Eating out gluten free, especially if you’re allergic or Celiac can be a HUGE pain.
First of all, most staff and restaurants (except for these) are very uneducated when it comes to gluten free.
Second, most restaurant’s kitchens are cross contamination nightmares (except for these lovely ones).
Third, finding a perfectly gluten free meal at a new unfamiliar restaurant can sometimes be impossible.
And lastly, even when some restaurants do have educated servers and managers and even a pretty clean kitchen, their gluten free menu is truly lacking.
Honestly, it can sometimes be a massive headache.
But there is hope. There is a way that you can mitigate all the stresses and pain of eating out gluten free thanks to a little gluten free restaurant food survival guide I put together that you’ll find below.
With the help of the gluten free food survival guide, your dining experience can now be fun and fulfilling, with little to know stress.
So with that being said, let’s get started!
Gluten Free Restaurant Food Survival Guide
This mini survival guide is going to be broken up into 3 parts: choosing the restaurant, communicating with the staff; and choosing the right foods.
Part 1 – Choosing the Restaurant
At first, this may seem like the easiest thing to do. But when you truly think about it, there are a lot of factors that you need to weigh before your decision.
Some of the things you need to consider is track record, gluten free menu option availability, and the cuisine/restaurant type. And of course, you also need to consult an amazing resource that lists all the gluten free restaurant menus across the nation.
Track Record: A restaurants gluten free track record is so important. Just because a restaurant may have a gluten free menu doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe to eat for anyone, or if the staff and restaurant (including kitchen) is educated about the gluten free and Celiac diet. That’s why it’s always best to consult resources like Facebook “Gluten Free Groups” or Find Me Gluten Free. This way you can ask questions about diners experiences at these restaurants as well as read any reviews about their times at the restaurant. It’s a truly helpful and efficient way to narrow down your list of potential restaurants that you would love to eat out at.
Here’s a great resource that will help you find a great gluten free or wheat free restaurant with a good track record.
GF Menu Options: Just because a restaurant has a gluten free or wheat free menu doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll find something perfect for you to enjoy. Of course it comes down to personal preferences, however, there are times when some restaurants have a gluten free menu, but literally have NOTHING to eat. So I suggest that you find a restaurant that has a lot of delicious gluten free options.
Cuisine and Restaurant Type: Although this may seem like a no brainer, it’s possibly the most important factor. You see, some food cuisines and restaurants are better and safer than others for gluten free diners. For example, if you love Asian food then chances are you may be out of luck for finding a safe restaurant only because most Asian restaurants use soy sauce in their dishes, and it’s not too common to find some that use gluten free soy sauce and sauce (except for these delicious restaurants of course). The same goes for Italian restaurants only because many non-chain restaurants haven’t adopted gluten free pasta noodles just yet. Thankfully, these gluten free Italian chain restaurants have.
Also, be sure to check out our free resource, the ultimate guide to gluten free restaurants.
Part 2 – Communicating with the Staff
This is usually a lot of the stress comes in for gluten free diners on a medical diet because some people JUST DON”T GET IT.
I’m sure that at least once in your life you’ve had a server who was literally the dumbest person you’ve ever met because they probably didn’t know how to comprehend anything. Trust me, I have.
Like seriously, I went to the Cheesecake Factory once and told my server that I was eating gluten free and the next thing you know, he brings me a basket of bread as if everything was alright. I almost lost it…
Anyways, I can’t stress how important this is in order to ensure the safest, most deliciously gluten free meal possible. Here are 2 things you should do.
Calling Ahead: This will literally make you feel like a VIP, especially if you’re going to a smaller chain restaurant. By calling ahead and telling the manager and restaurant that you’re on a gluten free diet, there’s a better chance that the restaurant will be ready to accommodate you and your dietary needs.
Telling Your Server You’re on a GF Diet: Don’t just say you’re on a diet, be sure to explain what it is you can’t eat, even if it’ll take an extra 3 minutes. You’re worth it. Also by doing so, this helps the kitchen accommodate you better. You see, I used to work in the kitchen at a Chick Fil A and I can’t tell you how many times we changed gloves and cleaned our workstations to create gluten free sandwiches and other meal items. Some restaurants truly do care and will take the extra step.
Part 3 – Choosing the Right Foods
Some foods have a better chance to be consistently gluten free than others, whether if by preparation or due to nature.
Here’s a few foods that will almost always be gluten free:
- Plain salads without croutons and dressing (the dressings all depend on the restaurant)
- Steak seasoned with just salt and pepper is almost always gluten free at every restaurants. They become glutenous once the sauces, marinades, and toppings are added.
- Baked potatoes with butter and sour cream
- Fresh vegetables without any seasonings
Here are a few foods that can be risky but naturally should be gluten free.
- french fries are gluten free but most are cooked in shared fryers virtually making them non-gluten free friendly
- milkshakes – becomes tricky when they’re hand spun because there are chances of cross contamination
- frozen yogurt – only tricky when frozen yogurt joints make different flavors in a machine without thoroughly cleaning it
- chicken wings – most baked (non-fried) chicken wings are gluten free but it becomes risky once sauces are added
So all I can say to help you really have the safest, most delicious gluten free meal is to choose wisely and smartly. If a restaurant offers a gluten free pizza but doesn’t have a dedicated fryer or any form of separation, avoid it if you’re allergic to wheat or gluten. The same can go for any other foods that are prepared in a non dedicated kitchen or with common utensils and pans. Cross contamination isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Just remember to be smart.
And no, I’m not talking about beer, but instead I’m talking about bread (and crackers”. Here are three reasons why.
First, if you know that you’re going to a restaurant that gives you complimentary bread and biscuits, like Red Lobster, and you don’t want to feel left out, you should consider bringing your own bread to munch on. This may seem a little silly, but trust me, you’re going to wish you had something to munch on while you’re watching the other’s at your table munching on warm cheddar and cheese biscuits.
Second, if you’re going to a burger join that doesn’t have gluten free buns, and you know that you’re not in the mood for a protein style burger (wrapped in lettuce) then you should consider bringing your own gluten free burger buns. May I recommend the great bread choices by Udi’s Gluten Free. It’s a lifesaver!
Third, if you’re ordering soup, especially chowder, and you still want to enjoy it with some crackers, you should definitely bring your own to enjoy.
You are a survivor!
Hopefully you enjoyed this gluten free restaurant food survival guide and have found it to be quite helpful.
Please share this via Facebook, Twitter, or email with anyone whom you think will truly find it beneficial.
Thanks, you rock!
Thank you for putting together such a great gf guide! I love it! So helpful!
Very helpful! Appreciate you sharing this.
There seems to be confusion between GF and vegan. I have been at several functions and made a concerted effort to ensure that my food was GF only to have a plate of gluten pasta or a dish with gluten in it served to me. I am convinced that eating out (especially at social functions not restaurants) is very risky!
i am just learning about gluten free diet for my wife and i find this most helpfull thank you
I am hearing that it may not be legal to “BYOB” in all states. Do you happen to know if this is true, and if it is, what states you are allowed to “BYOB” in?
I have not tasted a GF bread or pasta or pizza that is worth having again. Suggestions? Rudi’s, Udi’s, Van’s.. nothing tastes like a good bread… hard, dry and stale!
Against the grain GF pizza crust. Canyon bake house breads.
Just visited HuHot Mongolian Grill last week. I was so happy to find a staff that truly understand a GF diet and they were so eager to please!