Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Choose a Restaurant Tasty for Everyone

A celiac walks into a restaurant...and, depending on the name, it can be the start of a very good or very bad joke. Food always dominates the social scene, but as one grows older, the tie becomes even more apparent. After all, as teenagers in college, what else are we supposed to do when hunger strikes at midnight?

Besides go get donuts...
Now that I'm preparing to embark on my junior year in college, however, I'd like to say I've learned more than information from my text books. I'm finally mastering how to choose a restaurant that is gluten free friendly, but still tasty for every member of the party. Let the (advice) party begin!

1. First, consider cost and location parameters. Even though the gluten free fad diet has increased the likelihood of GF options, the ones that do exist can still leave a hole in the typical wallet. (Outback with your delicious BBQ chicken and Thunder Down Under, I'm looking at you). So, I always make sure I consider who I'll be dining with. And, since the answer usually involves fellow students, that means I focus more on cheaper chains like Chipotle or Chick Fil A. And if the boy happens to have a gift card to California Pizza Kitchen? You bet I'll try some of their celiac-safe pepperoni pie!

A few favorites...
Besides an overly expensive meal, nothing can plummet team morale like an unexpectedly long car drive. Though this celiac will usually travel, when embarking on a double date or day trip with friends, twenty to thirty minutes away from our school is a good cap. And having a delicious meal to look forward to (and recover from) always helps!

2. Next, ask about taste preferences. Unless you're dating a guy like mine who professes to love nearly every food group, most friends will have their own cravings to fulfill. So, when I start planning a lunch or dinner, I like to find several restaurants we can choose from. Malls are usually a great place for this strategy since they can offer a wide variety of GF friendly eats in a limited space.

Food + friends = forever fun
When in doubt, pick restaurants with a big menu that fits your friends' usual taste buds. For my college friends, that means places with burgers, pizza, or burritos. If I find someplace with all three? Let's just say it'd probably become a new favorite.

3. To make your search even easier, use apps to narrow down your options and read reviews. I'm addicted to Find Me Gluten Free for my IPhone and, when visiting new locations, I often fire it up out of pure curiosity. Yelp can also be helpful when searching for nearby gluten free friendly eats.

My two secret weapons!
Whatever app used, reading reviews is a smart move before dining. Not only can this help eliminate places that are gluten free but not celiac friendly, but it can also reveal locations of chain restaurants to avoid. As I've mentioned before, I love my local Outback for its educated and careful staff, but have struggled at other locations. Reviews shouldn't be depended on 100%, but they certainly can't hurt!

4. If not 100% sure of gluten free options after researching the restaurant, visit their online site and/or call ahead. When I was first diagnosed, I hated calling a restaurant before visiting. Celiac disease is hard enough to explain in person, not to mention over the phone

Phone or possibly groan in pain, basically...
Now, though, the phone is always my friend. Nothing is worse than walking into a restaurant expecting everyone to know about the gluten free menu posted online and being met with blank stares. And nothing makes me more excited to go eat than the worker who happened to pick up the phone knowing about celiac disease, proper cooking precautions and offered GF dishes! 

5. Finally, eat and enjoy! 

Going out to eat as a celiac with friends or family usually has its challenges. Extra time spent summarizing celiac to servers, waiting for the "special" meal, and examining the finished product. But, the more I've gotten used to my new normal, the more fun has returned to dining out. 

Lots of eats and lots of smiles!
Because, while the food is obviously important, the company is even more so. And by following a few simple tips to choose an optimal restaurant, a celiac can focus less on the first and more on the latter. 



How do you choose restaurants that leave everyone happy? Any favorites? Comment below! 





2 comments:

  1. My mom loves Find Me Gluten-Free, (She eats out a lot), but me, if I do, I do tons of internet research and contacting places before hand :P

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    1. No one more prepared than someone hungry and with food allergies/celiac, right? I remember plotting out all possible gluten free restaurants on our stops while driving cross country. Thank goodness for the Internet!

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