10 Days of Gluten Free

Eating Out Gluten Free: Be Realistic

29 Comments 17 May 2012

Eating Out Gluten Free: Be Realistic

Yesterday I shared my 8th tip about Eating Out as a part of 10 Days of Gluten-Free, created by Linda, the Gluten-Free Homemaker.  Dining with people who will order gluten-free meals is something to aspire to, and it is actually possible.  Be patient.  Your loved ones will get there.

Eating Out Tip #9 is…Be Realistic.

If you’ve following my tip #1, and you’ve done your homework, then this tip shouldn’t be a stretch for you.  You already know the gluten-free options at the restaurant when you arrive.

If you haven’t done your homework, then you must be realistic in your expectations.

Think about where you are.  Don’t expect a gluten-free meal at Burger King.  If that’s where you choose to eat, expect to eat a dry iceburg lettuce salad.

Don’t be angry at the waitstaff because they can’t offer you a well-balanced meal.

Just last weekend, on a whim, the Husband and I attempted to go eat at a local sandwich, soup, and salad place called Bread and Company for brunch.  In the past, I have been able to find salads and even deli items that are gluten free.  It had been so long since trying this restaurant that I asked for their ingredient binder to double check my choices.  It was a good thing I did, because several items I was interested in clearly had wheat flour in them.  The Vegetarian Tomato White Bean Soup sounded good, but it wasn’t even listed in the binder.

When I pointed this out to the server behind the counter, she gave me that well, what do you want me to do about it look.  I was tempted to be really angry with her and demand that she find someone who had a clue.  And then I realized where I was.  I chose to walk into a place called BREAD and Company to order something gluten-free from teenagers who clearly wanted to be anywhere else but behind a counter taking lunch orders.

My choice of restaurants was not realistic.

We walked out.

Be realistic.  A nice restaurant is going to try to work with you.  Lesser quality establishments that aren’t designed for customer service may not.

Thankfully, there are restaurants like P.F. Chang’s who provide excellent customer service and delicious gluten-free meals.  At the end of 10 Days of Gluten Free, I’ll be giving away two $25 giftcards to P.F. Changs.  You can enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below.  You can leave a second entry by letting me know that you followed Gluten-Free Cat on Twitter, “liked” Gluten-Free Cat’s Facebook page, or signed up for email notifications of new Gluten-Free Cat posts.

Giveaway Guidelines:

  • This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents 18 and older.
  • You are allowed two entries per “10 Days of Gluten Free” blog post for a total of 20 entries on this blog.
  • Enter by leaving a comment on this post (and other 10 Days of GF posts)
  • The giveaway begins May 7, 2012 and ends at 11:59 pm central time on May 18, 2012.

No purchase is necessary.  Odds of winning are based on the number of entries.  The winner will be randomly chosen and will be contacted by email.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond.  If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be randomly chosen.

I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of 10 Days of Gluten Free!  Come back for tip #10 and two more chances to win.  And don’t forget to visit these blogs today for even more gluten-free tips:

Reader’s, dish!

  • What lessons have you learned from your unrealistic choices?
  • What restaurants will you not return to?
  • Get it off your chest!
  • Where have you had the best experiences?  Where have you had the worst?

Contest closed, but I’d love to hear your comments!

Your Comments

29 Comments so far

  1. You are so right about better restaurants having better service! I think it’s worth paying for someone else to do the research for me, when I can. When I can’t, I just have to read all that nutritional info myself. And maybe put up with a few un-enthusiastic servers, too.

    • Barbara says:

      Thank you for the reminder. We will be traveling through your area this weekend so these posts have been a great reminder of the diligence and attitude that is required when eating outside of our homes. Road trip and gluten free requires some planning ahead!!!

  2. Bonnie B says:

    Thanks for the advice.

  3. Suzanne says:

    I’ve brought my own bread to sandwich establishments in the past, but I can see from your post that I have to go wayyyy beyond that to eat safely. Thanks for the important information.

  4. Nancy says:

    Love it. New to gluten free and this is very helpful.

  5. pat J says:

    Our best experiences have been at PF Chang’s. But, one time we had forgotten to take our breakfast along for travel. Right beside our hotel was a Denny’s. We were very leary because we have gotten contaminated there. But, we were lucky. Our waitress knew all about gluten. We had a good meal and tipped her well.

  6. Jessica B says:

    Eating out is so much more difficult than before.

  7. Erin says:

    I have a few restaurants that I stick to, and even at one of my go-to restaurants once, I had a waiter say, “Gluten, that’s like sugar, right?” I quickly asked for a manager who brought me the ingredient list :) Have not tried PF Chang’s since going GF, but good to know folks have had a good experience there!

  8. Susan says:

    My best experiences have been at national chains, including Italian restaurants. My worse experiences have been at small (or local) restaurants. Even McDonald’s managers have gone out of their way to personally make a hamburger without gluten or other allergens for me. I watch out for places with waitstaff who are ignorant of allergens.

  9. Cindy says:

    When traveling I take a lot of my own food, but if we have to eat out, I scan the menu first to try to choose an appropriate restaurant.

  10. Cindy says:

    I really miss Panera Bread, but I think eating there is risky, even if you order a salad.

  11. Krissy says:

    The best way to go is veggies, meat, and/or salad!!

  12. Debra G. says:

    McDonald’s is the worst. They actually train their employees to say they have no idea what is in their products because they just don’t want to deal with food allergies. We have had good experiences at Panera Bread, the staff has been very accomadating and we have never had a problem there! Liked on Facebook.

  13. Mari says:

    We have been to places that don’t even know what gluten is, let alone gluten free. If you can find a Red Robin where you live, they have an expanded gluten free menu. Which means a few more choices. The gluten free bun they served the burger on was really good. I don’t know who made it, but it was super good. As you said, we have to be realistic and do our homework!

  14. Gina says:

    Have to travel regularly on business and am usually NOT the one making the choices for meals, so I tend to bring a lot of my own food. Since I am both gluten free and dairy free it is doubly frustrating at restaurants. Appreciate the additional info on this and other blogs for the tips! Thanks!

  15. Gina says:

    As to a good experience, was traveling recently and there was a Red Robin in the parking lot of the hotel where I was staying. While my server was a bit uninformed, what he lacked in hard knowledge, he made up for in diligence. He went and got an answer for every question I asked. He went so far as to bring the bag of Udi’s rolls so that I could read the label if I needed to. Assured him that wouldn’t be necessary, helped him with his pronunciation of Udi’s and ordered a great burger. A different server brought my salad and realized when she got to the table that my salad had to be remade because of the crutons. She whisked it away before I could even mention it and remade the salad. Though it sounds like their were some snafus, I still count this as a good dining experience, because they were very willing to go out of their way to meet my needs and were honest about what they couldn’t change (their frier wasn’t dedicated, so no fries for me!). I hope I have equal success at other Red Robins!

  16. julie says:

    I agree, when I was first diagnosed I assumed the cheesecake factory would have to have something for me to eat. They didn’t even have salad dressing!!! I won’t go back there. They own grand lux, so I won’t go there either

  17. julie says:

    facebook follower

  18. Brigid says:

    I miss eating at Bread and Company sooo much. But I don’t miss how awful I would feel later as my belly swelled. 😉

  19. Emma says:

    There are some deli’s in my area that are accommodating. I really like Jason’s bc they have gf bread.

  20. Stephanie F says:

    Eating out has become a challenge!

  21. Cara says:

    Great tips! Don’t try to go to a restaurant and demand that they accommodate to serve you. Just choose somewhere else. Everyone will be less frustrated. :)

  22. Cindy W. says:

    I have walked out of a restaurant if I feel they don’t “get it”. Better to be safe than sorry.

  23. Cindy W. says:

    I subscribe to your blog via email.

  24. Emma says:

    What restaurants will you not return to?

    The Cheesecake factory, hands down. It took 3 servers, a manager, a cook, and 3 wrong orders to get my food correct…and at that point I didn’t even want to eat it. All I ordered what a hamburger without the bun, was it really that complex!?

  25. Amen sister! I refuse to accept the fact that I can’t eat out so I am dilligent. We do need to make good choicesxand fortunately therexare good choices out there. GREAT POST.

  26. Esther Gulli says:

    Oh Gluten Free Girl – YOU ARE MY HERO! I stumbled upon your blog while looking for gluten free dining options in Nashville. I was in a state of panic planning for my two week trip to Music City with my 10 year old daughter who has celiac. We live in Oakland, CA and are surrounded by GF options. I was sure we’d have to pack a box of food to cook at home when we got there – but not so!!! Thanks so much for all of your recommendations. You have literally given us a guide book to use on our trip! We will put them to good use.

    Esther (who grew up in Nashville and now lives in CA).

    • Heather says:

      Esther, I’m thrilled that you found my site too! I couldn’t be happier that my recommendations will make your trip easier. We do have two Whole Foods, a Trader Joe’s, and Turnip Truck that will be great for picking up gluten-free staples. No need to pack a suitcase of crackers and bread! Have fun with the gluten-free restaurants, and have a wonderful trip! Be prepared for HOT! :)

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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. 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. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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