Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gluten Free at the Great Wolf Lodge

My son asked to go to the Great Wolf Lodge for his birthday. For those of you who haven't been, the GWL is a hotel with an indoor water park and an interactive game called Magic Quest, which sends the kids running all over the hotel with magic wands to complete activities. You must stay at the hotel to enter the water park. There are several locations throughout the U.S. We went to the one in Grapevine, Texas in the north Dallas area.
Most people staying at the GWL never leave the hotel, which means that you are pretty much trapped into eating their food. There are restaurants outside the GWL, but you do have to drive to them, and good luck convincing your kids to put down their magic wands.
The main restaurants at the GWL are the Loose Moose Cottage and the Camp Critter restaurant. At both, the chef will come out and discuss what accommodations can be made for Celiacs. I only ate at the Loose Moose, a buffet-only restaurant. Camp Critter is a full-service sit-down restaurant. You will need to avoid the snack bar in the water park and, obviously, the Pizza Hut inside the Lodge.
The Bear Paw Sweets & Eats is a candy/ice cream place. There are a few snacks available there to satisfy a sweet tooth, but the woman at the counter had no information. She couldn't even tell me the ingredients in their homemade fudge. They had a dairy-free, nut-free candy bar for sale that did not have any gluten ingredients, but it did not say gluten-free on the wrapper.
I ate two meals at the Loose Moose Cottage (and just let me say that "loose" is not a word that Celiacs want to hear!) At both meals I had the chef come out and walk me through the buffet, which they were happy to do. I was able to have a satisfying meal for both breakfast and dinner.
At breakfast I had scrambled eggs with ham and cheese. They also had an omelette station. Both the bacon and sausage were gluten-free. I also had fruit and yogurt. The food was tasty, and I felt good about the experience. One thing to keep in mind if you are also Dairy-free, I was talking to a server and he mentioned his own pet-peeve: the restaurant does not have soy milk available.
Dinner was slightly less satisfying. I did find food to eat, but they were having a theme night with "Mexican and BBQ," both usually safe choices for a Celiac. Unfortunately, all the Mexican food contained either flour or chicken broth, and the chef confirmed that their chicken broth is NOT gluten free. So no rice, no tacos, no enchiladas. The BBQ sauce contained soy sauce, so the brisket was out of the question as well. Fortunately, they have a roast beef carving station, and the meat was ok, but I am soooo tired of having plain beef/steak with nothing on it everywhere I go. There was no au jus, just gravy (not GF). I tried both the roasted potatoes and the potato salad, and the potato salad was the clear winner. I went back for seconds of just the potato salad. Yum! For a veggie, I had green beans with almond slivers.
There was also a salad bar, which the chef pointed out as "safe," but I was leery. Too many croutons, too close to the food. It made me nervous. It was even worse over at the kids salad/fruit bar, where the kids had clearly been sloppy dishing out their food. All in all, the food was good and I was glad to have a safe meal, but it was kind of a bummer to be at a Mexican and BBQ theme meal and not get any Mexican food or BBQ.
One nice thing about the GWL is that all the rooms have a fridge and microwave, so bringing in your own food is fairly easy. Also, there is a Starbucks in the Lodge. When I was there, they did not have any GF options (other than coffee). Their bags of nuts were manufactured in a facility with wheat and they did not have any of the new GF offerings that Starbucks has announced, such as Kind bar, so no snacks to go with your coffee. Hopefully this will change as Starbucks rolls out their new products. I was also disappointed that the front desk did not have ANY info regarding Gluten Intolerance, other than to say "talk to the chef." It would be a big help if they were to offer a list of GF snacks available in the various Lodge shops. We were only at the Great Wolf Lodge for one night, so the available food met our needs. However, if we had been there multiple nights, we would have had to venture out of the Lodge and find food in Grapevine.
In short, the vacation was a success, but not a Home Run. As a competitor to Disney, they fell short of the mark; but compared to other (normal) restaurants and hotels, they were great. And most importantly, nobody poked an eye out running around with those magic wands.


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