It's been nearly ten years since I went gluten-free, after 18 months of dealing with a digestive system that was, shall we say, uncooperative. Ten years ago, alternative flours were just starting to become more common, and fast food options were almost nil. I still know where every Wendy's is between here and Philly because when I first started on this, my only options were that or a burger sans bun from McDonald's. Thank God for Chipotle.
But I digress. Gluten-free options are growing. It's getting easier to eat well and safely, and not spend the whole meal discussing unpleasant symptoms, explaining that "flour" is actually wheat, or asking about the ingredients in a cup of plain green tea. In short, you get to be normal. In that spirit, here's an overview of the restaurants in Harrisonburg I know of where you can eat gluten-free. Full disclosure: I'm not a doctor, nor do I have celiac disease; I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, so accidentally ingesting some gluten doesn't affect me in the same way it may affect you. If you're not sure, ask questions--you are your own best advocate.
Local Chop & Grill House: As its name indicates, the Chop House sources much of its food locally--insert your joke about the ducks on Blacks Run here--which means less processed, which means less gluten hiding in your food. Servers are helpful, and they make risotto. Risotto! (Update: The Chop House has now added two gluten-free beers to its menu, including Omission.)
Grilled Cheese Mania can make some of their sandwiches gluten-free. Very tasty and recommended.
The Little Grill: They offer gluten-free pancakes and will allow substituting grits or potatoes for toast. They've switched their gluten-free beer option to Omission, and can make certain dishes--like the Mexi Night special--gluten-free. They don't advertise this on the menu, so do ask.
Pizza: The gluten-free pizza options in this town deserve their own post. Vito's Italian Kitchen remains my favorite. Domino's and Chanello's both offer gluten-free pies; I've heard that Franco's and Francesco's (in Park View) do, as well. I'm most excited about Bella Luna (scheduled to open "soon" as of December 2013), which is downtown and plans to serve gf pizza and other gluten-free items (also unspecified at this time).
Union Station: Okay food, has a gluten-free menu.
Rick's Cantina will make its burritos with open-face corn tortillas upon request.
Outback Steakhouse: One of the first chains in the U.S. to have a gluten-free menu, and their "Chocolate Thunder from Down Under" brownie dessert is gluten-free.
Chipotle: The one here in town buys pork from Joel Salatin's farm. Go for the burrito bowl or anything with corn tortillas. They do have an allergen list.
Blue Nile: I'll be honest, I still miss the Zilzil Tibs at Meskerem, though I do like Blue Nile a lot. Their injera is a mixture of teff and wheat, but if you call three days in advance, they'll make you gluten-free pure teff injera. They always serve rice at their lunch buffet.
Beyond: I last went there in my elusive search for good pad thai. Not the first place I'd recommend, but not bad either. Nice ambiance.
Capital Ale: Gluten-free menu, knowledgeable servers, and they always have at least one kind of gluten-free beer. I don't go there often 'cause I still can't forgive them for not being Cally's, plus it's expensive. They have gluten-free mac and cheese ($14.99 if memory serves) and yesterday I noticed they had Green's, a gluten-free Belgian ale, on the menu--for $17. I like Green's, but I'll wait until I'm in Charlottesville and swing by the Whole Foods.
Thai food: Try any of them--Beyond, Thai Flavor, Taste of Thai, Thai Cafe--and ponder how we've been lucky enough to get four Thai restaurants in this city.
Taste of India: My office's favorite place to eat out, and I never complain. Avoid the naan, try everything else.
The farmers market: OCakes sells gluten-free baked goods. Brown Butter Bakery is on hiatus, but I'm hopeful they'll come back some day in their own space.
A Bowl of Good: Another restaurant supporting local farmers, and less pricey than the Chop House. Gluten-free options are labeled on the menu, and they sell gluten-free brownies.
Greenberry's Coffee has sold gluten-free brownies and other baked goods for a few years now; I saw recently that they have gluten-free bread (and so sandwiches?) on the menu, too.
Know of others? Leave them in the comments. I plan to occasionally post here about gluten-free options and will update this list as I learn more.
I had a less-than-stellar experience at Quaker Steak & Lube not long after I first posted this. In talking to the manager who just happened to ask how our meals were--I'm not always great at advocating for myself, and sometimes it just gets frustrating to always be the one needing special accommodation--I was pleasantly surprised to realize he did understand proper, safe gluten-free food preparation. He said the Quaker Steak he'd worked at in Norfolk had separate storage and preparation areas, and food was served on distinct plates. He told me to come back in a week. I haven't, more because it's not so much my style, but I'm curious. If you go, let me know how it went?
L'Italia reports, as of November 7, 2012, that it offers gluten-free, whole wheat and regular pasta.