Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Restaurant Review: Backcountry Brewery, Frisco, CO

On Sunday this past weekend, my buddy, Josh, and I completed a long, strenuous ski traverse over Colorado's Mosquito Mountains. (If interested, you'll be able to read all about it in an upcoming issue of Off Piste Magazine...) Tired and hungry, we stopped in Frisco in Summit County to eat dinner at the Backcountry Brewery, a popular local watering hole. I've eaten there for years...long before I was diagnosed and went gluten-free. I've also eaten there a handful of times since, and it always involves careful negotiation of a menu riddled with possible gluten pitfalls.

Brewpubs like Backcountry, I find, are generally difficult to eat in if you're gluten-free. Or at the very least, your menu options are likely to be more limited than they might otherwise be. That's due to a number of reasons. For one, brewpubs typically have a shared deep fryer that cross contaminates what would otherwise be a gluten-free food (like a french fry). For another, the brewpub understandably wants to showcase its brews in its food (such as adding a certain beer to a BBQ sauce, thus rendering the sauce gluten-ous, or making a side dish like rice with a red ale, to the same effect).

Of course, eating safely in such places can be done (usually), even if your menu choices are heavily restricted. On this particular night, despite the fact that I've eaten there before ordering off the standard menu, I asked if - by chance - they had a gluten-free menu. (Who knows, sometimes restaurants get up to speed and surprise me!) Indeed, to my surprise the host replied "yes." He returned to our seats at the bar a few moments later with the GF menu. And that's when the disappointment set in.

The "gluten-free menu" was a very rudimentary menu printed out as a text document on 8.5x11 computer paper. In fact, it was technically a "gluten menu," since it listed those menu items that contained gluten, rather than those that didn't. The list was only 7 or 8 items long, which I knew wasn't correct. It should have been twice that long or more...easily. In comparing the gluten menu to the standard menu, I immediately noticed many obvious omissions (such as a fish dish served with wheat flour tortillas). The specialty menu also didn't acknowledge cross-contamination concerns with the deep fryer (such as french fries that would have been prepared in the same oil as multiple gluten-containing appetizers). Worst of all was the real kicker: the final line of the specialty gluten(free) menu read, and I quote word for word, "And anything else with gluten that I can't think of right now."

A statement like that is nothing short of deplorable. Either make the commitment to develop an accurate, updated GF menu for guests, or don't. This wishy washy middle ground is a dangerous thing. Sure, experienced GF diners will know what questions to ask and where the danger zones are in restaurant dining. But for a GF newbie venturing out to eat for perhaps the first time, a GF menu like that at the Backcountry Brewery instills a false and misplaced sense of confidence, and obviously contains egregious errors and misinformation to the detriment of the GF diner.

As for the food itself, I've always rated it as mediocre, and am often disappointed despite hopeful expectations.

If you're in Colorado's Summit County (or thereabouts) and are looking for tasty, safe gluten-free eats, you have other options: Mi Casa in Breckenridge nearby, Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs to the east, and Larkburger in Edwards to the west, to name but three options.

The final verdict: After a day spent in the real backcountry, I'll pass on Backcountry and satisfy my hunger elsewhere.

- Pete


Gluten Free Steve said...

Pete - sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. But through your travels and journeys, you bring some good humor to us all. I mean, how can you not laugh at "And anything else with gluten that I can't think of right now." They don't deserve our dollars!

peterbronski said...

Hey Steve! Yeah, not the best experience, but I've come to expect it at Backcountry. Problem is...it's so easy to stop there right off I-70 when coming down from the High Country. Had you tried the Dillon Dam Brewery? I'm headed there next... haven't been since well before I went GF. Talk to you soon!

Cheers, Pete

camper said...

Hey Pete- I hit the Dillon Dam this last August. I had a bunless burger and a side of fruit in lieu of cross contamination fries.
I had a great breakfast at at Kula's Cafe in Dillon. (Can't find a website but check them out at 119 La Bonte St Suite 208 Dillion, CO 970.513.8336... they take call in's too if you happen to be traveling on I-70) It was the first time I had french toast in a year!
I haven't hit the Backcountry Brewery since being GF and wasn't impressed then. Thanks for sharing~

peterbronski said...

Hi Kate... Thanks for the tip with Kula's! I gave them a call and she rattled off a long list of GF options. I'm definitely stopping in the next time I'm in Summit County. And if you're interested, here's their website: http://www.summithotyoga.com/home/kulas.php

Cheers, Pete

gfe--gluten free easily said...

We ate at a pub just recently. No gluten-free menu, but there were a few options and they were happy to work with me. In the end, I had a very nice, safe meal of London Broil with mashed potatoes.

That statement on that menu was deplorable. Only someone who does not have a food intolerance would write such a statement. Hope they wake up and do better!

Anonymous said...

Pete, If only you had walked up Frisco's Main Street about 3 doors... Peppino's has GF pizza (and its terrific). My daughter is super sensitive to gluten and has never had a problem there.
Next time.

peterbronski said...

Hey Anonymous... Next time indeed! Thanks for the tip. I'm in Summit County often, so Peppino's will be on my list next time I'm in Frisco!

Cheers, Pete

gluten free colorado girl said...

Thanks for the info. I'm in Summit County almost every weekend. Thanks for the warning about Backcountry Brewery. I won't be going there. Glad to hear about Peppino's. I used to love their pizza before having to be GF. Kula's is GREAT but they are only open to 2 or 3. Their "treat" menu always changes and has included amazing chocolate cake, cheesecake, brownies, cookies and banana bread.

peterbronski said...

Hi GF Colorado Girl... Glad to help out with some Summit County info! Keep an eye out in the near future for a Small Town GF Guide post to Summit County. I've definitely hit critical mass to do a post on the topic!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I live in Breck but was going to Frisco for work tonight and looking for a place. Will definitely avoid backcountry brewery

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