• Rein’s Deli has a gluten free menu and it rocks!

    About a week ago, my husband and I dined at Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT, just off Rt. 84. If you read my blog, you know that, for the most part, I’m leaning towards not eating meat (or flesh of any sort). But I do make exceptions, especially when traveling, as I find it enormously challenging to find safe, gluten free dining options. This was one of those cases. If I’m going to eat meat, this is the kind of restaurant I want to patronize. In my 4 1/2 years of eating gluten free on the road, this was, hands down, the best experience I’ve had. Check out their gluten free menu.

    Soon after being seated, I learned that the management made a very wise choice by bringing in Rick Fask of Good Life Foods (gflifefoods AT aol DOT com). A gluten free restaurant consultant, Rick worked with the boss, the cooks, and the waitstaff, bringing them fully up to speed on everything from:

    • creating a separate gluten free prep station with clear signage

    • creating a separate gluten free serving station with clear signage

    • using green cutting boards and utensils with green handles for prepping all gluten free food

    • using a separate, dedicated toaster for the gluten free bread products

    • making sure all of the foods served from the gluten free menu are gluten free

    • wearing gloves while prepping the gluten free food

    • teaching the staff about the dangers of cross contamination

    • teaching the staff to serve the gluten free food on green trays to distinguish it from the non-gf food

    • making sure condiments for gluten free meals (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise) are served in small, disposable single serving cups with lids. Why is this important? It’s not uncommon for non-GF diners to open the ketchup and mustard bottles that sit on each table and dip their knives in to extract the condiments – instant contamination!

    • providing a gluten free instruction manual

    How do I know all of this? I spoke with the night manager and had the good fortune to speak with Rick as well. I was floored by the amount of training that the management had Rick do with them and the cooks and the waitstaff. Mr. Fask left no stone unturned.

    Shortly before leaving, the night manager, who had seen me furiously snapping away with my Nikon, asked if I wanted to take pictures of the prep area. I happily agreed. This is a restaurant that takes gluten free seriously AND listens to its’ customers. I’ve been to plenty of restaurants that claim to have gluten free menus or serve gluten free food, but clearly have no idea of how to do it safely and well, or even how vitally important it is to do so. Any restaurant that steps up to the plate and serves gluten free food would do well to follow in Rein’s footsteps, as well as to hire Rick Fask to make the transition safe and seamless.

    clear gluten free signage for prep area

    green gluten free cutting boards in prep area

    well-positioned instructions for prepping and serving gluten free foods

    separate area for servers to pick up cooked gluten free food – notice the green bordered shelving and the signage

    We started with an appetizer of herring in cream sauce, accompanied by a toasted gluten free bagel. If there was any flaw in the evening, it was with the bagel. It was ok, though a bit small to our liking. From a bread standpoint, the homerun was truly with the ryeless rye which we all had our sandwiches on.

    I had a turkey sandwich. I think it might’ve been the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Let me start with the ryeless rye. Words aren’t sufficient. Not kidding. It was perfect – the size, the taste, the texture, fantastic. And the turkey was moist and tasty and out of this world delicious. The pickles: Peter Piper couldn’t have picked a peck of better pickles.

    My mom, may she rest in peace, ordered Dr. Brown’s cream soda whenever she could! Though I’m not a huge soda drinker, I had to order a Dr. Brown’s black cherry, just to honor my mother’s memory.

    My husband had his favorite – pastrami and swiss cheese on toasted ryeless rye with potato salad and potato chips (he was hungry!). He loved it. Our dinner companion had a Reuben – corned beef and swiss cheese on toasted ryeless rye. We all shared a Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Cookie Sundae (sorry, no pictures, for some reason the dessert pictures didn’t come out well). The cookie could’ve stood on its’ own – it was delicious. But it didn’t hurt to have it smothered in ice cream and U-Bet’s chocolate sauce. The ginger cookie was equally delicious.

    We all had potato salad and coleslaw. I’m not a lover of potato salad, but my dining companions thought it was superb. As for the coleslaw, I am a coleslaw snob. This was perfect coleslaw. And it SO complemented my turkey sandwich.

    I loved my sandwich but couldn’t finish it (I wanted to save room for dessert), so they gave me a doggie bag. Check it out – Rein’s gives the customer the plastic bag in which he/she can insert her leftovers and also gives the customer a gluten-free labeled doggie bag. Brilliant.

    In terms of the food choices, the only advice I would give Rein’s is to add a separate fryer for making gluten free french fries, get some sort of panini sandwich maker that would allow fully grilled sandwiches to be made, especially for the Reuben which, while delicious, would’ve benefited by having been grilled so that the bread would be sufficiently greasy and crisp, and to add some vegetarian non-dairy sandwich options. I would’ve loved a tofu eggless salad sandwich – they could easily make tofu eggless salad by combining mashed tofu with vegan mayo and diced celery. Or a Tempeh Reuben which would be a cinch for them to make. Check out the post on my blog about Tempeh Reubens – the marinade is from Heidi at 101 cookbooks blog fame. But these few suggestions, while they would add a few more points to their score, will not keep me from patronizing this restaurant again. I loved it! And anyway, how can you not like a restaurant that tries to buy locally made products? Their spices are purchased from The Spice Mill, a merchant in a neighboring town that makes and packages gluten free spices. And their ice cream comes from a local dairy called Shady Glen. Back in the late 70’s, when I taught music in Manchester, CT, Shady Glen was THE place to have lunch.

    Rein’s – you done good!
    • Ben and Carrie Tracks

      Wow! What a find!….now I just have to drive across the country and eat there :) Thanks for sharing, slowly but surely the restaurant community seems to be making some great strides in the gluten free direction -and food allergies in general – glad to have come across your blog and excited to follow!

    • Amy

      I am so happy to know they have a gluten free menu. We live in the area and used to eat there, but haven't since becoming gluten free. I can't wait to tell my husband. I will have to find out if the bread is dairy free though for my son. Thank you for the review!

    • Stephanie

      I am SO excited!!!! My husband's family lives in CT, and it's tradition to go to Rein's on trips there. I used to eat their Veggie Reuben, but can't since discovering a wheat allergy/intolerance (non-celiac).
      My go-to since has been the big bowl of borscht, but I am so excited to get to have a sandwich and a bagel again!
      Thank you!

    • jill elise

      Oh, what? I live like, 10 minutes from there and didn't know it existed (although I've only been here a few months), I will def be heading over there soon!! Thanks!! And next time you're around, drop me an email I'll meet you there!

    • Catie

      wow! that is amazing. i wish it was closer to where i am.

      is there a list of places that Rick Fask has consulted? perhaps he's done a place or two up in my area…

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Ben and Carrie – come on over to our side of the country! We'd welcome you with open arms!

      Amy – I would suggest asking the restaurant manager – they will know, for sure.

      Stephanie – Veggie Reuben – yum! I'll have to suggest that to them. I usually make a Reuben with marinated, grilled tempeh strips and the rest of the usual reuben fixins'. I'll make that suggestion to them. It would be an easy addition – all they'd need to do is make the tempeh.

      Jill – Definitely – we should meet there! I'll be in touch about getting together a group of GF bloggers from New England.

      Catie – yes, amazing, it is.

    • Nina

      Thanks for the tip Ellen. Do you know who makes that rye-free rye bread for them?

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Yes. Rick Fask (the consultant I spoke of in my post) makes it. He's an expert – the bread is delicious!

    • Cheriss

      That's impressive! I wonder if I'll ever get far enough to the East of the US to be able to try it!

    • Johanna Draper

      Wow, now I want to live in CT!

      Gf is really hard to do sometimes, it's hidden in so many different things. It would be fantastic to have a restaurant around that had a gluten free menu.

    • Stephanie

      I just looked at the G-F menu, and it seems they don't have grilled sandwiches on it at all. Perhaps they haven't found the space?
      The regular menu has a Veggie Reuben, but the G-F menu doesn't have any of the reubens at all…

      Have to say I haven't been able to make myself like tempeh, so I hope they keep their own recipe, but make it G-F :)

    • Stephanie

      We were driving through Vernon last week, and stopped in to get me a snack! The bagels are decent, but rather sweet for an "everything" bagel (and no onion, salt or garlic…certainly not "everything"). The Lemon Blueberry muffin, however, was very very good!

      Next time, a sandwich so I can try Rick's g-f rye.

      Thanks again for the word on Rein's!

    • I Am Gluten Free

      You're welcome Stephanie! Glad you liked the muffin. Wait till you taste the GF rye on a sandwich!

    • Anonymous


      Thanks for your blog about Rein's Deli. I started going to Rein's about 25 years ago while in high school. The food was good then and even better now. I've always lived in the area and have eaten there a million times over the years. Although I'm not gluten sensitive, I wouldn't mind checking out their menu.

      Rein's is an exceptional deli. I'd go as far to say: one of the best delis in the United States. The food quality is excellent, fast, clean, always well-screened staff (and you'll see a lot of employees behind the counter working furiously), and delicious. I've never had a bad experience there!

    • The new couple in town

      Hey there thanks for the grat review , I am new to manchester and I have a blog with pro's and con's to manchester and towns in the area .I am going to mention your blogs in my next food post , can we link to each other

    • Jackie

      Thank you so much for this comprehensive, positive Review. I have lived near Rein's Deli for years, but I would NEVER have thought to go there now that I live GF. Today my mother and I will enjoy a great, worry-free lunch. Thanks again. I'm just thrilled to see a local restaurant truly making their facility a safe place for the GF population!

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