|Dinner at Drake's|
A few days ago this lead me to look up the menu for "Another Broken Egg". It's a chain but not huge and the menu seems to vary somewhat from location to location. I haven't been there since I went gluten-free and was looking over their menu online and noticed that they highlight which items are GF on their menu. However, only like 3 items were highlighted (GF pancakes, Black Bean Sliders & Fruit Salad). I found it really odd that they went through the trouble of highlighting that they had GF menu items, when they were evidently so few. Since they bothered to highlight those items but nothing else was marked I emailed to ask what was up and whether that was really ALL they had that was GF? If they had Black Bean Sliders on GF bread, were other items available? What about their potatoes? (A major part of their menu) Were they GF? I got an email back that their Black Bean Sliders actually use their GF pancakes as the bun, so that's why it was the only "sandwich" listed as GF. No answer on the potatoes. So, I replied asking again about the potatoes.
Fast forward to the local owner calling to tell me that after reading my email she had to check to find out only to find out that NO, their potatoes are NOT gluten-free. She totally didn't understand why this was since they aren't breaded. She also said that she (as of recently) was trying to go totally GF herself. I tried to explain that sometimes they use flour in spice mixes. She still seemed confused, saying "they are just cubed potatoes.....". So I asked "Do they come into your restaurant already cubed?" She indicated that they did so I explained that often flour is used to keep the potatoes from sticking together.
It's not just potatoes that this is often done with but also pre-shredded cheese and other pre-prepped items that restaurants receive. I was recently discussing this with Paul (as he used to work in restaurants) and he pointed out that this is probably the reason why so many of the local restaurants don't really know what they have that is GF because so much of what they serve is pre-prepped. So, while they may not add flour (gluten) they can't say without looking at every ingredient they use whether or not something already had flour in it before it got to them.
Another huge issue is that often restauranteurs have no idea what gluten is. This weekend we visited a local BBQ joint. They have awesome BBQ and BBQ is one of those things that SHOULD be safe. I asked before I ordered "Is your BBQ gluten-free?" I just got a confused look in response. She asked another woman working the line behind her and she didn't know either. So, I took it to the next step (because really it's bbq they should know what's in it) and asked "Do you add flour to your bbq or to your seasoning?" For that she had a definite answer as they knew exactly what went on their BBQ "Oh no honey we don't put anything on our BBQ except spices..." and then she proceeded to rattle off EXACTLY what went on their BBQ.
In contrast, last week we decided to check out Drake's (yes, we eat out a lot get over it!). I'd emailed them a week or so ago and found out that they had a handful of items that were gluten-free. When we arrived I went ahead and asked my waitress just to be sure (and mostly because there weren't any sides on the list they'd emailed me). In response, she brought out the manager, who, lucky for me, has a gluten allergy. The manager was awesome and proceeded to explain to me that everything in the place is made fresh, (YAY!) with fresh meat and produce, so really outside of the obvious and a few other items MOST of the menu could be accommodated. Sides were still an issue (unless I wanted broccoli or a salad) because they just didn't have a lot of sides. However, she described a side she often made for herself, where she sauteed spinach, mushrooms and onions together, and she offered to make it for me. Now, how's that for service! Granted, it would have been totally different if she hadn't been working that night, which just goes to show how much it pays for a restaurant to know what they are serving.
That said, so many more restaurants are making an effort now to make it easier for diners with specific diets to eat out. Even in the year since I've made this choice I've seen a huge shift in the number of restaurants with gluten-free menus, and I'm pretty sure the rest will follow before long out of necessity.