For people with Celiac Disease losing the ability to safely eat some of our favorite dishes at our favorite restaurants is one of the hardest parts. In order to cope, I started to think of it as a treasure hunt for new foods and new restaurants. I enjoy trying to find new places and exploring new cuisines as someone with Celiac Disease. Eating out gluten free is possible with with right preparation.
Here are the ways I find Celiac friendly gluten-free restaurants when I travel or when looking for a safe option to eat with friends.
Search Apps and Websites
One way I do this is to search for locations through the internet. Websites and apps provide a great starting point. You may want to use Find Me Gluten Free, Gluten Dude or Spokin. I have found that Find Me Gluten Free often has the most reference points, but this app is for anyone who is gluten free and not just people with Celiac Disease, it may have misleading information. It is free, but advanced filters require a yearly subscription. (Get $5 off the premium Find Me Gluten Free Subscription use code SUKI)
Gluten Dude verifies that all the locations follow Celiac-safe protocols or have good handling procedures, but it is a subscription app. Spokin isn’t great for gluten, but it does allow you to search by other food
allergens. It may be something to reference if you have multiple allergens. In addition to these apps, I will also do some searches of the city name and gluten-free or Celiac. You may find a local Celiac group or a blog post from a local about their favorite restaurants. This is what I do if I am traveling to a new city. I also really like the Celiac Travel Facebook group as that group is strictly monitored for information relevant to people with Celiac Disease.
Any app is just a starting point. Since people who do not have Celiac Disease often post, I really only read the reviews from people with Celiac Disease. I look for what they say, what did they eat? Did they get sick? I always check how old the reviews are. I really only trust newer reviews since much can and has changed in the last few years. After I find some options, I go to the website and check out the menu for myself.
Verify Menus and Handling Before Going
After I find some options, I go to the restaurant website and check out the menu for myself. I am looking first of all if it looks like a place I would enjoy. I then read the menu and specifically look for their allergen statements. What do they say about how they prepare food? It is important to take this step even for dedicated gluten free restaurants because menus often change. A restaurant can change from gluten free to gluten at any time.
For restaurants that are not gluten free, check to see if their menu is light on gluten or heavy on gluten. For example, a highly rated Italian restaurant in Phoenix, Picazzos is not dedicated gluten free, but they only have 1 item on the menu that contains gluten (beer is also not gluten free). That one item is cooked in its own location separate from the rest of the gluten free foods, so all of the other foods are completely safe.
I then call, email or DM the restaurant to ask them questions about how they prepare food (shared fryer, dedicated cooking space, changing gloves), and how they handle allergies. Celiac Disease is and autoimmune disease not an allergy, but restaurants have allergy protocols that are also needed for Celiac safe food.
Verify at the Restaurant
Finally when I get to the restaurant I ask the same questions. If anything makes me uncomfortable, I will leave the restaurant or I will skip eating there. Now that I have a gluten detection dog, she checks my food for me so I won’t eat something with gluten, but I still need to take all of these steps to make sure the food will get the all clear from Suki.