Stacked Pickle, Carmel, Indiana
Restaurant: Stacked Pickle, Carmel, Indiana
Leave it to a neighborhood restaurant-bar to take better care of me and my dietary needs then some of the high-class, upper echelon of restaurants I have dined in. This is no joke. I was treated like an absolute VIP at the Stacked Pickle in Carmel, Indiana, when I was in town over the weekend.
I actually had never heard of the Stacked Pickle prior to a couple weeks before going. A friend of my roommate and I posted a picture of her fish and chips meal on Facebook. Well, if you’ve been following this blog you know how my roommate is about her fish and chips. Immediately…we had a new place to eat next time we were in town. And it just so happened that not only was I running in a race up in the area, but I was attending the Celiac Awareness Tour as well. It looked like we finally had our time.
I took a look at the menu online, as I normally do, given that I am a vegetarian with a gluten allergy. Normally, my usual order at such a place would be a salad with the fries. But, french fries can be tricky depending on how they are cooked. If they share a frier with breaded foods, well…game over.
On the Web site’s page, however, there was a place to click in order to contact the restaurant. I went ahead and took it upon myself to contact the restaurant in regards to my special dietary needs and went ahead and inquired about how the fries were cooked, something I have been learning to do after becoming ill after eating somewhere and not asking. The owner, Chris Long, contacted me back not long after I sent the original message about coming in on Saturday and my special dietary needs. He immediately assured me that dishes could be made vegetarian, “from vegan to lacto, ovo, & pesco…” As for the fries, they are “beer battered,” he told me, so best if I stayed clear of them. In addition, he included the name and e-mail address of the chef, and told me to please get in contact with him.
Already I was feeling at ease about going here. I went ahead and sent an e-mail to Bill Gruesser, the chef at the Stacked Pickle. Once again, I had a quick response that not only put me at ease, just made me feel really comfortable about dining in an establishment where gluten-free is not their way of doing things. This doesn’t happen often. Chef Bill assured me that salads could be made without any of the proteins and that the balsamic dressing (my favorite anyway) was gluten-free. As for other meals, the black bean burger was a good vegetarian option, as well as gluten-free if ordered without the buns and with a side other than fries. He told me to ask for him when I arrived.
Saturday came and I went and ran my race, attended the Celiac Awareness Tour, and headed out for some food. The people at the Stacked Pickle are incredible. I felt right at home upon being greeted, told to take a seat anywhere, handed a menu and told my server would be over in a moment. My server was the delightful Hannah, who was working with her foot in a boot due to some sort of injury. But she was getting around great. She came to get our drink orders and, as I was instructed, I asked for Chef Bill and she said she would definitely go and get him.
Our drinks were brought over and soon Chef Bill came out to greet me. He gave me a nice handshake and pulled up a chair to go over my food options that day. I had settled on the Fu-Fu Salad (minus he chicken) and would choose a ‘safe’ side to come with it. He said that was easy enough and then said, since he knew I was coming, he had sent someone over to Meijer earlier that day to look for gluten-free pasta so he could offer me a pasta dish instead, but they couldn’t find any there. What an amazing thing for a chef to do! This was a first. He laughed and said it was sort of like dangling a carrot in front of me and then jerking it away, but I assured him the extra effort, despite not being able to fulfill it, was definitely appreciated. I have never been to a restaurant where the chef has come out to talk to me personally about my options, nor attempted to do something completely off the menu for me in order to give me another option. There was not only something special about the Stacked Pickle, but its owner and chef as well. I thanked Chef Bill and he returned to the kitchen and Hannah came over to take our orders.
Hannah came over soon after and said that Chef Bill let her know I was interested in the Fu-Fu Salad (sans chicken) ($7.79). Again, I loved that he went ahead and also let my server know and that she was very diligent about double-checking the order with me. One more glance at the description and I was sure that everything else on the salad was safe and fell into my dietary guidelines. I went ahead and ordered it with a side of the Mandarin Oranges ($0.99). My roommate, of course, knew what she was going to get. Fish and Chips ($9.99) was her choice. With the orders taken, Hannah went to give them to the kitchen.
Our food arrived a short time later and it looked fantastic.
The Fu-Fu salad consists of fresh romaine lettuce, red onions, honey-glazed walnuts, and strawberries. Remember…with me…if it has strawberries, it wins. It came dressed in the balsamic dressing, which definitely paired deliciously with every component of that salad. All of the ingredients were fresh, the strawberries sweet, the lettuce crisp, and those walnuts added that little bit of crunch and flavor that pushed the salad out of ‘eating the garden’ and into something special. I knew that it was carefully prepared for me because I had ultimate faith in Chef Bill.
As for my roommate, she raved about the fish and chips, saying that they not only paired as adult fish sticks, but were crispy, moist, and amazing. And the fries…while full toward the end of her meal, she refused to let even one go to waste. Her dish was polished off as quickly as mine.
While we were eating, Chef Bill returned to make sure everything was okay and I assured him everything was delicious. He gave me his business card, and a little extra information, like that he’s a private chef, a caterer, and would be happy to help me out again as needed. I really, really appreciated all the care and extra time he took with me and assured him he would be hearing from me again.
From first glance, the Stacked Pickle doesn’t seem like much. I never would have even thought about dining there had my roommate not caught sight of those fish and chips on a friend’s blog. That being said, this is not your typical sports bar and restaurant. It’s owned by someone who genuinely wants to make his clientele feel comfortable eating there, and who has a lot of knowledge about not just vegetarianism, but also food allergies.
But a lot of the magic of the experience falls to Hannah and Chef Bill, who really made me feel comfortable with my food and my service and saw to it that I didn’t need to question anything. This was the first time a chef actually came out to discuss menu options with me, as well as even attempt to go the extra mile by sending someone out in search of other foods I could have that he could offer me upon my arrival. There is just something special about a chef and an establishment that would really take it upon themselves to take that extra step and to take such care with someone with special dietary needs.
Not once did I feel like I was being a burden to the kitchen. On the contrary, I felt that the kitchen was giving me the VIP treatment and doing everything it could to ensure that my visit to the Stacked Pickle was fantastic.
And it was. The food was really, really fresh and delicious. The service was beyond what I have received anywhere, including the high-class restaurants I have eaten within the past year. This was, without a doubt, the most at ease I have felt dining out since having to go gluten-free. I was beyond impressed.
If you happen to be traveling through Carmel or Fishers, Indiana, find the Stacked Pickle and go in for the food and the service. Both are great. I know I’ll definitely return sometime in the very near future.
Who would have thought it would be a small sports restaurant-bar, known for wings, burgers, and beer, that would make me feel so safe and confident about what I was consuming? This is no ordinary establishment. And this was proven to me before I even set foot inside. Impressed doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings. Great food, great service, great attention to detail. Oh…and a great chef who comes out and goes over menu options with someone regulated to a special diet. Yeah…this place is special.
Stacked Pickle's Fu-Fu Salad (no chicken) with a side of Mandarin Oranges