A gluten-free blog about the life of a celiac in college (and now grad school). Full of personal stories about life with celiac disease and fibromyalgia; gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes; and product and restaurant reviews. Plus, reflects on body image, dating and more with a chronic illness!
As a celiac, accumulating a list of "safe" restaurants is a natural part of life. And while I've issues with different locations, the San Diego Outback Steakhouse always delivers a delicious, celiac-friendly feast. My dad's birthday dinner included.
All of my previous visits, I stuck to fish dishes (the mahi mahi is a personal favorite) with seasonal veggies. For whatever reason - maybe my dad's big 4-9 milestone, summer restlessness or the big pile of salmon in our fridge - I decided to try something new. My only requirements? BBQ sauce and a baked potato on the side.
Menu to heaven?
As usual, my mom and I asked for gluten free menus before being seated. When we cracked them open at our booth, I was surprised to notice a few changes. The biggest? That burgers, obviously served bunless, had disappeared! Although I'm nowhere near the beef lover I once was, it was an interesting surprise. I struggled to choose between the chicken salad and grilled BBQ chicken with seasonal vegetables (both ordered with an added baked potato), but, in the end, my taste buds landed on the latter.
And when my plate (um, make that platter!) arrived, I could barely wait to take my first bite! The serving of chicken out-sized one of my (admittedly smallish) hands, and was ironically enough shaped like a heart. It tasted extremely juicy, especially for being grilled, and could be cut (or pulled apart) easily. It paired wonderfully with the BBQ sauce: sweet, a little tangy, and completely addicting. (I may have even poured what was left of it in my to-go box. Messy, yes. Worth it? Without a doubt!)
My feast of choice!
The sides also held their own, however, in terms of flavor. The steamed mixed vegetables (which turned out to be carrots, yellow squash and broccoli) were tender without tasting too watery or falling apart. And my extra side of a baked potato? Crispy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside. Add a couple swipes of butter and I was in heaven!
The most special moment of our dinner, however, came when we were preparing to ask for the check. I'd mentioned it was my dad's birthday to our waitress out of habit. Imagine our surprise when she walked out with a small chocolate cake covered in vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce and served with four spoons.
Blowing out the candle
"We don't usually do the Thunder Down Under for birthdays," she said, "but it's our only gluten free dessert and we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy."
Although I try not to let it, celiac disease often feels like a burden - not only for me, but for those around me as well. So, even though we had a gluten free chocolate cake waiting at home, I savored being able to eat a surprise restaurant dessert like everyone else.
And guys...this dessert should come with a warning label considering it blasted my taste buds to heaven! Although not dairy free, the Thunder from Down Under is a flourless chocolate brownie with walnuts scattered in the batter. I avoided the toppings since big doses of dairy and I don't get along very well, but the cake didn't need it. Moist? Rich? Smooth with a walnut crunch in nearly every bite? Check, check and check.
Our insane dessert!
It was also huge, big enough to comfortably stuff my dad, mom, sister and I. Even the gluten eaters loved it - in fact, my sister nearly licked the bowl clean (at least until we reminded her that restaurant etiquette frowned on such behavior).
As we waddled out of Outback, leftovers in hand, we couldn't stop saying it was one of the best meals there we've ever had. Proof that, like with most of a celiac's eating experiences, the staff serving you makes a huge difference. In the end, we basically paid for our dessert in the tip - but we walked out with much wider smiles than if we'd outright ordered the dessert.
A "happy" birthday for everyone!
And my leftover chicken and potato? Dressed up with some veggies and days cheese, it tasted just as delicious the next night!
For a celiac, finding a safe restaurant isn't easy. Finding one that tastes delicious too? Even harder. For this celiac, though, Outback (particularly the one in Poway, California) fulfills both requirements. And everyone's cravings.