Review: Sunny Street Cafe + A Letter to All Restaurants - Celiac Disease
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Dec 7 2015

Review: Sunny Street Cafe + A Letter to All Restaurants

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of having breakfast with a good friend at Sunny Street Cafe. This friend is also a dietitian that just so happens to specialize in Celiac Disease and writes for Gluten Free Living. We chose Sunny Street Cafe as our meeting place because we knew they had a gluten-free menu which also happened to include bread from one of my favorite places, Eban Bakehouse.

As per usual, I let our server know that I needed to eat gluten-free and dairy-free and asked about cross-contamination issues. Our server assured me that she would let the cook know and they would take all necessary precautions – cleaning the grill, changing gloves, etc. At first I was a little concerned, as the gluten-free menu was dated “2010.” Given that they serve breakfast and lunch and there probably isn’t much that changes with the gluten-free menu, I brushed it off. Turns out I probably shouldn’t have.

I ordered hash browns, bacon, and the cinnamon-raisin bread. When my plate arrived and the bread was toasted, I double-checked that it was made in a dedicated toaster. Imagine my surprise to hear that it was not! They toasted it in the same toaster they toast all of the bread in. I asked to speak with the manager-on-duty and was told that while they offer a gluten-free menu, it really isn’t gluten-free or something along those lines. I don’t remember her exact words because I was shocked by what I was hearing. I understand there are risks when dining out gluten-free, but come on! She went on to tell me that I should have let our server know so she could notify the kitchen staff. I told her that I did that and was assured my food would be made with caution. She offered to remake my food, which I did have her do after asking her to use a clean, separate pan, new gloves, and a clean knife to cut my bread. I also asked for the bread to be left untoasted.

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While the food was very good when I finally received it, I would not dine here again. I am at the point with restaurants that if you can’t safely offer a gluten-free menu, don’t offer one. So, here is my letter to all restaurants offering a gluten-free menu:

To Whom it May Concern,

Thank you for including a gluten-free menu in your offerings. I appreciate you taking any and all precautions in your establishment to keep me and my family safe. However, if you overlook some of the following basic, common-knowledge facts concerning serving gluten-free food and how to avoid cross-contamination, please don’t bother to insult me. Educate yourself and your staff. This is not a fad diet for most people, this is our life. We don’t choose to eat like this.

  • If you use a common fryer, your fries are not gluten-free, and neither are your tortilla chips
  • This also goes for common toasters, ovens, utensils, etc
  • Picking the croutons or bread off of the salad is not acceptable
  • Change your gloves before touching any food that should be gluten-free
  • If you are using condiments with a utensil that has touched gluten, you must use new, uncontaminated condiments and clean utensils
  • If you cook gluten-free pasta in the same water as non-gluten-free pasta, it isn’t gluten-free
  • If you steam vegetables with pasta water used to cook non-gluten-free pasta, those vegetables are not gluten-free
  • If you dust the cake pan with regular flour, your cake is no longer gluten-free (I’m looking at you Cheesecake Factory)
  • If you thicken your omelettes or eggs with pancake batter, they are no longer gluten-free
  • Most soy sauce is not gluten-free, so dressings, sauces, and marinades made with soy sauce are not gluten-free
  • Beer is not gluten-free, so if it is used in any dish, dessert, etc, said dish is not gluten-free

Of course accidents do happen, but an accidental cross-contamination is much different than one that results from blatantly ignoring the items listed above. I choose to accept the risks of accidental cross-contamination and do so willingly so that I can have a social life.

Respectfully,

Kim Bouldin

Diagnosed with Celiac Disease in January 2006

Article Written by:

Kimberly Bouldin is a gluten-free wife, runner & blogger with two children in Columbus, Ohio. After her celiac diagnosis in 2006, she has made it her mission to embrace an entirely new approach to nutrition in a gluten-free world, exploring options that run the gamut from "made from scratch" homemade bread to sampling and reviewing the gluten-free prepared foods that are continuously being introduced to the market. While navigating the waters of becoming gluten-free, Kim shares her experiences and passes along valuable product reviews in addition to helping other moms of celiac kids develop healthy menus that are kid-friendly and palatable. Kimberly is a valuable resource for those who are newly diagnosed, as well as for the more seasoned gluten-free veterans. Follow Kim on Twitter!

Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Boy do I understand your letter and experience. It is disheartening to go out in a restaurant and be assured by the waitstaff but they know what they’re talking about and then to find out later they did not have a clue.

  2. Linda E says:

    Well said! Your story reminds me of a local pizzeria that started serving “gluten-free” pizza shortly after my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. When I asked how they made it, they explained their process. The pizza maker used the SAME cheese that he used for the regular pies. The cheese bin that he touched with flour and dough on his hands!

    • Yikes! I remember years back when California Pizza Kitchen first began to offer “gluten-free” pizza – they did the same thing, but not just with the cheese, but the sauce, too! They removed the pizza from the menu and re-introduced a little over a year later the right way.

  3. aLICE mARIE rEAD says:

    tHANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS EXPERIENCE AT SUNNY SIDECAFE. rESTAURANT sTAFF NEED TO BE BETTER educated THROUGH REGULAR IN SERVICE TrainingREGARDING THE ISSUES YOU HAVE DISCUSSED. I WAS DIAGNOSED IN 2007 WITH cELIAC dISEASE AND FIND IT VERY CHALLENGING TO DINE OUT.

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