Mama Lu’s – Tacos in Traverse City, MI

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Mama Lu's no longer features a dedicated fryer on their menu

If there’s one question I get asked more than any other, it’s “I’m going to {city}, where is a good place to eat?” I’m actually honored by that. It means my readers and friends on social media feel I’m a source of accurate information. That’s my goal in all this, and I rely on suggestions from you as well. A friend recommended Mama Lu’s in Traverse City to me in the fall of 2016. Therefore, I emailed the owner and had a great conversation about their menu. At that time, they had a dedicated gluten-free fryer and the majority of their menu was gluten-free. They also had excellent reviews on Find Me Gluten Free.

Fast forward to Memorial Day, 2017. One of my good friends was running in the Bayshore Marathon, her first marathon ever. We planned a trip to Traverse City to support. While there, we planned a stop at Mama Lu’s for lunch, which they offered on the house. The owner was gracious in accommodating the fact that we needed to change our reservations. The hostess was gracious by accommodating my request for a different table, closer to the window. (Think my pictures are great? Natural lighting is totally the key.) In addition, our waitress was gracious in answering our questions.

The pollo taco at Mama Lu's is not naturally gluten-free, but they will accommodate your needs

And this is where the reminders and the lesson come in to play. I was sure to double check with our waitress that they still had a dedicated fryer and that majority of Mama Lu’s menu was gluten-free. Glad I asked, because this was no longer true. Sometime between fall of last year and May of this year, they changed their menu. Business had been going so well that they could no longer keep a dedicated gluten-free fryer. I failed to double check with the owner before coming, so that’s on me. The “designated fryer” tag remained on Find Me Gluten Free as well. (I contacted Find Me Gluten Free and they updated the listing.)

So I will admit I was thrown a bit for a loop. It wasn’t what I was expecting. However, our waitress at Mama Lu’s didn’t miss a beat. She explained what they could do for me differently. Instead of the fried chicken for their pollo taco, they coated chicken in crushed tortilla chips and baked the chicken. (The chips are prepared off premises and are gluten-free.) It was delicious! My husband said he preferred it to regular fried chicken. Our waitress made sure other fried toppings remained off of our tacos.

The Street Corn at Mama Lu's is gluten-free and AMAZING!

There are still items on the Mama Lu’s menu that are naturally gluten-free. For example, their street corn. Mama Lu’s rolls their Street Corn in cotija cheese and tops them with lime mayo. These things are addictive. I LOVE the movie Nacho Libre, and this street corn makes me think of Jack Black’s antics.

Mama Lu’s also makes their house guacamole from scratch, made to order. The guacamole had a little more lime in it than I would prefer, but my husband loved every bite. We also enjoyed their agua frescas. My husband had the pineapple and I ordered the strawberry agua fresca. It reminded me of a virgin strawberry daiquiri, and I loved every drop.


The steak tacos at Mama Lu's are gorgeous!


Mama Lu’s prices their tacos individually so you can mix and match. In addition to the pollo taco (which was topped with watermelon and chipotle BBQ), we also ordered the carnita taco and the steak taco. The steak taco pictured above is topped with corn relish and fresh radish, served on house made corn tortillas. I didn’t get a good picture of the carnita taco, because I devoured it so quickly. (*Note- They served the carnita taco without the crispy garlic. This is because they fry the crispy garlic in the same oil as gluten-containing items.)

In conclusion, we had an enjoyable meal at Mama Lu’s. The situation with the menu change is a good reminder to me, and all of us. We must always ask important questions about food safety. Ask if things are made in a dedicated fryer, or if meat is marinated in gluten-containing sauces. Ask if they use a separate cutting board to prepare your gluten-free meal.  Always read the comments on Find Me Gluten Free, as menus and owners may change. We must always remember that we are responsible for keeping ourselves healthy. If that means choosing to leave someplace if they can’t answer your questions, that’s okay too. (And if you feel comfortable with the answers, but still get sick, try to handle it with grace.)

The interior at Mama Lu's is very trendy

Which leads me to one last important point. I want to be your trusted resource. That being said, I make mistakes too. My reviews are meant to be a guide. Please be sure to verify ingredients and practices on everything you eat. And can you do me a favor? If I make a mistake, graciously point it out to me, in private where we can have an honest conversation? Click the “Contact” button on the top of the page or send me a direct message through my Facebook page. Let’s agree to help each other out. 🙂

Mama Lu’s
149 E Front St
Traverse City, MI 49684
(231) 943-2793
Hours Tuesday-Saturday 12-9 PM. Closed Sunday and Monday
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Have you eaten at Mama Lu’s? What other Mexican restaurants do you love?

Mama Lu’s did not charge us for our meal. However all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mama Lu’s is one of many Michigan restaurants I’ve visited. You can view a list of them on my  Michigan gluten free dining post. Please remember to always ask any restaurant about their food preparation practices.


  1. All of these meals look FABULOUS. And that chicken? I can’t believe it’s not fried! It’s definitely so important to always ask questions, though, even if you’ve been there tons of times before. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. We’re heading to Traverse this weekend and will have Mama Lu’s on our list to try. MEX in Great Lakes Crossing is a faboulous place for GF. We have yet to be there and have a clueless waitperson. They’ve all been extremely knowledgeable

  3. I live in Traverse City and love Mama Lu’s! Their fresh ingredients and actually understanding how to ensure food stays gluten free is unmatched!

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