Hey neighbor! Hmm, chances are that we are not neighbors… so that makes this topic a little more obscure. See the spots that we frequent as gluten freers may not be available where you are. And the places that are awesomesauce where you abide may not be where I am. So I am just going to talk about some general eating out principles and open it up for a discussion and recommendation in the comments section.
Since Man Boy was diagnosed with Celiac, eating out has consistently been the hardest thing. From what I have heard from other Celiac patients and those with very high allergic reactions to gluten, a lot of the time it is just not worth it. Companies may play into the whole gluten free movement by giving you a little printed out gluten free menu (that is pretty much just salad with no dressing and some sort of dried chicken) but they don’t often have a safe practice to ensure there is no cross contamination. If you prefer to eat gluten free but are not going to get sick from it, then you have a lot more freedom when it comes to dining out. If you know you are gonna be in the restroom for five hours if a bread crumb is mixed in with your meal, then you may not want to risk it. Our boy has been glutenized the most from eating out. He doesn’t like to chance it anymore and I hate seeing him in pain from gluten, so frankly I don’t want to either. We have our “safe” places and don’t deviate a whole lot from them.
Eating out is such a social thing and it should be enjoyable. But most of the time it isn’t for those who can’t have gluten if you are eating at a chain restaurant or fast food place. Don’t get me started on fast food. I once tried to explain to someone at Mc Donald’s that we just wanted two burger patties with cheese in a box(a double cheeseburger hold almost everything) because of a gluten “allergy”. The Mc Donald’s website claims their burgers and cheese are gluten free. The worker looked at me like I was crazy and I hadn’t actually said anything crazy yet! When I started talking about cross contamination his eyes went a little cross eyed and a manger was brought in. Man boy overhead this whole exchange and opted out of the whole deal. We went to In N Out instead. Also a gamble but much more consciences.
I always look up the menu and their website before we go. Most places will have their gluten free items listed. I try to dissect the ingredients and descriptions to see how safe I think it is. Again, if gluten free is a lifestyle choice then you don’t have to be as stringent with contamination and ingredient checking. You can be more fly by the seat of your pants. Throw caution to the wind. Be as cool as Justin Timberlake. I’m not, so I have to dissect the ever loving crap out of the menus. To each his own.
Tips For Eating Out:
- Beware of Ignorance. If the server gives off even one vibe as to not understanding your gluten allergy or Celiac issue… don’t trust them! I have given the benefit of the doubt too many times and it almost always is contaminated.
- Beware of Croutons. Just because you order a seemingly safe crouton free salad, you need to eyeball it a bit. Croutons could have been put on it, the mistake realized and then taken off. Look for crumbs. Yes, this has happened.
- Beware of Sauces. A common thickener in sauces and dressings is something gluten based. You are safest with oil and vinegar when eating out. Also just because something like mayonnaise is gluten free doesn’t mean a contaminated knife hasn’t been stuck into it and then used to touch your stuff. Bleh.
- Beware of Contamination. It is everywhere in a restaurant. The grills, the fryers, the food prep areas… an unclean table. Even the best places that try hard to be safe could accidentally contaminate. Unless the restaurant is fully gluten free (we have only found a few places like that nearby) then I am always cautious. Better safe than bloated or worse! Yes, people will think you are annoying. Yes, you may become “that table.” But it is not something to chance. Ask questions. Be an advocate! You are paying money to them, make them work. If they are really helpful and you don’t barf at the end of your meal, leave a good tip. What goes around comes around.
Now in case you live in California, you may want to check out the recommendations for restaurants page. It tells you where we feel it is safe to eat and what we have ordered. I mention a few places that have burned us too. Ya know, because payback. http://www.gutsyglutenfreegal.com/where-we-eat-out/