Going out to eat at restaurants can be one of the most stressful parts of gluten-free living since you are unable to supervise the preparation of food being served to your child. Additionally, if you are unprepared and don’t ask the right questions, the outcome could be disastrous. If you are either looking for new gluten-free restaurants where you live or looking for somewhere to eat on a road trip, Find Me Gluten Free is a great resource. It lists gluten-free eateries based on their distance from your current location, includes reviews, and designates if a restaurant is dedicated gluten-free. My family has used FMGF before to find a place to eat dinner during a long car ride.
At any restaurant that serves gluten-free food, it is necessary to ask plenty of questions. You need to be sure that the chefs are preparing the gluten-free food in a manner that prevents any cross contamination. It is important to let your server know that your child has Celiac disease so they know the severity of the situation. At a restaurant that also serves food containing gluten, it is imperative that the chefs take adequate measures to ensure that it is safe for someone with Celiac to eat there. For example, they should put on a fresh pair of gloves when handling gluten-free foods, and use new utensils while preparing the food. They must cook the food in designated gluten-free appliances, or otherwise ensure that cross contamination does not occur. For example, if your child orders pasta, it has to be cooked in separate water, and a designated gluten-free strainer has to be used. If your child orders a burger, it must be cooked on a grill where nothing with gluten is cooked on. If your child orders pizza and it is cooked in the same oven as regular pizza, at the bare minimum it must be completely wrapped in parchment until it is served to avoid cross contamination.
Some restaurants will have a completely separate area of their kitchen where all gluten-free food is prepared, but this is not always the case. If you believe that your server is not very knowledgeable and you are concerned, ask to speak with a chef/and or manager! Also, don’t let your child eat anything when you are not 100% confident that there was no cross contact during preparation. If you see something that makes you feel concerned about the food being served to your child, don’t be afraid to point it out, ask tough questions, and even ask for new food if necessary!
You also can consult local Celiac groups (if they exist in your area) to get suggestions about which restaurants to try and which to avoid, so your child doesn’t have the same bad experience at the local pizza store that another person had.
When you are at a restaurant with your gluten-free child, it is essential to be vigilant, but once you are sure that the restaurant is safe to eat at, enjoy!
Listed are some of my favorite gluten-free friendly restaurants that I have been to:
Cafe Formaggio - Carle Place, NY
Black and Blue - Huntington, NY
Mama's - Oakdale, NY
Dirty Burger - Plainview, NY
Zin Burger - Huntington Station and other locations
Dark Horse - Riverhead, NY
Little Beet - NYC and Long Island
Senza Gluten - NYC
Melting Pot - many locations
PF Chang's - located all over the US
Mix N Mac - Middletown, NY
Bare Buns Bakery - Plainview, NY
Bare Naked Bakery - Merrick NY
Wild Flours Bake Shop - Huntington, NY
De Healthy Baker - Niagara Falls, Canada
Allie's GF Goodies - Hicksville, NY
La Bottega - Many locations
Disclaimer: While I have had positive experiences at these establishments, you need to do your own due diligence. Safety varies by location, and procedures may change over time.