Monday, May 6, 2013

Urban Crave in Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)

Airport Eating - Gluten-Free

Airports are notoriously difficult places to find gluten-free food.

Between the fast food, fried food, bar food, and prepackaged food, you have no idea where that food has been, what else was in the fryer oil, what has been mixed with it, or what other ingredients are included.

Better to avoid it all.

But you can't.

You can't because domestic flights rarely (if ever?) offer special, gluten-free meals nowadays. You can't because you can't pack all of your own safe foods, with an ice pack, through security. You can't because no one can (or should) live off of gluten-free snack bars when they travel.

You need options. You need to know where you can find safe, gluten-free food while traveling.

I am always on the lookout for safe places to eat. I guess it helps that I often find myself stuck in airports and airplanes for ten, twelve, even fourteen hours in a single day. That is certainly enough time to get hungry.

Really hungry.

Really hungry for real food.

If you find yourself anywhere near Gate C33 in the Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), you now have another option for finding gluten-free food.

Urban Crave on Urbanspoon

Urban Crave

IAH is a huge airport, and I have been finding safe places to eat (like Pappadeaux's) there, but if my next flight doesn't land me at a gate near one of these places, I usually don't have enough time to get all the way across the airport and back to my departure gate for my connection.

More options. Need more options.

This time, I found Urban Crave close to my departure gate. It was worth a look.

The location is tiny. A bar and handful of tables. At best.

The menu is brief. At best.

Street food. Dogs. Burgers. Tacos. Wraps.

None of that looked especially promising. Too many variables where gluten might lurk. I want and need safe food, but I don't want to have to play 20 Questions with the server.

Then I saw the salad listed. Baby Greens. Blue cheese. Avocado. Balsamic vinaigrette. Now we're talking! But the dressing is often the killer. I would have to ask about the salad dressing.

I found a spot at the bar. Ordered my beverage. Scrutinized the menu. Then I started asking my server questions.

"Does it come with croutons? No croutons, please. I can't have them."

"No problem, they don't come with that salad." Good so far.

"Do you make your own balsamic dressing?"

"Ah, I don't think so."

"Is it pre-made? I can't have any gluten. So, if there is a label, it would be very helpful to look at it."

I'm trying to keep the guy from getting on the defensive, if it does come from a jar. I'm just after information. I'm not here to berate them about using ready-made salad dressings.

"It's from a jar."

"Any chance there's a label on that jar? I could see if it will be safe for me."

"Um, sure." Excellent. I could now read the label for myself.

My server promptly came back from the kitchen (all of five steps way) with an industrial-sized jar of dressing. He put the jar in front of me and turned to his other duties.

Industrial-sized, as in, a one gallon jar of salad dressing. Yeah, big. And it had a label. And I started reading.

I read it twice. Balsamic vinaigrette with no gluten ingredients! Success!

Yes, this is what I would have. And here is what came out of the kitchen for me.

I love my salads, but I especially love them when they look like this! Beautiful!

Outstanding! Everything was extremely fresh. Crisp. Green. Flavorful. And plentiful!

This was definitely some of the best airport food I have ever had.

The service was good, the prices as expected in an airport, but the quality and quantity of food was far better than average airport fare.

The location is physically small, and by the time I was finishing, the place was crowded, every chair and stool filled and people standing holding their drinks. If you are lucky enough to see a place to sit, grab it. You might not get another chance.

I certainly have never seen a salad like this served off of a food cart in downtown Los Angeles (aka "street food"), but I'm not complaining in the slightest. This was outstanding and a great find.

Now, if we could all just imagine that all street food was this good....

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