5 Beginner Tips for Dining Out Gluten-Free
[Lisa Garza blogs at Gluten Free Foodies, where she shares gluten-free recipes and restaurant reviews. She's even hosting an event on May 12 in Seattle for Celiac Awareness Month! We asked her to share some tips for first-time gluten-free diners.]
1. Do your homework before exploring a new restaurant.
Luckily, so many restaurants are providing menu information on their websites. If you do not see any mention of offering gluten-free on their menu, pick up the phone and call them. Make your voice heard by making the call. When you ask a restaurant if they offer gluten-free menu options, it creates awareness and drives them to learn more about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and the needs this growing customer base has for good, healthy and safe gluten-free food.
2. Ask to speak to the manager or chef.
Ask specific questions about ingredients.
- Do they know what gluten-free food is?
- Do they use a dedicated gluten-free fryer for their gluten-free French fries or corn tortillas and chips?
- Do they use soy sauce? Soy sauce is used in all types of restaurants, not just Asian restaurants, so ask if they use it because it contains wheat gluten.
3. Be extra careful with certain menu items.
These dishes may contain hidden gluten:
- Cheese and frozen foods like hash browns and french fries – these foods can contain gluten as an additive, or they may be cooked in the same fryer as gluten-containing foods.
- Meats – Deli meats and pizza toppings like pepperoni can contain additives, including gluten. Ask if the brands they use are gluten-free.
- Breads – Unless the restaurant specifically states that they are gluten-free, avoid any crusts, rolls, croutons or baked goods
- Desserts – In addition to cake, pie and baked goods, gluten can also be in certain types of ice cream (either as an additive or a mix-in, i.e. cookie dough).
- Sauces and salad dressings – It’s best to ask for oil and vinegar on the side of the salad.
4. If you have a special event, always call ahead.
Make a reservation and let the staff know that you are gluten-free, along with any other dietary needs. Let them know it is a special celebration – birthday, anniversary, etc. and ask them ahead of time what you can expect to find on the menu.
Some restaurants will let you bring in a cake or dessert from an outside bakery if they do not offer gluten-free desserts. Make sure it is clearly marked with a sign “GLUTEN-FREE,” your name and contact information. Make sure the dessert is well wrapped or contained so they can store it in the cooler safely.
The staff at the restaurant will appreciate you taking the time to contact them prior to your special occasion so they can provide the best customer service possible. Developing a favorite chef relationship at your local restaurants will go a long way for future dining and celebrations.
5. Share your gluten-free experience with others.
Post a review on your favorite social media sites. This will help other gluten-free people find GREAT dining experiences and will also encourage more restaurants to create a safe gluten-free menu.
- Lisa Garza