I love eating out at restaurants. As someone who is the worst cook known to mankind, restaurants are my go-to for filling, fun meals. When I eat out, I am always taking a risk…could I be glutened?!?! Yes, that is always a possibility, but I have some very important steps to prevent this. This is probably the most frequently asked question I receive from my readers so I figured it would helpful to post this as its own blog entry. This is intended for individuals who cannot handle cross contamination.
Gluten free menu does not mean gluten free. You need to know this and keep this in mind when eating out. As long as the ingredients used do not contain gluten, anything can be called gluten free in restaurants. This means that cross contamination can occur and it would still be “gluten free.” This has made me very hesitant when eating out…but have no fear! There are several questions you can ask to assess whether something is truly safe for you to consume. This applies to pretty much any allergy.
1) “Do you have clean pots, fresh water, and clean colander for your gluten free pastas?” Seems like common sense right? But no. I have gone to numerous restaurants that say they have gluten free pasta! Yippee! Until I ask if the above question and am told that they share water or pots without cleaning….uh no!!
2) “Do you have a dedicated gluten free fryer?” More times than I can count I have seen restaurants advertise gluten free French fries. However, when I call to ask if they have a dedicated fryer, I am told that no they do not. This fryer is shared with gluten containing foods! Not safe. This happened to me yesterday at an Indian restaurant—their vegetables are in chickpea batter (gluten free) yet fried in a fryer with items coated in flour. That was a no go for me.
3) “Do you have a seperate clean surface for gluten free food?” This is extremely critical for pizza places. I have had poor luck finding too many places that are celiac safe for pizza…even those reviewed online by gluten free individuals! Same surface as flour pizzas? Cross contamination galore!! Avoid at all costs. Also, check the grill…is your steak grilled on the same grill as the gluten bun? If so, ask them to clean it well before using. Dominoes nearly put me in ER in my early celiac days…this also happened in San Diego at a bakery that claimed that they had gluten free cupcakes…when asked this question, I was told that they use the same surface and utensils…without cleaning.
4) “Do you use seperate utensils?” This one is quite important for sandwich places…do they use the same sandwich knife for gluten sandwich as gluten free sandwiches??! You would be surprised.
5) “Do you have a seperate stash of ingredients for your gluten free menu items?” This is one I ask for pizzas and sandwich places. Why? Because for toppings where the staff touches gluten and then touches the toppings screams cross contamination. Think of tomatoes as an example..the staff grabs the bread and then grabs the tomatoes. This also applies to peanut butter, butter, and other spreads where knifes may be shared touching gluten and going back in the jar.
Here are five tips to start! I will keep adding more. 🙂 Always always ask how the staff handles cross contamination and what measures are in place! And communicate your allergy to them. It’s totally okay to ask the staff to double check to make sure something is gluten free. Hope this helps!!