For those of us with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance, eating out is not simple. Not by a long shot. It involves planning and research ahead of time because the last thing you want to do is get sick. Being “glutened” is no fun.It’s interesting, it’s been three years since I realized that I had an issue with gluten. In those three years, my body has gotten used to living without gluten. And luckily all my health problems that I was experiencing because of gluten disappeared. Now, if I accidentally get “glutened” I get so sick. Within 5-10 minutes after accidentally eating something containing gluten I get the worst stomach cramps ever, I might throw up, and it’s not like I get sick and that’s it. No the symptoms last for a few days. It is the worst feeling ever and definitely not worth it. Which is why it’s so hard eating out, because you need to constantly be certain that your food is “safe” to eat and won’t make you sick.
But, at the same time you want to still enjoy life and go out for that occasional bite to eat. Eating out is fun! So what do you do? I have learned the “safe” restaurants near my house and tend to stick to them. But, what about if you’re away on vacation? Then what? That’s where more planning comes in.Before I eat out anywhere new I always check the restaurant’s website to see if they offer a gluten-free menu. I also use an website called FindMeGlutenFree.com. Restaurants are getting a lot better with understanding the needs of those with Celiac and Gluten Intolerance. A lot of restaurants now offer a lot of gluten-free options or as some restaurants call it “gluten sensitive”. There’s still a risk eating out because of cross-contamination, but I have found that if I ask all the right questions, I tend to be ok.
Eating at restaurants without a gluten-free menu is trickier. And even some “safe foods” aren’t safe. I will give you some examples:
Last Summer my husband and I went on a weekend trip to Vermont. We ate at this one restaurant that didn’t have a gluten-free menu. Out of everything on the menu I decided the safest choice for me was a BLT with Vermont Cheddar Cheese. Minus the bread of course. The waitress thought I was nuts, but the BLT was AMAZING. It came with fries. I asked the waitress if the fries were gluten-free. Her reply was, “Yeah. I think so.” That was not good enough for me to risk my health. I asked if she could go back and ask the chef. She was annoyed at the request, but she did it. And you know what? It was a good thing I asked because it turns out the fries were tossed in a flour spice mixture before frying. I could have gotten so sick from eating just one fry and our trip would have been ruined!
I have learned that fries are tricky eating out. Unless I have eaten at a restaurant were I know how the fries are prepared, I tend to stay away from ordering fries and will usually order a veggie, mashed potato, or side salad.
Another time my husband and I were eating at The Texas Roadhouse. They didn’t have a gluten-free menu, but I assumed a burger would be safe. Good thing I asked though. It turns out they prepare their burgers with a spice mixture that contains gluten! Again, a seemingly “safe” food turned out not to be so safe after all. So it’s always important to ask.
I am that annoying person at the restaurant that asks the server a million questions and will have them go back to the chef if needed to get answers. I don’t want to gamble with my health and eating out is not worth getting so severely sick over. When I am in a new restaurant and they do not have a gluten-free menu and I’m unsure of how they prepare foods, I ask. Even asking about seemingly “safe” foods is a good idea because you never know. So my advice is be that annoying person and ask questions. It’s truly better to be safer than sorry.
Some foods that I tend to stick to when eating out at a new place are: burgers, chicken, salads. It’s a small list, but 95% of the time those foods are safe. When you order a salad though ask about the salad dressing, and of course request your salad without croutons and mention that you are Celiac. And of course, still ask questions about the spices used, etc…
Another good safe option is eating out at an authentic Mexican restaurant. That’s a huge go-to for my husband and I when all else fails. Most dishes consist of corn, and usually they can prepare anything gluten-free. BBQ is also another great safe option. You just need to ask about spices and sauces.
So what restaurants are “safe”. I’m going to list a few that I absolutely love and that I’ve never had a problem at.Mix N Mac (280 NY-211, Middletown, NY)
This place is AMAZING!!!! All they serve is mac and cheese… and TONS of different mac and cheese! Flavors that you have never even thought of! The good thing is most of their menu is available gluten-free! They offer AMAZING gluten-free pasta. My favorite mac and cheese to get at Mix N Mac is Cheeseburger. It has cheddar cheese, ground beef, caramelized onion, roasted tomato, with pickle on top. It’s soooo good!!!! This is one of my top safe places to eat.
Check them out at mixnmac.com.
Fink’s BBQ (32 Orange Ave., Suffern, NY)
Practically their entire menu is gluten-free! And it’s clearly marked which I love. I definitely do not feel restricted in this place. Not to mention that their food is delicious! I LOVE their brisket, cole slaw, Texas Potato salad and their Porkenfries (seasoned fries topped with pulled pork, sour cream, scallion, melted cheddar, and muenster cheese). This is an AMAZING place that is so easy to eat at.
Check them out at finksbbqroadhouse.com.
3 Chicas Mexican Kitchen (637 Wyckoff Ave., Wyckoff, NJ)
This is such a great place with a HUGE gluten-free menu. Most items can be prepared gluten-free. Back in the day I used to LOVE chicken and cheese quesadillas, but because that’s made with a flour tortilla I had to stop eating them once I found out about my gluten problem. But, at 3 Chicas I can eat a chicken and cheese quesadilla with no problem because they offer a gluten-free option!!! You have no idea how happy that made me and let me tell you it’s delicious!!!
Check them out at 3chicas.com.
Woody’s Farm To Table (30 Quaker Ave., Cornwall, NY)
My husband and I found this place by accident one day and it is such a good find! It’s all farm to table! No antibiotics. No hormones. No trans fats. Just good, wholesome food straight from the farm. They make AMAZING burgers. I always order mine without a bun, but they do offer a gluten-free bun. Their fries are also so good. They source from local farms and serve grass-fed beef.
Check them out at woodysfarmtotable.com.
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Ok, so what about chain restaurants? I have found that Five Guys is my top option. When you order a burger without a bun they will ask you if it’s because of an allergy. When you tell them yes, they make sure to cook everything separately as well as package your order separately. Another good option is Smash Burger. They offer Udi’s gluten-free buns if you want. Other good options include Wendy’s, Outback Steakhouse, Red Robin, Boston Market, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and TGI Fridays. A surprising option is Panera Bread! Three years ago when I would order sandwiches minus the bread they thought I was crazy. But now, they do it with no problem. Their meats and salads are delicious. Just ask for it with no bread and you’ve got a great meal. Of course, there is more of a chance of cross-contamination at this place, so just be super careful.
It’s hard to eat out when you have Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity, but it’s not impossible. It just involves more planning, research, and knowing what your safe options are ahead of time. My husband and I are going to a wedding tonight and I’m super nervous. I was told there would be gluten-free options, but still I have to be careful. So you can bet I will be asking a lot of questions.
Don’t feel bad about asking questions and being “annoying”. You are only protecting yourself and your health, and that’s important. Eat out. Have fun. Plan ahead. Enjoy life! Find the places that work for you!