G/F Foods, Holidays

Gluten-Free Travel, Cont.

0 Comments 14 October 2010

Gluten-Free Travel, Cont.

In my first article, I touched briefly on how things have changed for the better (thank goodness!) when it comes to finding gluten-free options at many restaurants. Of course, large suburban areas and big cities tend to have more choices . . . but you can find people who are very knowledgeable about preparing a safe gluten-free meal just about anywhere in the world, as evidenced by the number of restaurant reviews I have received through my website, GlutenFreeTravelSite.com.

Gluten-free visitors have submitted reviews of restaurants all over the globe – including some surprisingly remote areas like Newfoundland and Yosemite National Park – that revel in exceeding the expectations of their gluten-free diners. It is discoveries like these that truly make the quest for a delicious gluten-free meal an exciting adventure!

When it comes to dining out gluten-free, I’ve found each type of restaurant handles gluten-free menu options differently, but equally well.

  • “High End” Restaurants: This encompasses the pricier restaurants, both independent and “chain.” As you might expect, when dining at a high-end restaurant, chefs are typically well trained and knowledgeable about gluten-free food preparation. They’re usually eager to please, especially in this economic environment in which people are eating out less and choosing their “special occasion” restaurants more carefully. Steakhouses like Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris (both with locations nationwide) fit into this category of restaurants. While they may not have a gluten-free menu, per se, the majority of items on their menus tend to be naturally gluten-free (the steaks are not marinated, and the side dishes include many potato and vegetable choices). These places keep things simple, mostly gluten-free, and they do it well. As always, just be sure to articulate your needs clearly to your server and/or chef and even use your gluten-free dining cards if necessary.
  • Independent Neighborhood Restaurants: These are in my opinion, the most exciting discoveries–the places you stumble upon that are well-versed in gluten-free meal preparation because either the owner, the chef, a family member, or a regular customer has celiac or gluten intolerance. They’ve educated themselves and often have the most extensive and deliciously original choices in their gluten-free repertoire. There seem to be a lot of these restaurants in New York City, making it a great place to visit if you’re getting tired of the same old tried-and-true gluten-free standbys.
  • Traditional “Chain” Restaurants: I know some restaurants probably cringe being lumped into the “chain” restaurant category, but what I’m really referring to are restaurants with multiple locations, either in a particular region or nationwide. “Chain” doesn’t have to have a bad connotation. Some of my family’s favorites are the more sophisticated concepts that have taken off with the gluten-free set: Bonefish, P.F. Chang’s, and Rosa Mexicano. Even Uno’s, long known for their deep-dish pizza, now has a wonderful and extensive gluten-free menu, which includes a gluten-free pizza. 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 g-f offerings, but it’s still wise to be vigilant when ordering.
  • “Fast” Food: Let’s face it, as much as the “mom” in me doesn’t like to rely on McDonald’s too often, it has saved us on more than one occasion when there was nowhere else our son could safely eat when we were “on the road.”  Wendy’s, Boston Market, and Chipotle, are other fast, reliable havens where nutritional information, including gluten-free items, can be found listed either in-store or on their websites. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the many pizza chains which are starting to offer gluten-free pizza: Uno’s, Z Pizza, Garlic Jim’s, Pizza Fusion, and Pizza Pizza (Canada).

Yes, we have indeed “come a long way, baby.” It is so nice to finally have so many choices when dining out. I think I speak for the gluten-free community as a whole when I say we want to encourage and reward establishments that go the extra mile in meeting the needs of celiacs and others who are gluten sensitive. So please, thank these places and visit them often. If you have a bad experience, help educate them on how they can do better. But always be appreciative of their efforts. If restaurants (and hotels, resorts, and cruise ships) feel like serving gluten-free diners is too high-risk, they’ll be discouraged from offering g-f options at all. I’ve found, with only a few exceptions, that most chefs are eager to learn more about g-f food preparation and take pride in being able to provide their patrons with safe and delicious meals.

A list of restaurants with gluten-free menus is provided on GlutenFreeTravelSite.com

Karen Broussard - who has written 2 posts on Gluten Free Fox.

Karen Broussard is the mother of a child with Celiac Disease and the Founder and President of GlutenFreeTravelSite.com. Karen created this site to allow people on gluten-free diets to search and submit reviews of restaurants, hotels/resorts, cruise ships, and grocery stores around the world that accommodate gluten-free diets. The “community” nature of her site coupled with its geographic organization allows people to quickly and easily get personal, detailed and relevant dining and travel feedback from others with their same needs and challenges. Karen has even added a new section of the site, Gluten Free Restaurant Menus, which lists national and regional chain restaurants that offer gluten-free menus, with direct links to those menus.

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