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Ordering Gluten-Free at a Restaurant? Listen Up.

Ordering Gluten-Free at a Restaurant? Listen Up.

Back in the day, I worked in the restaurant industry for many years; mostly behind the bar but sometimes waiting tables as well. In all the years I worked, I cannot remember one time where someone had a food allergy and certainly nobody ever mentioned celiac.

Why this is, is a post for another time (but lord knows I have my unproven theories).

What matters is that if somebody mentioned any kind of food allergy, you bet I would have gone out of my way to keep them safe. But what if I went above and beyond and then I saw them eating a food that they claimed they were allergic too? I’d pretty much have the same reaction as a server with celiac who recently spoke about this. She is spot on in every way. Here’s what she had to say:

I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for the better part of the last decade and was diagnosed with celiac about 3 years ago. I gotta say, I freaking love your blog. You get it.

I have seen the best and the worst in human behavior around gluten…from both sides of service (yes, some servers are a**holes; most of us are not). But you’d better believe that if you make me painstakingly go through the menu with you (I’m the gluten go-to in my restaurant and am happy to be so) and tell you what’s non-gluten containing, what’s cross contaminated (sorry, no french fries for you) and are so dramatic about your gluten issues (once again, I get it. Getting glutened sucks. I’m on your team.) but then order the soup WITH the flour tortilla strips or the french fries or the chocolate cake because “well, that’ll be OK”, you’d better believe I’m charging you $4 for your GF bun. If you’re not a d***head, I’ll ring in your GF bun for free.

Before I get hate mail, this isn’t about not saying anything when you dine out. You SHOULD notify your server that you have celiac (I like a comment that said “I’m not a fad dieter, I have celiac”. Your server will appreciate it and probably get a chuckle out of it.) And we will respond accordingly. We even have special !!!ALLERGY!!! buttons in our systems to help guide the kitchen on your order after we talk to them about your dish.

Just be nice about it. And tip well because you’re slowing down service, the kitchen flow stops for an allergy ticket (as it should) and they’re going EXTRA steps above and beyond for you AND it’s just good karma over all. Just above all, BE NICE. HAVE PATIENCE. Did I say BE NICE yet? And understand that unless it’s an allergy-certified kitchen (it prob isn’t) you are living on the edge at least a little bit.

Yes. Yes. And yes. Anybody who orders gluten-free at a restaurant has a responsibility to the celiac community. Sorry folks…it may seem like we’re being difficult. But it’s you that is making life difficult for us (and for those at the restaurant trying to keep you safe.) And yeah…if you can’t be nice about it, you’re best bet is to just stay home.

Back when my blog was still in diapers, I wrote a post called How to Go Gluten-Free: In the Restaurant. It’s gotten million of views over the years. Just kidding, not sure if anyone has read it. But to recap, if you are eating out as a celiac, here are the 5 steps you take:

  1. Call the restaurant ahead of time and ask to speak with a manager. Get a feel if they can keep you safe.
  2. At the restaurant, ask to speak with the manager. Yes…again.
  3. Study the menu. Find the safest dish. Can’t find one? Close the menu and begin crying. Or forget the menu and just order something plain.
  4. When the server comes over, quietly explain your situation.

    And now I’ll add a sixth one.

  5. Go with the safest choice possible.

This has been a public service announcement. Now back to your regular programming.


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