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You ABSOLUTELY still need to ask questions!
Given the fad nature of many new gluten-free diners, restaurants across the country are rushing to create gluten-free menus. The problem is that many of these restaurants think a gluten-free menu makes a meal gluten-free, with no understanding of the perils of cross-contamination for celics. Some restaurants and chains do a great job; others horrible. The bottom line is that the presence of a gluten-free menu has NO RELATION WHATSOEVER to how well a restaurant can serve a gluten-free guest or even understands the issues.
Use an outside gluten-free or allergy restaurant guide or other source to find those restaurants that are truly knowledgeable about how to serve our community.
The options on the Applebee's gluten-free menu may look better, but they're training, knowledge, and caring about how to properly serve gluten-free (or food allergies) and avoid x-contamination is as bad as it gets. Don't let the gluten-free menu fool you. You have a VERY high likelihood of being glutened! (That's not to say you should stick with Red Robin if you're not comfortable, but pick a better alternative for your sake.)
While nothing is jumping out as rated by many, my resource suggests you consider the following:
Cheeseburger in Paradise
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Hu Hot Mongolian Grill
Bonefish Grill (on the basis of GFRAP certification)
With 2 kids, I would suggest just taking a cab. From Midtown to the West Village will probably take 10 minutes or so (depends on day/time) and shouldn't cost more than $10-15 (though if you hit traffic, that meter keeps clicking). If it is your first time to NYC, you might love walking back (especially if you've eaten a big meal!), but you really need to like walking because that could take 45+ minutes. Regardless, I always choose the walking route because no matter how many times I'm in NYC, there's always more to see. If you're strategic about it, you could walk past many landmarks, parks, etc.
Warning about chains with gluten-free menus! Lately, I have read a rash of messages about people getting sick after ordering off gluten-free menus only to find that the staff was not trained about cross-contamination (or the basics of food allergies/intolerances). So many chains are dying to "get in on the trend" that they don't realize this isn't a fad, but something that can have severe consequences for many people. One chain even pulled their gluten-free menu after getting too many people sick. So don't be fooled! A GLUTEN-FREE MENU DOES NOT EQUAL A "GLUTEN-FREE FRIENDLY" RESTAURANT! You have to do your research on various message boards like these or around the web. A lot of chains are discussed on these boards, though I don't know how much luck you'll have with individual restaurants. Bottom line: learn what you need to ask and the cues of staff that get it and staff that don't. Ask every time, at every restaurant. It's very do-able.
There's a "statistical significance" factor that you know I can't quote here without backing it up in the form of self-promotion (and frankly, historical posts on your site backs this up as well). That said, I feel strongly compelled to share what is so obvious about Applebee's anyway and I don't think it is wrong to inquire of the first-time poster about the processes and procedures that he/she feels makes Applebee's such a safe choice. I think it is worth asking these questions to help others from getting sick.
How does your unit prevent cross-contamination? How do the servers communicate to the kitchen? Where is the separate preparation area? How is the gluten-free meal communicated from the kitchen back to the server? And most importantly, how does corporate train all of the employees in the 2000 nationwide units, 90% of which are franchised? Asking these questions on a forum is an incredible softball since you can think as long as you want about the right answers.
I have never heard of an Applebee's training employees in anything but putting an allergen/gluten book in front of people (and corporate doesn't even tell the units when that book is updated - they told me this directly - kind of important since so much of the food is prepackaged and shipped in). In fact, Applebee's fought hard NOT to have me inquire about their practices.
I just ran a yet-to-be-published phone survey that will be enlightening. Even on the phone, before the lunch rush, only about half of Applebee's managers could answer allergy/gluten-free questions adequately. That doesn't bode well for how finely trained the entire staff is and how they can handle a dinner rush.
And if I may be as blunt as possible, I find the fact that this is your first post as very suspicious. I've already had a similar experience on a separate blog from an individual who didn't realize his IP address could be traced to his location. Of course, Lenexa, KS is a bustling metropolis.
Sorry to challenge your credibility, but anyone who claims that "I know that with a little help from your server that you can have a very positive gluten free meal from any Applebee's" hasn't dined there more than once or twice... let alone at a significant percentage of the 2000. If you are in fact being genuine, then I wonder if you'll be willing to stand behind your claims after a few visits to other Applebee's units you don't work at.
I hope one day I can be proven wrong. I've challenged Applebee's corporate and I've shared with them the economic upside. I told them I would praise their efforts publicly as they began the change process. Nothing. No desire. Then again, with the franchise model, corporate has less to gain than if they ran the units themselves. Eh... let the franchisees fend for themselves.
Silk, I think this is the first time I ever heard anyone state that they had a good experience at Applebee's! I'm glad there's one of us!
Problem with all these chains is that they think having a gluten-free menu is enough. They don't realize that they have to train thousands of employees about cross contact, etc.
A few ideas:
Cameron's America Bistro in Worthington (received 3 positive ratings from gluten intolerant diners)
Martini Modern Italian (also GFRAP certified)
Columbus Fish Market (GFRAP certified)
P.F. Chang's (generally well-rated around the country, but this unit has received positive ratings as well)
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (also generally well-rated around the country)
Bonefish Grill (also GFRAP certified)
First Watch Restaurant in Dublin
Hope those help for a start.
Feel free to contact me for more info.
As lynnelise pointed out, you just posted twice on another board saying that you are an employee and that "Taco Bell is a NO NO" since everything is cross-contaminated. Given those comments, why would you be eating the food "a few times" if you are gluten-intolerant? May I be so bold as to ask if you are STILL an employee?
Darissa - Here's some information I've come up with.
Rated well by individuals with gluten intolerance AND gluten-free menu: Roy's
Rated well by individuals with gluten intolerance: Sammy's California Woodfired, Cups, Poseidon Restaurants
Gluten-free menu and rated well by food-allergic diners (somewhat similar needs): Old Spaghetti Factory, Chili's, Claim Jumper Restaurant
Note that the rated restaurants each only had 1 rating, so consider them more like personal recommendations from anonymous gluten-free diners.
Good luck. Be well. Eat safe!
A few options from the community (though I can't say these are all as strict as you want/need):
On the high end, Kevin Rathbun Steak or Rathbun's Restaurant in Atlanta look like nice choices.
Wildfire, also in Atlanta, has gotten a great gluten-free review, with a particular mention of sensitivity toward cross-contamination.
Blue Moon Pizza in Smyrna has gluten-free options, if you're craving pizza. South City Kitchen Vinings is in the same town (southern cuisine, nicer establishment).
On the chain front, a bunch have gluten-free menus, but I don't know if I would trust that they understand cross-contamination. (If you want a list, send me a message.)
The Melting Pot on Peachtree St in Atlanta is GFRAP-certified (Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program) by the Gluten Intolerance Group. (That still isn't a guarantee, but it is at least another head-start.)
Z Pizza, also on Peachtree St in Atlanta, has completed the GREAT Foodservice Training Program (Gluten-Free Restaurant Education and Awareness Training) from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. (Again, this isn't a guarantee, but a head-start.)
I hope this helps as a starter. Obviously, take all necessary precautions with any restaurant you choose, including all from these recommendations.
I'd love to know which restaurants you have a good and bad experience at if you care to share afterwards - you can send me a private message here.
Message me also if you would like further help. Good luck!
While Chili's gets pretty good ratings on allergy and gluten-free accommodations, I would still offer at least a hint of caution using California Pizza Kitchen and Applebee's as examples.
CPK just rescinded their gluten-free menu, recognizing that they didn't know how to handle CC. Applebee's has all kinds of allergen and sensitivity menus, but get some of the absolute worst ratings in our community because the staff is not properly trained on gluten-free, allergies, CC, or even proper order-taking from those of us who need a little understanding during the ordering process.
My fear is that Chili's is basically the same as these others - overly casual sit-down dining with a very high staff turnover rate of young kids.
That said, I rarely eat there and again, Chili's has good community ratings as a whole so far.