GF Friendly Restaurants

O’Charley’s Gluten-Free?

16 Comments 27 October 2011

O’Charley’s Gluten-Free?

As a gluten-free diner, I always plan ahead when going out for dinner. I choose a restaurant that I know will offer several gluten-free options, or I call the restaurant in advance to make sure they are cognizant about gluten issues.  It is becoming more and more likely that a restaurant will actually have a gluten-free menu, which means more choices and less stress about eating out.

I normally wouldn’t choose to eat at O’Charley’s, but sometimes you don’t really have a choice.  It’s a Southern restaurant chain offering American food, and when you dine with a group, it’s good to chose a place that offers variety.  I hadn’t been to O’Charley’s since my diagnosis, and I wondered how growing gluten awareness had impacted this mid-level restaurant chain.

It really hasn’t.

O’Charley’s does have an Allergen Information binder that the server will bring out if you ask for it, but everything must be cross-referenced.  The diner needs to find something on the menu that looks promising, and then look in the binder to see if anything in that menu option contains gluten.

Each page of the binder lists food items in alphabetical order and common allergens marked with an X on an allergen grid.

User friendly?  Not at all, but the information is there.  I’d recommend finding this document online and doing your cross-referencing with the online menu at home.  Know what you are going to order before arriving at the restaurant so that you can spend your time enjoying conversation with friends instead of taking 20 minutes to research.

I was hoping that O’Charley’s had become a little more progressive than this.

How hard would it be for O’Charley’s to create a gluten-free menu?

Not hard at all.  I made my own in 10 minutes.  Here’s Gluten-Free Cat’s Unofficial O’Charley’s Gluten-Free Menu created by cutting and pasting from O’Charley’s Allergen Information Document.

 

Gluten-Free Cat’s Unofficial O’Charley’s Gluten-Free Menu

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Onions, Sauteed
  • Smashed Potatoes, A La Carte

Salads:

  • California Chicken Salad w/o Dressing
  • Calypso Spinach Salad w/Dressing
  • 9 types of dressings:  Balsamic Vinaigrette, Bleu Cheese, Caesar, Honey Mustard, Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Light Ranch, Oil & Vinegar, Ranch, Thousand Island (***SEE COMMENT SECTION BELOW ABOUT DRESSINGS!)

Pork:

  • Baby Back BBQ Ribs
  • Sausage Pattie

Beef:

  • Filet Mignon
  • Jr. Grilled Steak
  • Louisiana Sirloin
  • Mushroom & Bleu Cheese Sirloin (I’d be hesitant to order anything with bleu cheese)
  • Ribeye
  • Steak & Half-Rack Baby Back Ribs
  • Top Sirloin, Grilled
  • Steak & Grilled Atlantic Salmon

Chicken:

  • Jr. Grilled Chicken

Fish:

  • Cedar Planked Salmon
  • Cedar Planked Tilapia
  • Grilled Atlantic Salmon
  • Steak & Grilled Atlantic Salmon

Sides:

  • Baked Potato (loaded), A La Carte
  • Baked Potato, Plain
  • Bleu Cheese Steak Topping (I’d be hesitant to order anything with bleu cheese)
  • Soup, Overloaded Potato
  • Sour Cream for Baked Potato
  • Margarine for Baked Potato

Breakfast:

  • Eggs

 

***Remember that restaurants change their ingredients, so always ask to make sure this information is up-to-date.

I was able to find a meal to eat safely.  The California Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette was good.  But the whole dining experience could have been much easier with a gluten-free menu.

Bottom line?  Celiacs can eat at O’Charley’s, but O’Charley’s needs to step up and create a gluten-free menu.

Your Comments

16 Comments so far

  1. I thought the same thing when I’ve eaten there, Heather. They are not alone in having the single copy allergen-free menu as what they hand patrons, but really it is rather sad. But O’Charley’s is a favorite spot of hubby’s and I’ve actually had good luck there. I usually get the ribs or the salmon, and sometimes the overloaded potato soup. Your salad looks great though! Each and every time we go, we put in a pitch to the manager for a better gf menu. Thanks for sharing, dear. I will print your menu out and keep it in our car. ;-)

    Hugs,
    Shirley

    • Heather says:

      I’m glad you have good experiences there. I suppose once you learn what is safe for you to eat, the subsequent trips are easier. And the more the management hears from those of us requesting a gluten-free menu, the more likely they are to take action. (I did eye that salmon!)

  2. Melissa says:

    Great piece, Heather!

    I don’t know that they have O’Charley’s in Canada…at least I haven’t seen it, but I definitely understand your frustration. In the summer, when I first went gluten free, I went to a local vegan resto I love, knowing that my old faves were no longer viable, but thinking that their daily soup, special, or salads might be gluten free.

    It was lunch time, so it was a little busy, but the server told me that “no, the soup wasn’t gf” and “some of the salads were.” She seemed so annoyed when I asked her to specify which ones, and furiously flipped through their allergen book before calling over another employee to help me, so she could serve the rest of the people waiting.

    The second employee asked me if I usually had a problem with brown rice, which was…interesting, and when I said “no,” she said that there should only be one salad I couldn’t eat. However, after her question, I couldn’t trust eating there.

    One thing that was great though is that I emailed the owner, and he was sooo apologetic and said that he wanted to make sure that no one ever experienced service like that again. He even offered me a gf meal for two for free whenever I want to stop by, which was really awesome. Makes you think what you can do if you really speak with the right person.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Melissa. I find that most of the negative restaurant experiences I have are because the staff does not understand gluten. Thankfully they’re learning and service is improving by the day!

  3. Karen says:

    So great! Thanks for making that effort. I´ve had trouble eating out ever since my diagnosis and at some point I´ve just stopped. But I knew pretty quickly: That´s not an option. I did some research and found a website called delicardo.de! I live part time in Germany and a friend of mine told me about it. They sell allergy cards in several languages and one is able to combine several allergies on one card. On the card it says what I am or am not allowed to eat. It even gives suggestions for substitutes. Restaurants over here react really great and I´ll try it in the US next year as well. So since I´m really happy with them I wondered if you´d like to try ´em and write a column for everybody about it. Would love that! Best wishes, Karen

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for sharing your resource with us! I have a set of cards from Triumph Dining that were really helpful when I first started dining out in unfamiliar restaurants.

  4. Jenny says:

    There is no way honey mustard dressing and ranch dressing from O’Charley’s is gluten free because we have had them both and had glutening issues afterwards. And this includes the jars you can buy at the grocery store. There is no ingredients that are printed on the label that would lead you to know for sure…. Except for the word…”spices”…..

    So just warning you guys. The dressings that they are claiming are gluTen free…..are NOT. I know because last night I had O charley honey mustard dressing on a salad with chicken tenders that I grilled at home….and 24 hours later I am in the bathroom with diarrhea …. And the honey mustard is the only thing that was where we could have gotten glutening.

    • Heather says:

      Jenny, thank you so much for your comment! I haven’t tried the honey mustard or ranch dressings from O’Charley’s. But I know to always trust my body. I’m going to add a note to this post to warn people to be careful. I appreciate your warning!

  5. Mike says:

    Heather/Karen,

    I have a U.S. based company called Stay Safe Card (http://www.staysafecard.com) that sells Restaurant Allergy Cards as well.

  6. Erin says:

    Thanks for this post! I was searching for GF options outside of my normal go to restaurants. May study the menu and yours too and give it a try one day! Haven’t eaten there since going GF.

  7. Kim says:

    Thanks for your research Mama Kat. I have been diagnosed for 10 years and it still surprises me what items still have gluten in them when we have so many great alternatives. Keep up the good work.

  8. Chelsea says:

    Hey All!
    I can tell you that I have had the honey mustard and ranch many many times at O’Charley’s and have never had issues- at least in Indiana. It is a chain so I would think it is the same at all of them. I don’t have celiac disease but I have a gluten allergy that causes severe migraines within about 8 hours of eating anything with any trace of gluten. My guess is there was some cross contamination going on in the kitchen at the specific restaurant Jenny was at. So there is always that chance but I would 100% say those dressings are safe for others to eat if the kitchen staff is doing its job properly.
    PS totally love the improv menu you made. I have this problem every time I go to my local O’Charleys and it is so annoying. – I would add their fried chicken salad but with grilled chicken instead of fried chicken and no croutons. Its my favorite. LOVE that Honey Mustard!!
    Good Luck with GF living all !

  9. Kevin Hiebel says:

    I ate at o’Charlie’s and I can tell you that either they cross contaminate or something is wrong on their allergen menu. I had: Plank of Salmon, Asparagus, and salad with balsamic dressing. I know within 1.5 hours when I am glutened, and I was glutened. My concern is their asparagus lists SOY but not wheat. I wonder if they flavor it with SOY SAUSE (AKA Wheat).


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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, friend, fitness fanatic, foodie, high raw vegan, child of the King, and Mama Cat. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. And now I have another challenge ahead...I'm moving to New York City! I look forward to Living Raw Vegan in the City and sharing my experience with you.

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