Eating out shouldn't be hard. For some, choosing among the overwhelming number of dining options available at the swipe of a card is fraught with difficulty. For others, those of us with food allergies and intolerances, finding something we can eat, something that won’t cause us to have a severe reaction can be downright daunting.
I have lived with this inconvenience most of my life. At three, I was diagnosed with a severe tree nut allergy, which meant no store bought cookies, cakes or brownies and cautious choosing when eating out. I couldn’t eat cake at friends' birthday parties, and yes me, or someone like me, was the reason parents had to stop bringing treats to school functions. At fifteen, I added shellfish to my list of things I could no longer eat. One summer I was loading up on muscles and fries, the next I would break out in a rash and have trouble breathing if I got near any water creature that didn’t have fins and gills. More recently, I have become gluten intolerant. An evil substance that lurks in just about everything and is next to impossible to avoid no matter how diligent I try to be. So, when I dine out, I eat meat and vegetables. Period.
Living for a while on the west coast, I tried a few “gluten free” products when they first came out, and I tried the offerings at restaurants claiming to have gluten free options on their menu.
Too often, gluten free meant flavor-free, and the description should have read "Instead of bread we substituted a substance the color and consistency of cardboard. Enjoy!"
Things changed when my mother, who is not plagued with any of my allergies or gluten intolerance tagged me on an Instagram picture of a burger at Mason Dixon Bakery. The caption read, “You have to try this place! The food is amazing. And it is all gluten FREE!” While I try to be as unobtrusive as possible with my limitations, I can't help but feel like a pain in the ass whenever I go out to eat. The thought of a good gluten free restaurant where I could actually eat a good burger, on bread was like winning the foodie lottery.
Mason Dixon Bakery’s tagline is Eat Free. Owner Ashley started the business with the desire create a place where people with food limitations can eat without worrying.
“So when you walk into our establishment, you are free to choose. You are free to pick what you want to eat and know that it is safe.”
Ashley suffers from Celiac disease and as a result had to alter her diet significantly.
She and her husband Taylor created Mason Dixon Bakery with the goal of being able “to recreate anything that you could want, and make it gluten free.” And that is just what they have done. Ashley and her kitchen staff have even recreated the comfort food many suffering from Celiac disease and gluten intolerance had to avoid. The mac and cheese and blueberry muffins at Mason Dixon are better than what I ate as a kid. The bread is better than any bread you can buy at a traditional bakery. And they haven’t stopped at comfort food and burgers. They also offer made to order meals, custom cakes, and even a fully gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner.
Ashley’s talent with food hasn’t gone unnoticed. Mason Dixon has been recognized as the first dedicated gluten-free restaurant in the Southeast and was recently listed as one of the top ten gluten free restaurants in the country. Ashley credits this success to Huntsville’s diverse population and tech focus. “I don’t think that this wouldn’t have flown anywhere else in Alabama.” Due to this success, they are also expanding to a location in Birmingham as well.
If like me, you live with food allergies and intolerance, Mason Dixon is a godsend and the only place in the valley where I can eat anything on the menu worry free. If you don’t have these issues, check it out anyway. Mason Dixon’s food is delicious, and everyone is free to eat free.