I get asked this question often and the answer is…YES…but it may not always be a memorable experience. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but it is a fact.
As the spouse of a celiac, I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve happened upon an interesting restaurant, but chose not to stay because their GF menu was either a) non-existent or b) sucked. I’m not sure why, but my husband doesn’t relish the thought of eating a nice, yummy green salad with grilled chicken while watching the rest of his party enjoy a rich, indulgent meal of pasta or something equally as gluten-full and delicious. Men…sometimes I just don’t get them!
So here’s our strategy for dining out: whether eating locally or while traveling, we use the Find Me Gluten Free app and go to their webpage to have a looksy at the GF menu. If it looks promising, we then call them- always call them– to make certain they still have said GF menu and that they haven’t run out of the offerings. We learned this the hard way once in Myrtle Beach…we waited over an HOUR so that Doug could enjoy gluten free pizza, only to hear our server say that they had run out earlier in the evening…fun stuff, folks- I really thought he was going to cry right there at the table!
When dining out locally, make notes of the establishments that truly make an effort and seem to be well educated on GF procedures and put them in the rotation. Yes, the choices may get a bit stale for the non-GF spouse/friend/co-worker, but that’s what girl’s (or boy’s) nights out are for!
Here’s our list of trusted, and mostly national chain, restaurants:
Ted’s Montana Grill– Doug says they have the best GF hamburger buns and they don’t fall apart, plus their fries are GF…this is a big deal to him, as he doesn’t always enjoy mashed potatoes or a baked potato with a burger.
Maggiano’s– The website doesn’t really mention a GF menu, but this chain is VERY accommodating! When making reservations or when seated, mention that you have a gluten allergy and the chef will come out and explain ways that dishes can be modified. They have a very good GF pasta, appetizers, and salads…this is usually our go-to place for special occasions.
Outback Steakhouse– Outback is the restaurant of choice when Doug travels for work (yep, he isn’t just the pretty face of AL!) because there’s usually one within close range of his hotel and their staff seems to be well versed on the GF menu. Oh, and their famous “Chocolate Thunder from Down Under” dessert extravaganza is gluten free!
Red Robin– They offer GF buns and the all-important GF fries!
P.F. Chang’s– Another great option, as they have an extensive GF menu, along with GF soy sauce.
Rosa Mexicano– Knowledgeable staff and excellent Mexican food!
Egg Harbor Cafe– If you’re lucky enough to live or visit the Wisconsin, Illinois, or Georgia area, this is well worth the long wait time. They have- wait for it- GLUTEN FREE PANCAKES AND CINNAMON ROLLS!! One of our customers enlightened us about this gem and it does not disappoint…on Doug’s birthday and Father’s Day, you can find us standing in a crazy long line for these GF goodies.
Of course, these aren’t the only chains that offer GF menus, just a few of our family’s favorites. Honorable mention to the fast food joints of choice; Chick-Fil-A’s fries are safe and they now offer grilled chicken nuggets. Wendy’s fries are also safe and even though the burger must be ordered sans bun, the chocolate frosty helps to soften the blow.
We also have several locally owned restaurants that have become part of the repertoire- it just requires a few questions beforehand and follow-up when in person. Do you have a dedicated fryer? Are your meats marinated? Do you take precautions with shared equipment? You’ll soon find reliable, conscientious establishments that will be more than happy to cater to your GF needs.