Take it from someone who is gluten free but loves dining out- it is hard! Just living a gluten free lifestyle in general is tough, from managing what you can and cannot eat, to where to buy your food, and who to trust to cook it is all a lot to handle. But throw in going to an unfamiliar restaurant and trusting a stranger to cook you food that could potentially make you sick is a very uneasy feeling. However, being gluten free does not mean you have to stop doing things you love, like going out to eat. It just means you have to know what you’re dealing with and prepare before hand.
There are a few things I would recommend doing before venturing out to a restaurant to eat a gluten free meal. The first thing I would do is to get familiar with the menu of the restaurant you plan to attend. This of course means making sure the restaurant has a gluten free menu to begin with. Yes, there are some places that do not but you can find gluten free options, but it makes the dining experience a lot easier if they do. A few of my personal favorites, On The Border and PF Chang’s have amazing gluten free menus. PF Chang’s in particular is my favorite restaurant, and according to a general manager of the Martlon, N.J. location, George Terston, the gluten free menu has been around for about five years. This is a good amount of time to get established and perfect everything, and it shows in their food. Because it has been around so long, people trust it. “You have to have a blind faith the first time you come to the restaurant and after you have had that one good experience, you feel more confidant,” says Terston about PF Changs.
Once you have gotten familiar with the menu, and maybe even talked to an employee about it, I would suggest getting further info about how the restaurant prepares their food. A big issue with eating out gluten free is cross contamination. Restaurants nowadays are very aware of this. Many restaurants, like On The Border, zones everything by allergy to make sure nothing mixes. “Here we have different colors for allergies for cutting boards, knives, everything that we cook with to make sure nothing happens. We even do spot checks throughout the day to make sure everything is perfect,” says Brian Sheghnessy, a general manager at On The Border in Mount Laurel, N.J. If a restaurant is that specific with everything, I would say it is pretty trustworthy.
The final thing I would suggest is to be careful, but have fun! Try not to stress too much about everything. Eating out, even while being gluten free, should still be enjoyable. If you prepare ahead of time, your dining experience should be as normal as it can be.