Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mindful Ordering From "Gluten-Free" Menus

Wow! I can't believe my last post was so long ago! I guess I've been busier than I thought! Summer is finally here! The past few weeks, I have eaten out at several restaurants with either gluten-free menus or gluten-free "options". I have had good experiences along with some not so great ones! A couple of weekends ago, we visited Uno's Chicago Grill. Now, I love Uno's. What's not to love? They have gluten-free pizza and Diet Caffeine-Free Coke. Well, on this occasion, it was lunch time and my husband, daughter and I stopped in for a bite before going to a movie. I didn't want to order the gf pizza, because I didn't want to eat the entire thing and I couldn't doggy bag it and take it into the theatre. So, I ordered the Cobb Salad. I made sure I pointed to the gf menu and told the waiter I was ordering from it. Well, when it came, I didn't even think to really look at it. I should trust them right? About three bites into my salad, I saw it. Blue Cheese. I stopped dead in my tracks. Hmmm. I've never seen a gf salad with blue cheese on it! I thought, well, some blue cheese is safe, others aren't. So, usually I would ask the waiter about it and probably send it back. This day, I just decided to eat around it. Luckily, I didn't have any adverse reaction from it, but it was still bugging me. So, I decided to email Uno's customer service. I don't have the email I sent, but I described what happened and asked if they could confirm whether the blue cheese they serve in their restaurants is gf or not. Their response follows:
Dear Lisa,
You should not be having the blue cheese dressing. Sorry. Sincerely hope you did not get sick. We should have known better if you told the server you are ordering from the gluten free menu.
Kacey Bogue
Senior Hospitality Representative
Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30 EST
Now, aside from the fact that it was crumbled blue cheese and not the dressing, I'm assuming that neither are gluten-free. That was not the only restaurant I had an experience at this month. This past weekend we visited Chili's. Chili's doesn't have a gluten-free menu, but they do have gf "options" listed on their website. Now, I have had other experiences at Chili's, for instance, they brought me a salad with croutons on it and soup with crackers, so I know that this particular Chili's doesn't really get it. Sometimes the family wants to go there, so I suck it up and go. In any case, when we got there, we asked for a gluten-free menu. They pulled a dirty, dusty binder from a little cabinet under the hostess stand. I immediately got a bad feeling about this. The hostess flipped to the "Suggested Menu Items for those with Gluten Allergies" page and plopped the dirty binder on the table in front of me. I ended up ordering the grilled salmon with broccoli and rice. When the plate came. There it was. A huge gluten-laden french fry sitting right on top of my broccoli. Argh! So, we sent it back. The waitress said she would replace the broccoli with fresh, but who knows whether she did or if they just plucked the fry off the plate and returned it to the table. At this point, I really wasn't very comfortable about my gluten-free meal at all. So, I ate the salmon, which was very good and left everything else. To top it off, my daughter got down to the bottom of her mac n' cheese only to discover a huge piece of artichoke heart at the bottom. What the heck were they doing back there in that kitchen??? So, bottom line. Be careful at EVERY restaurant, even the ones with gluten-free menus.


Kim said...

Sorry to hear that, Lisa!! I had a bad experience at Chili's Too. I had the salmon and while I didn't see anything suspect, I know I was glutened as I was in the bathroom within a half hour. GRR! I also had the salmon. They also pulled out the dusty binder and handed it to me. Sigh.

Lisa said...

Kim ~ Ugh. It's obvious that the Chili's chain just doesn't understand the seriousness of food allergies/intolerances. I was hoping it was just this particular restaurant that I live near, but hearing your story makes me see it differently. I think I'm going to finally write them off for good. :(

Anonymous said...

I was recently told by a prominent celiac dietitian that blue cheese was actually safe. If the Cobb Salad is on the menu, maybe they are they operating off of that information?

Lisa said...

glutonicwoman ~ Thanks for your comment. Hmmmm. I've heard so much conflicting information about blue cheese. I understand that some blue cheese is "started" with moldy bread. Others are started chemically. I most always live by "when in doubt, go without". I usually ask for the restaurant to substitute the blue cheese with another cheese...