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JodyM75

What Is Your Restaurant Spiel?

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As a Celiac newbie, I was hoping some of you veterans could give me an idea of what you say when you go out to eat?  How much detail do you go into?  When do you decide to just have water?  What are some buzzwords the waiter or manager says that give you warm and fuzzy feelings or just the opposite? 

 

Thanks so much!

 

Jody

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i think it takes some practice to determine the level the knowledge the server and the chef has at each restaurant you visit. Allergy, getting sick and "extremely ill" are phrases they take notice at. Sometimes you have to check for each item you want to order and the serve will have to go back and forth and ask the chef 3 or 4 times. Sometimes the server will come back and  say what you can and cant have or what they change in order to make it ok -- if they know the word celiac then its a good sign. Sometimes the chef will make you something that is not on the menu and your friends will be jealous!  Call ahead of time too and dont be afriad to ask for the chef and ask them what they can do for you as a celiac.

good luck

As a Celiac newbie, I was hoping some of you veterans could give me an idea of what you say when you go out to eat?  How much detail do you go into?  When do you decide to just have water?  What are some buzzwords the waiter or manager says that give you warm and fuzzy feelings or just the opposite? 

 

Thanks so much!

 

Jody

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Yeah as a rule I call or email ahead (usually email as it gives them time to check with the chef) asking what they can provide for me and what they know about preventing cross contamination. This is easier with independent places - I only go to chains which have gluten free menus because chains which don't bother with gluten free menus are unlikely to bother accommodating me, I've found. 

I try not to eat at really busy times as then it is easier for mistakes to happen and I try always to email and mention coeliac again when booking. I'd never just turn up on a Saturday night and expect it to be easy, unfortunately.

 

When we arrive I order last so that I can talk to the waiter/waitress at length - I explain that I can't have any gluten at all (so treat it like a nut allergy, please!) I then ask them to check with the chef what is and isn't safe (even if I've eaten the same dish before) paying particular attention to spices, stocks, dressings and sauces (and anything which is grilled or fried, highlighting CC).

 

I've never been anywhere where they haven't understood my requirements and I've found that most places, if you give them notice, are happy to change things and put the effort in for you. One place even said (in an email convo) that if I gave them a few days' notice they'd keep one oil fryer gluten free for me, which was lovely. 

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The people with celiac in my house are kids - so we can't chance not being able to eat and giving them water.  That would be a disaster!

 

The best thing I ever did was start sharing our DX news with friends that would get it - ones with kids with allergies/intollerance/etc.  Then I found out which local and/or chain places are easy to work with.  I found out a local place (that we had eaten at several times!) - the owner's daughter has celiac so all the staff are well versed in cc and they have dedicated fryers!  I never would have known that without a friend telling me to go there.

 

Find Me Gluten Free (an iphone ap) allows user reviews so you'll get an idea of how restaurants work and what they are willing to do to accommodate.

 

Finally, my local area has a celiac yahoo listserve.  It's an awesome way to find new places!

 

I suppose I'm lucky that when I mention my CHILD has celiac and will get very, very, very sick the servers will perk up and pay attention.  Nobody wants to be the reason my kids are puking all night.  And, yes, we went to one place and my girls were both sick that evening (we eat family style so the three non-celiacs were not sick that night - couldn't have been anything but gluten).  I emailed the place the following day.  The GM was so apologetic.  He got it.  I absolutely feel it's my duty, as the mother of those awesome kids, to let places know when they can do better.  It's the only way restaurants can grow to help my kids and others.

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This is a great topic. I am still trying to figure this out myself too, so I'm interested to see the answers you get.

I haven't been out to eat in a few months now, and am feeling much better for it.

When I did eat out, I would ask for a gluten free menu and then ask if the food on the gluten free menu was safe for people with Celiac Disease. I was very surprised at how many times I was told by places that their food on the gluten free menu WAS NOT SAFE FOR CELIACS. It was very disappointing at the time, I think I actually teared up a little when I was told by someone that they don't recommend I eat there because of the high risk of cross contamination, but looking back I appreciate their honesty and concern for my health. Other places have eagerly told me that it was very safe for me to eat there, and after observing the way they handle food I decided it wasn't safe enough for me.

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I'm curious if people more often say:

 

"I have Celiac and..."

"I can't eat wheat and..."

"I can't eat gluten and..."

 

Do you go into a detailed explaination about the disease?  The severity?  Do you just start out asking if they have a gluten-free menu?

 

One of my problems, and I do recognize this as something I will need to address, is I'm not taking CC as seriously as I should.  My diagnoses was a surprise and I don't have the severe symptoms that many on this board do.  In fact, I don't really know what my symtoms are!  I was diagnosed by biopsy 3 weeks ago and got the bloodwork done this week.  I will be going gluten-free Sunday, so I assume my symptoms will become obvious as they disappear.  The point being, I've never been doubled up in pain in the bathroom for hours or days due to this, so....again, mentally it is hard to get into this mindset when I've never really had the medical experiences many of you have.

 

Many thanks,

 

Jody

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I used the buzz word allergy  which is much more of a pay attention trigger than celiac or cant eat.

" Hi i have some food allergies AND celiac so I need to be very carful about what I  can eat"

and then go into the more detailed  explanation. With some practice you'll be able to tell if they know what your talking about in the wy they respond to you.

good luck

 

I'm curious if people more often say:

 

"I have Celiac and..."

"I can't eat wheat and..."

"I can't eat gluten and..."

 

Do you go into a detailed explaination about the disease?  The severity?  Do you just start out asking if they have a gluten-free menu?

 

One of my problems, and I do recognize this as something I will need to address, is I'm not taking CC as seriously as I should.  My diagnoses was a surprise and I don't have the severe symptoms that many on this board do.  In fact, I don't really know what my symtoms are!  I was diagnosed by biopsy 3 weeks ago and got the bloodwork done this week.  I will be going gluten-free Sunday, so I assume my symptoms will become obvious as they disappear.  The point being, I've never been doubled up in pain in the bathroom for hours or days due to this, so....again, mentally it is hard to get into this mindset when I've never really had the medical experiences many of you have.

 

Many thanks,

 

Jody

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I don't really get gastro symptoms either so I know what you mean about CC and taking everything seriously (however, the only time I glutened myself - accidentally drank glutenful beer - my major feeling was depression and anxiety, which I hadn't had before. Weird!).

 

In restaurants I stress the need for fresh oil and condiments, a separate grill and of course fresh pasta water same as I would at home. I don't, however, ask about completely separate utensils. I'd love it if this was commonplace but it just isn't (yet!). I am stricter at home - I currently live between three non-gluten-free kitchens, which is a bit of a battle but I do stick to my own pans, utensils and condiments in each. This is a little lax by some standards but my antibody levels dropped massively after three months gluten free so unless they stop dropping (I'm due my 6 month test next week) I'm going to carry on as I am. Can't wait to have my own gluten-free kitchen and invite people round for 'safe' food!

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Oh yeah and when emailing/speaking to the waiter I say something like - 'I have coeliac disease which means I can't have any gluten at all. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye - it's a bit like an allergy.' I hate saying allergy as it's not the right word at all but as kenlove says it gets their attention! I did once, in a restaurant I trust and which doesn't serve much gluten anyway, just say that 'I couldn't have gluten' and I don't think she took it as seriously (I did later explain exactly what I needed). I usually preface the 'spiel' with a bit of 'Oh, sorry, I have a few questions and special requirements' - I'm not sorry at all but the added politeness makes me feel less bad about grilling them. 

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I typically don't go anywhere I haven't found online as having a gluten free menu.

Then when I arrive, the first person I see gets a big smile and I tell them "I come

for your gluten free food!" And their response determines whether I stay. Then I

ask "Are you super-Celiac-uptight or are you serving the fad diet demographic?"

And they've always answered me quite honestly. Seems to work nicely.

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Usually I only go to places that have a gluten free menu and entrees on which I don't have to make much modification.  There are a few local places I go that can feed me gluten-free, like our local BBQ place, and when I walk in I always say "Im the celiac girl!" and the owner always knows exactly what to do.

 

If it is a chain place with a gluten-free menu, I am always extremely polite and ask the hostess to get me a gluten-free menu when we are seated.  When the waiter comes up I always order first because if we need to walk out I don't want to have wasted my time.  I say something along these lines:

 

Waiter: "What can I get for you guys today?" 

Me: "So just to let you know, well you can see I have the gluten-free menu here... I have celiac disease and can't eat gluten, and it is pretty serious so it needs to be treated like a food allergy.  I looked ahead online and I see that I can have [dish] *gesture to it on the gluten-free menu* and can you let the chefs know that I have an allergy so they can take the precautions needed?"

 

-depending on how confident I am after hearing back from the server, especially if I am ordering a menu item needing heavy modifications and haven't spoken to the kitchen staff, I will give them my dining card.  I have an English and Spanish one, because in my geographical area many kitchens have Spanish speakers.

 

Me: *hands cards to waiter* "And I have these allergy alert cards, can you pass these along to the kitchen staff and keep then with my ticket and the entree?"

 

Most higher end establishments will get you someone from the kitchen staff to talk to you before you order if there is not a fixed gluten-free menu and just a statement saying they can deal with food allergies.  If the place doesn't have a gluten-free menu but it is a nice restaurant with a lot of items on the menu that should be gluten-free, you can ask to talk to the chef to make sure what you order is safe.  However, I highly recommend calling and doing this ahead of time.  If the restaurant has an active social media presence, you can use that as well, but I prefer to call.

 

Overall, to express the seriousness of what needs to be done, like Katie said above, I like to say "Treat it as a food allergy" as my buzzword.  And of course, you can go into the spiel of what celiac is and what gluten is... sometimes you will be ask "How allergic" you are to something.  I like to say that "Well, I won't instantly die like a peanut allergy, but Celiac actually causes damage to the small intestine and it causes really bad tummy and bathroom symptoms."  and that gets them the jist of it.

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In addition to all these, I may ask about a dedicated fryer, ask them to keep bread products away from my food, etc.  For steaks and asian-style food, I always mention soy sauce/soy sauce marinade (most don't realize it has wheat in it - I had a delicious steak out that the restaurant swore was gluten free and got very sick after.  Called the next day and was told it was marinated in soy sauce.)

 

I generally feel a bit better if the server voluntarily mentions the words cross-contamination or dedicated fryer.  Then, at least, I feel like they have a clue.

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Eating out is the worst part of celiac for me as I don't really want to discuss my health history with strangers.  I try to look at a menu online before going to the restaurant so I am prepared to discuss a particular dish. I try to pick a chair which will be accessible to the server so I am not yelling across a table.  As others have mentioned, I also say I have a "gluten allergy" so the "peanut/shellfish/... allergy" reaction gets triggered in the server. 

 

I never, ever reacted to gluten before my diagnosis but will now react to a crouton.  Not severely but it is noticeable.  Eating out is always a risk but I have only had a couple of problems in the 6 years since my diagnosis.  Once at a resort where the server was a college student summer hire.  Another time when the restaurant was noisy so I couldn't talk to the server and chose what I thought was a safe dish -- live and learn.

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after eating out hardly at all over this last year, I've finally ventured back out into the social setting because of support on from this site :)  I do enjoy cooking my own food now anyway, but it's nice to have the option.  I use the phrase Melinda Dennis suggested of saying, "I have to follow a medically gluten-free diet," and I say it kindly with a big smile on my face.  Kindness vs demanding gets you much better results.  I still haven't been to a whole lot of restaurants, but my experiences so far have been positive!

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When dining out with gluten-eating friends/colleagues, I think cards are the way to, it's much easier especially when traveling overseas - here's some examples. You can get them translated which are really handy.

 

If I don't want anyone at the table to know, if on business, I either look at the menu before hand and plan what I will eat, or give a card to the wait staff quietly on the way to the bathroom when I first get to the restaurant, 

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I usually will preface my order by saying, " I don't want to be a pain, and I am NOT on any sort of fad diet - but I have a severe allergy to gluten" Sometimes I'll throw the word celiac in. Even though I am asymptomatic - I want to stress that I will have a severe reaction if I am served gluten.

 

It's been nearly two years since diagnosis - and I find that eating out to be the hardest part of the whole diet. At home - I can replicate/ substitute nearly anything. But when going out - I feel like I am walking in a mine field. Most times I can tell within a minute if the server "gets it" Even after two years - I am still uncomfortable spelling out my health issues to a server and even more uncomfortable trying to direct them in how to prepare my food. I will order things that are naturally gluten free - give my short shpiel - and then admittedly, hope for the best.

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Went to a Mexican restaurant and they showed me an ingredient list. The chicken was cooked in soy sauce! At a Mexican restaurant! Couldn't believe it. Soy sauce is my nemesis.

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When I go out to a Restaurant there is only one thing I ask.  Can I have a Margarita shaken with salt please.  Let the rest enjoy dinner, I already ate :D

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I  usuallt vet a place beforehand on Find Me Gluten free--only the ones where an actual celiac has eaten there and not gotten sick..

 

or I email the chef

 

or I call the manager

 

They are all very nice when chatting with me..

 

If I walk in somewhere, I just say "I have celiac, so I have to be very careful when eating out. Are you able to provide a safe gluten free meal for someone like me? Do you prepare meals for celiacs in a separate spot in the kitchen, for example?"

 

If they look at me like I have a third eyeball on my forehead, or I get a snicker or an eyeball roll, I go elsewhere.

 

If she says "oh yes, we have a gluten free menu and when I go back in the kitchen, I announce Gluten free order ! and they......."

 

I know I'm all set.

 

works. every .single. time.

 

I never say "gluten allergy"because it's not what I have and  I find THAT phrase makes them more snotty about it than the word celiac.

The fad diet has made things worse

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Since we travel a lot I use the app on my phone Find Me Gluten Free which is really pretty good.  I, too. usually order last and say something like "I'm going to be your problem child" and stress that I have food allergies.  I ask how they prepare the food and if they come back with stating they have special preps then I know they have been trained and we are going to be ok.  If their eyes glaze over..... then we know it's not going to work!

 

I tend to stick with places that state they have a gluten free menu as I have found that if they have gone the length of printing a special menu you're off on a safer track right there. 

 

I try to go out at less busy times of the day, especially if it's a place I am unfamiliar with.  One of my best experiences was at  Ruby's Diner, a hamburger place.  They stated they had g.f but the thought of all those hamburger buns had me pretty nervous.  I asked the server about their g.f. options and she went to get the manager.  He came over and before I could ask anything he stated that he had instructed the cook to scrub the grill for me.  Wow!  I was impressed.  I ordered.  I must confess that I didn't feel well that afternoon but it was not a glutened sick, it was a you-ate-too-much-you-dummy kind of not feel good!   I'm not used to (g.f.) buns and fries any more but darn it was good.   

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