Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gluten Free in Helen Georgia

Every-other year my family makes the short trip to Helen Georgia for their Oktoberfest celebration. It's always too short but we get plenty of good time in with each other. Obviously, one thing was different this year (I'm pregnant) so there would be no consumption of my favorite German beers. It would also be my first year in Helen eating gluten free.
Now, if you don't know anything about Helen or Oktoberfest, go here: It's basically a mini germantown with great food & shopping. It's kitschy, definitely a mountain town & our family loves it! We stay at the Hampton Inn on the square and walk everywhere! The Hampton is also a necessity for me as it has a mini-kitchen in each room. There's a sink, cabinets as well as a mini-fridge & freezer.
Being the OCD planner that I am, I googled "gluten free in Helen Georgia" as many different ways as I could. Nothing good. Not a thing. I started to get worried. I mean sure... going to a town who prides themselves on sausage, beer, pretzels, etc would be hard but surely I'm not the first person to go and have to eat gluten free? Apparently I'm the only one who's blogged about it. I did find one person's blog who said
he was riding through town on the way elsewhere & after stopping at several places just decided to keep going because people barely know what gluten was. So I'll do my best to describe where I ate and what made me sick :(
Day One:
It was the longest drive ever! I don't recommend driving to Helen in the dark or the rain. The mountains will get to you! But once we got there, we hugged the family, cleaned up & went to eat at a restaurant my Dad had called earlier that day: Nacoochee Grill.

The food was spectacular! For an appetizer I had the Steak House which was their take on caprese. I had been craving ribs and after inquiring, I was told they were safe for me to eat! I was so excited that I completely overlooked that they were chipotle ribs... and certain bites were definitely on fire! It came with a garden salad with honey balsamic dressing. They do something wonderful with their balsamic there. I should have asked what kind they use but it was delicious! We skipped dessert because my amazing mom had made the whole family gluten free cookies & snack mix which was back at the hotel (more on those recipes in another post!).
Now, I have to follow up and say that I spent a good bit of time in the early morning hours really sick. I dont know if the chef wasnt accurate about the ribs being safe or if it was the spiciness but either way, I wouldnt touch my leftover ribs the next day. So be cautious. There were plenty of other options that seems naturally gluten free so this isnt meant to deter you Nacoochee Grill. It was a great restaurant with great service!
Day Two:
We woke up just in time for the complimentary Hampton breakfast. What a disappointment. I'm usually pretty happy with the few selections I can eat from Hampton. The fruit looked gross, the meat was a turkey sausage that looked like it was half wheat & half strange mystery meat. Basically, it made sense to me why I never received an email response when I wrote to Hampton asking about gf items at breakfast. They don't even seem to care enough about breakfast for their normal eating customers much less special diet customers. Luckily I've been around the block a bit & brought plenty of safe foods with me. I took two of my Van's gf waffles from our room's freezer & popped them in the downstairs toaster. Now, obviously, I'm lucky to not have to worry about contamination so PLEASE hear me when I say that someone who's contamination sensitive shouldn't do that! I also ended up taking some peanut butter and syrup from the breakfast bar & slathering them on the waffles (I blame pregnancy for the overabundance of PB & syrup lately). When I got back int he room I ate a banana & one of the single serve goat yogurts I brought & stashed in the fridge.
For lunch, the family headed to The Troll Tavern.

Absolutely everything on the menu was fried or had chicken (which I'm also allergic to). I figured my safe bet was a bunless hamburger & fries. Turns out their fries are covered in a batter & spices so I opted for the Ruffles potato chips instead.
For dinner, we always spend Saturday night at the Festhalle.

It's the open air auditorium where the concession stands only sell various sausages & german potato salad & the beer (& beer nuts) are plentiful. We do lots of chicken dancing, german dancing & joining in the conga line of people dancing around the hall. It was Halloween weekend this time so it was especially festive with people in costumes. As I mentioned, the only thing they sell at the Festhalle is sausage. I was worried. But I have the best mom ever. She knows I get really self conscious about having to ask about my gluten intolerance so many times each day. It gets kinda exhausting on vacation doesn't it? So she took the initiative to ask the concession workers if they knew the brand names of the sausage they were offering. I have to say, the concession workers were awesome. They looked through ingredients & assured my mom that I could have the "white" bratwurst & their german potato salad. Make sure you dont get the beer brat as it obviously has beer in it :) The brat, sauerkraut & potato salad were awesome & I never got sick.
I also learned that my favorite beer nuts don't actually have any beer in them at all. It's mainly brown sugar, maple syrup & butter. I probably ate a whole bag of them myself.
The Festhalle was a little less fun because I wasnt drinking this time but I have to say, watching everyone else get drunk is sometimes enough entertainment. Well.. for an hour or so :)
Day three:
Unfortunately the weekend was over & we all had drives to make. We got a late checkout & went to eat breakfast together before heading home. We ate on the patio of the Helen Cafe. I got a ham & cheese omelet, home fries & bacon. Again, the baby made me get two meats that morning. For some reason I just HAD to have bacon :) It was good, not spectacular & we made our way home!
Feel free to email me if you are heading to Helen or have any questions!


  1. i am headed to helen this weekend. i have only been there once and it was before GF, so this will help me get started on finding safe places to eat. thank you.
    i also line dance now so this festhall looks like a blast!

  2. Muller's Famous Fried Cheese Café ONLY. Very knowledgeable, everything is prepared from scratch and they willingly adjust their ingredients for your safety.

  3. We've eaten at the Troll Tavern several times and they are very helpful with my gluten free needs. I usually just have a sandwich without the bread and they add an extra pickle or something. There are several other items there I can eat with modification. I should mention that my "innards" are not as sensitive as some folks' are and I can handle a little cross contamination as long as the food I'm eating doesn't have any gluten ingredients.