• Gluten Free Restaurants in Cambridge, MA

    by Ellen on March 15, 2008 · 12 comments

    EDIT MAY 15, ’08:
    I received an email from someone who lives in the neighborhood of the Oxford Spa (reviewed below). She said that they are no longer serving gluten free sandwiches. Before you head there, call and doublecheck with them.

    Could you plotz? Could you jump up and down and shout halleluyah? Can you even believe that a sandwich that looks this good could be made on gluten free bread? Think no more. It is the truth!

    Damn. I wish I knew how to make this bread. It was beyond good. It tasted like a real, honest-to-goodness, artisan bread, even though it was made, I’m sure, with white rice flour. But look at the golden crust, the onion topping, the poppy seeds peeking out. I ate in silence. I could not utter a word. For a rare moment in my life, I was rendered speechless.

    This afternoon, Peter and I took a ride into Cambridge to see my daughter Jessica. She had taken a train into Boston the night before. I did a little internet research (put “gluten free restaurants Cambridge MA into a google search window) and found three places that looked like great possibilities. Yesterday I called one of them, the Oxford Spa Cafe, and they explained that though their menu didn’t specifically say anything about gluten free options, they had plenty of them. They promised to put aside some of their gluten free bread for two sandwiches, as we wouldn’t be in until the following day. My sandwich, the one in the picture above, was called “The Oh Mitt” (no idea why) and was described on the big menu board as Roast turkey breast (Boar’s Head), bacon, avocado, Russian dressing, Romaine & tomato on rye (except I had gluten free bread). Obviously, today was a no vegan day. Alas, I digress…

    Here’s a picture of Peter’s sandwich:

    He had “The Reubenesque” described as “Lean pastrami & Swiss with Dijon topped with coleslaw on rye (only he had it with gluten free bread)”. He is a Reuben officianado, ordering it wherever he can, though it’s been awhile, since he’s also been gluten free for about 1 1/2 years. He was beyond delighted. He was a happy camper.

    I asked a lot of questions to one particular waitstaff. She was patient and helpful, more so than in any restaurant I’ve ever been to as a Celiac. She gets top billing from me. Turns out the staff know a lot about gluten free, since one of the managers has a family member with Celiac disease. I asked my waitstaff person to explain how the gluten free sandwiches were prepared. She was very knowledgeable. She told me they wore new plastic gloves, they prepared the sandwiches on clean boards, used clean knives. She even explained that any foods used in the prep of the gluten free sandwiches was taken from “new stock”. For example, in the morning, they prep stacks of tomatoes and little cups of mayonnaise, before lunch time. For sandwiches made with gluten free bread, even if they still have enough tomatoes and/or mayo in the prep area, they use a new stack of tomatoes or a new, as yet unopened cup of mayo. I had total faith in the safety of my sandwich – she really did her homework.

    So, I know what you’re thinking. About now, you’re saying to yourself – I’m moving to Cambridge, MA. That’s all there is to it. To be able to go to a restaurant and eat not just any old sandwich, but a fabulous, unbelievably delicious sandwich with gluten free bread that could not possibly taste better. But hold on there. Turns out that there’s a rumor – the owners might be selling the cafe and opening up a gluten free bakery. If I didn’t love my work, I’d consider upping and moving to Cambridge. It’s always been a dream of mine to open a restaurant. Oh well….this isn’t the time.

    So, long story short. If you happen upon this blog post and are wondering whether this restaurant is still open OR if it still serves gluten free sandwiches, call the restaurant first. But if they’re open and still serving them, run, fast, make a special trip. It’ll be worth your while, I promise you.

    And while you’re in the neighborhood, take a short ride over to Kickass Cupcakes, in Somerville, right next to Cambridge. They are a regular cupcake bakery, but also have gluten free cupcakes that are spectacular. We bought four of them – I don’t remember the names of the ones we bought. I just know they were delicious. We were kind of full from lunch, so we took them with us. Later in the afternoon, we stopped at Starbucks and grabbed a cup of coffee to drink with our cupcakes. Heaven, I tell you, heaven.

    There was another lunch option – it was called Hot Off The Press Cafe – they also have sandwiches with gluten free bread, also in Cambridge. They don’t really have a website, but if you click on the link, you can get their basic info. From what I read in reviews, this restaurant also sounds fabulous.

    Here’s the real irony. I live an hour from Cambridge. The woman who makes the bread for the sandwiches at Oxford Spa Cafe cooks for a private school in my town!!! I found out her name. Needless to say, I will try and find her. First I will tell her that she turned my gluten free ass around. Second I will ask her to please share the recipe with me. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t. But I can try, can’t I?

    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    Gina Perry March 16, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Oh boy, looks like I need to plan a day trip down to Cambridge/Somerville! That bread looks amazing… I used to live in Davis Square and Harvard Square. Part of me still misses the area a lot, and now I have another great reason to visit!

    Reply

    Ellen March 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Gina – make sure you call first – that way you’ll be sure they’re still serving gluten free sandwiches. And also you can ask them to put some of their gluten free bread aside for you. Same with the cupcakes. Good luck!

    Reply

    Shannon B. March 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Hey! I’m from Somerville (live about 6 houses down from Kickass Cupcakes!) Just the other day I struck up a conversation with the owner’s husband about the new Gluten Free cupcakes *the JUST started serving them*

    So, welcome to my hood!

    My Celiac friend loves B&G Oysters – the chef is amazingly talented at cooking for Celiacs!

    Reply

    Li loves David March 17, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Oh drool…I need to plan a trip north…

    Reply

    Allie March 18, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Ellen! Haven’t been on your site in a while, and I can’t believe I happened upon it today! Where you by any chance, reading glutenfreeforums.com? I just had a thread on there regarding the Oxford Spa, Kickass Cupcakes AND Hot off the Press.

    First of all — I LOVE Oxford Spa… its INSANELY GOOD. I only live about 20 minutes away – but I drive there OFTEN to get one of their AMAZING sandwiches on either onion or dill gluten free bread any chance I get.

    Every time I’m in there I ask the staff for the recipe, or the cook’s email, or I just beg them to sell me loaves of the bread — I’m sure you heard the same story I do, about how she doesn’t have time due to her full-time cooking duties — But the fact that they may open up a GF Bakery is AMAZING.

    I’m quite sad to learn that they may close Oxford Spa though… I will have to go SOON.

    If she does give you a recipe or agree to sell entire loaves please let me know – I would probably spend $20 for a loaf of that bread, no question.

    Also – glad to hear you liked Kickass Cupcakes – I had heard mixed reviews but was still planning on trying them out.

    same goes with Hot off the Press — but it’s hard to pass up Oxford Spa, which is why I never made it there…

    Great to see you’re doing well!
    Allie

    Reply

    Ellen March 18, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Hi Shannon,

    Man, I’d be in trouble if I lived that close to Kickass Cupcakes! I’d be there everyday!

    Reply

    Bill Banks March 21, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I’m about to book a flight to Boston. My friend in Cambridge will understand if we eat here every meal. My mouth literally watered when I saw that bread! Nice find, and thanks for the post…

    Reply

    Ellen March 21, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Li,

    If you come north, you must let me know!

    Allie – it’s been awhile – hope you’re well. Yes, I had seen the write up on one of the gluten free forums – I had done a search for gluten free restaurants in Cambridge and came up with the forum posting about the Oxford Spa and Hot Off The Press and Kickass Cupcakes! I’m so glad I found them!

    Bill – there are other options too, as referenced in the above comment I made. Also, there are other good restaurants in Boston – try Elephant Walk – they have a gluten free menu and everything is fabulous. Good luck!

    Reply

    Darren Osborne March 23, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Hi all,

    I have just launched a new GF Eating web site at http://www.gfeating.com

    Reply

    tracey May 14, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Thanks so much for all the info…my family and I are in Boston for a week on vacation. My three kids are wanting gluten-free Boston Creme donuts and we want a Boston Creme pie! The pictures of the sandwiches look incredible…my mouth watered, too!

    Reply

    Allie June 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    SAD NEWS ELLEN.

    Oxford Spa is no longer serving their amazing gluten free bread :(

    I just called (after reading rumors online) and confirmed it… they have come under new ownership, and the woman in Worcester who used to bake is no longer doing it any more.

    Did you ever find out who she was?? I would pay excellent money for her recipe (ha) – OR, she should really start a company & sell her wonderful bread. Please let me know if you ever found out any more about her.

    Thanks! Hope you’re well…. Allie

    Reply

    Ellen July 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Hi Allie,

    I’ve tried, but to no avail. Totally bummed. It was definitely the best GF bread I’ve ever eaten. Too bad…….

    Reply

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