8 June 2012

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 June 8, 2012
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A while back a gluten-free friend from Westchester County mentioned this place to me and I had been meaning to give it a try from the longest time but it wasn’t until more recently that I was able to stop-by. Now I know what some of you might be thinking, Gluten Free Mike at a sports bar? And yes, I am not a sports fan in the slightest but I do love good bar food and beverages and good luck finding those in a safe gluten-free environment – that is, until now. Enter 97 Lake Sports Café and Restaurant.

So, one Sunday I decided to head over and give the cafe a go for lunch. The first thing you notice upon entering is that the restaurant is massive and divided into a front bar section with seating and a larger seating area in the back. We were seated in the larger back room. Now being a sports bar, there are, you guessed it, televisions everywhere. If there was a sporting event on that day, it was playing at the restaurant.

The restaurant is essentially a gluten-free establishment that happens to also cater to those that can consume gluten. It is nice to walk into a place that puts the needs of Celiacs first but still does not alienate the rest of the population that fall outside the 1 in 133.

The menu is extensive. If you have dreamed about bar foods and snacks that have been of limits since your diagnosis than this is the place of your dreams. The fryers are gluten-free so if you have a hankering for everything fried from wings to fries feel free to indulge. Unfortunately, I am also allergic to shellfish and it was confirmed that they also do fry shellfish in the fryers so anything fried was off-limits to me. However the menu was so extensive that I still had plenty to choose from and if fried is not your thing so will you.

The first thing that caught my attention was a Philly cheesesteak served on, wait for it, a crispy gluten-free baguette. I opted for a side salad in lieu of fries as they were off limits. I paired my sandwich with a truly fantastic gluten-free beer from Spain (Estrella Damm Daura) that I had been to try and came with a glowing recommendation from our server. It certainly did not disappoint. My other half opted for a classic burger and fries.

When our order arrived at the table there was a slight glitch as my cheesesteak arrived plated with my other half’s fries and my salad was paired with his burger. When I explained the problem the manager quickly came over, apologized, and here is the best part – stood in the kitchen while the items were completely remade. Now you might be saying So what? You got fries, scrape them off. Unfortunately for those of us with a shellfish allergy that is not an option. You see the grease from the fries could cause a severe allergic reaction — and I speak from personal experience from a lesson learned the hard way when I first found out I was allergic to shellfish.

The manager understood why I needed to have my meal re-made and was the one who actually said that he’d make sure that they were both re-made. My other half’s burger was covered with the salad dressing from my salad and would have been cold had he waited for my dish to be re-made. The manager also clearly understood this and was so proactive and accommodating it made the entire thing into a complete non-issue and I was amazed at how it was handled.

When the correct pairings did arrive, it was well worth the wait. The cheesesteak was in a word A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. A perfectly toasted crispy baguette was layered with real slices of thinly sliced steak – no Steakums here – that had just the right amount of sautéed onions and the pièce de resistance was a wonderfully creamy cheese sauce that at first bite made me want to weep tears of joy. Here I was, a Celiac, in a sports bar, biting into the most perfect gluten-free cheesesteak and washing it down with the most amazing gluten-free beer from Spain. I mean, come on, it just does not get any better than this. My other half raved about the burger (served on a gluten-filled bun) and the perfectly cooked fries.

If you find yourself in New York’s Westchester County do yourself a favor and head over to the cafe – you will not be disappointed. You can view the restaurant’s full gluten-free menu on their Web site and learn more about this hidden gem that is definitely no secret to those in the area.

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