Cooper's Hawk Restaurant is a chain that I have heard quite a buzz about in the gluten-free world. I've read other bloggers' glowing reviews and have seen positive reports on Find Me Gluten Free, a website and app I use religiously. That being said, I approached this dining experience at Cooper's Hawk with dread, because I have eaten there once before (years ago) and it was one of the worst dining experiences I have ever had since going gluten-free.
However, when visiting my grandparents in Cincinnati last weekend, the restaurant came up as a viable option for dining out because they had a menu that would appeal to everyone in the family and they had a reputation for great gluten-free accommodations. Although I was skeptical, I decided to give them a second chance, to see if my first experience was a outlier.
As we were seated, I let the waiter serving us know that I was both gluten-free and dairy-free, and he assured me that he would communicate with the kitchen so that they would take the dietary restrictions seriously. He quickly came back with the multi-page menu, and I was impressed with the variety and volume of gluten-free options. Click here to see the menu in full.
He brought out a gluten-free bun that was warmed up during the bread service when my family was enjoying their gluten-free pretzel rolls. Although I don't like filling up on bread when I eat out, I took a few bites to test it out. The bread is on the denser side and chewy, but it totally hit the spot- and made me not feel left out during the bread course. I would have liked to have some sort of butter substitute for the bread, but there were no dairy-fee options available. The roll itself is large, and definitely looked like it could handle a sandwich or burger.
For my entree, I ordered the seared Atlantic salmon, which was served with sweet San Marzano tomato sauce over a bed of sautéed spinach and oven-roasted Yukon gold potatoes. I was very impressed with the fish, which had a good grill flavor and was deliciously tender. The tomato sauce was bursting with flavor, and lived up to its name with a delectable sweetness. The spinach was hearty and a great base for the fish. The only part of the meal I did not love was the potatoes. They were good, but not great, and did not seem to fit with the other three components. I would have liked this dish more if it was served over noodles or brown rice, but that's just my opinion- I am not a huge potato fan.
I left dinner astounded with how much my opinion of Cooper's Hawk had changed over the course of the meal. I could finally see why so many gluten-free diners were singing it's praises! While I wouldn't rush out to dine there again, I am happy I can file them away as a reliable chain restaurant going forward that I can turn to when traveling.