BLOG HOP, DAY 8: I know some of you may shy away from "chain" restaurants, preferring more "unique" or "sophisticated" fare. But “chain” doesn’t have to have a bad connotation. Just because a restaurant company has multiple locations -- either in a particular region or nationwide -- it doesn't mean they can't provide some of the best gluten-free meals around. In fact, some of our family’s favorite places to dine are the more sophisticated and fun concepts that have taken off with the gluten-free set: Burton's Grill, Biaggi's, and Glory Days Grill. Even BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, originally known for their deep-dish pizza, now has a wonderful and extensive gluten-free menu, which includes gluten-free pizza and tons of other tasty options.
The main advantage of these restaurants is that they have printed gluten-free menus, so you know exactly what’s safe and what’s not, or if any substitutions need to be made. Because of this, the wait staff (and kitchen staff) are typically well-trained about the gluten-free offerings, but it’s still wise to be vigilant when ordering, as I've mentioned in past posts (staff turnover can be high in the restaurant business, which leaves the potential for slip-ups in even the most well-intentioned chains).
Some restaurant chains may have worked with one of the Celiac associations to gain GF certification or credentialing (GIG and NFCA both offer progams). Other restaurant chains may have thoroughly educated themselves -- or worked with nutritionists or dieticians with gluten free expertise. If you're at all in doubt about how an item on the gluten free menu is prepared -- or if you're concerned about cross contamination in the kitchen -- don't be shy...ask questions!
The other advantage of restaurant chains is ubiquity. There are almost always one or two that offer GF options virtually wherever you travel. I can't tell you how many times we've traveled and been comforted seeing a chain restaurant that we know offers a reliable gluten free menu! When you're on the road, you can only dine at McDonald's so often!
We have a list of some of the best restaurant chains for gluten free dining on GlutenFreeTravelSite. Some of the regional chains may be new to you, like Rockfish (in TX and NC), Picazzo's (AZ), Sam and Louie's (IA, NE, MT, SD), Village Tavern (6 states), Fresh To Order (GA and TN), and Hearth and Kettle (MA). And did you know that Old Spaghetti Factory even has a gluten free menu with gluten free pasta?
I'm curious...what's YOUR favorite national chain? Regional chain? Please share your thoughts in a comment below -- and receive one entry into our giveaway of a $25 P.F. Chang's gift card, to be selected at random from all entries received by May 18, 2012, the last day of our Blog hop. Each person is allowed one entry/comment per day for each of the 10 days of posts (May 7-11 and May 14-18), for a total of 10 entries on THIS Blog. You have the same opportunity for entering a total of 10 times for the giveaways on the other 9 Blogs listed below. The giveaway is limited to U.S. residents who are 18 years or older. The Giveaway begins May 7, 2012, and ends at 11:59 pm Eastern Time on May 18, 2012. No purchse is necessary. Odds of winning are based on the number of entries. The winner will be randomly chosen and contacted by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be randomly chosen.
Would you like to get more great gluten-free tips on baking, dining out, and kitchen tips? Check out today's posts from other Blog Hop participants:
Getting Started - Linda at The Gluten-Free Homemaker
Resources – Wendy at Celiacs in the House
Eating Out – Heather at Gluten-Free Cat
Frugal Tips – Janelle at Gluten Freely Frugal
Cooking – Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl
Baking – Jules at Jules Gluten Free
Kids – Lynn at Lynn’s Recipe Adventures
Lunch Boxes – Tessa at Tessa the Domestic Diva
Shopping – Laura at Gluten Free Pantry