Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where to dine gluten-free (when you don't want a salad) ...

Outback has a nice GF menu!
The teenaged son of one of my acquaintances was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Still trying to wrap her mind around the diet changes her son will have to make, she emailed me to ask about Springfield (MO) restaurants that offer gluten-free foods other than salads. The following is my response: (Maybe it will help you, too, if you are just beginning to explore gluten-free dining options.)

I'm sorry to hear about your son's diagnosis. I know it would be especially hard for a teenager to give up gluten. At first it seems very overwhelming, but it does get easier--and many restaurants are beginning to catch on. I eat a lot of salads, when I eat out, but you are definitely not limited to salads. I'll list a few of my favorite places that have great "teenager" food*:

HuHot is great, because you can build your own dish with gluten-free ingredients. Ask for their allergen brochure, which will tell you which sauces to use. The cooks at the big grill are well-trained for gluten allergies. They clean the grill and separate your food from the other food they are cooking.

Red Robin offers a good GF bun and GF fries! 
Red Robin has a nice gluten free-bun for their burgers and sandwiches. Their fries are also gluten-free. When I crave a burger, Red Robin is where I go.

The Aviary, both downtown and at their new southside location, has gluten-free crepes. They also have a steak and frites meal that I love.

Outback Steakhouse (everywhere) has a great GF menu.

At Maria's and many other Mexican food restaurants, he can eat the nachos. The chips at most Mexican restaurants are generally gluten-free, but just be sure to double-check with the waiter or chef. If the chips are homemade, they may have been fried in a deep-fryer in which other breaded items are fried.

Olive Garden, Bruno's, Gilardi's, and Avanzare all have gluten-free pasta. 

Wendy's chili, baked potatoes, and fries are gluten-free. McDonalds beef is fine without the buns, and in most places you can eat the fries, but you must always ask if they have a dedicated fryer. Some places fry their nuggets in the same oil as the fries, and that's a no-no. Don't eat anything at Taco Bell.

Cafe Cusco on Commercial St. is almost entirely gluten-free. It is one of my go-to restaurants, because there are so many options.

You can get good gluten-free pizza at Cravin' Pizza in Springfield and Bud & Walt's Pizza in Nixa (worth the drive).

You may have already discovered the app called Find Me GF, which will help you find GF restaurants near you. Yelp will also find GF restaurants if you type in "Gluten-Free Menu" in your search. There's another free app called Gluten Free Fast Food. It's not the greatest, but it will give him an idea of what he can eat when he's on school trips.

If your son likes sushi, it is mostly gluten-free, but I always carry my own GF soy sauce. Some places offer GF soy sauce, but you have to be careful. Also, you can eat the meat at most barbecue places. Just quiz the servers/chefs about the barbecue sauce. I have had good luck at Rib Crib and other places. If you want to check out their menu before you go to the restaurant, many chains have GF info on their websites.

As far as school lunches are concerned, leftovers for lunch are definitely the best. For times when you don’t have leftovers, here is a link that gives lots of good suggestions for school lunches for kids (or work lunches for adults):

I hope this list will get you started. Obviously, I am well-aware of how hard it is to avoid gluten, but the up-side is that once you get used to the diet, the food you eat is much healthier than what most people eat. 

*Remember that when you eat out, there is always some danger of cross-contamination. For me, the extremely rare “glutenizing” is worth the risk.