This post is all about how you got glutened eating out, and how you can prevent it from happening next time!
We all have a natural desire to be with friends and socialize – and many of those occasions we do so with our friends over dinner. Eating out is the way us gluten-free folk feel normal. While I eat 95% of my meals at home, I still go out to eat when I’m invited to join friends and clients. It’s just what we do.
But eating out while on a strict gluten-free diet makes me anxious. It’s always a crap shoot.
Will I get glutened? Most likely.
Do I still go out to eat anyway? Yes.
I’m not sure why I do it and take the risk time and time again, but I do.
I went out to eat twice this week. Once with a friend for an early birthday dinner. Once with a client. I have been to both of these restaurants in the past and have had great experiences at both. But after both experiences, I most definitely got glutened – all in a two-day span. I came home feeling sick.
So if you go to a restaurant, you can take all the precautions you want, but note that you just might [and most likely will] get glutened. It happens. No restaurant can guarantee you won’t (unless it’s a dedicated GF restaurant). I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to eat out with a severe allergy. I know how horrible I feel when I get glutened, but I don’t go into anaphylactic shock.
If you do eat out, here are a few suggestions to prevent yourself from getting glutened again:
Choose Wisely: Choose restaurants with dedicated gluten-free menus and ones you have heard good things about. Remember though, while one person got glutened somewhere, doesn’t mean you will too. Staff changes daily. Restaurants evolve. If you call the restaurant and ask them about their GF options and they are positive and knowledgeable, I’m all in. If you call a restaurant (like I called Zaidy’s Deli in Denver this week) to inquire about GF options, and the staff is detached and rude about it, you can rest assured that I will never step foot in that establishment. (It’s my impression that Zaidy’s does not have any gluten-free options, nor do they care to cater to us gluten-free folk.)
Use a Dining Card: I created a gluten-free dining out card. I keep it in my wallet. In new restaurants or in situations where I’m not certain the staff understands what I’m talking about, I hand them this card and ask the waiter to share it with the chef.
Ask to Speak with Manager/Chef: Maggiano’s doesn’t even let you order (if you have an allergy) without first speaking with the chef (kudos Maggiano’s!). If you’re worried you might get glutened, ask to speak with the manager and/or chef about your concerns. If they care about their customers, they will do their best to make sure you have a great experience.
Use Strong Language: Tell the waiter you have a serious allergic reaction or horrible pain when you eat gluten, and it’s important he communicates that this is an allergy, not a fun new trendy diet you’re following, to the chef.
Ask For a Stand Alone Delivery: Waiters often pile everyone’s dish on one platter, but ask them to deliver yours completely separate to avoid cross contamination during the delivery process.
Use a Straw: As clean as we wish our glasses were, just use a straw. Trust me on this one.
Avoid the Bar (except wine): The bartender isn’t really up on the latest GF trends, so instead of asking for a mixed drink that will most definitely go through a mixing and cross contamination process with non-GF liquors (like whisky), just stick with a glass of wine. Save the fun drinks for home parties.
Ask the Right Questions: Don’t just take their word for it. Ask the right questions. For example, are you wanting to eat french fries? Most restaurants have one fryer and they cook fried chicken and your precious french fries in the same oil. Ask if there is a dedicated gluten-free fryer. Ask if there is a separate prep area. Ask if the pizza cutter used to cut gluten pizza is the same as the pizza cutter for the gluten-free pizza. These detailed questions will give you insight into whether this restaurant is really GF, or full of BS.
Be Nice: Above all else, be nice to your servers, even if they mess something up. The only thing you can control at a restaurant is your approach. If your approach is rude or demanding, the servers won’t go out of your way to give you a safe experience. And for goodness sake, leave a good tip if you’re happy with the service and even mention to the manager that your waiter took extra care of you and your special dietary needs. A little kindness will ensure that waiter is positively rewarded for being kind to you – and he or she will be kind to the next person with special dietary needs.
I hope your next dining out experience is a success!