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Gluten-Free…at a Restaurant!

Posted on June 27, 2013
By Nikki Martinez

Having any allergy can be a pain to live with, especially if it’s one that interferes with food and you eating some! Honestly, when I think of friends and family who have allergies, it makes me sad for them :( My friend Rachel is one such case, and hers is right up there on the “NOOOOOO” category: Gluten! Yep, after years of feeling sick after eating, well, most everything, the doctors finally gave her the hard news that she was allergic to gluten. If you aren’t familiar with this allergy, it stinks the worst, mainly because EVERYTHING seems to have gluten in it.

But there is hope for you, the one who needs things to be gluten-free! And better news is that there is help for you when you eat-out also :) Thanks to Adriana Velez at The Stir for a few ideas on how to enjoy eating out when watching for the gluten: 

1. Use your charm. When communicating with the wait-staff about your gluten-free needs, make sure you smile a lot. Acknowledge that you are being a total pain in the behind. Make sure they understand that it’s not their responsibility to protect your food allergies, but if they could be so kind as so make a few exceptions …? Tip well.

2. Ask these two important questions. Could you tell me about the ingredients in that dish? (Wait-staff aren’t always well versed in all the gluten possibilities.) Is there any chance of cross-contamination in the kitchen? Ask this ESPECIALLY if the restaurant has gluten-free menu items.

3. Go for Mexican. “Since authentic Mexican food standards include corn, rice, and beans, you could do worse than to try to live on Mexican food for the rest of your life.” Just be careful about tortilla chips and hard-shell tacos fried in the same oil. Stay away from flour tortillas, of course, and enchilada sauce. Authentic, non-chain Indian is a good bet, too, as long as you stay away from samosas. So is Thai. But still, always ask about ingredients.

4. Try vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Food restrictions are already the name of the game, so being fussy about your food is a little more accepted. Just be careful with meat substitutes like seitan, which have gluten.

5. Choose local instead of chains. While chains are making an effort to offer gluten-free menu items, farm-to-table/locavore type restaurants serve you fresher, additive-free food. On the other hand, these smaller restaurants usually are not set up to prevent cross-contamination, so be warned.

6. Ask for clean gloves. It takes courage, but if you’re at an assembly-line place like Chipotle, politely request that the person handling tortillas change into clean gloves. It’s a learning experience for the restaurant, too.