The commercial district of Penn Ave. in Garfield has a new neighbor: the Gluten Free Goat Bakery.
The Gluten Free Goat has been providing gluten-free and vegan snacks to the city of Pittsburgh since October 2014, but this is their first brick-and-mortar location, though they operated in the Pittsburgh Public Market until it closed last year. Many of Gluten Free Goat’s treats, such as their famous gluten-free donuts, have been a staple in coffee shops across the city for years.
Owner Jeanette Harris was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevents the body from being able to process gluten, ten years ago. At that time, gluten-free options, or even gluten-free recipes, were limited. So Harris, who was already a fan of baking, began experimenting.
“I’ve always loved cooking, but when I first started cooking gluten-free, it was awful,” says Harris. “My baked goods were hard as rocks and super dense. It was like learning a whole new science. I knew how to bake before, but I had to learn to bake in a completely different way. But, I’ve always liked the process of experimenting and figuring stuff out.”
When Harris finally decided to turn her hobby into a business, it was about filling a need for the city. She knew how little she could eat when she left her house, and figured other people must be dealing with the same issue.
“I knew there was a market for it because every time I would go to a coffee shop, there wouldn’t be anything that I could eat. I also knew there weren’t a lot of vegan options. I decided to make it both vegan and gluten free to offer it to more people. I know what it’s like to not have options.”
Her hunch about a lack of gluten-free and vegan options in Pittsburgh ended up being correct. The business grew very quickly, expanding from two to three shops carrying her products to 12 within just a few months. Even with the rapid success of the company, Harris never really planned on opening her own shop.
“I never thought I would have my own place, but it seemed like an organic process,” she says. “We wanted our own space to bake. We were using a commercial kitchen, and it’s hard to share a space. We had to scrub everything, and it was a lot of extra work. It was also tough because you can’t be there every day, do special orders last minute, or experiment because you are paying by the hour. I figured if I was going to have pay for a kitchen, we might as well have a retail space.”
That space is now open, providing gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, and mostly organic baked goods to the city of Pittsburgh.
The bakery opens early, and serves brunch all week. The menu features items like falafel waffles, veggie burgers and vegan Benedict on the weekends. They have a grab and go fridge with yogurts, salads, and other fresh dishes, including a spicy sesame noodle salad.
The Gluten Free Goat exclusively brews Common Place coffee, and is always serving a plethora of gluten-free donuts, with flavors like apple cider, lavender lemon, and matcha rosewater.
The Gluten Free Goat will continue to take special orders for businesses and retailers, and takes personal orders, too. Harris says she’s happy to help people struggling with adapting a gluten-free diet, as she remembers what it was like when she was in their shoes.
“I offer 20-minute free consultation for people who are looking for gluten-free help, and I also offer consultations if anyone is working on a menu plan. If someone wants to shoot me an e-mail about how to substitute something, I am happy to help,” she says. “I know what it is like when you first start out.”
The Gluten Free Goat is open Wednesday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Gluten Free Goat (4905 Penn Avenue)