Some Restaurants Make it Easier than Others...
Crazy delicious BBQ Chicken and one of the best Sweet Potatoes in the World (Rafferty’s, Bowling Green)
One of my favorite ways to respond to crazy changes in life is to simply yell, “Plot twist!” and keep going.
Sometimes these changes can’t be changed or altered, so why stand around staring at them, feeling sorry for yourself? Why waste time bemoaning that they’re unjust, unfair, or downright cruel?
Self pity, bitterness, and pouting doesn’t look good on anyone, so I’m having none of it.
A recent change life threw at me landed right between the eyes. My body has decided that it hates anything AT ALL with gluten in it. Gluten is a, normally harmless, component found in bread, pasta, soy sauce, pizza crust, doughnuts, and many other foods, included just about anything fried. I never realized just how many things contained gluten until I had to start reading the labels like an obsessive hawk.
I won’t bore you with the details, but on behalf of those of us who have to eat gluten free, I just want to say a few things:
- Eating Gluten free isn’t a fad or a “celebrity diet of the moment.” When you are gluten intolerant or celiac, gluten causes you to have a host of very, very unpleasant side effects. For me, it brings about pain, queasiness, and incredible fatigue that stays with me for about a week. For others, it often causes intense allergic reactions – which can, quite frankly, be life threatening.
- Grocery stores and restaurants who are considerate of us are cooler than the rest. I’m learning – FAST – that some restaurants are more sensitive to the gluten free community than others. Olive Garden, TGI Friday’s, Papa Murphy’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s are a few that have actually added “Gluten Free” items to their menu. Jimmy John’s is another wonderful option for gluten free dining. They offer an Unwich that’s awesome and their chips are gluten free as well.
While the whole gluten intolerance thing came at me out of the blue and while I never would have invited this into my life if I’d been given the choice, there have been a few benefits. For one, to be perfectly honest, I’ve discovered a whole new variety of foods! I’ve fallen HARD for baked sweet potatoes (like the amazing ones at Rafferty’s in Bowling Green – pictured at the top), huge salads, grilled chicken, and grilled fish.
When you turn your back on fried foods and bread, you realize there are a lot of flavors you’ve been missing out on.
If you’re in the gluten free crowd, be grateful! While it may not be by design, you are being forced to eat a healthier diet – giving your body more of what it needs for good health and less of the crap that stands in the way of good health.
Talk about blessings in disguise.
While we wait for restaurants to catch up, here are a few simple tips I’ve picked up over these “Learning Curve Months:”
- Before ever going to a restaurant, check their website. Not all restaurants have gluten free menus, so never EVER just show up hoping for the best.
- If your server cannot answer your questions, politely ask if they know someone who might be able to. I have been amazingly surprised at how knowledgeable restaurant staffs are. I have not had one single incident where a server or manager made me feel awkward.
- If their website doesn’t have the information you’re looking for, call them!
- You can also do a quick Google search for questionable menu items.
- Since my Spanish doesn’t go beyond hello, good-bye, fat cat, and very good (doesn’t make for a very good conversation) and my Chinese/Japanese is even more non-existent, I’m a little nervous about eating at authentic Mexican and Asian restaurants. How’d I ever convey my question if I can’t speak their language? It’s tough enough to explain the whole gluten scenario to people who speak my language – Kentuckian, of course. However, most Mexican restaurants use corn shells and chips, which are gluten free and their grilled chicken should be fine. Be careful with Asian restaurants, however. Soy sauce has gluten in it and it is in MANY menu items.
- Cracker Barrel is a great place for a gluten free lunch or dinner. Their grilled chicken is some of the best I’ve ever had at any restaurant and several of their sides are gluten free – sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, salads (without croutons, of course), apples, etc. Their sweet potatoes are fantastic, too. Although last time I was at the Owensboro CB, they were actually out of sweet potatoes. That was a heart-breaker.
- Order your burger off the bun. I did that at TGIFriday’s and my wonderful server acted like it was the most normal thing in the world. He simply asked if I wanted the lettuce, onion, pickles and tomato with the burger.
- If you’ve always loved Subway, just get one of their salads. If there was a favorite sauce you always ordered on your sandwich, ask them to use that on your salad instead of a dressing. I swear – it’s like you’re having your old favorite sandwich, just fewer calories AND you won’t get sick.
I’m starting a few new categories on Genuine Kentucky for Dining Out Gluten Free. One will be geared toward Owensboro and the other will cover all of Kentucky. Gluten intolerance and gluten/wheat allergies are on the rise. More and more people are realizing that symptoms and discomfort they’d had for years are directly related to what they eat.
Because of the number of people who are having to adjust their diet, I”m hoping that more restaurants will add gluten free foods to their menu and will either provide a special Gluten Free Menu or will at least have a list for diners to refer to. It’d make it so much easier on us, because having to ask all the time is annoying.
I’ll let you know which restaurants have the best options for eating gluten free and will gladly shine the light on those who are making great strides to make life easier on us.
I’d love for you to let me know of any restaurants you’ve encountered that have been extra helpful – either by serving gluten free dishes or by providing a gluten free menu. Also, if you could let our readers know some of your favorite restaurant gluten free meals, it’d be a great help.
If you happen to work at a restaurant in Kentucky (whether it’s a small town like Morgantown, a large city like Louisville, or someplace in between), let us know what’s on your menu that’s IDEAL for gluten free dining. I’ll personally make a special trip to check it out.
Just leave your comments below or e-mail me. Thanks!
Find more restaurant options for Eating Gluten Free in Kentucky.