I have celiac disease. That means I have to ask a bunch of annoying questions every time I go out to eat to make sure my meal is prepared safely. One small crumb of gluten can knock me out for a month.
I’ve been gluten-free for almost four years now. I know what restaurants around me are safe to frequent. I know which ones take gluten-free seriously.
It would be easy for me to stop asking the important questions when I eat out.
But I was reminded this week why a celiac should always always always ask the important questions. No matter how many times you have eaten at your favorite restaurant, you never know when things could change.
I went with my family to a local restaurant for Taco Tuesday. I love this place because they have clearly labeled menus, their chips are made in a dedicated fryer, and I can eat almost anything I want.
I almost felt silly to ask about the chips since I have asked so many times before. But I went ahead anyways.
“Your chips are made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer, right? I just always check to make sure.”
The waitress looked at me and said this: “We used to, but now we make churros in all the fryers. There is no way to tell if your chips have been in contact with gluten, but it shouldn’t matter unless you are very sensitive.”
I am very sensitive.
(As is anyone with celiac disease, whatever your symptoms may be.)
I asked her how long it has been this way, since I have eaten at this restaurant plenty of times before. She said the change was made sometime back in October, and I realized the last time I had been there was in October.
But also, ugh.
This is the second restaurant where I have had this problem. Another Mexican place that I have raved about and recommended as a safe gluten-free restaurant started throwing churros in their dedicated fryer. When I asked, they said some days they may only make one or two churros.
And for those one or two churros they make, people like me are no longer able to eat their chips or fries.
There are two frustrating things about this:
1. This would be an easy problem to fix. Simply add a small fryer that is dedicated to frying churros, and keep the chips and fries separate.
2. Neither of these restaurants announced this change on their menu. The only reason I didn’t get sick is because I asked.
Even after eating there multiple times, and as foolish as I felt to keep bringing it up, I am so glad I asked.
I have spoken with one of the managers and plan to follow up with both restaurants. I know this wasn’t a deliberate attack on gluten-free patrons, just a misunderstanding and lack of education.
Hopefully we can fix this and keep people like you and me safe in the future.
So if you are eating out with celiac disease, please ask the important questions.