Photo by Katherine Harris
Here’s a secret of the Twin Cities: Rabbit Hole, the acclaimed Korean-next wave bistro in the Midtown Global Market, is almost entirely gluten-free. And it’s about to get even gluten-free-er.
Why? Because chef-owner Thomas Kim was diagnosed with a wheat allergy just before he moved to Minneapolis from California.
“I was sick all the time, just feeling horrible, and my doctor said, 'Let’s do an allergy test,'” Kim remembers. “It came back that I was allergic to wheat and a couple other things. At first you think, 'I cannot make this work.' But you learn to make do.”
A few years of tinkering with recipes have allowed Kim to come up with a few things that I’ve never seen in gluten-free versions before, such as Korean seafood pancakes.
“Typically Koreans use wheat flour as a binder, alongside starch and rice flour,” Kim says. “But after a lot of trial and error we found that whipped egg whites work as a binder too. It makes them dense, but you don’t end up with that chalky, starchy mouth-feel that so many gluten-free products have.”
Another gluten-free item: His famous fried chicken wings! Of course, there's all the more obviously gluten-free items, such as the broiled mackerel or roasted sweet potatoes, plus as a bunch of the new fall menu items to be debuted this week, including rice cakes, a marinated pork dish with a rice vermicelli salad, and a spicy winter stew. The new menus at Rabbit Hole will indicate items that are gluten-free, and also those that can be made gluten-free.
Kim has ordered a second fryer that will be installed in a few weeks so that he can have separate fryers for gluten-containing and non-gluten items, and says he has developed a fairly regular customer base at this point who come to him specifically for gluten-free food.
“We can do the kimchi fried rice gluten-free, the bi bim bop rice bowls can be gluten-free—maybe don’t tell people gluten-free, but gluten-reduced.”
That said, Kim warns: If you have Celiac disease be sure to talk to your server. Don’t just assume everything is gluten-free, even though much of it is. (Please note: It's just a small restaurant, and they do have ordinary buns on the premises for the hamburgers and hot dogs, so there is not the laboratory-like isolation that major food producers can create.)
Also: There are a couple gluten-free beers on the menu at all times, and usually a secret stash of Omission beer, which Kim believes is the best gluten-free beer currently available—ask for one, and if he has any, he will share.
So, pretty cool! Do you have a favorite gluten-free restaurant that people should know about? Post it in the comments!
Before I got off the phone with Kim, however, he spilled some big news. Left Handed Cook, the little Midtown Global Market stand that birthed this Rabbit Hole phenomenon, is about to rise again—as a free-standing cart right outside the door to Rabbit Hole, which Kim built with his own two hands.
“It’s pretty cool looking. Except I got it into my head to build it myself and that got out of control.”
It will open in two weeks or so and will serve street foods of Asia and the United States. So: bao steamed buns filled with house-made barbecue or bitter greens and tofu, potstickers, and (after they get up and running) eight different kinds of hot dogs, including a pork-ssam inspired one with pickled radish and fried garlic, and a banh-mi dog. There will also be some healthy options for those who walk over in the skyways from attached Abbott Northwestern Hospital: warm kale salads with blue cheese, Korean vegetable-filled gimbap rolls, and the like.
“We kept hearing from the hospital workers: We have 30 minutes for lunch, it takes 10 minutes to walk over here, we don’t have time to sit down,” Kim says. Which brings the bad news: No more sit-down lunch at Rabbit Hole. But also the good news: They’ll have all day to make dinner.
“If your ovens aren’t all tied up for service, you can make more interesting things for dinner,” Kim says. Interesting things that are gluten-free a lot more often than you’d guess.
Rabbit Hole, 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-236-4526, facebook.com/eatdrinkrabbit