If you’re a veteran to gluten free eating, these will ring very true.  If you’re relatively new, these tips will help you learn more quickly to always go with your gut– in more ways than one.

5.  There’s no gluten free menu

Now I’ll be honest, in some cases that is not a deal breaker, but it should raise a flag that the staff may be unfamiliar. This is likely more true the lower in “scale” you go for the restaurant.  Upscale restaurants often are making foods with pure ingredients instead of processed pre-made foods.  Several years ago before Buca di Beppo had a gluten free menu, I called ahead to see if they had any gluten free offerings.  The chef got on the phone and explained to me a meal he could make that was gluten free.  We had it arranged and it turned out fantastic!

Granite City Allergen List

Granite City Allergen List

However, the other day I went to Granite City Brewery with a friend for a working lunch.  While I am not the gluten free person in my family (my 12 year old daughter is), I asked if they had a gluten free menu at the table because — in all honesty I didn’t know, and if they had one I wanted to peek at it.  The waitress initially said yes, but then came out with a several page allergen list that looked like it had been cross contaminated several different ways back in the kitchen.

She apologized for how it looked, but then explained the area where I should be looking (pictured above at right, the columns are highlighted).  A “Y” (yes) under the wheat column or gluten column meant I shouldn’t order from it.  A “N” (no) meant the food item didn’t contain that allergen.  There were a few things however that contained wheat but not gluten?? hmm.  Plus the french fries said there was no wheat or gluten in them according to the list.  So I asked the inevitable question– what are they fried with. Yes indeed, they’re fried in contaminated oil.  Not a good experience.  But to their defense, they don’t promote having a gluten-free menu.  However I wouldn’t trust that my daughter would have gotten a truly gluten free experience.

4. Wait staff, managers and cooks do a double take when you say “gluten free”

That’s never a good sign.  If you have to explain to the higher ups in the kitchen what gluten free food is, you need to leave, or go back in the kitchen and cook  it yourself.

Sure, if you want to take the time and educate them about  celiac and gluten free eating, fine, but I wouldn’t let them practice on you.

3. Your salad comes with croutons

Ugh.  Just shake your head in disappointment.  Sometimes you think its going so well– that everyone understands where you’re coming from and then somehow your burger is put on a bun, croutons are put on your salad or a bread stick is sitting on top of your broiled fish. Sigh.  Accidents and misunderstandings happen.  But the likelihood of this happening at an educated restaurant with a gluten-free process in place– not so  much.

So what do you do next?  Explain the error and that you need a freshly prepared dish of what you asked for the FIRST time.  Do you think you get a a fresh meal or do they just take the croutons off the salad?

2. Gluten free menu lists items that are contaminated

Some gluten-free menus have actually stated  that “french fries are fried in oil shared with gluten- containing ingredients”.  In my view, an educated restaurant that is serious about serving gluten free foods, would not put this as an option on a gluten free menu.

1. If they can’t spell Gluten…

You say “Oh NO”….I say –Oh yes.  This picture tells the tale.  This was the menu of a local Twin Cities restaurant about 7 months ago. It has been fixed since then.

Final tips:

  • Always ask questions:  about preparation, cross contamination, is it marinated and more.
  • If you have concerns, always ask them what do they recommend that would be best for a gluten-free diet
  • Ask what their recommended preparation style is to ensure a safe gluten-free meal.
  • Find a website like Glutenfreeregistry.com to guide you to the friendlier restaurants

Don’t leave your gut in jeopardy because of a “gut feeling’ you have that something’s not right

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2 Responses to “Top 5 Signs A Restaurant May not Be SOOO Gluten Free Friendly”

  1. Great advice! Especially #4 – a couple of years ago, I had to explain at a sushi restaurant what gluten-free meant. I thought they understood…until moments after I started eating, when the waitress came rushing out and pointed out 2 things on my plate that, as it turns out, had some kind of marinade. (Why this wasn’t checked before bringing out the food is still a mystery to me.) I was dismayed, of course, but I avoided those things – and then the same thing happened again about 10 minutes later!

    And I still got sick, of course, because even though I hadn’t eaten any of the seasoned things, they were all cross-contaminated. It was a long time before I tried going to a restaurant again!

    I would like to offer one more tip, too: If a restaurant’s idea of a gluten-free meal is a piece of plain steamed chicken, without any vegetables, side dishes, or seasonings available…yes, it probably is indeed gluten-free, but you can find something much more satisfying at a different restaurant.

  2. Great Tip Meg, I totally agree! I don’t care to bring my daughter to places with very stripped down menus.
    Thanks for sharing it with our readers!

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