Determining what is gluten free is a daily task. Whether it is going out to eat or cooking for myself at home, I can’t avoid it. If I want to ingest something, I need to know with as much certainty as is available. When meeting new people, you’ll often encounter the question, “What do you eat then?” As they mentally run their weekly meals in their heads, visions of fast food burgers on buns, brown bag ham and cheese sandwiches, a quick box of spaghetti at least one night and pizza with a movie, it makes sense. It is a fair question but it does make me want to point out that I eat food too. The more welcomed question is “How do you figure out if a food is gluten free?” In this post, I’ll explain how I go about looking into restaurants and in tomorrow’s post, I’ll explain how I research food to make at home.
I’ll start with dining out because the process, while far less safe since you can’t go inspect every package yourself, is shorter.
If I have to go to a pre-picked restaurant, then it is what it is. I look up what I can online about it, call the restaurant to see if they have a gluten free menu and if they don’t, I accept that I’ll likely be eating a salad with no creative ingredients (even toppers like candied nuts can be not gf). When I’m there, I still point out that I’m gf to my waiter or waitress and see if they can point me in the right direction of something suitable. If that works, then they will likely explain what changes will be made to your food. When your food arrives, check to make sure the adjustments were made, as in, no visible breading or whatever needed removed, etc. Also, confirm with the person who brought the food to you (whether your waiter or not) that it was prepared gluten free for added protection. If they can’t make suggestions, salad it is. Bunny food isn’t bad for you.
If I get to choose a restaurant, then I hit the internet. Find Me Gluten Free’s website is a place to start (they also have an app), but be cautious. I’ve been mislead a time or two (I think those places listed themselves to drive gf business to them even though they aren’t gf friendly), and it obviously does not include every possible establishment.
If you already have a couple ideas in mind whose food would likely be gf, a steakhouse for example, then go directly to their website. More places are now advertising that they have a gluten free menu and will post it online. If they don’t have one listed, don’t get discouraged and stop there because not all do this…yet.
Call them or email them to ask. You’ll at least get a definite answer whether good or bad, and if they don’t have one, they will often automatically inform you if they can adjust the food to accommodate your needs or not.
Asking friends online if they’ve spotted any gf menus while they are out or being in a celiac group can also give insight into safe places. I learned oodles from my first trip to the Cheesecake Factory with the MeetUp group.
Use search engines with phrases like “gluten free Pittsburgh”, “gluten free Pittsburgh restaurants”, “Pittsburgh gluten free menu”, “gluten free dining Pittsburgh”, “Pittsburgh gluten free pizza”, etc. You get the idea (and obviously replace the city name with yours). I’ve found unthought-of and unheard of options by pairing “gluten free” and a city with words like, “dining, list, best, top, favorite, review, friendly,cafe”. This is also the best method for determining places to eat beforehand when traveling. That way you can see some menus and what might be worth going out of the way for or comparing the locations you will be in so you aren’t scrambling when you feel like you are starving. You may even trip over a city’s gluten free blogger! Blogs like Celiac in Orlando ,Gluten Free Betsy in Chicago or Glutie Foodie in Washington D.C. can do a lot of the legwork for you. Overall, you may not always be able to try something new, but try not to get discouraged. Yes, I’ve lost that battle a couple times myself, but tend to land on the fact that there are plenty of places that we can. Wishing you some tasty safe eating!
Don’t forget to browse through our list of Pittsburgh Gluten Free Restaurants.