I just enjoyed a FABulous weekend with my girls visiting Mackinac Island, Michigan. If you aren’t familiar with Mackinac Island, it is a small island off the coast of northern Michigan. A major tourist destination. There is no bridge to the island. You can only get there by a 20 minute ferry ride. (Since Michigan is divided into two peninsulas, we have the Mackinac Bridge connecting the two peninsulas. Our ferry ride to the island took us underneath the big bridge, which was quite a cool experience.)
The island is virtually untouched by time which is the appeal. There are no chain restaurants. Every other storefront is an ice cream or fudge store (which is VERY popular in northern Michigan for reasons unknown to me). No cars are allowed on the island therefore everything is done by bike or horse. Taxis are horse carriages. Food and supplies arrive on the island by boat and are loaded on horse carts and delivered to the hotels and restaurants on the island. Bikes are everywhere and that is the dominate mode of transportation.
I decided to take a mini vacation with my sweet daughters this weekend spending a few days there with my amazing mom, my beautiful sister and my wonderful niece and nephew. The weather was perfection, not too hot, no rain. We swam in the beautiful lake Huron, we swam in the hotel pool, ate lots of ice cream, listened to some live music outside, rented bikes on the island, shopped and laughed.
Wonderful vacation. Except… I will say this about Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City, they are NOT gluten-free friendly. Or any diet restriction, for that matter. LOTS of fried foods, not super progressive in terms of the latest food trends, etc. Each time we dined out and I explained our gluten “situation”, I had waitresses looking at me like I was speaking a language they didn’t understand. “Uhhhh, okaaaayyyy….” was the response.
The first restaurant, Augies in Mackinaw City, offered fried fish, broiled fish, sauteed fish. (They serve a lot of freshwater fish in northern Michigan, which I love. Walleye, perch, whitefish, smelt, etc. My dad was a fisherman so these are the fish I grew up eating; although generally fried. ) I love seeing fish on a menu at any restaurant because ordering a sauteed or steamed fish is generally a safe option for me. A little olive oil, fresh herbs, maybe some butter, salt, pepper… right? Not necessarily. The restaurants up here dredge the fish in flour before they sautee it.
“Can they just make a piece with no flour?”
The second restaurant was on Mackinac Island and was a pub style with lots of fried food. I know, not the best choice of venue for a celiac, but we were desperate, and on a budget, and decided to try it out. Bad idea. Initially, when I asked the hostess about accommodating our special diet needs she assured me that the kitchen staff was “pretty good” about accommodating special needs. However, when I mentioned I couldn’t eat any flour or wheat of any kind to the waitress, she gave me a blank/confused look. She then said, “Well, all of our breaded and fried foods are covered in flour.” I assured her that I wouldn’t order breaded foods if I have a wheat itolerance (?!?!?!?). But, then I learned they also fried the potato skins and just about everything in the restaurant. So, I wound up with some anemic, sad, and very greasy nachos. Little E, my 5 year old celiac daughter, wound up with a turkey club sandwich with no bread, which was actually quite delicious.
Neither of us got sick. But, thankfully, we are not highly sensitive to gluten and may not notice if we were cross contaminated anyway.