Do you eat gluten-free at non-gluten-free establishments?

Photograph © Serghei Starus

June 7, 2012

Hi Folks! Today someone asked me if I ate at restaurants and bakeries that also serve non-gluten-free foods.

My answer is complicated. There are some restaurants I eat at with little worry and others that I'd never, ever dine at, even though they offer a "gluten-free" menu.

What's the difference? For me, it all comes down to awareness. As you know, a food can be naturally gluten-free but as soon as it comes in contact with gluten (crumbs, flour) it's no longer gluten-free. Some restaurants take great care to prevent cross contact with gluten foods. Others? Not so much.

With gluten-free gaining in popularity, you need to be careful. Really careful.

I always ask how they handle gluten-free foods. Here are some questions I ask the server or manager:

  • Do you use separate pans for cooking the food or is it all prepared on the same grill? 
  • Do you change your gloves before handling gluten-free food?
  • Are separate utensils used for cutting gluten-free items? Do you cut gluten-free foods on a different board than regular menu items?
  • If something is fried, like french fries, do you have a dedicated fryer? 

Usually after chatting with a server or manager for a minute or two, you can tell if their "gluten-free" really is gluten-free.  

As for bakeries, I've yet to find a safe non-gluten-free bakery serving gluten-free baked goods. It's really hard to contain flour. (I used to work in a bakery. Trust me, flour gets *everywhere*.) So I avoid bakeries that sell both gluten-free and non-gluten-free items. Could this change? Of course. If a bakery had a separate room and mixer for their gluten-free baked goods, and stored their gluten-free items in sealed containers, I'd be okay with it.

How about you? How do you decide if a restaurant is safe or not? Let's chat about it in the comments!

Talk to you soon!


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