Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hooray for Willy's!!

One of my favorite places in Atlanta to grab a quick and cheap meal was Willy's. Before moving here in August, I last lived in Atlanta 10 years ago, and back then I had no clue what gluten was and ate it all the time. Once I returned to Atlanta, I kept hearing that it wasn't safe to eat gluten-free at Willy's.

I thought I would find out myself, and emailed Willy's this summer, only to get this in response:

Willy’s prepares all food items in the restaurant. Provided below is a list of items to avoid

Rice, Black Beans, and Pinto Beans are made with a vegetable base that contains:

Ingredients: Vegetables (celery, onions, and carrots) hydrolyzed corn protein, salt, sugar, onion powder, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavorings, corn starch, corn syrup solids, carrot powder, modified food starch, tomato paste, garlic powder, spices. turmeric

Tortillas and Chips: are not made in the restaurant


Corn Tortillas: ground corn, calcium propionate and carboxymethyl cellulose

Flour Tortillas: wheat flour,( Enriched, bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid),water, margarine, (liquid soybean oil partially hydrogenated soybean oil water, salt, vegetable mono and diglyocrides, soy lecithin, potassium sorbateand citric acid (as preservatives), artificial flavor, beta carotene (color), vitamin A palmitate added) shortening (fully refined palm oil and BHT, BHA, and TBHO (to preserve freshness) contains less then 2%of salt, baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, corn phosphate) rice flour, guar gum, dextrose, cellulose gum, , potato starch, mono diglycrides, fumaric acid, calcium propionate (to maintain freshness), and sodium metab sulfite (dough conditioner).

Avoid fried food: oils may contain hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein chips, and tofu are fried at Willy’s

Salsa and canned goods: Willy’s uses canned product in most of the salsas.

Canned Items: Salsa tomatoes, tomatillo, black olive, pickled jalapeƱo, roasted red pepper, and chipotle peppers. Avoid Chili d‘Arbo

Willy’s marinades: our marinades are made with fresh ingredients orange juice and pine nuts. Avoid the Adobe or spicy marinade is made with a chili powder.

As you can see this is totally says on the top what to avoid, but then lists items that would seem safe....this really needs to be reworded. I was determined to get to the bottom of it, so after several back and forth communications with their marketing coordinator, I received this final word on what is safe and what is not at Willy's

Hi Anne,

I apologize once again for making this such a confusing issue. Since there were some conflicting opinions within Willy’s, we went to the manufacturers to verify. We do have an issue with our chili d’arbol sauce because the spices are made with a wheat based thickener. We are now working to have that switched to a non gluten spice and hope to have it rolled out within the next 1-2 months.

For now, the following items are not gluten free:

Chili d’Arbol sauce

Habanero salsa

Chipotle salsa

Cheese Dip

Flour tortillas

The other items listed have chili d sauce in them too. Once we are able to make this change, we will be completely gluten free except for flour tortillas. I will be glad to let you know or check back with us to confirm.

With this new confirmation, I went right out and had my first Willy's in 10 years and it was super yummy. I enjoyed a burrito bowl with tofu, and chips. I was bummed that I could not have the salsas (except for the tomatillo salsa) and cheese dip, but I will follow up to see when they change the wheat-based thickener to a gluten-free one.

Now, if only I could find out it is safe to eat at La Fonda....another one of my Atlanta favorites! If any of you successfully eat at La Fonda, please let me know.


  1. I am so happy you cleared this up. The day you and I sent email back & forth was the day I ate at Willy's again! I've been able to eat at multiple locations and I've yet to be glutened. Thank goodness!!! And thank you for finally getting to the bottom of the mystery.

  2. I am so glad you have eaten there without issue too. So, you stayed away from the salsas right?

    I wish I could get someone to respond to me from La Fonda.

  3. thanks for this info, I love Willy's but I got glutened the last time I went, now I know it was the salsa! I stick to the paella at La Fonda, it is delicious and I have not had any problems with it.

  4. Becky, which paella do you get at La Fonda? I finally received a response from them today, but basically saying they cannot assure anything is safe. Hmmm......but I want it to badly!

  5. Aruna Industries was established in 1986 as manufacturers of a variety of spice powders. Our company is into manufacturing and packing both direct and blended spice powders. In direct spice powders we have Chilly Powder, Turmeric Powder, Coriander Powder, Jeera Powder, Pepper Powder and Methi Powder.

  6. I usually get the mixed paella, it has chicken, sausage, and seafood in it. I have also had the just seafood one. I once got brave and ordered grilled fish tacos on corn tortillas, but the fish had a suspicious flour-like dusting on it, so I made my boyfriend eat them and took his paella!