We go out to eat at a restaurant about once every month.
We know we are a handful.
We tip well.
We only go to restaurants that we know are gluten-free friendly. We learned this the hard way. I will never forget verifying that a dish was gluten-free at Applebee’s a couple years ago. The waiter had no clue what I was talking about. He claimed they had no available allergy information, although I had looked at their list online before we went out. Then the waiter got the manager, who went to the cook. He came back and told me he could only give me a plain piece of chicken. I tried to get cheese and salsa on it. “No, our shredded cheese looks like it has flour on it.” Wait, is that “flour” on your cheese just the cellulose powder they use to keep it from clumping? Forget even asking if they had a dedicated French fry fryer. (If you fry french fries in the same oil as chicken tenders and onion rings that are breaded with flour, the french fries will end up with wheat on them. Hence why it’s important for restaurants to have a fryer dedicated to just french fries.)
I consider it our responsibility to find safe, nourishing food. While I wish all restaurants were at least minimally knowledgeable about food allergies, that is outside of my control. They have the freedom to decide how or if they want to deal with food allergies and intolerances. Then I have the freedom to decide where we eat. One of my favorite resources is Celiac in the City’s list of gluten-free friendly restaurants in Milwaukee.
We look up restaurants online and are not afraid to call and ask questions before we go.
It can be confusing and chaotic.
But it is important to us.
Going out to eat at a restaurant is a normal activity. We can still do normal food activities. The kids all see that they can go to restaurants. They learn what they should and should not order. They see how it’s important to ask questions about their food. They learn how to behave in a restaurant.
It is especially important to me that Noah sees that he can go to restaurants. McDonalds and fast food is not an option for him. We usually do not attend school or church functions that revolve around foods he cannot eat. We do not purposely put him in situations where he will feel deprived and there are not any other food options available. There are more than enough incidental times when he is left out. I do not want to flood him with negative food experiences at this age. I strongly feel that it would be bad for his self-image.
But I do want him to know that food does not have to be “made by Mom” to be safe. I want him to grow up confident when it comes to finding good food. Life will require that of him. Eating at restaurants is one way of teaching him this. Noah is proud of eating at restaurants.
I also want Andy to see that he can still enjoy going out to eat, even when he’s eating gluten-free.
Maybe I think too hard about it, but it means a lot to me for us to go out to eat.
Saturday’s pick? Stack’d Burger Bar in the Third Ward neighborhood.
Andy and I had been to Stack’d before and enjoyed it. Then I saw a review on Celiac in the City mentioning their gluten-free options. I checked out the online menu. I called to verify that we could order child-sized portions since they did not have a children’s menu. I changed the boys’ dirty shirts and off we went.
It was a success.
I told the waitress right away that we would all be ordering gluten-free. The waitress sold me when I tried to order a turkey burger. “I’m sorry, our turkey burgers contain panko. Would you prefer a different type of burger?” This was my fault since the menu had gluten-free entrees labeled with a GF, so I should have noticed that turkey burgers weren’t gluten-free. I am always thankful when we get a knowledgeable waitress!
Even if my kids stared at her nose rings a little too much.
Andy got a hamburger on a gluten-free bun. I asked him how it was. “Good – it’s a burger.” In other words, let him eat and do not bother him with 20 questions about the texture of his bun. I managed to refrain from asking him to tear off a piece of the bun for me to try.
Their fries are gluten-free and do not share a fryer with any glutenous foods.
Noah had sliders. That meant two mini hamburgers on a bed of mixed greens. They call them mini, but they are definitely not tiny! This was great since Noah often doesn’t get enough food to feel full at restaurants.
I was a little nervous about his side. He cannot eat regular potato french fries and did not want sweet potato fries, so he choose fruit. In our experience, “side of fruit” is usually a cup of depressed mandarin oranges in corn syrup or room temperature applesauce. Not too appealing. Well, Stack’d got major bonus points here. Noah got a big tin cup overflowing with fresh fruit. Pineapple, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, and more that I would have noted if Ethan hadn’t needed his third ketchup refill.
In Noah’s words, “I’m ordering this exact same thing next time!”
No stomach ache complaints from him. No kid meltdowns. (I’m not sure which fact is more amazing)
All of us left full and happy.
P.S. You can tell if a restaurant has respect for gluten-free eating by their bed of lettuce. Putting one limp, warm leaf of iceberg lettuce under a hamburger patty does not make it appealing. Giving me a true bed of mixed greens? Wow, I will be back again.
They also had goat cheese.
And their beef was grass-fed.
And they had kiddie cups with straws.
But alas, no crayons.