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!
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…
- 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