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Category Archives: Restaurants

Gluten Free Restaurants – From Beth

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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 BistroMartell’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.

Claim Jumper – Making a Change!

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Friends, this makes me happy! You’ll remember I told you about the amazing dinner I had at Claim Jumper restaurant last week? And how I ordered off the gluten free menu they offer, but the Giant Stuffed Baker I ordered listed alfredo sauce as a topping? (Alfredo sauce is traditionally started with a flour base) Well, I used the handy contact form on the Claim Jumper website and shared my experience and that the alfredo sauce shouldn’t be listed on the gluten free menu. Someone could get really sick if it was served to them mistakenly!

I am happy to say that my email got passed along the chain of command and I received a phone call from the General Manager of Claim Jumper! He agreed that the sauce shouldn’t be on the gluten free menu and that it will be corrected on their next printing! Woo-hoo! Good for Claim Jumper listening to their customers!

If you notice something that isn’t right on a menu or anywhere someone is offering products as “gluten free”, speak up! Don’t be embarrassed! If a restaurant or company is trying to offer gluten free items, they are more than likely interested in doing it correctly and will be happy you said something!

If you find yourself at a Claim Jumper restaurant down the road, I would be really curious to hear if the menu has been corrected. 🙂

Pay Close Attention

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Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you were able to try something from my snack list and find a new favorite! I took two cherry pie Lara bars with me while I was out of town and gobbled them up for snacks. A couple pumpkin muffins (they were small :)) and a banana were breakfast at the hotel, so all that was left was dinner one night and lunch the next day. After a little searching, we picked restaurants and I was very happy and had great success eating out gluten free.

Before heading out to eat, I did a little research on my phone about restaurants in the area. I was happy to find restaurants that offered gluten free menus in addition to their regular menu. I realize that it’s one thing to create a list of gluten free foods from  your menu and quite another to prepare it properly and actually serve something safe. Please be sure to use caution when making choices like this and be very diligent when you order to be sure your food will in fact be gluten free. I have an example of this with my dinner choice.

My friend and I ate at Claim Jumper. I had been there once before and it was delicious, and it was just as delicious this time around dining gluten free. Feast your eyes on this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
That, my friends, is a potato, and a massive one at that. I snapped this picture with my phone, but not before digging in. YUM! This massive potato happens to be the Giant Stuffed Baker on the gluten free menu. Now for any of you that clicked the link for the Giant Stuffed Baker, you got a look at the actual gluten free menu at the restaurant. Does anyone see a BIG red flag in the description for this potato? Something that is NOT gluten free? Go ahead, click on it now….I’ll wait. See it?

“Drizzled with creamy alfredo sauce” made me stop in my tracks. I’ve never seen an alfredo sauce made without flour and it seemed a bit suspicious. So, I asked our server – always ask your server! If they don’t seem like they know, ask for a manager – they aren’t interested in making anyone sick. She originally told me that if it was on the gluten free menu it was safe and that the alfredo sauce wasn’t made with flour. Honestly, I was glad she told me that because I wanted some alfredo! But, she ended up back at our table explaining that the computer prompted her when she ordered the Giant Stuffed Baker as gluten free to leave off the alfredo. So, way to go computer for keeping my tummy happy! So, the lesson here is – go with your gut (no pun intended). If something seems questionable, go without it. When the yummy alfredo sauce wasn’t going to be on my tater, I asked for a side of salsa and some avocado. It was delicious! I’ll remember next time that if something doesn’t seem quite right as an ingredient, assume on the side of caution. My craving for a sauce – when I was familiar with how it’s made – almost cost me feeling well for possibly days. Think Katie! By the way, I am planning to email Claim Jumper and tell them about the alfredo sauce on the menu…it’s really just a tease. 🙂

We found a cute little local place local for lunch the next day. I LOVE breakfast for any meal of the day and jumped at the chance to have breakfast for lunch. This restaurant also had a separate gluten free menu. Do most restaurants have this now and I just didn’t know?

This is what I ate for lunch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, forgot to take a picture before digging in.  A garden omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes, a side of potatoes and fruit. LOVED it. And, just to share with you something I WILL be recreating in the gluten free variety, here is what my friend ate for lunch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

That would be RED VELVET French Toast. Oh, and with a side of eggs and bacon so it’s “breakfast”. I tease only out of jealousy. 🙂  Those slices of french toast were made from a red velvet cake, rolled up with cream cheese frosting inside, grilled on one side and sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with strawberries. Whoa. Red velvet cake happens to be a favorite in this house and I can think of a certain someone who would love this as a treat sometime. Note to self.

I didn’t have any red flags at the lunch spot. Thankfully, breakfast is pretty straight forward if you stick to eggs, potatoes, and fruit. And obviously, stray away from red velvet french toast. 🙂

Did You Know? Qdoba

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When I made the switch to gluten free, one thing that hurt the most was realizing that eating out was going to be extremely tough. My hubby and I LOVE going out to eat and trying new places and food. So, whenever I hear of any restaurant being “clean” for gluten free, I am thrilled. Typically, if the restaurant has an actual chef, you can find they can be accommodating. There are a few places in town that are known as places you can go and eat gluten free, but they aren’t exactly the on-a-whim weeknight restaurants you sometimes want for something quick and budget friendly.

My friend told me that the chicken at Qdoba is ok to eat. No gluten! Obviously, no tortillas for burritos, so the Naked Chicken Burrito it is. I have recently discovered, however, that I mistakenly assumed that Qdoba’s tortilla chips were just fine to eat. Another friend pointed out to me recently that Qdoba does not have dedicated fryers, so those lovely tortilla chips are being fried in the same oil as tortillas for say, taco salads. AH! Never thought about that. I pulled up Qdoba’s allergen info and sure enough, they do not guarantee their chips are gluten free. So, big possibility of cross-contamination folks. BUMMER!

So, I’ll be sticking to the Naked Burritos or bringing home the super yummy nacho concoction and eating it with my own chips.