Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ordering Gluten-free Food at a Restaurant

I had a wonderful experience today at Johnny Carino's.  I ordered the gluten-free soup and salad and had no ill side effects.  Here is some helpful information from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University to help us when we order from restaurants:

Restaurant Guidelines

Sign in ice cream store in Buenos Aires
Sign in ice cream store in Buenos Aires
Eating out can be a pleasurable experience, and following the gluten-free diet should not change that. While many places now have a gluten-free menu, you should not limit your options to those restaurants. It may take a little longer for you to decide what to order, but you can still eat a safe and delicious meal whether you’re joining a last minute dinner date with friends, strolling through the streets in an unknown city, or going back to what was your favorite restaurant before your diagnosis of celiac disease. With the help of the tips below, we encourage you to make the most out of dining out anywhere!

Use the Internet. If you know your plans in advance, many restaurants now post their menu online allowing you to read through and choose items that may be safe for you.

Call ahead, especially if you are uncomfortable asking a lot of questions once you are at the restaurant. This alerts the chef that he/she will need to prepare a safe item. Remember to call at “off-hours”, not during the middle of a lunch rush hour.

Always identity yourself as someone needing a special diet. Use a statement such as: “I have a food allergy”- if you use the word allergy, you will be taken seriously. Avoid the use of the terms “autoimmune disease” and “celiac disease” as these are terms not easily understood by the average restaurant server.

Speak to manager, maître d’ or chef. The key is to get your special needs conveyed to the chef or cook. If your waiter appears uninterested or unwilling to help, ask for the manager.

Ask specific questions (see list of questions below) about any menu items that could be deep fried or contain hidden gluten sources. Use a dining card to help the staff understand your special diet. If language is a barrier use language cards which can be found online.

Order simple dishes and ask for the sauce on the side or omitted altogether.

Ask about flour dusting. Even desserts that contain no gluten are often baked in a baking dish that has been dusted with flour.

Do not hesitate to send food back if not correct.

Be prepared to leave a restaurant if you feel your needs are not taken seriously.

Thank your server and leave a generous tip for good service.

Be a repeat customer to gluten friendly restaurants as they will try hard to please a regular guest.

Questions to Ask the Server/Chef

  • *Which foods are deep fried? Avoid items cooked in a common fryer.
  • *Are the chicken wings or French fries deep fried?
  • *Are the corn chips and tortilla shells deep fried?
  • Is there flour in this sauce?
  • Do you dust your fish with flour before cooking it?
  • Is there any flour, batter, or breading?
  • Are there croutons on the salad?
  • What is in the BBQ sauce?
  • What is in the salad dressing?
  • Is the meat marinated? Check marinade.
  • Which of your dishes contain soy sauce? (avoid soy sauce in restaurants- avoid woks that may be contaminated)
  • Are the noodles rice or wheat based?
  • Are the wrappers (e.g. wonton, dumpling) made from wheat?
  • Is the pan dusted with flour?
  • Is the tortilla 100% corn?
  • Is there artificial crab in the sushi?
  • What is the thickener in this soup?
  • Is there wheat cooked on this grill? (be careful to not order items cooked on a grill that has wheat(
  • Is the rice or risotto cooked in a wheat-free broth?

*Foods that are deep fried are often cooked in the same oil as breaded products such as breaded onion and calamari. This means they are not safe on a gluten-free diet.

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