Gluten Free Restaurants

By August 2014, the FDA expects restaurants using the term “gluten-free” to be in compliance with the gluten-free labeling final rule. 

Q: Do restaurants have to offer gluten-free choices?

No. Remember, using the labeling term “gluten-free” is voluntary.

Q: Where can I eat out gluten free?

One resource for current local restaurant, bakery and shopping information is at Celiac Support Group meetings. Comments also may be shared by those who Join Our Group. Over time, restaurant, bakery and shopping comments may appear on the Celiac Support Group Facebook page.

Websites that report restaurant gluten-free menus include: FindMeGlutenFree, GlutenFreeGuideHQ, GlutenFreeRegistry, and GlutenFreeTravelSite. Local restaurant offerings also are available by “googling” the terms “gluten free restaurants” or “gluten free menu” together with one’s city. This brings up links to sites like UrbanSpoon, Yelp, and About.com, as well as to local restaurants that are advertising their gluten-free offerings.

Q. What are some tips for eating out gluten free?

Be prepared! Don't go at a busy time (on Mother’s Day, for example). Call ahead (the day before in the early afternoon is a good time) to ask questions about menu items (like, when are croutons added to the salads, is the meat marinated, are fries cooked in a dedicated fryer, how does the chef minimize the possibility of cross-contamination, is it possible to order plain steamed vegetables or plain sautéed fish...) so you’ll know what to expect. Ask about ingredients, even for plain-sounding foods not labeled gluten free (like eggs, since batter can be added to fluff up omelets, or green tea, where roasted barley might be found). Eat something before you go (then if nothing works, you won't suffer, and if everything works, you can ask for that doggy bag).

Be nice! Your server’s goal is the same as yours—your positive dining experience. Ask your server to help. Ask, would make it easier for the kitchen staff to process your special order if the server writes your meal ticket separate from the ticket used for the rest of the party?  Ask, what would the server suggest is your “safest” meal choice?   If you haven’t called ahead with your questions, it’s better to ask now rather than never.   Also ask, would the server verbally communicate your **medically-required** need for a gluten free experience to the kitchen staff and also thank them on your behalf for their help?  If you have celiac disease, ALWAYS say so.   

Be alert! If despite your best efforts your salad arrives with croutons, send it back for a replacement salad, having first hidden a strip of napkin or crouton beneath the lettuce, then check to see if it's still there when your “new” salad arrives (or, alternatively, hang onto your old salad until the new one arrives).   If there's a sauce and you didn’t expect one, ask what's in it.  Communicate any concerns – nicely – to your server before you bite.

Be generous! Always tip well. And...

Follow up!   Email or call management the next day, to compliment your server by name, or, in the worst case, to explain that you are not feeling well and you need to know what went wrong.  Please Contact Us as well!

Q: Do restaurants offering gluten-free food have special training?

No. Restaurants may offer gluten-free menus or dining options without paying for outside certification or training. Participating in any certification or other program is voluntary.

Organizations currently offering restaurants Gluten-Free Certification include: Gluten-Free Standards Foundation (advertises as having the first gluten-free restaurant certification program), The Gluten Free Institute Restaurant Certification Program (participating restaurants currently only in Utah), and Celiebo (participating restaurants currently only in New York).

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers restaurants "ServSafe" food handling and food service management classes. Gluten Intolerance Group and National Foundation for Celiac Awareness offer gluten-free management, training and/or awareness programs. Celiac Support Association [formerly Celiac Sprue Association and not connected with Celiac Support Group] offers a Recognition Seal.

Contact us for more information about Gluten Free Restaurants.