Going Gluten-FreeFebruary 25, 2015

Dining Out Is A Gamble

Comments (1)

Posted by Erica Dermer


I must admit, I like gambling – the rush of the reels of a slot machine dinging as each one stops, the dings and bells and whistles, and of course, the winnings. When I win, I leave feeling elated and like a champion. I felt confident in myself and knew that luck was on my side. Someone even gave me the nickname “Slots” after winning big in Vegas. Now, sometimes (okay, a lot of the times), I lose. When I lose, I leave the casino feeling regretful and downtrodden. This is pretty much how I feel about dining out.

Risks are inherent for anyone with a food allergy or intolerance (and celiac disease) to dine outside of their home. However, it’s important not to abandon all hopes for ever being social and having dinner with friends again. It’s all about mitigating risk and being as careful as you can.

When visiting a new restaurant, I always ask to speak to an informed party – most likely a manager (and if I’m lucky, a chef). I ask them what dishes are most likely to be safe, and I inquire about protocols in the kitchen, like shared prep areas, utensils, etc. When the entrée is placed at my table, I always ask if it was the specially prepared gluten-free meal. One thing I also love to do is explore food allergy/gluten-free apps and websites to find the best restaurants, and review them with my experiences afterwards! I enjoy paying it forward and recommending fantastic restaurants to others.

Allergy Eats is a website and app that does just that. Allergy Eats rates food-allergy-friendly restaurants and they recently released their 2015 top food-allergy friendly restaurant chains. These ratings are grouped into two categories – large (50+ restaurants) and small (under 50). The results were based on diner feedback from the AllergyEats website and app through December 31, 2014.

The top voted most allergy-friendly large chains:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill (4.41 rating)
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (4.39 rating)
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (4.39 rating)
  • Outback Steakhouse (4.32 rating)
  • Mellow Mushroom (4.29 rating)

The top voted most allergy-friendly small chains:

  • Maggiano’s Little Italy (4.74 rating)
  • Burtons Grill (4.69 rating)
  • Legal Sea Foods (4.64 rating)
  • Joe’s American Bar & Grill (4.63 rating)
  • Not Your Average Joe’s (4.63 rating)

Allergy Eats, via their website, is, “a free, peer-based website and app where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate food allergies. The site, app and related social media forums help families with food allergies reduce the guesswork and the anxiety surrounding dining out with food allergies.” According to them, site lists more than 750,000 restaurants nationwide. A user can rate the restaurants and also get information about the restaurant for future visits. While Allergy Eats and other apps, websites, etc. can’t assure your safety during dining; they can help point you in the right direction for restaurants that have a proven track record.

As an amateur gambler, even I know I can only roll the dice so many times before I lose. While no dining experience is ever 100% safe, there are things you can do to mitigate risks and be as safe as you can once you set foot outside your safe space.


Comments (1)

Great article. My husband and I love to eat out, but for us the risk is higher, since I have multiple food allergies, including corn, wheat/gluten, peanuts, sulfites, and MSG. It's more like Russian Roulette. The corn is the worst, since even normal ketchup has corn syrup and most drinks and desserts, even ice cream, have high fructose syrup. My husband has opposite allergies, including canola oil, tree nuts, and shellfish.
I end up bringing condiments with me, in small squeeze-containers (sold for use in icing cakes) -- ketchup, balsamic vinaigrette with olive oil, and wheat-free soy sauce. I stick with seltzer or unsweetened ice tea, and stay away from Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants that cook primarily with peanut oil and soy sauce and shellfish. (My husband and I once ate in a Korean restaurant -- he ended up with hives over his entire body, in agony all night). The only Asian we can both eat is sushi, as long as we order separately to accommodate our opposite needs. There is a great Gluten-free Thai restaurant in Beacon, NY, Sukothai, that caters to people with food allergies, and I am lucky that in my village of Warwick, NY, there are several excellent restaurants that I have struck up friendships with the waiters or chef and can find things to eat. In restaurants I am not familiar with, I stick to basics -- grilled meats or fish in olive oil, roasted veggies in same, fresh salads, and soups that have no corn starch or flour roux in them. I stay away from all sauces. Once in trying a new restaurant, I wasn't careful enough in my ordering, ordered something in a sauce, and ended up in the hospital -- dizzy, face swollen, almost passed out, blood pressure dropped. It can be scary.

Posted by: debras194 | February 26, 2015 6:16 PM    Report this comment

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