Tips for Dining Out with Celiac Disease

We all enjoy restaurant dining, and needing to follow a gluten-free diet should not change that. Many restaurants now offer special gluten-free menu, however you do not need to limit your options to only those places. With some careful planning you can still eat a delicious and safe meal at any restaurant of your choice!

Use the following tips to make the most out of dining out anywhere

  • The internet is your friend. If you know in advance what restaurant you will be eating at, you can often browse the menu online before you arrive, so you can read through it carefully and choose items that may be safe for you.
  • Consider calling ahead, particularly if you are not comfortable asking a lot of questions once you are already at the restaurant. This works better if you can call at "off hours" (e.g. not during the mealtime rush) and can let the chef know that he/she will need to prepare a safe item
  • Avoid buffets as other patrons may use utensils multiple times, or foods may spill into other containers.
  • Identify yourself as someone needing a special diet by using a simple statement such as: "I have a medical food intolerance". It may be best to avoid using terminology like "autoimmune disease" or even "gluten" as these may not be easily understood by the typical restaurant server. If your server is unwilling or uninterested in helping, ask for the manager, maître d' or chef. The key is to convey your special requirements, including concerns regarding ways to minimize cross-contamination, to the cook or chef.
  • Don't hesitate to send your dish back if it is not correct, and be prepared to leave the restaurant if you feel that your needs are not being taken seriously. However, when you do have a good experience, don’t forget to thank the wait staff and leave a generous tip for excellent service. If you find a gluten friendly restaurant that you enjoy, being a repeat customer can reap rewards as they will try hard to please a frequent guest.

Basic Ordering Guidelines and Questions to Ask

  • Order simple dishes with the sauce on the side (or omit it altogether)
  • Avoid deep fried foods (e.g. chicken wings, corn chips, tortilla shells, French fries) as they are often cooked in a common fryer and can be cross contaminated by breaded/battered items cooked in the same oil
  • Similarly, ask whether wheat products are cooked on the grill/griddle being used to cook your meal
  • Check to make sure that sauces (even BBQ), dressings, marinades for meat, and soups do not contain flour, wheat based thickening agents, or soy sauce
  • Ask whether fish is dusted with flour before cooking, and whether desserts are baked in dishes dusted with flour
  • Be careful about these hidden sources of gluten: croutons on salad, artificial crab meat in sushi, rice or risotto cooked in gluten-containing broth, dumpling wrappers

Online Resources

Triumph Dining – Serving the gluten free community since 2005- they publish gluten free restaurant guides and dining cards in several languages.

The Gluten Free Registry – a database that can be purchased with thousands of “gluten free friendly” establishments in the US and Internationally

Some Local Gluten Friendly Restaurants and Bakeries

Connecticut:

Claire's Corner Copia 1000 Chapel Street New Haven, CT 06510 203-562-3888

Dee's One Smart Cookie 398 Hebron Avenue Glastonbury, CT 06033 860-633-8000

Georgie's Diner 427 Elm Street West Haven, CT 06516 203-933-1000

Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave 345 Boston Post Road Guilford, CT 06437 203-458-7380

Swoon Gluten Free Bakery 109 Danbury Road The Market Place at Copps Hill Commons Ridgefield, CT 06877 203 438-4326

New York City:

Lilli and Loo - Asian food/Sushi 792 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10021

Pappardella - Italian (Tuscan) 316 Columbus Avenue at 75th Street New York, NY 1002

Risotteria - A gluten free and vegetarian NYC Italian Restaurant and Bakery – with mail order delivery 270 Bleecker Street, between 6th/7th aves. NYC