Last week, I wrote a post about pre-ordering when dining out, and how that can help you to have a more pleasant dining experience. But what can you do when that is not an option? Say you want to go to a local mom and pop, or fast food restaurant. Pre-ordering at those would not be an option.
The first thing you should do is try to find the restaurant’s menu on Google. Try searching for the name of the restaurant+gluten free. Not all restaurants have gluten free menus. It is getting more mainstream, but smaller places won’t have this option. They might not even have an online presence. If this is the case, look for reviews on Tripadvisor or Yelp. Enter the name of the restaurant again, +gluten free. Narrowing down by locality on one of these sites might help you find a review from someone who has eaten there and ordered a gluten free dish. You can also go to app store and download Find Me Gluten Free, or Gluten free registry. If you can’t locate a menu or phone number, skip to a restaurant that at least has some kind of menu posted. You need a point of reference. Don’t just wing it.
If you are going to a restaurant that does not have gluten free or dairy free food, ask if you can bring your own food such as bread, dairy free butter or gluten-free salad dressing. Sometimes staff will not know if the food is gluten or dairy free, so don’t take the chance that it is or isn’t. In the case of the Lahaina Chicken Company I ate at, the girl at the counter did not even know that butter had dairy in it. This is more likely to happen the smaller the restaurant is. Don’t count on ignorant staff.
If you are traveling, try to rent a condo or room with a full kitchen. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you a good bit of anxiety trying to find gluten or dairy free options for three meals a day. That could quickly ruin a vacation. Also, if you can, bring a cooler with foods you can eat on the road. Eating at fast food places is a Russian roulette at best. No one wants to be sick on a long car ride.
You would be wise to avoid Italian and Chinese restaurants. There is a good chance that neither will have gluten free options. Depending on staff, they might not understand what gluten is. Most Japanese restaurants now have gluten-free soy sauce, but don’t assume. Sushi is a safe bet but be careful to avoid California rolls as they often contain fake seafood that is made with wheat. Also avoid the Miso soup and seaweed salad.
These are just some tips that can help you have a pleasant dinner out or a pleasant vacation. If you have some tips of your own you would like to share, please comment.