I am at a stage where all parents of gluten free kids get to several times in their life — planning a vacation and finding gluten-free friendly restaurants.  I had lots of luck researching this when we went to DC last year.  But Charleston, South Carolina is proving to be a bit more difficult.

Luckily we’re renting a beach home so we can cook our meals, but it is nice to know where you can go out to eat.  I have done my usual research…and I honestly am not feeling very secure in what I’ve found.

Finding a Gluten-Free Savvy Restaurant

First I went to glutenfreeregistry.com.  It had many restaurants, but what you need to do is continue your research because there are sooooo many restaurants who say they are gluten-free friendly, but I want to know if they’re gluten-free SAVVY!  They need to be smart about gluten free and cross contamination too!  I already try to rule out chain restaurants (including Chili’s which I wouldn’t wish upon any gluten-free eater — sorry guys) that  I can eat at here in Minnesota.

So I found a few worth exploring.  Some are very upscale and not ready for my meat and potatoes family (or is that we’re not ready for them?)  So with those ruled out, I looked at a few restaurants including Jason’s Deli.  Which looked promising.  Until I saw the “Note” on the gluten-free menu:

“Please be advised that all of our foods are prepared in a common kitchen and that Jason’s Deli cannot guarantee that cross-contact with other gluten-containing products will not occur. As a result, we cannot recommend this for persons with Celiac Disease. Our gluten-free offerings are designed for those with minor gluten sensitivities or those who prefer to avoid gluten for nutritional reasons.”

Great (note sarcasm)!  I am not sure if I should be happy they shared this information with me or sad that they’re going to all this work to cater mostly to the fad diet.  Most people I know of with gluten sensitivities probably wouldn’t eat there either.  Ugh.

So I moved on to Your Pie.  I sent them an email requesting information on how they deal with cross contamination concerns.   While I haven’t heard from them yet, I was a little concerned with their nutritional information on the gluten free pizza crust.  Now maybe I shouldn’t worry about it but  look at this graph below!

Your Pie Gluten Free Dough Info (click to enlarge)

More than two times the amount of calories, three times the sodium and eight times the amount of total fat!  Maybe this is the case for all gluten free pizza crust???  Even if they talk about the most pristine gluten free practices, I wonder if this will taint my desire to go??

Atlanticville on Sullivan’s Island seemed promising, but there is no menu listed and it’s far away from where we’re staying.

So then I moved onto Glutenfreetravelsite.com where I found T-Bonz and a good review to boot: “It was such a great experience,” the reviewer said, “I will definitely go back next time I am in Charleston!”  However there was no acknowledgment of gluten-free offerings.  So I sent them an email as well.

I also did a Google search for “gluten free Charleston, SC” and up came COAST Bar and Grill and someone on Citysearch did a review mentioning how the waitress helped with a gluten free patron, “…my boyfriend requires gluten-free and she went back into the kitchen to find out about various dishes and came back with a full report of what would be good options for him without our asking. I thought that was a very generous act!” I would love to go there, but I am not sure my kids would love it….might be a little too “fishy” so to speak.

Anyway….enough said, it has been a lot of work this morning.  And I have to admit, sometimes it gets tiring, especially when you don’t come up with the answers you were looking for (ala Jason’s Deli).

So now I’m turning to my readers for both tips on how they find gluten-free SAVVY restaurants — and if you know of any restaurants you’ve had luck with in Charleston, please comment below!





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15 Responses to “Finding A Gluten-Free Restaurant Isn’t Always Easy”

  1. I do much of the same research as you. We have several Jason’s Delis here in Denver. While they started carrying UDI’s bread, everything is produced on the same ‘line’ so the level of contamination is high.

    I would try everything you’ve tried so far. I usually Google to find what restaurants are available, and then start calling/emailing to weed out the GF fakers.

    Perhaps see there is a GF support group in the area that has a website with restaurant suggestions?

    I also have some luck on urbanspoon.com: http://www.urbanspoon.com/t/61/1/Charleston/Gluten-Free-Friendly-restaurants.

  2. Here is another suggestion: http://www.thecoopsullivans.com/.

    Go to “The Dirt” tab on the site. I’d say they are pretty Savvy. Not sure how close they are to where you will be staying, though.

  3. I find when planning a trip that local support groups are often a great source of gluten-free restaurant suggestions. Many times, they have had successful gluten-free events at local restaurants and have already established a reputation with the managers and staff.

    Safe gluten-free travels!

  4. Not necessarily for restaurants, but my fiance and I started a website to track places selling gluten free beer. The database includes many restaurants that, as sellers/distributors of gluten-free beer, are generally knowledgeable and mindful of the gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, we currently don’t have any places in SC, but it is definitely a great resource if you or your readers plan on traveling across the U.S., Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

  5. I’ve eaten at Jason’s Deli many times and have not had problems. While they only have one “line” for making the sandwiches, every time they have cleaned the area before preparing my gluten free sandwich. It takes a little longer to get your food, but it is well worth the wait. You may want to try calling the Jason’s Deli in Charleston to see what their gluten free practices are before crossing them off your list. No restaurant is going to be completely free of cross-contamination, all they can do is their best to prevent it.

  6. I’m glad Jason’s Deli updated their Gluten Free statement. I have eaten there several times, and I always feel bad afterwards. I wish I knew what population utilizes a “low -gluten” diet…

    Good luck with the vacation!

  7. GF Registry is my favorite for a situation like this but I also use: The Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program: http://www.glutenfreerestaurants.org

    You can do a zip code search for all the restaurants in the area that went through the GFRAP training. (Unfortunately the majority are chain restaurants.)

    Urbanspoon can be somewhere to start your search but it is user reported and a number of people check the gluten free/friendly box if they did ok there rather than only if the restaurant is truely savvy!

  8. We went to Your Pie for GF pizza and watched closely how they prepare it. Terrible cross-contamination. They put on a clean pair of gloves and started to put our toppings on. It was on a clean tray and didn

  9. I am looking to offer gluten free products in my restaurant. Being that you people seem that have done the most research due to your requirements. I was hoping that you might be able to help us figure out what requirements would be necessary to offer a true gluten free menu option. It seems to be nearly impossible to offer a true gluten free product without having two kitchens. Any suggestion?

  10. Taco Mamacita’s on Sullivan’s Island has a gluten-free menu. Quite a few choices and very tasty!

  11. Ugh. I am trip-planning too as a newly diagnosed Celiac. I also have other food allergies which always complicates things. It is so frustrating. I’ve had the mentality that I don’t want to stop eating out or traveling due to this but eating at restaurants that claim to have gluten-free options has discouraged me. It seems very few of them are actually trained or knowledgeable about cross-contamination.

    It’s so frustrating. On one hand, the people who go gluten-free as a way to lose weight or who knows what, make restaurants want to offer things like this, but on the other hand, it minimizes the seriousness of what gluten can do to someone with Celiac.

  12. Try Burtons Grill in Mt. Pleasant SC. They are truly gluten savvy and incredibly kid friendly.

  13. Jasons deli managers are the only ones allowed to make gf food. Eat there all the time never get sick. Have gf bread for sandwiches and great tomato basil soup. Download app find me gluten free on phone. Helps anywhere. Glad Coast got good review going there tonight. Ruby Tuesday have designated area for allergy food prep. Although Chilis is supposed have just managers (found out after) walk gf food through line our waoter didnt follow, I got sick.
    Dont give up on Charleston, downtown has more. Go to find me gluten free app for lists

  14. PF changs mt Pleasant

  15. Look up gluten free pages on facebook very helpful.

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