Today is my birthday! I won’t tell you how old I am. Let’s just say, old enough. The reason I even mention my birthday is that I went out for “birthday lunch” with my husband and kids. This was the best time to get all of us together, with everyone’s work schedules. We don’t go out to eat very often as a whole family for a few reasons, one of which is that feeding a family of six with four teenagers is not cheap! But probably the biggest reason is the whole “gluten-free” thing. It’s just harder to find restaurants that offer something Matthew and I can eat or that understand what gluten-free is and about cross-contamination. This is one of the reasons I have become so busy developing special dishes and meals at home. Not that I didn’t love food and cooking before becoming gluten-free. I just have a greater need and incentive now. If there is some restaurant meal I used to love that isn’t a GF item, I have tried to create a substitute at home. As you can see, I really don’t like to “go without”.
So, back to “going out”. I thought I’d share what we do about eating out now. First, I’ve discovered that the nicer the restaurant, especially if they have an actual chef, the better my chances are of having them not only understand the GF diet but also how to accommodate it. Many of them “cook to order” so they can alter the preparation of some of the dishes to make them GF. And with the increasing awareness of the GF diet in the public, many have GF pasta available to substitute in pasta dishes, as well as other GF options. One of my favorite local restaurants in the Kalamazoo area is Bravo. They have several menu items that are GF, can adapt others and carry GF pasta. They also have the BEST mushroom soup in the world! GF, of course! A few others that we’ve eaten at locally are Oakwood Bistro, Martell’s and hopefully soon, Mangia Mangia (who I’ve contacted and they also have GF pasta).
Family restaurants are a little harder because they are often chain restaurants with untrained cooks in the kitchen, but we’ve had good success with Carrabbas and Outback, which are owned by the same company and are on the gluten free registry of restaurants. They both offer a separate GF menu. Yay for them!! Also, Applebee’s now has a list of GF menu items available online but I haven’t tried them so I’m not sure how reliable or “clean” they are.
Fast food took the biggest hit for us, since it was the cheapest way to feed our hungry family when we wanted something easy. McDonalds is out, Taco Bell too, but Wendy’s has several items that are GF and Arby’s has a few too. We do get tired of the same things all the time though. As Katie has already mentioned, Qdoba is a GF option and is a big favorite in our family, especially with Matthew, who thankfully, loves Mexican and never gets tired of it. And recently, we’ve begun frequenting Noodles and Co., which has an allergen chart in the restaurants and online, with GF options and rice noodles to substitute for other pastas. And though I haven’t tried them since being GF, Subway also posts GF dining options.
One other local place that has recently impressed and encouraged me was Big Joe’s Pizza and Subs. The owner makes his own sausage (it’s GF), all the other meats are GF, he carries GF pizza crusts and his chicken salad is GF and quite good! He talked with me for a while recently and he understands GF meal preparation. The sausage was good and so was the pizza and I’m pretty picky about pizza!
It’s definitely easier now to eat out than it was even 3 ½ years ago when I first started this journey. Let us know other places you’ve found to eat GF.