Keeping with our Loire Valley series, I thought I'd write a post about my favorite dining destinations in my old stomping grounds. In a gastronomic paradise such as France, food plays no small part in the overall experience.
Below are some of my favorite eateries throughout the valley and what I think each is best for. Whether you're looking for a traditional French dinner, gluten-free risotto, or an amazing selection of gelato, you'll find it here!
Romantic and Rustic: La Cave, Montlouis
We kicked off our bank holiday weekend with a romantic traditional French feast at La Cave. As its name suggests, this classic French restaurant is located inside of a troglodyte cave. These caves, while common in the Loire Valley, are pretty amazing and eating dinner inside of one was a very unique and memorable experience. The lighting and overall ambience is very elegant, great for a romantic evening.
But the setting wasn't the only memorable part of our meal. The food was delicious. Sharing a côte de bœuf and a bottle of local Touraine red wine produced right in Montlouis, David and I were extremely impressed with the quality and flavor of everything we ate. Accompanied with bread and pickles, the meal was also very filling and good value for money!
La Cave's out-of-the-way location in the countryside means it's popular with locals and less touristy than some other options in the valley. Plus, did I mention it's in a cave?
Quaint and Casual—La Scala, Vouvray
Instead of staying in Tours as I'd done in the past, David and I opted for a countryside B&B on this trip. Located in the charming wine-producing town of Vouvray, you can read more about our B&B here.
Because we stayed in a less populated area, dining options right next to our accommodation were relatively limited. There are basically two restaurants in Vouvray—plus a non-gluten-friendly pizzeria. Come Sunday night when we were looking for a place to eat dinner, only one restaurant remained open. Despite mixed reviews online, we headed to La Scala hoping for the best.
It was so much better than expected! While very simple and far less atmospheric than La Cave, our experience at La Scala was exceptional. Visiting in the summer meant that we got to eat outside on a tree-lined terrace. The food was also delicious and they even had an allergen list so I could verify that my Trio of Risottos was indeed gluten-free—and delectable. David really enjoyed his ravioli as well and we both topped off the evening with a (giant) sundae.
Great for Gluten-Free—Free Four
If you or your travel companions are on a gluten-free diet, it's totally possible to find places to eat in the Loire Valley. I wrote a whole post about it, in fact! So I won't go on and on here but, whether or not you're on a gluten-free diet, Free Four is a real diamond in the rough.
This backyard food-truck restaurant specializes in Celiac-friendly gluten-free cuisine. The two owners both have Celiacs and the kitchen is free of cross-contamination, something that's pretty rare in France.
At Free Four you can order from a varied menu of pizzas, calzones, and langos. The latter is a Hungarian fried dough that comes in sweet and savory varieties. Free Four's location only a few miles down the road from Chambord and other Loire Valley chateaus makes it very convenient for anyone on a castle-hopping expedition. We visited Free Four between stops at the Château de Chambord and Cheverny and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
Crêpes and Gluten-Free Galettes—Le Chaperon Rouge, Tours
This Little Red Riding Hood-themed creperie is a relatively new addition to Tours' restaurant scene so I hadn't visited before. David and I discovered Le Chaperon Rouge on our quest for gluten-free French food. I'm glad we did. The restaurant is small and seems to be a two-person operation. The husband cooks and the wife runs things out front—but it's very efficient and charming.
The creperie serves savory crepes called galettes as well as sweet crepes. Because galettes are made out of buckwheat flour, they are naturally gluten-free. This makes them a great option for anyone with gluten intolerance who still wants to enjoy some traditional French cuisine. Unfortunately there are no gluten-free sweet crepes on the menu but, after our galettes, we didn't have any room for dessert anyway.
And for Dessert—Tutti Gusti, Tours
When in France, dessert is obligatoire. Combine that with the heatwave during our visit and, suffice it to say, I ate a lot of ice cream. If your crepes at Le Chaperon Rouge don't tide you over, head to Place Plumereau for a sweet treat. During my two semesters studying in Tours, I spent lots of time in Place Plumereau. Also known as Place Plum, it's a popular square in the old part of town. The medieval architecture in Place Plum is incredible to behold over a drink or dinner...or dessert.
This square is full of restaurants, bars, and my favorite ice cream shop—Tutti Gusti. As its name suggests, Tutti Gusti offers a wide variety of gelato flavors. I also find the quality of the gelato to be top notch. With its prime location on a corner of Place Plum, one might think Tutti Gusti would be touristy and overpriced. But that's just not the case—Tutti Gusti's scoops are totally reasonable and, in my opinion, worth every centime.
Don't Forget Apéritifs
While all of these dining experiences were extremely fun and memorable, my final suggestion for your Loire Valley trip is to head to a supermarché, stock up on local wine, cheese, and bread, and enjoy them alfresco. After a day spent driving around the Loire Valley visiting several castles, David and I headed to the LeClerc supermarket in La Ville aux Dames and did just that.
The large market had a wide selection of gluten-free snacks, including baguettes and crackers. These paired deliciously with the local cheeses and the bottle of Touraine red we also purchased. Our mini-feast on the patio of our B&B was so fun.
I highly recommend taking this time to soak in the beautiful views of the valley. Although the simplest meal we had, when we talk about our trip now we both remember this night with particular fondness!
Make sure to check out David's video about our Loire Valley adventure here. You can see the above restaurants in much more detail plus learn more about why this area is so worth a visit!