Eating Out, Hold the Gluten

May 1, 2015 by Emily Curran

Gluten free month is a time to pause and reflect on all of the wheat and flour delights that have come and gone before us. Lost are the days when my eyes lit up with the mention of a Pizza Party, or I felt the sweet pitter-patter of my beating heart as I unwrapped a world famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak.  No longer will my taste buds rejoice with the first bite of steaming, fresh garlic bread from my mother’s oven.  Years have passed, alternatives have been made, and the time has come for me to move onward and upward with a revolutionary, beneficial, gluten-free diet.

At home and in our own kitchens, it is much easier to avoid the temptations I mentioned above.  We can control what foods are in our freezers, our ovens, and consequentially our bodies.  However, when it’s time to eat out on the town, being gluten free becomes slightly more complicated.  

Because eliminating gluten is such a significant lifestyle change, it takes some time to adjust.  I learned very early on in my diet which foods would fill me up where a piece of bread or a pasta base used to.  When in doubt, I can always default to a basic starch dish, such as potatoes or rice.  One thing to watch out for when choosing a potato dish, however, is that a lot of prepared spuds or French fries are cooked in an oil that could be contaminated with gluten, which could lead to reactions for anyone with Celiac’s disease or a severe gluten intolerance.

The salad choices also grew old rather quickly, so I started pairing up different combinations of vegetable side dishes with appetizers such as naked wings or guacamole/salsa.  And speaking of guacamole, I tend to have the best gluten-free city dining experiences at Mexican restaurants because there is almost always a corn tortilla option for any of their traditional menu items.

gluten free dip

I sometimes hesitate to ask my server about gluten free options because I hate to be “a pain.”  Although, reflecting on my personal experience as a server, I have to remind myself that it really is not that big of a deal.  You might suffer a quizzical look or two for your menu alterations, but it is in fact, less work for a kitchen to serve up a side of plain, grilled chicken or fish.   And because eating gluten free has become so popular in the past few years, many kitchens are more than knowledgeable about the cooking restrictions that go along with it.