Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gluten Free Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells

Last month we drove up to the Wisconsin Dells for a 4 day vacation. We booked a condominium unit at the Great Wolf Lodge that included a full kitchen. I brought food and cooking utensils to prepare lunch and snacks in the room. Based on my earlier research, we knew that the resort offered gluten free meal options to cover us for breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast is a buffet option only and we were a bit nervous our first morning. The hostess immediately assured us that there was a cook-to-order gf option and indeed the chef came out immediately to talk to us and take our order. We tried the pancakes and the waffles- I'd recommend ordering them with chocolate chips- the mix used has an aftertaste and the chips did a great job disguising it. I suspect that it was tapioca- although the mix itself was not labelled and the chef did not know the specific ingredients nor the brand mix that was used. The chefs were also very willing to cook us fresh eggs and breakfast meats so we didn't have to worry about cross-contamination from the buffet. I really love going out for breakfast and without the gf mix and the cook-to-order option the buffet would be totally off-limits to us, so this was just great! And the kids ate free! And, there was no surcharge for the gf items!

We ate dinner twice at the Loose Moose, the resort's sit-down restaurant. There are 2 gluten free menus containing 9 items total. Portions were large and there was no surcharge for the gf items. Service was lacking- we had problems both nights (dinner the 2nd night was comped by the manager). The problems were service related so I'm not going to get into them here, although poor service does leave me worried about contamination issues with our food and as such it is worth mentioning. Servers had little information about gf menu specifics and the 2nd night they denied that there was a child's gf menu even though we had ordered from it the night before! It was unclear if the fries were gf - I had heard they were from the food & beverage manager but was very doubtful upon seeing them and I did not get any reassuring, definite answer.

The resort orders in pizza crusts from the French Meadow Bakery ( but the pizza they offered to my kids was really lacking. These pizzas are delivered in their own cooking tin and I prefer to have the pizza served in the tin to avoid cross-contamination. This was not done, and the pizza was covered in olive oil, cheese, fresh diced tomatoes. The ring of toppings covered only about the inner 2/3 of the crust- leaving a lot of empty crust that my kids were unable to enjoy. This was frustrating since the crust is quite good and it would have been so easy to produce a decent pizza. We complained and learned that the restaurant had no gf pizza sauce to offer us. The cook in the back made us up some gf tomato sauce by pureeing fresh tomatoes and re-did the pizzas which my kids then happily ate. I enjoyed some very tasty, tender, and meaty ribs both nights. The second night my kids both ordered bowls of gf pasta with butter. The portions were really large and the pasta was cooked thoroughly. I believe it was the Namaste brand rainbow spirals. For dessert there is an ice cream counter serving Edy's brand that my kids just loved.

So, we found overall the service and the food (gluten free and regular) to be mediocre. I was so excited last December when I spoke to John Williams, the food & beverage manager, about the gf options. It is really hard to complain about a resort that offered us gluten free dining, but if there is going to be a gluten free menu, then train the servers well and use the gf ingredients and mixes to make good food! There are so many good pancake/waffle mixes that to use one that has such a strong odor/aftertaste doesn't make sense to me. And to go through the trouble of ordering gf pizza crusts but to then not have gf pizza sauce is really poorly planned.

Our kids loved the waterpark and we intend to return to the Dells next winter. I hope by then that the Great Wolf has developed their gluten free dining into something delicious and diner friendly because we would love to go back!

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Please leave me a message letting me know you were here. If you have a great suggestion for GF dining let me know that, also.