Gluten-Free Dining is Here to Stay
Tips for eating out gluten-free
An estimated 1 in 133 people suffer from a wheat, rye, barley and oats intolerance. This gluten intolerance is known as celiac disease. If someone with a gluten-intolerance consumes any of these grains, they suffer a reaction in their small intestines that can lead to cramping, diarrhea and even long-term damage in their intestinal tract. Eating gluten-free is not as simple as it sounds, especially when relying on someone else to prepare your foods.
Years ago, finding a restaurant that had heard the term gluten-free was rare. Nowadays, gluten-free menus have become common at everything from fine dining to fast food chains. While this helps eliminate some stress for individuals who suffer from a gluten intolerance, it does not completely solve the problem. Most often, diners are concerned with the validity that a dish is actually gluten-free. This arises because the United States Food and Drug Administration has failed to issue a final ruling on what constitutes gluten-free.
Going out to eat with a gluten intolerance can be a stressful situation because diners are trusting that the kitchen knows what it is doing when preparing a gluten-free dish. Calling ahead can help diners test the enthusiasm and respect the restaurant has for the dietary need. Try to call earlier in the day when the restaurant is not yet busy and speak with the chef or manager. Upon arriving, ask to speak with your server to explain your food issue. While a gluten intolerance is not an allergy, it is often easier to explain it this way to your server. Let the server know what foods you cannot eat and ask him to describe how foods are prepared and caution the server about cross contamination. Remember to always ask questions; do not assume anything is gluten-free.
Across the country, numerous restaurants have become gluten friendly. According to various online surveys, a few of the best gluten-free restaurants include P.F. Chang’s, Bonefish Grill, Red Robin and Wendy’s. At Outback Steakhouse, diners can enjoy a gluten-free menu complete with steak, lamb, burgers and seafood. The menu even lists items that should be removed from the traditional menu to ensure the dish is safe and gluten free. Carrabba’s Italian Grill’s gluten-free menu is vast and includes antipastis, salads and entrees. They even offer a gluten-free children’s menu and dessert menu. The menu features bolded suggestions to the diner to ensure that their meal is delivered gluten-free. Chili’s Restaurant updates it’s gluten-free menu monthly to ensure that no ingredients have changed. If you are craving a burger, simply bring your own gluten-free bun and order one of the gluten-free Big Mouth Burgers and top it with your gluten-free bun at the table. A surprising place to enjoy a gluten-free dessert is McDonald’s, whose vanilla soft serve ice cream is gluten free.
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Bobby Fitzgerald is a 20 year restaurant veteran and passionate foodie. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and began working at the legendary Dancing Crab as a teenager. After studying culinary arts and food management at Johnson & Wales University, Bobby was a chef in Napa Valley and spent six years with Houston's Restaurants opening restaurants in five U.S. cities. In 1999 he started his company which today has locations in four states under The White Chocolate Grill and Cinzetti's Italian Market brands, serving 25,000 meals a week in from-scratch kitchens. All-the-while Bobby has dined in more restaurants then most food critics and creating fresh recipe ideas is a big part of his life. Bobby lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife and three children and serves on the Board of Directors of The Arizona Restaurant Association as well as the Phoenix-Metro American Cancer Society. His current projects include Restaurants Against Cancer where Bobby is rallying the restaurant community to support camps for kids with cancer by donating the food and supplies needed to run the camps. Bobby is the author of "The Customer First Manager" available at Amazon.com.
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