Gluten Free Food Thought-full Thursday- Eating Out

As my life has gotten very busy in the non-food department, I’ve not been able to post every day like I was.  I really miss that interaction with the food world.

So I thought I would start a fun, interactive and fast post for Thursdays.  I love to hear about what you’re cooking, what you want to cook, what you think about kitchen equipment, eating out, grocery shopping and all things food.  So I’m going to pose questions and offer a poll.  I would love to hear your thoughts and see what the poll finds out.  Feel free to suggest topics and questions.

So if you’re game here we go.

What do you find to be the most difficult part about eating out gluten free?  What do you find to be the best part about eating out gluten free?  When you eat out do you go chain restaurants or individual restaurants?  Do they offer a gluten free menu?

24 Responses to Gluten Free Food Thought-full Thursday- Eating Out

  1. Kim March 4, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    We rarely eat out, but when we do, I usually go to places I know have a GF menu or a place I have contacted in advance. I usually feel better if they have a printed GF menu, but, that doesn't always mean they know what they are doing.


    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 4:35 am #

      Kim- How right you are! Never assume a GF menu means everyone "gets it". Always talk with the server and confirm when you order and confirm when it's brought to the table. I ordered a burger off a GF menu and it came on a wheat bun. Needless to say I didn't eat another burger because I didn't trust them not to just take it out of the bun and serve it back to me. Always teach those who work in restaurants and be patient. But by all means, eat out!

  2. Alta March 4, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    My husband and I eat out on Fridays for lunch. It's been a date thing since before I went gluten-free. Now, I seek out restaurants that have a GF menu, or that I've visited several times and feel comfortable with. It feels slightly like a gamble – there have been restaurants that were supposed to be very gluten-free friendly (like their entire dessert menu was gluten-free!) and I have had reactions from eating there. In general, I'd prefer to cook than to eat out, but it's nice to treat yourself every now and then, if you can find a trustworthy place!

    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 5:14 am #

      Alta- Love that you go on dates. That is so important. We do that too except in the evening. I hope you keep eating out with your date!

  3. Erica March 4, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    Eating out can be a challenge for me because I eat GF, corn-free, and vegan. I like Chipotle because of both the taste and convenience, but I also have found restaurants where I can eat safely near my home and work. My biggest problem comes up when someone wants to spontaneously go someplace new. I often end up with something very plain and unsatisfying or I go hungry rather than risk getting sick.

    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

      Erica- We like Chipotle too. That is one of our spontaneous places to go or out on the road. When others start making decisions about where to eat it does get harder. I wish more restaurants would start serving quinoa pasta as an option that of course was cooked in a dedicated pot. Let us know some of your favorite vegan recipes too.

  4. Aubree Cherie March 4, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    I like the new question and poll idea! Should be fun to read all the responses each time 🙂

    I myself don’t eat out that often because I can make a lot better tasting gluten free food at home than I can eat at a restaurant. (Add the no dairy and sugar and its pretty hard to not cheat a little at a typical restaurant.)

    If I DO eat out though, its usually to a restaurant where I can get a meat dish or a burger without the bun. I’ve also eat a lot of french fries and side dishes of veggies. I usually end up with a stomach ache after I eat at a restaurant though. I’ve yet to pin point which foods are doing it, but sometimes the sacrifice is worth it! 🙂

    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 4:32 am #

      Aubree- Thank you for playing along. Did you know that restaurants often top a burger or steak off with butter? If you don't eat dairy let them know that you want your meat dry, not butter. Also, when eating fries out always ask what else is put into that fryer. If they make say onion rings or chicken nuggets, then the cross contamination can make you sick. Eating out can be an adventure. I hope you get to enjoy the adventure.

  5. Michele March 4, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    I agree, it’s hard to eat out being gfree. But I refuse to give in or give up!! It’s a life sentence not a death sentence. Just in case of an unexpected reaction we always plan on heading home after eating out! 😉

    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 5:16 am #

      Michele- Thank you!!! I totally agree. We actually eat out and it's rare I eat anywhere that has a GF menu. I eat where they prepare the foods to order. Food and eating out has always been such an important part of my marriage. It took me a little while to get the hang of how to talk with people at restaurants but since I used to work there I do have an advantage. Thank you for sharing and keep us posted on some good restaurant choices!

  6. Gina March 4, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Since being diagnosed with celiac disease in December, I've only eaten out a couple of times. One time we ate a chain that didn't have a g-free menu and I ended up eating a plate of raw spinach with shrimp on top. It was OK but, I was starving afterwards. The other time I went out my husband chose a place with a gluten-free menu and I was so happy that I could eat something wonderful that wouldn't make me sick. 🙂

    • Diane March 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

      Gina- You're doing great! It took me awhile before I went out and the first time I did I was terrified I was going to get sick. I was second guessing every decision and not even sure I had explained everything right. Sounds like you're on your way. I think the more you go out the more you learn how to get what you want.

  7. Laura March 5, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    I like to take my celiac son out to lunch once a week and as a family we go out to dinner biweekly. My son is only 2 but he is an adventurous eater since we usually avoid the children's menu. His fave place is the Roti Grill in the Chicago suburbs- he gets the cheicken kabob, rice, and a GF pita off the GF menu. I like that the servers wash their hands before preparing a GF order and one person sees the order through down the prep line. Although, we have stumbeld upon some restaurants and after a quick phone call we have frequently been shocked at places that can quite easily and happily accomodate us!

    • Diane March 11, 2010 at 10:12 am #

      Laura- You sound like a fun mom! I'd love to visit Chicago and eat my way through that city. So much good food. I'm also a big Rick Bayless fan. Have you been to any of his restaurants?

  8. Pam March 5, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I too seek restaurants that have gluten free menus but am always suspicious of contamination. I quiz my server or ask for manager but still always wonder if I'll get sick. Used to go to Chipotle but fear of contamination for me was greater there as same serving spoons are used for all items for everyone. My local Chipotle has non English speakers serving which makes it doubly hard. So I just crossed it off my list. Same for Moe's where I did get badly glutened. Again, communication was very difficult. What do others do under these circumstances?

    • Diane March 11, 2010 at 10:17 am #

      Pam- Great plan on talking with the people serving you food. We actually head to Chiptole often. I always have my Triumph Dining cards with me that explain in both English and Spanish what I can't eat. I had to cross off the rice and dairy words too. It helps when there is a communication barrier. They have them for tons of different cuisines. I also don't get the toppings where they have put their hands into the container like the lettuce. I make the food preparer put on clean gloves and not touch any flour tortillas. They usually walk my dish all the way to the end. I get beans, a meat, salsa and guacamole either in a bowl or in the hard taco shells. I have also gone in when it's really slow to talk with the manager to see how they do things and talk about the cross contamination. Very helpful.

  9. Stephanie O'Dea March 6, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    We hit up restaurants a lot on the weekends, when we're running errands, or are in between activities. Lots of the socializing we do on the weekends seem to revolve around meeting at so and so for a bite. Our situation is a bit different because it's my 5yr old who is GF, but I usually order GF so she's not alone, and so we can share food.

    breakfast places we stick to bacon, eggs, fruit and yogurt. Depending on the place I'll order hasbrowns or breakfast potatoes.

    lunch is usually a plain burger on a plate or a plain chicken breast on a plate with fries or fruit.

    we eat a lot of Mexican food while out because there are a lot of naturally gluten free options available

    I like to order a big salad with no croutons to share or an extra plate of steamed veggies.

    I'm scared of delis/sandwich places and try to steer clear. If we don't have a choice, I make sure the server changes gloves and get a few pieces of turkey and cheese. Subway has apple slices and fritos–always a safe hit.

    for a fancy meal out, PF Changs and we have everyone order off the GF menu. I try to only go to PF Changs off-hours, when it's not crawling with people.

    If we are going to have to eat Italian food, I call to make sure there is a risotto option and talk to the chef. We live in an area where the chefs at high-end restaurants are happy to talk about gf options, which is great for us.

    when traveling and eat fast food, we stick to in and out burger and taco bell. at taco bell I order a side of pintos and beans and a side of rice and cheese and 3-4 empty taco shells, and then build the tacos on our own

    and at in and out an "animal style" hamburger and lots of fries.

    most restaurants have ice cream for dessert, and at fancy places we head for the creme brulee or a flourless choc cake.


    • Diane March 11, 2010 at 10:25 am #

      Steph- My energizer bunny. Sounds like you don't miss a beat and have figured it out. I hear PF Changs has increased their GF menu. Let me know if you give that a try. Every time I head out to CA I love to go to In and Out Burger now. Eating out is definitely fun and especially in the San Fran area but I do love cooking with my crockpot too. I'm having fun with your recipes!

  10. Jenn March 7, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    With my husband, the hardest thing about gluten free right now is definitely communicating his allergy in a language we don't speak. If we can figure out how to say he is gluten free, we usually have no problem and everyone so far understands what it means to be gluten free, but we both need to work on our French a lot more, specifically so we can better handle situations like eating out. We like to eat out (though it's very $$$) because we like trying new cuisines we might not otherwise make. I have yet to see anyone here offer a gluten free menu, but so far the restaurants we have gone to have had no problem altering menu items for him when we have asked.

    • Diane March 11, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      Jenn- The Triumph Dining cards offer information to chefs and staff on gluten free eating in many cuisines and languages. If you have not seen them I would definitely check them out. I find that fine dining is often easier with a chef willing to talk about the food. They often have more knowledge and make orders from scratch so there are more opportunities for changes instead of just plainness.

  11. Katie March 12, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    We have had food luck at Qudoba with gumbo and naked burritos and Wendys where the chili and baked potatoe is gf , love of Changsha, wish we had one closer to home, I do feel much better when I can talk to a chef. We were at Disney world recently and had Sooo many food choices it was unreal, very awesome experience!

    • Diane March 13, 2010 at 11:27 am #

      Katie- thanks for sharing your dining options. What is Changsha? I don't think I've heard of that before. I'm a huge fan of Disney. In both the FL and CA parks you can get whatever you need. Once I was marked for food allergies that info followed me whenever I ordered. Very cool system. Can't wait to go back.

  12. gfe--gluten free eas March 18, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    You know me … I eat just about anywhere. I actually rarely eat at places that have gf menus, just because there aren't too many near me. And, in some cases, folks have gotten ill eating at them. A gf menu doesn't guarantee gf. Nothing like ordering off the gf menu and having your meal topped with breadsticks for example. Yes, it happened to me. I stick to real food, naturally gluten free. Steamed shrimp, lots of seafood choices actually, grilled (after quizzing on prep, chance of cross contamination), veggies, baked potatoes, and such. It's when I trust someone who says "that should be safe," that I have issues later. Always trust your gut instinct (no pun intended) on whether you can eat safely at a place.



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