I can’t believe there is a chain restaurant out there that I haven’t tried since I have been gluten-free, but there is: Red Lobster. I guess I knew they had a few gluten-free options, but never really stopped to see what they offered.
In addition to the obvious gluten-free items like steamed shellfish, baked fish, baked potato and plain salad there are many other options such as:
- Shrimp scampi
- Bacon-wrapped shrimp with mashed potatoes
- Blackened fish
- New York Style cheesecake with strawberries
There are some other items marked gluten-free, like chicken wings and French fries, but it is necessary to check to see if a common fryer is used at the location where you are dining. The allergen menu is updated on a regular basis to ensure that if anything has changed it is updated.
Just because an establishment offers a gluten-free menu doesn’t mean you don’t need to ask questions regarding preparation and precautions taken to eliminate the chance of cross-contamination. Here are some questions that should always be asked:
- Is there a dedicated fryer? Fries, tortilla chips and chicken wings are not gluten-free if they are fried with breaded items.
- How are gluten-free items on the grill/flat top kept from coming in contact with gluten?
- Is it possible to cook the gluten-free items in a separate pan?
- If there is gluten-free pasta offered, is it cooked in a dedicated pot?
- Is the salad prepared in a separate dish to avoid being tossed with any crouton remnants?
- Are separate utensils used to plate the gluten-free food?
- Are vegetables a part of your entrée? Ask how they are prepared to ensure any butter sauce or seasonings are gluten-free and that they are not cooked in pasta water.
- If there are gluten-free bread or bun options, how are they toasted/warmed?
- If you are eating breakfast and ordering omelets or scrambled eggs, ask if pancake batter is used to add fluffiness.
- If there is gluten-free pizza on the menu, is it baked separately or on a dedicated pan? Is the sauce and toppings kept separate from the non-gluten-free sauce and toppings?
- Desserts – flourless chocolate cake isn’t gluten-free if the pan is dusted with flour; ice cream should be scooped with a clean scoop that hasn’t come in contact with gluten, crème brulee is gluten-free until a cookie is stuck out of the top of it.
The list above is not all-inclusive, but should give you a good place to start when dining out gluten-free. Always remember if you don’t feel comfortable eating someplace, leave and go to another restaurant. Don’t worry about hurting feelings of any staff members, your health comes first. I try to research new-to-me restaurants in advance to limit some of the issues that may arise and make a mental list of questions I want to get answers to before I get settled in.
Have you eaten gluten-free at Red Lobster? Have you tried the New York Cheesecake?
What is your number one tip for dining out gluten-free?