Last week a major pizza chain unveiled their not-so-gluten-free pizza. We’re fortunate in Nashville to have a restaurant that does gluten-free and does it well.
Before A Matter of Taste’s owner, Kellie Hopkins, learned she had to stop eating gluten in 2009, she’d been trying to eat healthy foods. Kellie soon discovered that the gluten-free food in restaurants often didn’t include the fresh produce and meats without nitrates and hormones that she preferred. Having also lived in Texas where small sandwich shops were more common, she was frustrated that she couldn’t find something like that – particularly gluten-free – in Nashville. There were also other problems with finding gluten-free food, things that didn’t make sense. Kellie says, “Salad dressing doesn’t need gluten.”
Skip ahead to 2010. Kellie had access to a location that had been used by a caterer. “The idea for the restaurant stemmed from little things. I just wanted a place where I would want my kids to eat. I said, ‘Let me see if this works.’” She’s seen a “funny, twisted look” on people’s faces when they’re told something is gluten-free, and she wanted to change that. “I wanted people to know that it doesn’t have to taste bad if it’s gluten-free.”
The gluten-free bread is made fresh on site, but Kellie brings in regular breads for people who don’t want gluten-free. There’s separation between the gluten-full and gluten-free areas with separate condiments, cutting areas and different pans to heat food in the oven. It’s a shared oven but she’s looking into a faster CTX system – put the food in one end and it comes out the other – with separate lines for gluten-free and not.
Open for lunch – from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Kellie’s menu includes soups, salads and sandwiches along with desserts. She uses her mom’s chicken salad, egg salad and tuna salad recipes. Desserts include childhood favorites like her mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies. The experienced chef she hired tinkered with the recipe, looking for the right gluten-free substitutions. Kellie knew it was perfect when she was handed a sample hot out of the oven and took a bite. “I felt like I was standing in my mom’s kitchen and I was six-years old again.” Her kids used to cringe when she brought gluten-free sweets home. Now they want anything she brings home from the restaurant.
Inspirational thoughts such as “Be Grateful” are written on a chalkboard, on the doors that open to the kitchen and fill books that sit on each table. Kellie’s seen people taking pictures of a saying on a page with their phones. If you wonder why she doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi, there’s a simple answer: “If you go out to eat with someone, I want you to talk to them.” Enough said.
The daily specials are posted on Facebook and twitter. The website is AMatterofTasteTakout.com. Why “takeout?” When Kellie opened this as a takeout restaurant, the tables and chairs were just so customers would have a place to sit while their food was prepared. When those customers started sitting down and opening up their takeout packages, she bought plates and silverware.
Things have worked out well. Kellie’s enjoyed the restaurant business so much that she’s thinking of franchising this one.