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Year of the Bun’s Gluten-Free Version

When I forecast last November that 2013 would be the “Year of the Bun,” I had pretzel buns, ciabatta and such in mind. But increasingly this also is being the year of the gluten-free bun as more and more burger shops adapt to the approximately 1% of consumers who have Celiac disease. For many that means offering to wrap a burger in lettuce. Others go farther: Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Austin, Texas, bakes gluten-free buns on-premise with local supplier Bona Dea Baking Co.’s gluten-free flour.

The Counter’s gluten-free Cranberry & Avocado Turkey Burger.

Some have decided to do more than accommodate gluten-free diners, choosing to actively court them with separate menus. Custom-burger chain The Counter this week introduced a gluten-free menu at its 33 locations. The menu includes not only buns but also appetizers, beer, wine and shakes. Burger builds include a third-pound Cranberry & Avocado Turkey Burger with sharp Provolone, dried cranberries, avocado, carrot strings, organic greens, green onion and horseradish mayo on a gluten-free bun. A build-your-own burger section gathers gluten-free toppings.

Diners seeking gluten-free burgers sometimes ask for them to be served bunless in a bowl. Twisted Root Burger Co. in Dallas offers this but its menu labels this option “Sissy Food.” Rather than insult/tease guests, The Counter has three burger bowls created for those avoiding gluten, including a Spinach Avocado & Salsa Bison Bowl. Craft brewer Dogfish Head’s gluten-free Tweason’ale is offered as well.

Mike Costello, director of marketing for Culver City, Calif.-based The Counter, explains the special menu as “a direct extension of our core belief that everyone should be free to get what they want, how they want, without limitations.” Offering a build-your-own section “gives our gluten-free guests countless choices and allows them to construct what they want, rather than deconstruct what we offer,” he says.

Burger Lounge offers gluten-free buns for its 100% grass-fed beef burgers.

Last month another California chain, Los Angeles-based Burger Lounge, added gluten-free buns (available for the grass-fed Elk Burger LTO it added today) and a menu of special burger builds plus gluten-free salads, shakes and floats. “We already have great vegetarian options, and the gluten-free menu allows us to take our commitment to serving our guests to the next level,” says Burger Lounge Co-founder and CEO Dean Loring.

Gluten-free burger menus are not just a West Coast phenomenon. York, Maine-based Wild Willy’s Burgers has such a menu available in its six locations in the Northeast. The gluten-free menu at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Charlotte, N.C., includes appetizers, salads and a dessert as well as a build-your-own burger option with all gluten-free toppings and sauces. Falls Church, Va.-based Elevation Burger claims to be the “only national chain that serves gluten-free French fries cooked in heart-healthy olive oil.” Many burger chains provide gluten-free menu-item recommendations online but not all—and few quick-service chains—offer a gluten-free bun option yet.

8 comments to Year of the Bun’s Gluten-Free Version

  • yeah but I am paying $5 for a gluten free english muffin and $8 for a small loaf of bread (12 slices) from suppliers.

  • Vicki Kent

    Though there are no gluten ingredients in Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled items if you get them “Low Carb” style, they warn that they have a shared kitchen so no guarantee on the cross contamination. In Finland, they have McGluten Free; I don’t understand why we don’t have that here. In and Out has been a reliable place for “Protein Style” and their fryers are 100% dedicated to potatoes. But a good gluten free bun? I’d pay extra to have a decent bun. You can get those at Disneyland even!

  • We [Little Shanty] are offering Gluten free options of all of our sandwiches and burgers and have re-engineered our Onion Rings to be Gluten-Free as well. We’ve partnered with Udi’s for our gluten free products and our customers with Gluten issues are thrilled that we’re offering them as an option in addition to our lettuce wraps.

  • Bill, you should contact Local Oven in Carrollton, TX and see what we can do for you. We do not have an English muffin or regular bread but we do have the best gluten free products on the market and we are competatively priced. We can get products to you that your customers will love. Go to http://www.localoven.com and see what we have to offer. You can also contact me via email at Lori@localoven.com.

  • Russ Kuck

    OMG! Come to the NY Metro area please! What’s next, a gluten free Big Mac!I’ll be the first one in line!

  • $5 for an English Muffin Bill. Those English! We produce an all-natural-delicious certified Gluten-free cookie that The LA Times says is America’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. Go to http://www.mtmonstermunchies.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mtmonstermunchies

  • Matt

    Maybe only 1% of guests have Celiacs, but a much wider base of customers order Gluten Free buns for both gluten sensitivities and other dietary reasons. Red Robin has offered a Gluten-Free bun nationwide for over a year now, and had it available in a smaller number of stores for the past 2 years. I suspect more chains will adopt gluten-free breads and buns this year.

  • John Barbieri

    More and more people are going gluten free as the quality of flour gets worse and worse. I hope the fast food places respond soon.

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