Top 10 Questions to Ask When Dining Out Gluten Free

by Heather on April 17, 2012

Dining out safely, whether you are a celiac or gluten intolerant, can be a frightening and uncomfortable ordeal.  But in the 8 years since my diagnosis, I’ve learned that there are certain questions you can ask to ease your stress and increase the likelihood that you will enjoy your meal without getting sick.

Here are my Top Ten Questions to Ask When Dining Out Gluten Free:

10.  Do you have a gluten-free menu?

If the restaurant has a gluten-free menu, chances are that your dining experience will be safe and stressfree.  But be aware.  Just because the ingredients in the meal are gluten-free doesn’t mean that your meal will make it to the table gluten free.  Those who prepare and serve your meal need to understand how to take steps to ensure your safety.

Gluten Free Menu

Gluten Free Menu

 

 

Gluten Free Menu

Gluten Free Menu

 

9.  I have a gluten allergy.  Do you know what gluten is?

Make your waiter understand that you have an allergy, and that you will be very sick if you ingest any gluten at all.  Being gluten-free has suddenly become the “cool thing”.  That’s great for increasing options for gf diners, but it’s scary, because it can be seen as a fad diet and therefore not taken seriously.

Also, if your server has no idea what gluten is, it’s time to politely ask for a new server.

8.  May I speak to the chef?

If the chef is too busy to answer questions for you, it’s possible that he’s too busy to take precautions that would prevent cross contamination.  You may need to choose another restaurant.

7.  Could you show me the ingredients in the dressing or sauce?

There are ingredients in dressings and sauces that contain gluten.  When you have a food allergy, you are an avid label reader, and you know the buzz words to look for.  A waiter may be looking for the word “gluten” on a label and come back to claim that the dressing is gluten-free, not understanding that there are hidden glutens.  Many restaurants will bring out a book of ingredients to show you.  If they aren’t able to show you the ingredients, order a dry salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side.  Order your meats prepared with olive oil, salt, and pepper instead of the sauce.  Request steamed vegetables.

6.  Do bread or croutons come with that?

If so, remind them not to include it.  More often than not, I will get satisfactory answers to enough of my questions to be comfortable enough to order, and then I am served a side salad with a breadstick lying on top of the lettuce!  You won’t think you need to ask if bread comes with the meal, but you do.

5.  How do you avoid cross-contamination from wheat products in the kitchen?

My favorite restaurants have a dedicated area in the kitchen without gluten-containing products.  If you’re ordering gluten-free pasta, made sure that a separate pot of water is used to boil it.  If you’re ordering a grilled item, ask if they can put foil on the grill or use a separate fry pan.

4.  Could you check my order with the chef or kitchen manager to make sure that I ordered a gluten-free meal?

This question lets the waitstaff know that you are serious.  It also serves as a final check to make sure there aren’t other ingredients in your meal that weren’t listed on the menu.

3.  Could you please change your gloves?

When ordering from a restaurant like Chipotle, where multiple workers assemble your food on a food line, it is important to have the workers change their gloves.  They may have just made a flour tortilla quesadilla before your gluten-free corn tortilla taco, which means that you’ll be eating gluten.  Either have every person on the serving line change their gloves or have one person make your entire meal.

2.  Are you sure?

Do not stop asking questions until you are comfortable with the answers.  If you’re not comfortable, you always have the option to choose another restaurant.  Your health is worth it.

1.  Do you have a comment card?

Let the server and the manager know that you appreciate how hard they work to provide safe meals for those who are gluten intolerant.  When restaurants hear that their efforts are appreciated and much needed, they will be far more likely to expand their efforts.

 

Dining out gluten-free may take a little more time and effort, but if you ask the right questions you can have a delightful experience while staying healthy.

What questions would you add to my top 10?

What are your favorite gluten-friendly restaurants?

About the Contributor:

Heather - Guest Blogger

Heather - Guest Blogger

Heather is a gluten-free blogger by night and a Kindergarten teacher and fitness instructor by day.   She writes about healthy, gluten-free living and shares gluten-free recipes, product  reviews, and restaurant reviews on her blog.   Learn more about Heather at http://www.glutenfreecat.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from Nancy Olson:

Love all the gluten free dining tips!  I have never thought of asking them for a comment card but if we all did that the restaurants may take notice of how important this is for people with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. We could really make a big change by just implementing this one tip with the comment card and always ask questions it is for your health but it also makes them aware of the needs of others.

Heather is a gluten-free blogger by night and a Kindergarten teacher and fitness instructor by day. She writes about healthy, gluten-free living and shares gluten-free recipes, product reviews, and restaurant reviews on her blog. Learn more about Heather at Gluten Free Cat.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley @ gfe April 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

Nice job, Heather. A couple more … do you steam your veggies in pasta water? Do you steam your seafood in beer? Are the salads all made together in one large bowl with the croutons in there? If so, could you make me a completely fresh salad please? I remind them that the croutons can’t just be removed. If your salad is brought with croutons or a bread stick, ask to hold on to it until they bring the fresh one, so they can’t just remove the bread or croutons and serve the same one again. My favorite gluten-free restaurants are actually ones that are not gluten free, but small, independent restaurants. I’ve had better luck with them in general because the chefs know the food and their ingredients, and aren’t using many packaged foods.

Shirley

Reply

Heather @Gluten-Free Cat April 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Thank you, Shirley, for adding such wonderful tips! I’ve never thought to ask about steaming veggies in pasta water!! YUCK! And I completely agree about the small, independent restaurants. Local is definitely best.

Hugs to you!

Reply

Nancy Olson April 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Great tips also Shirley! I didn’t think of the veggies either!

The one thing I did find out is that some resturants use pancake mix in their omlets to make them fluffy and bigger. So always ask on that too.

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monica April 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm

omg i’ve never heard of steaming things in pasta water or beer! i’ve found independent and more upscale restaurants to be very accommodating, but hotels (even nice ones) to add ridiculous ingredients to random things (like cream cheese and sour cream in hummus) so i’m always extra careful when asking questions there.

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Ricki April 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Great questions, Heather (and Shirley!). Many of these could be applied to any special diet. We need to keep asking questions!

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Heather @Gluten-Free Cat April 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Asking questions is imperative. And I’m learning that using a southern accent makes it sound less invasive! Ha!

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TheHolisticHealthCoach April 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Excellent Tips for sure!

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Kim May 9, 2012 at 9:45 am

Comments cards are nice but I also think immediate feedback to the chef and waitstaff is important if they get it right or they get it wrong so they are educated and can improve.

And if they do it well – tip well, including the chef if it is a restaurant that allows one to tip the chef. If the waitstaff was helpful, I hand them the tip rather than just leaving it on the table if possible to let them know the tip was directly related to their help with my special needs.

Reply

Nancy Olson May 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I totally agree about letting them know they were helpful right away as the staff that helped you may never know or understand how important it was to us that they went out of their way.

Reply

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