BLOG HOP, DAY 7: Much has already been written on the subjects of gluten free dining and "gluten free friendly" restaurants by those of us who provide gluten free dining resources on the web. However, many gluten free dining tips bear repeating, especially since all of us can be lulled into a false sense of complacency when dining out. Now that gluten free awareness has advanced beyond the point where people look at you like you have three heads when you bring up the words "Celiac Disease" or "gluten free," it is getting easier to find restaurants that understand our dietary requirements. However, there is a wide range of knowledge among restaurants...those that are simply trying to capitalize on the "gluten free trend" to those that know the important intracacies (like avoiding all the potential risks of cross contamination) and train their FULL staff (both front and back of house). And just because a restaurant offers a formal "Gluten Free Menu" doesn't mean the people in contact with your food are properly trained. The GF community learned that first-hand with the boggled introduction of a GF Menu at California Pizza Kitchen last year.
So...even if you're a seasoned veteran of dining out gluten free, please forward this post to anyone you know who might have been recently diagnosed -- or may need to be reminded of these important safeguards.
1.) Research restaurants online and read reviews from others following gluten free diets. I launched GlutenFreeTravelSite four years ago to provide people in the GF community with a place to read personal, detailed dining and travel accounts from others with their same dietary needs and concerns. There is no better source for honest feedback, which can even vary among restaurants within the same chain. (You can also pull up the free MOBILE version of our site by entering our URL into the browser of any smart phone. It makes navigating the reviews on our site especially easy when you're on-the-go.)
2.) Call the chef at the restaurant ahead of time (even restaurants offering gluten free menus). Ask questions to assess their level of knowledge, especially with cross contamination. And do their merely adapt their "regular" menu, leaving off all the sauces and seasonings, or do they create more exciting, flavorful options? Request they make a note on your reservation so they can be reminded of your needs the day of your arrival.
3.) Don't leave home without Gluten Free Dining Cards, which help explain your gluten-free needs to servers, managers, and chefs at restaurants. There are several versions available for free online, but I like the bilingual laminated ones offered for a nominal price from Triumph Dining. They are available for 10 global cuisines (American, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, French, etc.). One side of the card is in English, and the other side is in the native language, so there’s never any issue of a language barrier.
If you haven't already, be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Each day we share restaurant reviews from users -- from fast food and neighborhood restaurants to chains and high-end restaurants. Tomorrow, I'll discuss top picks among national and regional restaurant chains offering gluten free menus. In the meantime, if you have a favorite dining spot, please leave a comment below -- and consider submitting a quick review to GlutenFreeTravelSite so others in the GF community can benefit from your valuable feedback!
If you leave a comment below, you'll 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