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Gluten-Free Menus: More = Good or Bad?

I don’t know about you, but after the debacle with California Pizza Kitchen, I am on the fence about the prevalence of gluten-free menus.  Yes, it gives me warm fuzzies when I walk into a restaurant and find out that they do indeed have a gluten-free menu.  However, 30 seconds later I begin to wonder if the staff really know what that entails.


My mind jumps to cross-contamination as my first concern and then ingredients.  Does the restaurant know that most soy sauces contain wheat?  Who developed the menu?  Was it someone well versed in Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet?  These are all valid concerns.

Here are some pros &  cons that I have come up with:


  • Freedom of choice
  • Being able to join friends & family in meals
  • Not feeling left out


  • Cross contamination
  • Staff not properly trained on what the diet entails
  • Establishments marketing as a “fad” and making those with Celiac or gluten-sensitivity sick due to carelessness

Share your opinion in the poll below and feel free to comment below in the comments section.

8 comments to Gluten-Free Menus: More = Good or Bad?

  • I see your point, but for me (new to the game), it's helpful to have my options narrowed down without having to look at all of the options that I may want, but definitely can't have. I think no matter what, it's important for people with allergies/intolerance to ask questions to ensure their safety. For someone with severe allergies, they should always ask to speak with a manager if they haven't safely dined at that restaurant in the past.

    • Valerie,

      How long have you been gluten-free? What has been your best dining out experience so far?


      • Martha

        I have found that the chain of restaurants which owns Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill, among others, seems to be the group which I can trust the most to definitely serve gluten free meals. Some of the wait staff have told me that serving gluten free people is part of their training. They always seem very knowledgable about it when I have visited any of their restaurants. Unfortunately I can't say the same about many other restaurants which say they serve gluten free meals.

      • Val

        I've been GF since mid-August. My best experiences have been Basil, Sushi Rock, Spinelli's Deli, and Jury Room. Basil and Jury Room have GF items clearly marked and the chef know how to handle the food appropriately. Spinelli's Deli has GF Foccacia Bread and when you order it, they ask if it's "for an allergy" so that they can change their gloves and be very careful to avoid CC. The server we had at Sushi Rock was very familiar w/ celiac disease (her mom is a celiac), so she knew exactly what we could have and communicated with the chef about everything (other servers may not know as much). They prepared one of my rolls w/out BBQ eel b/c of the BBQ sauce – and they made us a fresh tuna poke appetizer prepared with GF soy sauce (poke is supposed to be marinated, which it why it was made ahead with regular soy sauce). It was awesome that they prepped a new batch of poke just for us – I'm obsessed with tuna poke, so I was really hoping we could have it!
        Other great places have been Marcella's (short north is better) and Jason's Deli.

  • It's a toss up for me. I think once you've lived the lifestyle you know practically nowhere is completely gluten-free, and you're taking a bit of a risk whenever you eat out wherever it is. That being said, it is pretty dismal to never eat out, so gluten-free menus can help if the restaurant actually does it right.

  • Jen

    I get excited to see a gluten free menu, but I am also skeptical about them. When the server is confident and understands what makes something gluten free and the kitchen has a level of understanding, like at PF Changs, I am comfortable. However, at Eat n Park (which we would not have gone to if they hadn't had a GF menu), they have stir fry on their GF menu. Their soy sauce isn't safe and I found out because I asked to read the label. Other meals had notes about what to exclude to make the meal GF (ex. without fries) but not on the stir fry. I wrote to corporate and they explained that it was well known that soy sauce contains wheat so they included the stir fry on the menu knowing that GF peeps would ask to hold the sauce. Not acceptable for so many reasons. Also, conflicting info and bad experience at an Outback, but great experiences at restaurants without a GF menu but with an informed staff. So, I guess it's a good thing as long as you trust your gut and ask questions when something doesn't seem right.

  • Moe

    I have a pizza place that I go to that ALL members are trained, 1 person takes your order and that exact same person completes your order from start to finish and bring it to your table, no one else handles the food and it's made in a seperate area on a clean counter space, using only items that have not been used for the regular menu. I thank them and tip well.

    On a side note I NEVER get ice in my drinks when I go out, you never know what could have fallen into the ice bin or if hands were clean when scooping (had they touched bread and then filled the ice machine). I think about this especially in food places that are not GF, flour dust or crumbs could be in the ice machine. (even the automatic ones at McDonalds are filled by hand)

    I have worked in fast food while in high school & college and it does concern me about the turn over in employees, wondering if the training is being done and the employee taking the job seriously when they are making minium wage.

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