The Challenges of Eating Out Gluten Free: Our Tips and Recommendations

Eating out gluten free or finding a restaurant with a gluten free menu can be somewhat of a challenge to newly diagnosed celiac patients. In my son’s Nick’s case, early on he had a difficult time when we went out for dinner. He would often get frustrated and at times wouldn’t even want to go when we did decide to go out and eat.

Do you have questions about dining out gluten free? Click here to ASK!

The two main concerns that we had about eating out gluten free at the beginning of this process were:

1. - Will they have anything that Nick can eat?

2. - If so, what is the risk of cross contamination with common cooking surfaces or cooking preparation?

These two concerns have become less and less of a concern over the past several years. Again, as awareness and education of celiac disease becomes more and more present, we have noticed more and more gluten free menus popping up at restaurants, especially at some of the national chains. This is good news to celiac patients.

***I just added a new page about an excellent guide for gluten free restaurants. This guide has over 6,500 gluten free restaurants listed by state and city!

Click on the picture below to see more about this guide and how you can get it:

What are your favorite Gluten Free Restaurants?
Click here to share them with us!

Based on our experiences of eating out gluten free at various restaurants the past 8 years, we want to share are our own tips with you before deciding which restaurant to choose:

*Check to see if the restaurant has a gluten free menu.

(Click here to see our restaurant listings that have GF menus)

If not, call the restaurant in advance to ask if they can prepare something gluten free. Be sure to specifically discuss the risk of cross contamination as they may or may not be aware of these. We have done this a few times and we never had a problem calling in advance.

*If the restaurant has a gluten free menu don’t assume that they are preparing the food in a separate location. Ask you wait server to confirm this.

*When eating out gluten free, don’t be afraid to ask questions about other prepared food that you think may be gluten free like mashed potatoes – are they a mix or from real potatoes? Is the cooking oil for french fries only for the fries nothing else? Does the salad have croutons on it?

*If you go to a steak house and order a steak, make sure you ask of the meat has not been marinated. Some steak houses marinate their meat, especially the high end restaurants and most marinate sauces contain unsafe gluten ingredients. We found that most of the national food chains like Outback and Texas Roadhouse are usually safe.

Below is a short list of some of our favorite “national” gluten free restaurants:

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville @ Universal Studios Orlando Excellent menu with more than 6 gluten free entree's, 2 appetizers, burgers and sandwiches on gluten free buns! They even have Redbridge gluten free beer!
PF Changs China Bistro
They have a separate gluten free menu. Chinese food as always been one of Nick’s favorite and until PF Changs came along; there were no gluten free Chinese choices except for plain white rice. The servers and the wait staff were very knowledgeable about celiac disease and gluten free diets. They were extremely helpful and we definitely will go again.

Outback and Texas Roadhouse – Steaks are usually non-marinated and gluten free. There are plenty of gluten free side orders like baked potatoes, vegetables and salads. Nick also has eaten grilled shrimp skewers and again we just asked the wait server to check with the chef about not adding anything to the shrimp and to grill on a clean surface. It has never been an issue.

Other places like Applebees, Chili’s and The Olive Garden have all been safe places for Nick to eat out gluten free. Again, talking to the staff is the key.

For breakfast we have always had good luck at IHOP (International House of Pancakes). Nick usually orders bacon and scramble eggs or ham and cheese omelets.

However a WORD OF CAUTION when eating at an IHOP!!. We found out that they usually will add wheat flour or a wheat mix to their eggs to make them fluffy!!!

Make sure that you ask them to prepare the eggs straight without any added mixes and to prepare them on a clean separate surface. Again, we never have had a problem asking the staff at IHOP to do this and Nick never gotten sick eating there.

What about eating at fast food restaurants? Unfortunately, there still are not many options because most do not have gluten free hamburger buns and most prepare food on similar cooking surfaces so gluten contamination is very risky.

Nick has found only two gluten free fast food restaurants that he can safely eat gluten free products:

*McDonald’s French Fries We have been informed by numerous sources that the fries at McDonald’s are always cooked in their own cooking oil and never shared. We have been told it is a policy of the restaurant. Nick has never had a problem eating McDonald’s french fries.

**UPDATE/CAUTION** - After reviewing the latest McDonald's website, McDonald's french fries DO contain hydrolyzed wheat. They put beef flavoring into the french fries during processing prior to arriving at the restuarant. We will be removing these from the safe food list for Nick.

*Wendy’s Baked Potatoes* Never any problems. However anything other than cheese or broccoli on top may contain gluten like chili etc..

As stated above, more and more restaurants are carrying gluten free menus and therfore, eating out gluten free is becoming a litte easier. For your convenience, we have researched several popular restaurants that carry gluten free menus. Click here to see our list!

What Are Your Favorite Gluten Free Restaurants?

Do you have favorite gluten free restaurant? Share it with us! Did it have a gluten free menu? Rate the service.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Five Guys.  
Five Guys - great burgers! Everything there is gluten-free except for the buns and malt vinegar. Great about being careful not to contaminate.

Ruby's Diner in So. Cali 
FINALLY A HAMBURGER! Their food is so awesome and they use gluten free buns upon request as well as USDA beef, no fillers! It's a bit pricey...but worth …

Olive Garden 
Olive Garden has a gluten-free menu. I havent had any problems there. HY-VEE grocery store is a good place which is always popping up new and decent GF …

Red Robin 
My 7 year old daughter was diagnosed at the age of 3 with Celiac Disease. We love going to Red Robin that has a list of gluten free items. The menu is …

Wendy's chili 
I checked on the chili at Wendy's and was assured that it is gluten free. Had quite often on a road trip without and problems. Steve's response: …

TONS of gluten free options!! even pasta!

McDonalds fries DO contain wheat 
Depending on your sensitivity, be careful of McDonald's fries. Although they are fried in their own oil vats, the fries themselves contain a flavoring …

PF Changs was an excellent choice for us! 
One of my favorite gluten free restaurants was PF Changs China Bistro. I went to a restuarant in Salt Lake City Utah last summer and the service was great …

Chipotle's Mexican Grill 
I have never been, but Chipotle's has a list of allergens on their website that basically makes their restaurant a great place to visit. I am g-f and …

Culver's Not rated yet
Two excellent gf dinner salads and gf dressings. Also both their vanilla and chocolate custards as well as their hot fudge sauce! :-D

Domino's Pizza Not rated yet
I am a pizza fanatic and when I found out I had celiac disease I was sick...literally. I had tried Mellow Mushroom and it was okay. I figured I would …

Naked Pizza Not rated yet
Naked Pizza has a gluten-free crust. Obviously it has a chance for cross-contamination because they use wheat in other products, but they make an effort …

FATZ CAFE Not rated yet

mellow mushroom!  Not rated yet
i have been celiac for a while and could never find a good pizza that was gf. now mellow mushroom prepares an amazing gf pizza not as good as normal pizza …

Chili's Not rated yet
I travel a lot. All over the US and the best place that I could tell you eat GF at is Chili's. They have a GF menu that they update all the time and …

Riverwalk Grill at Sun River Country Club, St. George, UT Not rated yet
Chef Imi is amazing! He comes to your table, assures you that he will cook gluten free just for you. He has even made my husband's dish GF so I can taste …

TGIF Not rated yet
TGIF now has an allergen menu. It lists content of items such as soy, dairy, gluten, etc. The managers there have been tremendous (in Springfield, …

Monical's Pizza Not rated yet
My g-f friends tell me the g-f pizza available at Monical's Pizza is wonderful

main hangar, decatur,il Not rated yet
This Italian restaurant is in the airport, but the chef makes his own everything, it seems. He has now created a gluten-free menu, including g-f pasta …

pizzeria UNO's Not rated yet
nice Gluten Free menu. we ate at the one in/near Everett, MA Very acommodating for food allergies. Has a computer kiosk which shows all the food items …

Pei Wei  Not rated yet
Pei Wei offers an interesting and tasty menu of asian foods. The staff is very attentive and they are meticulous when preparing gluten free food from the …

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