-free foods. She notices that the number of people interested in gluten-free products is significant.
"Lots of people ask for gluten-free [products]," Larson said.
According to the gluten-free slideshow on the UNH health website, gluten can cause abnormal reactions in people who are sensitive to it.
"Gluten triggers an abnormal reaction in the intestine where the villi (...which create large surface space for nutrient absorption) flatten and reduces absorption space in the intestine. This causes malnutrition," the website says.
Kirstin Lang, manager of Mama Mac's, remembers that shortly after Mama Mac's opened about 1 1/2 years ago, people came in for gluten-free products.
"The first time someone came in and asked if we had gluten-free foods was a month after we opened," Lang said. "Afterwards, more people started asking. Nancy [the owner] said we have to incorporate it into the menu."
Kate Muska, UNH sophomore, searches for gluten-free foods in the dining halls to accommodate for health problems.
"I am gluten free because I am on a special diet due to narcolepsy," Muska said.
Muska claims that she sometimes sacrifices her diet at restaurants because she cannot find gluten-free foods.
Instead, she settles for what is available, such as a salad without wheat-gluten products, or indulges in the breads she normally avoids.
"I don't go out to eat often, so when I do, I'm not as strict," Muska said. "I might cheat or if I don't feel like my system could handle it, I'd order soup and salad."
Both Lang and Larson have noticed an increase in the number of people who ask for gluten-free food.
"We have to offer something to cater to clients," Lang said about customers asking for gluten-free foods.
Lang claimed the gluten-free movement that circulates now is somewhat due to allergy and somewhat due to diet fads.
"[It's because of] gluten allergies as well as health wise," Lang said. "I will still buy gluten-free products when I can even though I'm not allergic to it."
Muska also commented on the allergy in society.
"I believe the allergy is becoming more and more common," Muska said. "I have seen the introduction of more gluten-free options than a couple years ago."
Because of the high demand, Mama Mac's and The Candy Bar always have gluten-free products on hand.
"Nancy just ordered a large shipment of gluten-free pasta so that it will be made-to-order soon," Lang said.
Despite introducing new gluten-free foods, the Durham restaurants do not advertise for it. Lang said that people either find out about gluten-free products because they come in and ask for it, or because someone else told them about it.
Muska was not aware that restaurants such as Mama Mac's, The Candy Bar, and Franz's Food recently offered gluten-free foods.
"But I am happy to know now," she said.
While gluten-free products can be more expensive than gluten products, Larson claims the market is as profitable as her other merchandise. Larson replenishes gluten-free items fairly often, meaning that people are purchasing them and there is a good return on the items. Larson claims one of the big reasons for the gluten-free rush is due to circulation in the media and recent health studies.
"The media has played up the benefits," Larson said.
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