Some people eat gluten-free to feel healthier, while others eat gluten-free because eating foods with gluten in them will make them ill. No matter the reason behind choosing not to eat gluten, there's no doubt that the number of people who eat gluten-free is rising. The good news is that this trend is forcing restaurants to accommodate this way of eating. Many of the major chains put rigorous policy into their gluten-free food options, but local restaurants that are locally owned might not be quite as rigorous because they don't have the same resources as national chains. Read on for some tips on how to eat gluten-free at local restaurants.
For the simplest dining experience, it pays to just beware. Avoid fried foods, which often are coated in flour or could be cross-contaminated in the fryer, and stay away from soups and stews, which could be thickened with flour. Be cautious with desserts because they often contain gluten. Buffets are another thing to avoid. Even if a dish appears safe to eat, utensils are easily switched between dishes and drippings from a dish with gluten easily could fall into a dish without. If you're in a restaurant that doesn't appear concerned with gluten sensitivities, stick with the basics like simple grilled meats or plain vegetables with no sauce.
If you have restaurant plans at night, call ahead during the restaurant's off-hours to discuss your allergy. This is particularly important if the chef has to make special accommodations for your meal, like dedicating a grill or a fryer to you. Bring a typed card that lists your allergies to the restaurant with you, and ask your waiter to give it to the chef. This will clarify to the chef what you can and cannot eat, and will drive home the seriousness of your allergy.
Ideally, you should get all of your questions answered over the phone, but if your trip to a restaurant is last-minute, have a conversation with your waiter, the restaurant manager, or the chef. Ask how they avoid cross-contamination and keep keep your meal safe. Ensure that the chef knows what's in the sauces he or she is using. If the chef on another shift made the sauce, they could have slipped in another ingredient the current chef isn't aware of. If you're not comfortable having these conversations at the restaurant, then consider only going to restaurants that offer gluten-free menus. Just beware of menus that offer a gluten-free dish served with a gluten-filled sauce, like soy sauce. This shows that the restaurant doesn't have a true understanding of your allergy.