For some of you dining out may make your teeth chatter and your hands shake. Mine do, even after all these years. For others you may not even realize that by being diagnosed your dining out experience will unfortunately never be the same again. It doesn’t have to be all bad though, you can view my rules for dining out gluten free here. However at first they might not be the easiest things to accomplish.
The easiest way to feel comfortable with dining out is to make sure that you choose the right restaurant. In my rules I mentioned doing some research into your restaurant before you go but if you’re on the go with friends and decide on a spur of the moment lunch or dinner then there are a few ways to help with your decision of dining spot.
Cuisine can play a big role in whether or not food is gluten free; in all types of food there are things of course to avoid. There sadly isn’t one saving grace of the cuisine world but there are a few safe bets.
Choosing seafood can be a great option, most fish and other sea creatures are served best without the fuss of sauces and dressings. Fewer ingredients means fewer chances of being glutened. Naturally, you still need to ask about cross contamination and may contain statements on products used. And any seafood that is batter or in a sauce is still a no go unless you can be sure it is 100% gluten free.
A lot of people think that sushi because it is rice based is automatically safe. However, sushi places can be a big source of cross contamination. They can also use a gluten vinegar and mayonnaise in some of their rolls. Definitely, make sure you inquire about all procedures and ingredients in any of the sushi you plan on purchasing. My local Sushi Sushi is my favourite place to go. they have a list of their gluten free rolls stuck to a wall somewhere and even have gluten free soy sauce available; at some locations it is free and at others it is 20 cents. It is distinguishable by it’s purple cap. as they are happy to share ingredients of their gluten free listed rolls and are knowledgeable in preparation procedures.
Brody has Indian in his background and since we both adore some spice, we love tucking into an Indian curry. Luckily at Indian restaurants you can usually enjoy a nice feed. Putting aside the Naan bread and any of the deep fried and pastry items on the menu. Most curries are gluten free. Just be sure to have a quick word to check that none of them have been thickened with wheat flour -I’ve actually offended a chef once by asking; he told me that no authentic Indian restaurant would ever do such a thing – but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Again just ensure that the restaurant understands contamination issues. There are a large amount of curries that you can choose from with a side of basmati rice. Even typing about that makes me want to rush over to the local Indian restaurant and grab myself a curry.
Mexican food can also be a lovely gluten free snack. With their obsession with fresh salsa and corn chips and rice dishes they appear to be a plethora of deliciousness. When ordering Mexican food, a few things to check would be:
- Make sure that they are using unflavoured corn chips. Flavoured corn chips can hide hidden gluten in their flavourings.
- The salsa, ensure that the salsa is gluten free, especially checking that if they add vinegar that the vinegar source is safe.
- If ordering a corn tortilla, ensure that it is no wheaten. Some corn tortillas use wheat as a binding agent.
- When ordering a rice dish, ask about any seasoning or sauce added
- Ask about contamination with hot plates when heating the tortillas
If in doubt order a spud! A baked potato is a great option and is almost always safe. Choose your toppings carefully and you’re set. For a 100% gluten free experience check out Spud Bars‘ various locations.
The best thing about finding certain cuisine catering restaurants is that you can generally always go back and safely eat. Of course there are plenty of places that people assume are safe but aren’t. So that you don’t accidentally fall into the trap of these places. I’ve listed a few of them below.
A few places to avoid that most people think are safe.
- Subway – Yes even the salads. You can read all about why Subway Salads are not our best friend in an upcoming discussion.
- Fish N Chip Shops – Even if you have asked for no flour on your fish and just some chips both are cooked in and on surfaces that are contaminated. The chips are fried in the same oil as batter and very few places will efficiently clean the grill top before grilling a non flour flake. Read more about universal fryers here.
- Pizza – Gluten free pizza can be amazing however places that make their own pizza dough are definitely no gos unless they have a separate enclosed cooking area. You’re probably wondering why and the simple answer is airborne gluten contamination. The flour particles that enter the air when they throw up their dough or splash their work surface with flour can remain in the air for a long period of time. You can read more about airborne contamination here.
You can view a template of how I initially contact venues via email. After this contact I follow the steps listed in my Dining Out Series depending on how they respond. Remember that if you feed the answers to the venue you may not get a honest response. Keep questions on the vague side unless absolutely necessary.