Introducing the Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurant Series
I’m excited to introduce our new feature: the Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurant series. Each month I will spotlight a local eatery/restaurant that is accessible to those living gluten-free. I want to connect you with eateries that do gluten-free the right way. The debut feature is Petit Poutinerie owned by Ronnie McClive and Lizzie Clapp. You may know of Petit Poutinerie through their prolifically popular food truck that has been a gold standard in Rochester’s food truck scene for over ten years. Lizzie and Ronnie had a hand in building legislation and advocacy for food trucks in Rochester and they have built a formidable brand and now a brick-and-mortar restaurant. They are all-around bad-a** women in business and are committed to equity, quality, and accessibility
A Poutine Origin
Ronnie McClive met Liz Clapp in college after attending SUNY Brockport. Liz founded and operated the food truck Le Petit Poutine as a solo venture back in 2011/2012. Liz was inspired to start the truck and bring poutine to Rochester after many visits to Canada with her father who is French Canadian. Ronnie knew Liz from college and worked as a fill-in and supporter. Working well together Liz eventually asked her to join the business full-time as a co-owner and the rest as they say is history. They compliment each other well as friends and co-owners; playing off each other’s natural strengths and abilities. This mutual respect and camaraderie is apparent and well encapsulated throughout the fabric of Petit Poutinerie as a business and brand. Contrary to popular belief women can and do get along very well with each other in business. Ronnie and Liz were instrumental in getting early food truck laws established through advocacy and awareness efforts, one truck became two and after about a decade in business they have opened up their first brick-and-mortar fast-casual restaurant; Petit Poutinerie at 44 Elton Street on the corner of Elton Street and Atlantic Ave in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts.
Committed to Gluten-Free Inclusivity
In the early days there were just three items on the menu; traditional poutine, vegetarian, and ginger soda. From the very beginning, Lizzie (the chef and recipe developer of the pair) made sure their gravy was gluten-free; testing out various brands of rice flour over the years. Liz has always been committed to sourcing the highest quality ingredients and making everything from scratch. Fries are cut fresh so the fryers have also always been gluten-free. These high standards weren’t lost on customers who would share with the ladies how grateful they were to patronize in many instances the only food truck with quality gluten-free options. As Ronnie shared this feedback with Liz, it became increasingly important to develop new recipes and items that were inherently gluten-free; think breading on chicken french and the batter for their delicious fried cheese curds.
Unlike many chefs, Liz saw it not only as great for business but as a fun challenge to make sure that Petit’s menu is as inclusive as possible. She realized early on that gluten-free is not synonymous with taste-free and a mostly gluten-free menu can work if you put in the time and effort. Ronnie recognizes that “gluten-free recipe development does take extra R&D, time effort, and money” but thinking creatively and outside the box has really worked out well for the brand. According to Ronnie, doing it as a want to and not a need, makes the ideas and process flow easier and makes development fun.
Education, Awareness & Training
In addition to ingredients and recipes, the Petit team is equally as committed to education and training for themselves and their growing team. What many people don’t realize is that gluten-free is not just about alternatives to wheat, rye, and barley but equally as important is understanding hidden sources of gluten. These “hidden” sources are commonly found in processed foods, preservatives, binders, soy sauces, and dressings. Preparation can also be a hidden source of contamination. In mixed kitchens making sure that knives, cutting boards and other supplies are stored separately from one another is also important. Petit is dedicated to making sure that staff understands gluten, celiac disease, and how to avoid cross-contamination in their thoroughly cleaned kitchen and prep line. Everything is scratch made making sourcing and food safety easier to track and manage. When you are cooking whole real food standardization is easier to implement, streamline and maintain. All their breading, batter, and coatings are gluten-free. Additionally having gluten-free staff and cooks add to a high level of understanding and knowledge as well as creating a culture where asking questions (no matter how silly they may seem) is not only valued but encouraged.
For restaurants and executive chefs that want to make their menu more inclusive to the gluten-free community, Ronnie says making small simple changes works best. For example corn tortillas instead of flour, source a gluten-free bun for a grilled chicken sandwich, and if a dessert has a crumb topping play around with oats in place of flour.
All of this accumulates to create a culture and a restaurant that is safe and friendly not just for those who live gluten-free but for those that are vegan and dairy-free as well. Unfortunately, the restaurant does fry with peanut oil so those with nut allergies are best served at another establishment. As Petit continues to grow, Liz and Ronnie are always looking for ways to make new dishes gluten-free and even adding a gluten-free dessert in the near future. In fact, they’ve launched a new vegan sandwich as you read this article a Vegan Friend Green Tomato BLT alongside the Buffalo Tofu sandwich.
Ironically even though I am a frequent patron of the restaurant as a creature of habit I’ve tended to stick to the same menu items. So far I’ve tried to my delight their Buffalo Tofu Sandwich, Sloppy Joe Nachos, Bacon Poutine, Fried Cheese Curds, and the Beet Walnut Salad. On this particular visit after my interview with Ronnie, they treated me to a tour of the kitchen where I was able to see the amazing cooks in action and then I tried the Chicken Cutlet Sandwich which can be served on a gluten-free ciabatta bun by Biscotti Brewers a local woman-owned gluten-free bakery. If you like a thick rustic style sandwich then you’ll like the cutlet. Battered to perfection and topped with arugula, lemon vinaigrette, goat cheese, and balsamic the sandwich will without a doubt fill you up. The gluten-free bun is sized in perfect proportion to the chicken cutlet but like most gluten-free buns after a few bites the lack of gluten protein, all the juices, and voracious biting; the bread begins to lose the battle, and switching to using a knife and fork the rest of the way allows you to fully finish getting through the sandwich. This is not an indictment on the quality of the bun — just par for the course when you are as used to gluten-free bread as I am. Gluten-free bread just doesn’t act like traditional bread and after a decade of living gluten-free, this is a fact of life.
What I love even more than Petit Poutinerie’s food is their A+ service and staff. Every single team member I’ve ever interacted with goes above and beyond to make sure that you feel welcome and accommodated. They are knowledgeable, patient, kind, and passionate –treating you like family. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Zoe, Chris, and Sophie on a number of occasions and at this point, I’m on a first-name basis. This is a reflection of the style and personality of the restaurant’s owners — who have curated an ethos and mission to produce quality every single time with a smile.
I’m elated to feature Petit Poutinerie as the first restaurant of this series and I exhort you to visit as soon as you can whether you are gluten-free, vegan, or just like good real food made locally by a bad-a
** women-led team.
If you go
Address: 44 Elton Street (corner of Elton and Atlantic) (NOTA)
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 11 AM – 9 PM or at the Brighton Farmers Market Every Sunday
Available for: Private bookings, EVENTS & WEDDINGS
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com For your first visit try: Poutine Flight, Fried Cheese Curds, and a Lemon Lavender Soda.