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mommyto2kids

How Do You Know If A Restaurant Is Safe, Please Help?

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My kids are going to a baffett dinner this week. The place has a cafe on the side. I was thinking about ordering from the cafe, but the people I've spoken with on the phone seem to be in a bit of a hurrey to get off the phone and say I'm sure we can occomodate you, but I don't feel they are really listening to me. I feel like calling one last time and seeing where I get a few hours before. But last time we went out I was sick for a month. Should I just give up for now on eating out? What do you think? Do I ask to speak to the cook? Last time I spoke to the waitress I still got sick and it was 100 dollar bill. lol

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100% of the time my family has gone out, quick, disinterested discussion plus 'I'm sure we can accommodate you' has translated into 'Not understanding allergies or food sensitivities in any way, we'll whip something up and you'll realize how stupid you were for thinking we had to go through all this extra care.'

Followed by either an 'I am so sorry you got sick' or 'I'm sure it couldn't have been OUR food that made you sick.' <_<

If they can't even find the time to find OUT about what our needs are, then there is no way we can trust them to find the time to actually take care of our needs, because the latter takes longer.

I'll be honest, if I were you, I probably would give up on eating out, at least for a little while. Not necessarily because there isn't a place that might be able to accommodate you. I think there probably is a good one or two in your city, at the least, based on what others have experienced (unless you're super sensitive, then that's a whole 'nother ball game.)

But your reaction sounds so severe that I think it boils down to risks and benefits. Is the risk of getting sick for that long worth a few hours of eating food someone else made, especially if you're going to feel tense and worried during the entire thing?

Because honestly, you can still go OUT with people who are eating; just bring your own food. I haven't successfully eaten out at a restaurant in a long while, but I meet with a group at one every 2 weeks. I just call up a restaurant, mention that I have severe reactions to food to the point that I would not be able to eat their food without a reaction, but my party would like to use their restaurant. With everyone else eating their food, would they have any objection to my bringing my own?

They are usually fine with it and I just bring a discrete bento box and eat with everyone else and it works out fine.

If you would still like to pursue going to a restaurant, however, here's advice I've heard that sounded good:

1) call ahead, like you were doing. Call during a calmer time, like in between lunch and dinner, when they may be able to talk with you more.

2) Tell them what you need, a detailed list of 'can't do this, can do this,' tell them it will make you very ill if they can't do it, and then ask if they can accommodate you.

3) If they are nonchalant and just say 'no problem' and tell you no details, ask for some. HOW will they accommodate you? Will the server know not to touch another glutenized plate and then touch yours? Will only one chef work on your food? Will you have a new pan for your food? What? If they can't answer, I wouldn't go.

4) If they can tell you details, especially about how the chef or manager will come out to speak with you when you get there, that's a good sign. Sometimes they will ask if you have a reservation, so the chef or manager on duty at that time will know you're coming.

5) When you get there, make sure to ASK to speak to the manager or chef, and explain, again, in detail about what your needs are and can they do this.

6) and for the best experience, try out the restaurant during non-rush hours first, so that they can pay more attention to being careful and not so much on the 'rush.'

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I ordered some dining cards that I find to be helpful. Triumph Dining makes them as does Cecelia's Marketplace.

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I don't eat out anyplace that doesn't have a gluten-free menu and even then I only have a couple options that have been consistently safe and always take great care. In the cases where I ate at a place with a gluten-free menu and still got sick I could almost have predicted it based on the responses of my servers when I asked for gluten-free. I had one place where the server CLEARLY did not know what gluten-free meant and even though I was ordering from the gluten-free menu and pointed it out to her, she did not bother to even write gluten-free down on the ticket. Warning bells should have been going off in my head when I saw her face and could tell she had never even heard the words gluten-free before. I should have asked to talk to a manager or I should have left without eating there but I didn't. Sure enough, my "gluten-free" pasta came out and it was regular gluten pasta. I ate a few bites before I figured out what had happened--pretty sure she brought me the low carb pasta option (which is still made out of wheat) instead of the gluten-free pasta. Now I know if the waitress seems unsure when I say gluten-free and ask a few questions about prep--I either leave or ask for a manager. Trust you gut and don't eat there if you don't feel they are knowledgeable. They should be able to answer a few simple questions like--"what do you do to prevent cross contamination?" Do you mix all the salads in the same bowls?" "Do you fry your fries in the same frier/oil as the breaded items?"

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Unless the restaurant is known for having gluten-free options, I avoid the word "gluten" because they won't know what it means.

Instead, I list the grains I have to avoid: rye, barley, oats, and especially wheat. My food cannot come into contact with anything containing those grains, such as bread or croutons. A clean bowl for my salad, clean utensils, wash your hands before making my meal, etc. In other words, I don't expect them to know what to do--I provide specific information. And I always say, "please." I'm asking for something special, and I don't want to sound like I am entitled.

If in doubt about salad dressing, ask for oil and vinegar. The oil is gluten-free, and the vinegar supplied for a salad will not be malt vinegar. It will be distilled.

I don't travel much anymore since I changed jobs, but I traveled regularly in the US and Canada for five years after my diagnosis. Despite the inherent risk of unintended contamination, I managed to deal with all kinds of restaurants while surviving the experience.

YMMV.

Edit: When I do have a good experience, I make sure to tip accordingly. ;)

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My kids are going to a baffett dinner this week. The place has a cafe on the side. I was thinking about ordering from the cafe, but the people I've spoken with on the phone seem to be in a bit of a hurrey to get off the phone and say I'm sure we can occomodate you, but I don't feel they are really listening to me. I feel like calling one last time and seeing where I get a few hours before. But last time we went out I was sick for a month. Should I just give up for now on eating out? What do you think? Do I ask to speak to the cook? Last time I spoke to the waitress I still got sick and it was 100 dollar bill. lol

You never can be 100% sure of a restuarant but if they are part of the GIG Restaurant program then you can be fairly certain that they are ok.

http://www.gluten.net/find-a-restaurant.aspx

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