Please note that the name of this restaurant has changed to La Cueva Cafe. Same location, same owners, same ability to accommodate gluten free!
I will apologize now, I did not take any pictures of our wonderful food. Last week we drove up to Taos for the day with my in-laws and my mother-in-law brought a tour book with her. She was reading it as we traveled and she discovered that Rellenos Cafe could do gluten free and vegan food! Woo-hoo! Perfect for us! So it was our first stop to refuel before heading to the Pueblo and the plaza.
Rellenos Cafe is located at 135 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, right on a corner. But be careful because you can easily pass it by as you go up the hill traveling north on Paseo into the central part of town. It is in a fairly nondescript building on the right just before you pass the old traditional plaza and it says “Wheat Free and Gluten Free” in big yellow letters on the front window. It is a very small place that looks almost “dive-y” with only a couple of parking spaces in the asphalt lot out front. But be sure to go in, you’ll be happy you did.
Despite the looming possibility of a summer thunderstorm, we chose to sit out on the cute little patio surrounded by coyote fence and gardens beyond. Partly because it is very small inside the restaurant, we’re talking like 4 tables and they were mostly full, but also because it was still nice outside and we had been in the car for a couple of hours. The patio was a little loud at times with big trucks clambering up the hill on the main road just beyond but it wasn’t too bad. I’ll definitely chose to sit on the patio again.
Right off, I mentioned to the waiter that I required a gluten free meal and he said that it was no problem, he would help me out. And right after he got our drink order taken care of, he did just that. He was very familiar with the entire menu and what was safe and what was not. He even stated that they would make things in a separate pan for me, without being prompted. He answered all my questions to my satisfaction and I felt totally taken care of.
There are many options, but it is typical New Mexican food, just with a sophisticated twist. So there are tacos, enchiladas, tamales and even the namesake chile rellenos are a gluten free option as they don’t batter and deep fry theirs. For me it was toss-up between the Seafood Enchiladas in Chipotle Cream Sauce or their signature Chile Rellenos en Nogada (stuffed with beef, raisins and walnuts and served in a walnut-brandy cream sauce). I ended up choosing the Seafood Enchiladas, which were wonderful! (Remember, I eat meat, but my husband does not. And I typically will choose meat, especially seafood, when eating out since I don’t make it. I apologize to the hard-core vegetarians for discussing meat.)
My husband ordered the Cheese Chile Rellenos and I asked the waiter to make that dish gluten free as well (separate pan) so that I could taste them. Both dishes were delicious. Enchiladas are typically stacked (layered) here in New Mexico, instead of rolled, and these were no exception. They were filled with shrimp, lobster and crab meat and smothered in a wonderful chipotle cream sauce and cilantro. On the side was pico de gallo, rice and pinto beans. The pinto beans were perfectly cooked too, they were nice and firm and not at all mushy. No refried beans here! (Although I do like refried beans.) The beans were wonderful with the extra cream sauce. Also, both their red chile and green chile sauces are gluten free, which is rare, typically they are made with flour. Our server was kind enough to bring some additional chile out and I enjoyed some of the green chile on my beans also. Yum!
Just as we were finishing our meal, the sky finally opened up and we escaped into the restaurant to wait out the gully-washer of a storm. While waiting, my family ordered some sopaipillas, which are not gluten free. Apparently they were delicious too.
While we waited in the now empty restaurant, we talked to our friendly waiter. We asked why they decided to provide gluten free meals and he told us that the owner’s wife had discovered she had issues with gluten when she was trying to become pregnant. When she removed gluten from her diet, she finally became pregnant after a lot of trying. This is a common refrain among celiacs and those with gluten intolerance, even though the Ob/Gyn community still does not embrace it as a possibility despite the studies showing that it is common. (Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom recently posted about this very topic. While you’re there, be sure to watch the video of Alice Bast from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness discussing her infertility problems and her battle to get diagnosed with celiac disease.)
Back to the food. The entrees are reasonably priced. We were there for a late lunch but I believe the same menu is in effect for both lunch and dinner. Full entrees ranged between $7-$13. So, if you happen to be visiting Taos, be sure to stop by Rellenos Cafe. I know we’ll be back!