If you're like me, you've had a sense of dread when the prospect of restaurant dining has been mentioned in your presence. Don't despair. With communication and knowledge you can overcome the obstacles celiacs have in regard to dining safely at a restaurant.
As with any other aspect of your gluten-free life, preparedness is essential in regard to restaurant dining. This is inclusive of researching the restaurant's menu and determining if the restaurant has gluten-free menu options. Here's an example of gluten-free menu options via Outback Steakhouse: http://www.outback.com/menu/pdf/glutenfree.pdf .
If you are unable to determine if a restaurant has gluten-free offerings on-line, you will need to contact that restaurant's chef or manager via telephone or in-person prior to your imminent dining experience. How do you do this? Approach the restaurant you will be dining at with the following in mind:
- Are gluten-free menu options available?
- How are basic menu items prepared? Example: are mashed potatoes a 'box mix' or "made-from scratch, gluten-free?"
- Are there croutons in the 'house salad?'
- Is the salad dressing made in-house, or bottled with unknown origin?
- Are cross-contamination issues addressed so that gluten-free items remain just that?
- Are soups based upon fresh-cooked gluten-free stock or canned stock of unknown origin?
- Are baked potatoes covered in flour to provide an extra crispy texture?
- Is oil used for frying potatoes the same oil used to fry breaded shrimp?
Now, you've done your homework and you've educated yourself in regard to how this restaurant will treat you in a safe manner, gluten-free. The time has come to be a patron of that restaurant. When greeted, you should advise the waitstaff of your name and request the chef and/or manager be alerted of your arrival. Knowledge of your arrival should sharply decrease cross-contamination issues with gluten per your prior research and conversation with the restaurant personnel. Please request confirmation the chef and/or manager is aware of your presence as a patron with the waitstaff. Also, advise the waitstaff independently of your status in regard to Celiac Disease. This is the perfect opportunity to present your gluten-free allergy restaurant card (reference http://url.ie/e1na for additional info) should you have one. Note, no need to go in great detail with the waitstaff in regard to this matter, as most will not know what a gluten-free diet entails. That said, if you state to the waitstaff "I have a severe allergy to wheat and gluten" they should take extra care, along with the manager and chef, to make sure your dining experience is optimal.
I understand what a daunting task eating at a restaurant can be as a celiac. I also understand why some may not want to expend the energy to have such a safe, gluten-free experience. However, social interaction with people sometimes requires us to be in a dining experience in a restaurant. I hope the tools and education I've provided will assist you in such experiences.
With education, communication, and practice, I feel you will thrive with preparedness in a restaurant setting.
Research, educate, and advocate all celiac and gluten-free.
Peace be with you.
If you would like to read more of my gluten-free tips, please check out my blog via www.glutenfreetip.com and on Twitter via https://twitter.com/#!/gfdougie.