Sombra Mexican Kitchen = Love

If you know me (or even if you follow me on Twitter), you know how much I love Mexican food. Or at least you think you know, but really, you have no idea. I am one of those people who could honestly eat Mexican food every single day. Fajitas, taco salads, tacos, chips, cheese dip, guacamole – you name it, I love it! So when Sombra Mexican Kitchen opened up a few years ago right down the street from my office, I was ecstatic.

At first, my trips to Sombra were few and far between while I was feeling the new restaurant out. But soon I found myself stopping by for lunch and/or happy hour once or twice a week and getting to know the servers and staff who work there. (Did I mention they have the most awesome employees ever?!) In the last six months or so, my love of Sombra has grown to what some people might consider ridiculous and my co-workers and I try to grab lunch there at least 2-3 times per week.

Since I would now consider myself somewhat of an expert on their menu, here are some of my Sombra favorites:

The Taco Salad

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Though I just tried this salad for the first time a couple weeks ago, this may very well be my new favorite thing on the menu. I order mine with ground beef (also no shell for this gluten free girl!), but if the chicken taco salad is half as good as this, then you are in for a treat! The flavor of the taco meat is seriously to die for! Not to mention, Sombra definitely doesn’t skimp on the meat on this salad. I never feel hungry after eating one of these babies for lunch!

The King Special

When you eat at Sombra as much as we do, it’s not long before you start inventing your own menu items. If you’ve ever had their cheese dip or enjoyed their Smothered Chicken for dinner, you know how fantastic the cheese at Sombra is. And if you’ve ever had their steak fajitas, you know they cook the most flavorful steak of any Mexican restaurant in the area! So naturally, we decided to combine the two.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the King special…

Meat & Cheesy Goodness - YUM!

Meat & Cheesy Goodness – YUM!

That’s right. This is a plate of amazing steak covered in cheese dip. Great for those on a low carb (or gluten free!) diet, but even more delicious with rice (for those of you NOT avoiding carbs)! What makes this dish even better is you can get the cheese dip for free just by showing your Eat Jackson card!

The St. Rita Margarita

St. Rita Margarita

St. Rita Margarita

I love MANY of the margaritas at Sombra, and you can surely catch me enjoying a house margarita during happy hour from time to time. But when I’m really craving a delicious and smooth margarita, I always turn to the St. Rita. Made with fresh agave nectar, top shelf tequila and St. Germain, this drink is a margarita lovers dream! You can find my review of Sombra’s margarita options here.

If you haven’t tried one of these menu items then definitely give it a shot next time you’re at Sombra. And if you’ve never eaten there at all, what the heck are you waiting for?

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Eat Local, Jackson: A Giveway!

Are you looking for a quality local restaurant while you’re in Jackson? Wondering which local restaurants might be best for a romantic date night or a Southern Style meal? Look no further than Eat Jackson.

I first discovered Eat Jackson a few months after I moved to Mississippi. I was unfamiliar with the city, and definitely didn’t know which places were best to eat at, so I would constantly search online for new spots to try out. Luckily, I discovered Eat Jackson, a local’s dream guide to the latest and greatest dining options that Jackson, MS has to offer. With food directories by location, craving and meal type, this site makes finding food an absolute breeze!

Here’s what makes it even more awesome. You can purchase an EatJXN Card for just $20, which gives you discounts and freebies at tons of local places throughout the year! Some of my favorite deals include Free Cheese Dip with the purchase of an entree at Sombra Mexican Kitchen, Two-for-One Dessert at Bravo! Italian Restaurant (their GF peanut butter pie is to die for) and Bar and 10% off your order at Campbell’s Bakery (which features GF options daily!). For a complete list of card deals, click here.

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For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know how important that free cheese dip at Sombra is to me! And if you’ve read my post about Bravo!, you won’t want to miss out on that two-for-one dessert deal. So how can I help YOU benefit from this awesomeness?

One lucky reader will win a 2014 EatJXN card! That’s right, all of those awesome deals can be yours for an entire year. All you have to do is comment below and tell me what your favorite restaurant in Jackson is or which of these deals you’re most excited about. Tweet about the giveaway and “Like” Gluten Free Girl MS on Facebook to increase your chances to win!

One winner will be randomly selected on Friday, December 20th.

Good luck!

Margarita Madness: Day 1

There’s no denying that I love margaritas. Let’s face it; they’re just delicious. And I’m not that picky when it comes to my margaritas – I will try them just about anywhere. That being said, wouldn’t it be nice to try them everywhere? Those of you who follow my Facebook page know that this week I decided to do just that, as I started my search for Jackson, Mississippi’s best margarita!

Because I can’t just arbitrarily decide which restaurant/bar in town serves the best Margarita, I decided to come up with some judging criteria. During my search, margaritas will be judged on the following:

1. Freshness
2. Quality of Ingredients
3. Presentation
4. Price
5. Happy Hour Specials

Last night was day one of my quest. First stop: Babalu Tacos & Tapas in Fondren, MS.

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I’ve always been a fan of Babalu. From the great atmosphere (I mean who doesn’t love the I Love Lucy reruns that are projected on the wall?) to the delicious food (the Mexican street corn is heavenly), Babalu stole my heart the day that it opened. But I had never tried all of the margaritas on the menu before and I was determined to accomplish just that.

Of course, I couldn’t do it alone, so I set out with my trusted partner in crime, Dana. She and I started with the classics: The Baba-Rita and the Martinez.

The Baba-Rita

The Baba-Rita

The Baba-Rita features the following ingredients: Patron Silver, Agave nectar, Patron Citronge, fresh sour mix, and pomegranate. Served with a salted rim and lime, the presentation is fantastic! Don’t you just want to take a sip right now?

The Martinez

The Martinez

I’ve had Baba-Ritas countless times before at Babalu, but I had never tried the Martinez before. But when a drink is that similar to your own last name, you’ve got to give it a try, right?! The Martinez features Patron Reposado, fresh squeezed lime juice, Cointreau, and salt foam. As gorgeous as the presentation was, it definitely had the freshness to match! Delicious.

After ordering a bowl of guacamole (oh, did I mention they make FRESH guacamole prepared table-side at Babalu? Well they do. And it’s fantastic), we decided to move on to our next round of drinks.

Next up: The Tamarind Margarita.

Tamarind Margarita

Tamarind Margarita

A sweeter margarita than the others, this drink features Cazadores Blanco, fresh citrus juices, and tamarind extract.

After that, they ran out of margaritas that are regular menu items – so the bartender started making some up for us. Bonus points for creativity!

Dana ordered the Jalepeno-Rita next. Yes, it was as spicy as the name sounds!

Jalapeno-rita

Jalapeno-Rita

Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure what ingredients they were using in our drinks. But I can tell you that this one had a fresh kick of jalapeno to go with the tequila. I’m not a big jalapeno person, but Dana LOVED it! If you dig fresh jalapeno, order this drink next time you hit up Babalu.

Last but not least, we sampled a strawberry margarita, complete with fresh strawberries!

Strawberry Margarita

Strawberry Margarita

A+ for presentation on this one!

So which one was my favorite overall? Honestly, I’d have to stick with the Baba-Rita. It’s a staple at Babalu, but for good reason! I don’t know if I will ever get sick of it.

Freshness: A
Quality of Ingredients: A
Presentation: A-
Price: B (At $10 a pop, these babies will hurt your wallet after a couple of drinks)
Happy Hour: C

Babalu’s happy hour or “Social Hour” goes from 4 PM – 6 PM daily and features $2 tacos, $4 sangria, $5 wine and wells, $1 off drafts. But remember, we’re looking for margarita specials during happy hour. For a place with such amazing margaritas, you’d think they would feature them during happy hour! They do feature $5 margaritas all day on Monday though. So next time you’ve got a case of the Mondays, head over to Babalu for a tasty pick-me-up!

Don’t forget to give Babalu a peek on Facebook. They feature awesome specialty margaritas throughout the year. “Like” their page for the scoop on all their latest creations!

All in all, I would have to say that day one was a definite success. Can’t wait to continue my search!

Keep an eye out for the details on my next stop: Sombra Mexican Kitchen (Coming Soon)

Eat Local & Gluten Free, Mississippi

When you’re gluten free, eating out can be hard. We all know that. It can be especially hard in some of our local restaurants down here in Mississippi, where deep fried food is more than just the norm, it’s whats restaurants are known for! But don’t we love it when we find a great local restaurant where we can eat gluten free?

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating lunch with Andy of Eat Jackson at Bravo! Italian Restaurant and Bar. If you’ve never been to Bravo!, you are missing out on one heck of a gluten free menu. From appetizers and salads to pastas and even desserts, the menu is loaded with gluten free options that will make your mouth water and leave you anxiously awaiting your next visit!

Yesterday we ordered the Gluten Free Bruschetta as a starter. Since discovering this appetizer, I don’t think I’ve ever visited Bravo! without ordering it. I promise it does not disappoint. Even Andy, who is not gluten free, could not get over how incredible the flavor was. He even enjoyed the gluten free bread!

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Next up was the main course. I opted for the Tomato and Basil Gluten Free Pasta. If I have to be honest, it was a little bit greasy, but definitely delicious! And it’s always a nice treat to have pasta when you’re dining out gluten free.

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When Andy suggested we use our Eat JXN card for two-for-one dessert, I couldn’t refuse! What girl could? I opted for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Gluten Free Pecan Crust. All jokes aside, this pie is life changing. It is arguably my favorite dessert in all of Jackson, Mississippi. No really. It is that good. If you have not tried it, go to Bravo tonight and order one. Better yet, order an Eat JXN card so you can have TWO slices for the price of one! 😉

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Thanks to Bravo for yet another incredible Gluten Free meal, proving that eating out in Jackson can be not only delicious, but safe for us gluten free diners! And thanks to Andy from Eat Jackson for the great company and lots of laughs over lunch!

Eating Gluten Free in Jackson, MS

I get a lot of requests from friends, co-workers, customers, random people at the grocery store… All of them sound a little bit like this, “My friend is coming to town and she is gluten free. What restaurants do you recommend I take her to?” or “My cousin’s son just got diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Where are some good places in Jackson that he can eat at?”

The bottom line is people who are gluten free still love to go out to eat. They just don’t usually know the best places to go. Or they’re nervous about trying the food on new gluten free menus. Will it be any good? Will it even be worth the money or should they just stick with a salad?

I’ve been living in Jackson for almost four years now. In that time, I’ve eaten countless dinners out and I have watched restaurants add gluten free items to their menus – and others add completely gluten free menus! Since I travel so much for work, I know that Jackson is by no means a “Gluten Free Friendly” city. There are still not THAT MANY places to eat at. However, we do have some FANTASTIC restaurants in town that are definitely worth checking out.

So I wanted to put together a list of my favorite places. Keep in mind, all opinions below are completely my own. If your sister-in-law’s mother’s neighbor had a terrible experience at one of these restaurants that I love, I’m so sorry for her. If you or someone you know had a wonderful experience somewhere that I don’t particularly love, that’s okay too! Tell me about it! I love hearing about any great gluten free experience at a restaurant in Jackson.

Here are some of my favorites in the area:

Top 3 Gluten Free Pizzas in Jackson

Biaggis – The gluten free pizza is not only delicious here, but it is big enough that you can easily share with someone else or bring home leftovers for lunch the next day! And the crust won’t get all soggy and weird on day 2. It reheats extremely well.

Mellow Mushroom – I love that Mellow Mushroom lets you customize your pizza with any toppings you want. The downside here is the ONLY gluten free thing on the menu is the pizza. Try not to be jealous of the people at the table next to you munching on their delicious “gluteny” hot pretzel appetizer.

– Dominos – I actually LOVE Gluten Free pizza from Dominos. If you are super sensitive to gluten, do not order from here though. They make no guarantees that there won’t be cross-contamination during the preparation process. But if you’re not as sensitive, be sure to order one sometime! I know people how actually prefer it to the regular crust!
*Note – Since this was originally posted in July, I had my first bad Domino’s experience. You can read about it here if you’re interested. My husband still risks it once in awhile when I am out of town, but I haven’t been back since*

Skip the Trip: Pie Works in Madison – I actually just visited Pie Works in Madison last week for the first time in years, after hearing that they added gluten free pizza crust to their menu! However, I was extremely disappointed when my pizza was served undercooked – and with a whopping $18 price tag. For that much, it better be one heck of a pizza!

Top 3 Gluten Free Pasta Dishes in Jackson

Bravo! – This is hands down my favorite restaurant in town to get a gluten free pasta dish! It might be because I’m pretty much obsessed with their Gluten Free Bruschetta appetizer. (Not pasta, I know, but oh boy is it delicious!)

Biaggis – What a fantastic gluten free pasta menu here! Order penne or spaghetti noodles and choose from a variety of sauces. They will even make gluten free mac and cheese! (It’s delicious I might add)

– Homemade – There may be another restaurant in Jackson with Gluten Free pasta, but if there is, I have not heard about it (or tried it) yet! When we want really good pasta, we make it at home. We recently discovered that we prefer corn-based noodles to rice-based noodles. Why? They’re not as sticky, they don’t leave that really weird white gooey residue on all of your pots and pans, and they taste more like the real thing! (Again, personal preference!)

Top 3 Gluten Free Desserts in Jackson

– Bravo! – I know, Bravo! tops the list again, but this place really is incredible. Their peanut butter pie with pecan crust is INSANE. I mean it will leave you desperate to come back for more. (Not that you could probably finish your first piece, it’s so rich and delicious!)

Bonefish Grill – Their gluten free chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream is ridiculously delicious. I cannot eat here without ordering this dessert – no matter how full I am after dinner. It’s worth every calorie.

Local 463 – Their menu features a flourless chocolate cake that tastes just like the real thing. I mean it – this is a GREAT cake.

Bonus: Campbell’s Bakery in Fondren offers Gluten Free items every day of the week! One of the best (if not the VERY best) bakery in the state of Mississippi, they don’t mess around when it comes to gluten free. They’ve featured everything from cookies and brownies to cupcakes!

Best Place to get a Gluten Free Sandwich

Jason’s Deli – Hands down, Jason’s Deli tops the list as my favorite place to get a gluten free sandwich. Made with Udi’s gluten free bread, you choose what you want in your sandwich and they deliver it to your table in its own individual wrapper with a “Gluten Free” sticker. The entire process not only makes you feel good about what you’re eating, but there’s free ice cream at the end of every meal! What a great bonus!

Sweet Peppers – I was pleasantly surprised with Sweet Peppers recently added a Gluten Free bread to their sandwich selection. Made with Udi’s as well, the sandwiches are definitely delicious. Just know that Sweet Peppers employees don’t seem to have as great of an understanding of “Gluten Free” as those at Jason’s Deli. Though I’m sure they will learn quickly!

Place I desperately wish would go Gluten Free: Newk’s. I still love Newk’s, as they have some of the best salads around, in my opinion. Plus their to-go cups are the bomb dot com! However, with so many delicious pizzas and sandwiches on the menu, it sure would be awesome if they could cater to the gluten free community a little more.