The High cost of Gluten free Dining

grumpy cat

Yesterday my husband and I took a trip to Atlantic City to say goodbye.  We have have had some great and not so great times there.  But that is not the focus of this post.  We went to Phillips seafood for a late lunch yesterday.  The last time we went there, I was not gluten or dairy intolerant.  I was looking forward to another excellent meal there but wondered if they could pull off the gluten/dairy free thing?

They do have a gluten free menu.   It is actually pretty extensive.   But as always, no indication of dairy free options.  When I made the reservation through open table, I indicated my gluten and dairy intolerance.  This is something all of us with food issues should do.  It gives a head up to the staff.

I can highly recommend the staff at Phillips for their attention to my food intolerances.  Our waiter was more than accommodating.  He made sure there was no gluten/dairy and even had my plate redone when mashed potatoes were mistakenly put on the plate.

Here is my review in detail:

Review of Phillips Seafood, Atlantic City NJ

Here is the problem: this meal cost us $100.  Granted we had a few glasses of wine, but I find lately that the more expensive a restaurant is, the more attention they give to food allergies.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind spending money for quality food and service, and the meal was worth every penny.  But why is it that we have to spend so much money to make sure I am not glutened?

Yes it was great not to have to worry about every little thing on my plate.  Yes it was great to have a waiter who seemed not only to care but that was trained properly.  And it was great to have a well-trained kitchen staff.  When they made the mashed potato mistake, the waiter caught it.  Ah, team work.  But why do I have to go broke to have these things?

But I also wonder if we had gone at peak dinner hour would the same attention have been given?   I will never know the answer to this at this particular restaurant.  I do know I have been asked “how severe is your allergy, do we have to call an ambulance” at a crowded steakhouse.  Almost as if they were afraid of liability more than serving me a good, safe meal.

It comes down to this: does a restaurant’s profit margin equal it’s resources for training staff about gluten allergies?  Just because you slap “gluten free” on your menu doesn’t mean it is.  And it certainly doesn’t mean your wait or kitchen staff knows the difference.

I am hoping once we move down south I will have more options open to me.   The fact that everything is fried and smothered with cheese or drowned in butter will make it quite a challenge.  I would really like to see more a dairy free trend on restaurant menus.  As I have stated before, gluten and dairy intolerance often go hand in hand.  Some restaurants have all allergens listed.  I am hoping to see more restaurants doing this in the near future.  Ever since I started this path over a year ago, I have seen positive changes.  But most of those changes have come in the form of packaged foods.  Restaurants are lagging behind on gluten and dairy free options.  Sometimes it requires doing some homework or contacting a manager.

Unfortunately most restaurants are clueless on where gluten and dairy can hide.  When you list a flour tortilla as gluten free, some more work needs to be done.  It is up to us to be our own advocates and be informed on what we are eating.  Just as we read food labels, we need to read between the lines of restaurant menus.  Don’t be timid about asking questions on ingredients, cross-contamination and preparation.  It might mean the difference between an excellent meal and a miserable week.

Be vigilant, be informed, and most of all BE WELL!

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