Ordering gluten free in a restaurant is well covered territory with hundreds if not thousands of articles on how to order. Most of these articles cover the same territory – research the restaurant, ask questions of the manager or chef, and tip well. I’m not sure I am going to be able to add anything new, but I’m gonna try.
Also, if you don’t want to eat out or are afraid due to cross contamination risk, I totally understand. At the same time, I would hate to think this disease is stopping anyone from living their lives. So, if you are satisfied not eating out, awesome. But I like eating out, so I’ve come up with these
First suggestion – Go at an unusual time. In other words, don’t go to the hottest gluten filled restaurant during the busiest time of the weekend. The kitchen is slammed, mistakes can be made, and shortcuts can be taken and though none of this is done on purpose we are the ones that will pay the price for the mistakes. Try going to dinner at 6 pm on a Thursday night or even 6p or 9p on a Saturday night. The kitchen will be less busy and they can truly take the time to care for your meal.
Second suggestion – Order smart. Ordering a burger without a bun and a baked potato is going to be a safer bet than ordering fried chicken when the restaurant doesn’t offer gluten free fried chicken. That being said my general rule of thumb is to stay away from pasta or pizza but if you can cover it in your questions, you might be okay, but I stay away almost 100% of the time. In other words, order something grilled, not marinated, without sauce unless the sauce is GF, and plain sides. That will keep you safer than anything else.
Third suggestion – When talking to the servers, ask more specific questions. Don’t ask if the fries are gluten free, ask if they fry other fried items on the menu in the same fryer as the french fries. Don’t ask if the pizza crust is gluten free, ask if they keep the gluten free toppings in a separate area or if the area is shared with gluten and gluten free pizzas. Don’t ask if the butter sauce is gluten free, ask if they use flour or corn starch (which is gf) to thicken the sauce. For soups marked gluten free or ones that can be made so easily – like french onion soup, I ask if they make the stock in house or if they buy it. Purchased, pre-made stock is more likely to contain gluten than a stock that they made in house and the chef knows how it was made. These questions require some knowledge of cooking. It is good knowledge to have even if you never cook, because in situations like this, you can ask smart questions to get the answers needed to keep you safe.
Fourth suggestion – Become a regular customer. I love a local restaurant. After a few times asking for gluten free items and being safe, the restaurant will get to know you and your needs. Hopefully, they will keep their gluten free menu items to keep you happy and returning. Make sure to be a good customer and tip well too.
Fifth suggestion – Go higher end. Go to the highest end restaurant you can afford. The nicer the restaurant the more likely you will truly get a gluten free meal.
I was at a restaurant one time that has steak frite – steak and french fries – but it wasn’t marked as gluten free. They had gluten free fried items, so I knew they knew what they were doing regarding fried items. I asked why the steak frite was not gluten free. They marinated the steak in soy sauce, not gluten free soy sauce, because I asked, but regular soy sauce. This is an item I thought would be safe, but wasn’t. So always, always ask questions.
The bottom line here is that someone only eat where they feel safe. There are lots of precautions we can all take and we have a 2 out of 3 chance of getting a safe meal. So, enjoy, if you want and stay safe doing it!