Culinarily, I sustained myself primarily with apples, reconstituted powdered peanut butter (surprisingly good!) and the Kinnikinnick sandwich bread I reviewed earlier in the week. The family had messy pizza on the boardwalk. For Corley's big birthday lunch, however, we wanted to find a place that would accommodate all of us.
We picked the Rain Forest Cafe on the boardwalk. It's a theme restaurant with animals that spring to life every 15 minutes and has a passing thunder shower every half hour. Perfect for the younger set! It was listed in Find Me Gluten Free, so I had some hope that we'd be able to craft a palatable meal for me. Upon my announcement of needed a gluten-free dining experience, we were greeted by the chef, who told me to check out the regular menu (they don't have a gf-specific menu) and then he would come talk to me about what he could build to meet my needs and tastes.
The menu is not very vegetarian friendly, which posed a bit of a challenge. I suspect that the chef usually does a gluten-free request by preparing a meaty protein source in a clean pan, with maybe a house salad. The menu contained enough Mexican-y sorts of offerings including tri-color tortilla chips and a black bean-corn salsa thing that I thought I could create an appetizing taco salad sort of thing. In consult with the chef, I learned that their chips aren't gluten-free, and the black bean corn salsa thing was neither vegetarian or gluten-free. I ended up ordering a salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, chopped egg, and unseasoned canned black beans with an underacheiving pico de gallo for a dressing. Not thrilling, but healthy enough, and safely prepared.
We had ordered the Chocolate Volcano birthday dessert for Corley. Fabulous for him (and Jenn and Scott), but inedible for me. I was a little dissappointed that the server didn't attempt to offer me something else. Instead, he brought four plates for us to share the dessert, conveying to me either a complete lack of understanding of the gluten issue, or that he might not have been paying that much attention. I eventually flagged him down for a cup of decaf. It was a total missed opportunity for him to increase the somewhat substantial check. What was nice was that I was only charged $4.49 for my salad -- practically free compared to their other salads. I can handle a less-than-thrilling lunch if I don't have to pay an arm and a leg for it!
My advice for any mid-priced Italian or Mexican restaurant in Atlantic City is to develop a decent gluten-free menu and get the word out about it. There is such a huge opportunity there to serve our community. Whoever leads will be a big winner.
All in all, the trip was terrific. As much as my meal was forgetable, the real memories were in the fun we had as a family and the absolute joy Corley took from this birthday jaunt.
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