As it is, gluten free options are limited but dining out seems to be the epitome of Russian roulette for Celiac sufferers and those following a gluten-free lifestyle. Even worse than a server’s lack of knowledge, the unconcern some restaurants seem to have in regard to a dietary request is off putting and frustrating for those whose very health depend on specific needs.
Thankfully, some chain restaurants have stepped up to the plate, offering gluten-free menus, attempting to educate staff, and hiring friendly servers with great customer service skills. Do their efforts translate into a great gluten-free customer experience? We researched seven of the most acclaimed “Gluten Free Friendly” places to find out. Looking at forums, surveys and reader feedback, here are some places that ‘take the cake’ and some to think twice about. The links send you directly to their gluten-free menu so you can scope them out further.
Takes the GF Flourless Cake
No matter where you are in the country, PF Chang’s provides the ideal gluten free patron’s dining out experience. A vast gluten-free menu offers something for every palette, including tanging and delicious sauces and desserts. In addition to separate prep areas, they also serve gluten-free orders on differently shaped plates with different utensils. They go above and beyond and its shows in its high review ratings.
Knows How to Treat a Customer
Though Red Robin isn’t especially varied on their regular menu, they make Celiac-diagnosed and gluten intolerant visitors feel right at home. All the staff are aware of dietary needs and they make an effort compared to a lot of other chain restaurants. Most locations have a designated gluten-free fryer and they also have gluten free buns that taste amazing. The menu is clearly marked and offers substitutions on regular menu items.
Offers the Most Options
The varied and fresh nature of Cheesecake Factory’s menu easily lends itself to gluten-free accommodations. Additionally, some locations have a designated fryer, but be sure to ask prior to ordering. What reviewers often raved about was the knowledgeable staff and not feeling awkward in making substitutions or asking lots of questions. A note on pasta- most of these places use same pot for gf and wheat pastas, so consider avoiding it or request they use a different one. Best part? Gluten. Free. Cheesecake. ‘Nough said.
Does Great Steak
Outback is simultaneous with great steak and they do it well. Unfortunately, if you want much else on the menu, it won’t come gluten free. They don’t offer gluten free buns or a gluten free version of the warm bread served as you peruse the menu. They have a decent gluten free selection but cross contamination is a concern here. Staff training is spotty at best, so be prepared to emphasis your need for safe food handling practices. If you want a steak and some perfectly steamed vegetables, then by all means, ask for the grill to be cleaned and enjoy it!
is Hit or Miss
Despite Chipotle’s claim to offer the gluten free community some scrumptious options, good customer experiences aren’t consistent. It seems the further away from the corporate office (Colorado) you get, the less educated and aware staff are on the needs of Celiac or gluten intolerant patrons. The locations that do it right have been seen changing gloves and preparing food in front of customer according to preferences. They also know not to use the tortilla warmer.
If you want some delicious none-contaminated fries then Five Guys is your gluten-free fast food fix provider. For burgers, they don’t have alternative buns, but you can have a lettuce wrap or bowl burger with all the toppings (which are also gluten free). The staff is well educated for the most part, changing gloves, keeping beef patty on freshly cleaned grill and preparing food on a separate counter. Their fryer only dips fries, making cross contamination minimal. Many customers also get their food bagged separately from family who have buns or were prepared on the gluten side of the kitchen.
Ranks Low Despite Claims
Honestly? Don’t go unless you have to. Cross contamination is an issue that plays out for most Celiacs that eat at Applebee’s. Their limited gluten-free menu is mostly just substitutions that make the meal bland, and the staff doesn’t seem particularly educated or aware of the need for separation. A few locations will do their best if asked, cleaning grills and using separate cooking utensils, but for the most part, you’re gambling if you come here.
As always, you know best for your body and have the responsibility to make sure where ever you dine is aware of what you need. Remember: if in doubt throw it out, or in this case, walk out. We hope this list helped either ease your mind about dining out or helped you make an educated decision about which restaurants to trust with your gluten-free needs.
Do your experiences line up with these rankings? Have you been too worried to try these places and changed your mind after reading our reviews? Please tell us in the comments below and come back with your input if you dine out. We’d love to hear from you!