Eating Out Tips

Eating a gluten free meal at restaurants can be challenging.  Making sure your server and the chef understand how seriously dangerous consuming gluten is for you is important.  Here are some tips to help you dine out safely, so you can enjoy your meal to the fullest.

  • If you know where you are going beforehand, check to see if the restaurant has a website.  Most restaurants will post their menus online.  They may have a gluten free menu available or a list of menu ingredients.  
  • Bring in an allergen card for your server to pass along to the chef.  Lisa Cooks Allergen Free provides a downloadable Restaurant Safety Sheet on her site that you can fill out for the kitchen staff.
  •  Ask questions!!  
    • Are the french fries fried in the same oil as the breaded items?
    • Is the grilled chicken/pork/fish dusted in any flour or batter? Or if you're in a fast food restaurant, does it contain wheat?
    • Is there any wheat (i.e. soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce) in the meal's broth/au jus/sauce?
    • Are there breadcrumbs or breading in this dish?
    • Which salad dressings contain gluten?
  • Request!!
    • Please grill my meat on a clean grill instead of where bread/buns may have been toasted.
    • The cooking utensils used to prepare my dish cannot touch any other foods that contain gluten.
    • My gluten free pasta cannot be cooked in water that previously held glutenous pasta or drained in a strainer used to strain gluten pasta.
    • No croutons on my salad.
  • If you feel your server isn't knowledgeable enough to answer your questions, ask to speak to the chef or manager.  Communicating with the people running the establishment should give you the assurance that you are being taken care of. 
    Knowing the right questions to ask and how to navigate your way through restaurant menus becomes easier as you get more familiar with gluten free dining.  Luckily more and more restaurants and service staff are becoming knowledgeable on the gluten free diet and how to accommodate their guests.

    There may be times, however; that you will get "glutened".  Kitchen staff not on their A-game could cut your food on a cutting board that wasn't washed after used for cutting gluten foods.  A wheat noodle could be in your gluten free pasta. Something as innocent as a Bloody Mary (well, that's not that innocent...) could have beer in it.  (Yep...happened to me.  Who would have thought a shot of beer went into InnJoy's Bloody Marys?)  That shouldn't deter you from dining out.

    As important as it is to ask questions while you are ordering, it's just as important to ask them after your plate is placed in front of you.  Confirm that it's gluten free.  Ask to speak to the chef.  Usually if the restaurant is serious about their gluten free dishes, a member of the kitchen staff or the restaurant manager will either deliver your meal to you or be there when your meal is delivered to reassure you that everything on your plate is safe.

    Here are some more helpful sites to help you dine out gluten free:

    Looking for a restaurant with gluten free menus?  Check out my Gluten Free Chicago Restaurants page!