I recently came across two great articles to help Celiacs safely dine out gluten-free. The theme of the articles, found on the website Gluten-Free Simplicity, was VIGILANCE. While both the author of the articles and I applaud restaurants that offer gluten-free menus (and want to encourage more restaurants to do so!), we agree that Celiacs have to be careful not to get lulled into a false sense of security just because a restaurant has a "gluten-free menu."
The articles, How to Tell if a GF Menu is Truly Gluten Free and Tonight's GF Menu Item Choice: Is It Celiac SAFE or Is It Simply Gluten?, address the issues surrounding dining out, even when a printed gluten-free menu is available. Have the staff -- both in the kitchen and serving your food -- been properly trained? Do they understand Celiac Disease and the seriousness of ingesting gluten? Are specific gluten-free brands of ingredients ever substituted (i.e. one brand of sour cream for another that might not be gluten-free)? When developing the menus, were chefs aware of and careful about checking ingredients like ketchup, tomato paste, and vinegar, etc. that might go into making a marinade, for example?
These are the types of questions we need to be asking. If you're ever in doubt about something you're ordering, make sure to ask the chef or manager, and be sure they're confident in their answer. Again, we've come a long way by having so many great restaurants offer gluten-free restaurants. Just be sure to always be on alert when dining out -- whether at a chain restaurant or independent neighborhood restaurant.