Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gluten free Celiac at Miguel's Cocina

In the world of California teens, one food is king, and I'm not talking about burgers. Beyond the pizza and pop tarts, even beyond the ice cream, stands the California burrito: a typical steak, avocado and salsa burrito transformed by the addition of French fries. And, even though I'm a California transplant, my taste buds fell hard.

Until celiac, anyway. In fact, once celiac entered the picture, Mexican food as a whole faded out of the frame. Too spicy for my wounded intestines to handle. Too risky, gluten hiding in flour thickening in the beans or cross-frying of the chips. Too…terrifying.

Heaven and hell in a tortilla! (Source)
And yet, I craved Mexican. I dreamed of drowning in chips and queso, tacos, salsa…the whole enchilada, pun intended. Finally, only a few weeks after my one year celiac anniversary, I faced my fears and dined out with the family at Miguel's Cocina. And while I didn't get the chips, my dinner kicked every other craving all the way across the border.

Miguel's Cocina is a chain restaurant peppered throughout California, but my family loves the Coronado location. It's easy to understand why by just looking: Miguel's offers inside and outside seating, but it is all decorated in a casual, Island-like theme. Even better than the cozy corner table we set up in? The smell of fresh tortillas, shredded chicken and melted cheese soaking the air.

Home to great Mexican! (Source)
Like always, I looked up the gluten free stats before even walking in the door and knew that they offered a gluten free menu and that the chips were iffy (safe at some locations, contaminated at others).  And, like always, I immediately gave the waiter my abbreviated celiac autobiography. When he knew the definition of "gluten," I felt safe right away!

Even more, he thanked me for telling him so quickly into the meal, and said that the chips were fried in a shared fryer and therefore contaminated, but the red sauce was gluten free. Mom and I set aside one bowl of the sauce for my main dish while the rest of the clan dug into the chips. Next time, I'm smuggling Tostitos in my purse so I won't be drinking drool before my main meal arrives!

As for the rest of my meal, I loved all the options! Miguel's has gluten free menu available on request with starters, salads, and various other specials. I was tempted by the chicken fajitas with veggies, guacamole and corn tortillas, but I ended up choosing the swordfish tacos. I'm a sucker for fish!

Their "Wheat Free" Menu
They're served with red cabbage, shredded cheese and salsa fresca in two warm corn tortillas with a choice of black or refried beans. Because of the chance for contamination, though, Miguel's recommends the black beans for all gluten-free eaters and doesn't offer rice. Totally fine with me! I also added avocado on my tacos for an extra boost!

When they arrived, I could hardly pick my tongue off the table. The serving was HUGE, totally making up for my lack of nachos. And then I tasted it…and the California burrito was left in the dust.

My huge dinner portion!
I'd never eaten swordfish before, but this fish made me a believer. It didn't taste overly fishy, and I loved that it was packed with flavor without being spicy. The cabbage, lettuce and salsa added a great crunch to the taco and I loved the creaminess from the cheese and avocado. As crazy as it sounds, though, the tortillas made the dish. I wasn't expecting much, thinking of the corn tortillas abandoned in the back of my fridge. Honestly, I almost asked them to check the kitchen because it reminded me so much of a flour tortilla! Soft, no corn aftertaste - even fold-able! With the gluten free salsa dripped over the top, my taste buds threw a fiesta!

And then came the beans. As great as the fish tacos were by themselves, the black beans acted as a great palate cleanser. The black beans had a deep, almost smokey flavor accented by the cheese sprinkled on top. Between the tacos and the beans, I didn't miss rice at all. After devouring one taco and half my beans, I doubt I would've had room anyway! To make the meal even better, though, when I scarfed down my leftovers the next day, they tasted just as fresh and delicious!

Just as good, day two!
My mom, who also follows a gluten free diet, equally adored her GF meal. She first ordered a pork taco and cheese enchilada combo topped with house salsa and beans. Our extremely watchful waiter returned a few minutes after taking our orders, though, and shared that the pork seasoning was iffy in terms of gluten, so she changed to chicken. She had no complaints, devouring half of her meal at the restaurant and half two days later. According to her, everything tasted great both times! Unfortunately, I was too busy stuffing my own face to shoot a picture of her meal!

When I was diagnosed, I accepted that California burritos and their Mexican brethren were a thing of my past. I can't say how happy I am that Miguel's Cocina has proved me wrong! In the days following our family dinner, I ranted about how great my tummy felt after the tacos as much as their actual taste!

And my tummy does too!
The fact is, celiac disease (or any food allergy) can transform restaurants and international cuisine into a terrifying, intestinal time-bomb. Sometimes, though, the (weighed) risks are worth it. Especially when some lip-smackin' good Mexican food is on the line.


*For more pictures of my daily eats, check out my Instagram!*


How has celiac disease/food intolerance changed your dining out experience? What is your latest restaurant success story? Comment below!

6 comments:

  1. I'm so glad to read about your positive experience! Normally, my family and friends eat places where I can dine. (I'm a little tricky, even most places where I can eat the menu is highly limited from allergies, not celiac). BUT, sometimes, I just want to tag along (even though I know I won't be able to eat), and in those cases I gladly pack my own food. Sometimes I'll call ahead, and I'm sure to order a drink or something small, some places have a plate fee if you need a plate. (I usually bring my own). All that aside, you can probably tell them you have the chips, instead of smuggling them in! (I've never ran into any aggression).

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    1. Yep, my friends and family are very accomodating too, which definitely helps! And packing your own food is a definite secret weapon, just in case everyone really wants that old-style Italian place! :)

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  2. I LOVE Miguels! I totally didn't know that they did gluten free though! I went there for Kelsey's birthday and just ordered a side salad minus the croutons while I drooled over everyone else's delicious food :( wish we had them in AZ! BRB, on a quest to make a GF cali burrito!

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    1. When you visit PLNU, you'll definitely gonna come with me and chow down at Miguel's! Fiesta! :D And a GF cali burrito…don't get my hopes up! ;) YUM!

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  3. UHM, I'M REALLY JEALOUS! SO I'M TYPING IN CAPS, BECAUSE IT ALL LOOKS SO FREAKIN' TASTY and I have NOT had mexican food out to eat, SINCE my diagnosis (over two years now..) Mexican food is too risky, especially authentic places that don't even know what gluten is. THIS gives me hope though that maybe I can find a place one day, but i'll smuggle in my own cheese :)

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    1. I wish you luck on finding a safe Mexican food joint near you (or learning how to cook better than a restaurant anyway!) And smuggling is always a good idea! :D

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