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Eating Out Blues
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I've only been gluten-free for a few weeks, but I'm already having a really hard time eating out. It's so frustrating. Even when I can pick out a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, I just feel like I'm being ripped off and treated like a thorn in everyone's side.

It seems like gluten-free menu items are either the same price or more expensive than regular menu items, but they don't offer the same value. For example, at On the Border part of the price of the food includes the chips and salsa - but the chips aren't gluten free. At Olive Garden part of the price includes the breadsticks - but I can't eat those. So why am I paying for them? And because Olive Garden's salads are shared by the whole table, everyone is forced to eat salad without croutons because of me. There's even a local restaurant that will turn ordinary menu items into gluten-free - but they charge an extra dollar to do it, and they basically just take food off of the plate that I can't eat! I haven't been to the local P.F. Changs since going gluten-free, but I'm actually looking forward to that because their menu looks appetizing - not like an afterthought.

I just don't understand why so many restaurants that advertise being gluten-free-friendly don't bother to put much effort into it. They suggest gluten-free versions of their regular food, like "guacamole without the chips" or "hummus without the pita bread." So how am I supposed to eat it? With a spoon? How about some vegetables or gluten-free chips instead? Not even an option. I'm also shocked by how little training the staff have had about gluten, what it is, and what contains it. If they don't want to put the same 100% into their gluten-free menu, why do they even bother to have one?

I'm a pretty good cook myself, so I know how easy it can be to prepare delicious, gluten-free food at home. And it doesn't have to cost any more. So why can't the professionals do it?

Ahhh...it feels good to vent. I'm sure most of you have dealt with this for years. Any tips, other than staying home and not eating out?

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I don't mind skipping out on things like chips & salsa, etc., that are "freebies" with the meal. While it'd be nice for the kitchen to keep a bag of "safe" chips in there for instances with gluten-free customers... there is also nothing preventing me from bringing in my own safe chips, etc.

And yes... I may pay the same price for a burger without a bun, but I'm more than willing to not sweat that cost when I know that the place I am eating from takes that request of "gluten free" seriously and does it right - they take the meat from an area not prone to cross-contamination, they change plastic gloves, etc. I consider that more than a fair trade.

I can also deal with the upcharge for a gluten-free replacement item like a gluten-free bun - they cost more than regular buns. I don't want a restaraunt to feel like they have to take a loss by serving gluten-free food - I want them to continue to do it.

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That is the price you pay for the luxury of dining out. Of course some places are better than others.If I could I would live at Disney!!! Just a dreamland...

I wish the world world was gluten free, soy free..I wish it were perfect--- again dreamland!

The good news is there are many places to eat gluten-free but choices have to be... When I go to a burger place ie: Red Robin I take my own bun(honestly I now prefer the burger without the bun) If I go to the Olive Garden (which I don't like but family loves) they always bring me a salad bowl of my own & the gluten eaters get their salad bowl with the croutons. I also warm breadsticks before I go & have my own dipping oil bowl so I'm doing everything everyone else is doing. Eating salad, dipping bread!

When our kids get invited to Chuckie Cheese for a friends birthday party they go ,have fun & when the pizza comes out our gluten-free kids have pizza too just gluten-free !!! I bake the gluten-free pizza wrap in foil & take it warm or else if they are going to have playtime first, I ask the staff to heat the gluten-free pizza in the foil a bit...The staff never has to touch the gluten-free pizza. I do ask that they change gloves..

When I go for breakfast I warma bagel, english

muffin or toast & take it with me. I then can have a breakfast sandwich if I want. I just state no muffin or bagel...It comes on a plate & I put it on my tyoe of bread I have....

So for me , I don't mind that I still pay the same or a bit more for gluten-free because I still can enjoy being out in the world...

Isolation would kill me!!!!

Now, for a funny story! While at the Olive Garden once the waitress brought me my crouton free salad bowl,I took some garlic croutons gluten-free with me & added them to my bowl.. The waitress came out grabbed the bowl & stated to walk off with it.. I asked "Hey where are you taking my salad too, I'm not done eating it yet" She "I'm so sorry but I see croutons in it so you can't have this again I'm so sorry...at this point we all are laughing. She then is confused... I did tell her she did nothing wrong! She thought I would tell mangement that she served me a salad with croutons & she would get fired...So now when I take breads anywhere I tell them I have my own gluten-free....

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I understand that the world isn't perfect, and that every restaurant should not be expected to cater to every specific need that people have. My problem is with the restaurants that go out of their way to advertise being gluten-free-friendly, but really aren't. I have a problem with having to buy part of the ingredients myself, bring them from home, and add them to half-prepared restaurant food that I'm paying a premium for. If they don't want to serve gluten-free people with 100% effort like they serve other paying customers then they shouldn't advertise as if they are. That's my problem with it.

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Oh yeah. I am thrilled when a place only offers salads or pasta as a gluten-free option. Salads, I'm tired. And pasta - forget it.

But the WORST experience I've had so far as far as a gluten-free offering goes was Dakota Cafe in Tucson - their online menu shows they make virtually the whole menu gluten-free. But when we arrived and were seated, the menu only had a fraction available gluten-free. Yep - salad, soup, and one or two entrees and the ubiquitous freakin pasta. gluten-free pasta in a restaurant, unless someone makes it from scratch (which I've never seen) is a culinary insult IMO. Seriously? I could have had steak, instead I got scallops without flavor that were held too long. Aargh!

Yeah, I know plenty of people would be thrilled with pasta - but when I think of the difficulty we've had finding one we like and the odds that a restaurant stocks a decent one - well, I'm less than tempted. Not to mention, the one time I was glutened eating a gluten-free meal - yep, it was noodles. I think they boiled them in gluteny water or something. Heck, they may have been wheat for all I know...it was dark and there was sauce all over it. That's another reason I hesitate on pasta - I can't tell what it is.

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Like I said... I'm willing to do the trade-off of "less" when I have confidence that my order of "gluten-free" is taken seriously in the kitchen (which often means things like changing gloves, dedicated pans/equipment, opening new containers of ingredients, etc.). It is an effort for a kitchen to do and it really may cost them slightly more to do it, so I can understand no change in pricing or even an upcharge to ensure that the kitchen can offer the service and do it correctly.

And if I don't think they do it correctly or if an upcharge or lack of something really ticked me off? I wouldn't give them my business.

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Like I said... I'm willing to do the trade-off of "less" when I have confidence that my order of "gluten-free" is taken seriously in the kitchen (which often means things like changing gloves, dedicated pans/equipment, opening new containers of ingredients, etc.). It is an effort for a kitchen to do and it really may cost them slightly more to do it, so I can understand no change in pricing or even an upcharge to ensure that the kitchen can offer the service and do it correctly.

And if I don't think they do it correctly or if an upcharge or lack of something really ticked me off? I wouldn't give them my business.

I am no longer satisfied with "less" unless I'm in a bind. If I'm going out to eat for pleasure I expect it to be pleasurable.

That may sound a bit harsh but it's true.

If I'm stuck away from home and need food - ok, I'll settle. But if I research and look for a good gluten-free meal (no freaking salads or pasta) and I show up and they pull the switcheroo on the menu. Ut uh. I'm ticked. I won't do it.

Presence of gluten in non-obvious places or an all-gluten menu is an indicator of processed, bad-for-you food, IMO. My theory on that one is bolstered by the ease with which most restaurants that use fresh ingredients can easily provide gluten-free food. And yes, fresh food costs more.

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Most of the price for restaurant food is for the labor, not the food. It takes extra work to do gluten-free right, so if they do it right they should charge more. The places that charge more for things like (at an Italian restaurant) "Order without the pasta" :blink: ) should be run out of town (Carrabas) :ph34r: And most often you are paying more for s server who doesn't even know what gluten is. I had one ask me, "Is it gluten free if it doesn't have croutons?" I suggested he get some training from his manager. :P

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Really, I think there is a huge lack of knowledge eventhough they are trying and no doubt very limted with resources. It can get you down but I find I do better when I focus on what I can have and when eating out I really try to be extra safe and so with the salads normally, making sure not croutons are added and if there is meat in the salad I ask if there is any breading. It took me a while to get the courage to ask questions and felt bad if I had not asked and received something I could not eat but it really is a must in order to eat out safe. I have found most people understand when I tell them I have an allergy, that sends the message that they need to listen.

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At Olive Garden you can ask them to put the croutons or whatever on the side. They may pull an attitude on you but they'll do it. I am fine with everything on the salad but the croutons but I come from a family of picky eaters. They want everything on the side! And they get it that way.

If hummus is on the menu then chances are cucumbers are too. Or tomatoes. Ask if you can get some raw veggies instead of the pita. This usually works although once I got some steamed zucchini with the hummus. That was really weird.

My biggest complaint about dining out is the lack of choices. I'm not even gluten-free. I have other food intolerances. So most of what is on the menu is out of the question for me. I can't have bread, even gluten-free bread because it might contain egg or dairy. I never know. Margarine usually contains dairy. So that means a plain baked potato. But not at Outback because they rub margarine on their potatoes. So it's usually just a hamburger patty for me and whatever other sides I can come up with.

I have learned to be creative. Look at the side dishes. And the breakfast items. You may have to make a meal out of those. And yes, it will be expensive.

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