No Dedicated Gluten-Free Restaurants Around? Now What?

Do you have a gluten-free menu? Can you confirm that the sauce on that is gluten free? Are those delicious looking french fries cooked in a shared fryer? It doesn’t have soy sauce, right?

If you find yourself asking these questions on the regular, you probably have celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity. Dining out safely can be an obstacle for those with celiac disease, but our goal is to make it a little bit easier with our Find Me Gluten Free app!

So what is the best way to safely eat out on a gluten-free diet?

The best case scenario is to dine at dedicated gluten-free establishments where cross-contact is not a risk, and all menu items are safe. In the Find Me Gluten Free app, you can easily search for dedicated gluten-free restaurants locally and in destination cities. From the home screen, tap "Dedicated Gluten Free" to find any options near your current location. To search for dedicated listings in a different city, tap the top search bar, type the city in the address field, tap "filter" in the top left corner, then select "dedicated gluten free facility."

If you find a dedicated listing near you, score! However, dedicated GF restaurants can be hard to come by, and hey… we still need to eat! Don’t worry, Find Me Gluten Free is here to help you dine safely in any place or situation you find yourself in.

Here are three tips to successfully dine out when there are no dedicated gluten-free restaurants nearby.

1. Read reviews

This may seem obvious, but reviews can communicate a lot more information than you’d get by scanning a restaurant’s menu or website. You can find out details about safety practices, specific menu items that celiac diners recommend, and other general tips. When reading reviews, be sure to consider if the reviewer has marked themselves as "celiac" in order to give context to their review. Pro tip- give more weight to recent reviews, as menus and protocols can change often.

2. Call the restaurant ahead of time

Even if a business has stellar reviews on Find Me Gluten Free, we still recommend calling the restaurant to confirm information you’ve read and ask any questions you may have about safety protocol or menu items. FMGF is a great starting point, but we must be our own advocates when it comes to our health!

Some questions to ask could be:
  1. Do you have a separate gluten-free menu, or items marked on the regular menu?
  2. Does your restaurant have safety protocols in place for gluten-free meals? (Changing gloves, separate kitchen utensils, dedicated kitchen space, GF meals flagged or marked)
  3. Does your restaurant share a grill or fryer with other non-gluten free items? If so, are there any menu items that don’t touch that grill/fryer that would be safe?
  4. Can I speak with the chef or manager to communicate my dietary needs?

3. Sort your results by "best rated" or "most celiac friendly"

In the app, you have the option to sort your restaurant results by distance, most reviewed, rating, etc. We recommend sorting your results by "best rated." Then, look for listings that say "reported to have dedicated kitchen space" and those that have a high percentage of votes that say celiac friendly. Pro tip- the premium version of the app has a new filter that automatically finds the "most celiac friendly" listings near you with one easy tap. Learn more about it here!

All of this talk about safety brings up a question. Why are there even restaurants listed on the app that aren’t so celiac friendly?

This is a valid question and we’d love to tell you why!

1. It saves you from visiting a restaurant that won’t work for you

Instead of removing a business from our app that doesn’t have gluten-free options, or is not celiac friendly, we want to leave the listing visible so our community knows not to visit that restaurant. Seeing a low rating and reading negative reviews will save you a trip from visiting a restaurant, only to find out there that it won’t work for your lifestyle.

2. It provides helpful information in case you find yourself stuck eating there

We may not always have a choice in where we eat (think work functions or a group get together). If you find yourself eating at a place that is less than ideal, reading the restaurant’s reviews on Find Me Gluten Free can help you make the safest dining decision. A review may advise you to stay away from menu items involving the fryer, but let you know that a salad or baked entree is a safe choice. Another reviewer could share that they had a negative experience with wait staff, but the chef was really knowledgeable. Worst case scenario, a review will let you know that you have little to no safe options at a given restaurant, which will let you know to stop for a snack beforehand.

…and Finally

After you find somewhere to eat, make sure to write a review in the app. Whether your experience was terrific or terrible, writing a review will help the next celiac stay safe. Happy (gluten-free) dining!

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Find Me Gluten Free app screenshot