(Editor note:  I updated Old Chicago’s information in a new post in February 2014.  Click read that article for more updated information.)

This weekend I posted about seeking a gluten-free meal at a traditional non-gluten-free friendly locale: Old Chicago. Known for its pizza and calzones, Old Chicago really is a gluten-lover’s dream. Last night we went there and here’s how it went….

Ordering a Gluten-Free Meal

I was in luck; as soon as we arrived our friends already had a table and had given a head’s up to our server about us needing a gluten-free meal. What our server didn’t know was that I had prearranged our meal already.

When we were seated, she came out with a sheet of paper entitled “Gluten 101”. It appeared to be an educational sheet for staffers about gluten and the challenges of avoiding gluten at their establishment (more on this in a moment). I told her I had talked to a manager from an earlier shift who arranged a non-seasoned burger that will be cooked in the oven for our daughter. She went and checked with the cooks and they knew exactly what we were talking about! Whew! Big step accomplished!

When we officially ordered, I reiterated what I wanted for my gluten-free girl, Emma, and then said, “Please, please, please don’t put a bun on it!” She said the cooks had already told her it wouldn’t come with a bun. Yeah! Everyone else ordered their calzones, pizzas etc.**

Getting the Meal

Everything was perfect! The communication, knowledge of the staff; ultimately the order came out just right. Emma was very happy with her meal which officially consisted of a burger patty and raw veggies. I also brought some chips for her. She ate it right up and was completely content! I need to give Old Chicago a big “pat on the back” for accommodating us on this trip.

“Gluten 101”

I mentioned this sheet of paper that came to the table called “Gluten 101”. It looks like information for staff about how to handle gluten-free clientele. What’s good about the sheet is that it is a quick read for anyone who suddenly has a customer with this concern. It defines gluten, Old Chicago’s “position”, “The Upside”, and staff education.

There are a few things I wanted to highlight here and it may very well deter some celiacs from ever trying to eat there — but I think it’s important to know. According to the company information on gluten, the company “position” is:

“Given our homemade pizza concept, it would be inappropriate to encourage gluten intolerant persons to make us a gluten-free destination through special menuing.” — Old Chicago position on gluten

But then it goes into “The Upside: We have many items that may be considered free of gluten ingredients…”

“All of our spec [sic] Ken’s dressings are gluten free as well as many of our meats. Vegetables, salad mixes and corn chips are also appropriate selections. In addition, we’re pretty good at tailoring special meals (e.g. bunless burger). A few of our gluten-free meats include: Steak, Ham, Turkey, Chicken breast (when gf is available– check with manager)…”

The list also includes some of their pizza toppings. Another upside they don’t list is that our Old Chicago’s bar was stocked with Redbridge (gluten-free) Beer. This should totally be on their Gluten 101 list.

Finally under Staff Education, I think it had the most important statement for celiacs.

“Please ensure they understand that because we are a make-from-scratch pizza and cookie kitchen, there is always some level of flour in the air. Nonetheless, we still have (or can put together) items that do not directly contain gluten.”

So this information definitely lays out the risks a celiac is taking by eating there. I know many who would choose not to eat at Old Chicago based on the last statement. In fact I may have reconsidered our outing there had I known.  But you have to give the company credit. They are managing expectations of their gluten-free clients (although some might say they are covering their butts). No matter how you characterize it, the flour in the air is a real issue that celiacs need to be aware of.

Overall, our family had a very successful trip to Old Chicago in Uptown Minneapolis.  In fact, when I was arranging the meal earlier in the day the person I talked to said the company was looking into ways to make its menu more gluten-free friendly. However, I would say their “Gluten 101” statement might need to change a bit if that happens.

**Just as a side note, Emma really doesn’t like pizza. I have noted that in other pizza posts before. She’s tried a few places, but continues to not have any desire or craving for it. So no one should feel bad that she had a burger in a place that does mostly pizzas.

(Editor note:  I updated Old Chicago’s information in a new post in February 2014.  Click read that article for more updated information.)

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2 Responses to “Follow Up: Gluten-Free at Old Chicago”

  1. You should check out both of the sites above!
    The dining group is fun and finds fantastic places to dine.

    The Blog Estelle’s Epicurean Gluten free is also amazing that woman knows her stuff!


  2. I came across this while looking for a GF menu for Old Chicago. Thanks for the tips of how to do GF there.

    On a side note, with the fact that their corporate people didn’t put the effort into making a GF menu or determined how they could mitigate the issues for cooking GF for customers like your daughter and myself, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Old Chicago. At least until they figure out how to do a GF menu, even if it’s small.

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