If you’re ever in New York City, make sure to take a trip to the little Manhattan neighborhood north of Houston Street known as NoHo. Tucked away on Lafayette in between 4th Street and Astor Place is Colors, a 100% gluten-free restaurant.
This is the gluten-free foodie’s dream come true: a night out enjoying a wonderful meal with friends and family without having to worry about cross-contamination or limited gluten-free options on the menu. Eating at Colors is like being at a gluten-free party that was especially thrown for you.
In fact, I found out about Colors from my brother, John, who has Celiac disease and who had gone to a Christmas party that was being hosted there. He had no idea that the restaurant was completely gluten-free. When he first looked at the menu and saw food options like “pork and bacon meatballs,” he was afraid he would not be able to eat any of the food. But the bartender assured him there wasn’t a trace of wheat in the entire kitchen.
Of course, John told me that I needed to visit Colors too, so we went on a quiet Friday evening this January. The decor is elegantly modern with a hip, relaxed ambience.
The story behind Colors is quite intriguing. Colors is a non-profit restaurant owned by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United. ROC was formed shortly after 9/11 to help restaurant workers who had worked at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center and were displaced by the tragedy.
ROC-NY established the Colors Hospitality Opportunities for Workers (C.H.O.W.) Institute to provide their members with free professional development classes. The classes are held at Colors during the daytime, and all servers are graduates of the program. Colors prides itself in paying all of their workers a sustainable, living wage. I was quite impressed by how warm, friendly, and attentive all of the servers were when I dined there.
The 100% gluten-free menu was introduced in 2014, though I do need to note that the bar, along with its selection of gluten-free beers, does offer several decidedly not gluten-free ales. However, aside from that, everything is safe for the gluten-free diner.
The menu changes often, depending on what food is in season. All of the food is locally sourced, and the chef Aaron Stein uses only non-GMO products. When I visited, there were six appetizers and six entrees to choose from (including vegetarian options) as well as several very tantalizing sounding desserts. As we scanned the menu, the server brought us a small bowl of complimentary potato chips to munch on.
My brother and I first ordered an appetizer. We had a difficult time choosing between the crispy chicken wings, bacon chowder, and pork and bacon meatballs, but we finally settled on the meatballs. Covered in a tomato puttanesca sauce, they were so savory that we ate them up before remembering to take a picture. Meatballs are usually off limits when dining out because they are made with bread crumbs. Colors proves that tasty meatballs can be made sans wheat.
For an entree, I decided to try their signature dish, the boneless Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Pommes Puree.
I asked the secret behind this tender chicken beautifully flavored with spiced honey. Several different gluten-free flours are mixed together to achieve a mouthwatering, moist, crispy crust.
My brother ordered the Roasted Pork Tenderloin Cassoulet with Cannellini Beans, Bacon, and Sausage. He let me take a small bite. It was as delicious as it looks.
For dessert, we shared the Strawberry Shortbread Ice Cream. The experience of being able to eat shortbread at a restaurant with no worries was absolutely worth it. Also, I now have a craving for shortbread and may have to try to recreate this recipe at home.
Colors has recently started offering a Sunday brunch that boasts such tempting food items as banana pancakes, French crepes, and eggs Benedict. I think I could get used to this.
All told, it was a delicious, satisfying meal. I definitely recommend Colors to my gluten-free friends who live in the City or will be visiting soon, and I hope to return again soon so that I can try more of the food on the menu. I hope more restaurants will follow Color’s example of serving up locally sourced, non GMO, gluten-free food!
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