How I got glutened when I ordered off of a gluten free menu

Once upon a time there was a waitress who glutened me. Here’s how it happened:

This weekend I was really excited to finally try Masa 14 with my dad. I’d tried to get in a few times for brunch, but they book up quickly and the wait is always really long if you don’t have a reservation. Masa 14 is a Richard Sandoval restaurant, which are are known for being gluten free-friendly. All of them have dedicated menus with clear directions on how to modify dishes to make them gluten free.

Being the great dad that he is, we both ordered everything from the gluten free menu so we could share. I love yucca fries, so those were at the top of my list. On the menu it says to order them with “no chimichurri”, but I just made clear that all of the dishes we ordered should have the modifications in place, so I didn’t pay attention to every change they were supposed to make. The waitress knew that I was the gluten free one at the table and my dad did not have to be, so I guess she took some liberties with our order so he could have the gluten-containing items that were left off of the dishes.

yucca fries

So the yucca fries are brought out by a food runner, not the waitress. There are two sauces with them, which I assume are both fine for me to eat, since we asked that all of our food to be made gluten free. I dip a couple of yucca fries in the green sauce (which I wouldn’t have been able to identify as chimichurri anyways). Then about 10 minutes later the waitress comes over and tells me that the green sauce is not gluten free. They usually combine the sauces, but she had them separate them into two dishes so my dad could have the green one.

Well, that’s just swell. Maybe you should have told us that you were bringing out gluten sauces before I had the chance to poison myself.

Sometimes I wish that the signs of a glutening were more visible to the outside world. No one will see me being tired, bloated, and having stomach cramps for the next week. No one can see the damage being done to my intestines or the brain fog that seems to linger for weeks. So when the waitress asked, “Are you okay?” I just said, “I guess so…” Because what was I going to do? I already ate it.

This is exactly what the celiac community has feared would happen since the “gluten free trend” has caught on. Wait staff don’t pay as close of attention and don’t take requests as seriously, and in most cases it won’t cause any consequences since they probably get a ton of orders for gluten free dishes from people who don’t actually need to eat gluten free.

I’m still looking for that perfect line to convey to wait staff that I really, truly need my food to be gluten free. I’ve been thinking about something like, “If you could tell the kitchen to be extra careful with my meal I’d appreciate it. I’m not on one of those fad diets; I’ll actually get really sick if I eat anything with gluten in it.” I just hate coming off as difficult, so I usually go with a softer approach. But after something like this I might have to grow some cajones and let them know I mean business.

What is your typical one-liner for wait staff to convey that you’re serious about your food being free of gluten? 

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12 responses to “How I got glutened when I ordered off of a gluten free menu

  1. I always tell them that I am “medically” gluten-free. A Celiac. And that it is important that my foods be completely gluten-free.

    • Great idea. I usually feel weird saying the word “celiac,” since I feel like every time I have I’ve just gotten blank stares. But maybe with awareness increasing that won’t be the case as much.

  2. Pingback: Fact. Bears eat beets. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica | The Run Within

  3. I struggle with the same thing! How to be strict with my dietary restrictions without seeming “picky” or “too demanding” — it’s difficult to say the least. I wish there was a way to describe a medically restricted diet without using the word diet. To many, I think the word diet implies choice, which neither you nor I have in the matter.

  4. I bought my daughter large pin on buttons that say gluten free (eBay). You. Can always say vicarious lawsuit. Most you’ll have to explain

  5. Ashley @ OurPersonalRecords

    Something similar to me happened at Carrabba’s over the weekend. I made it very clear to the waitress that I needed my meal to be gluten-free. I even asked for a gluten-free menu, even though I knew what was and what was not gluten-free. I got my meal and was enjoying it until I noticed a piece of macaroni in my vegetables. So frustrating. Of course I told the waitress who in turn brought the manager over and asked if I was okay. I told him that at this very moment I’m okay. I hate to complain about food, but a piece of macaroni? Come on. I felt crummy the rest of the weekend and earlier this week.

  6. Even though it’s not an allergy, I tell them I have a severe gluten allergy. Waitstaff seems to take the term “allergy” more seriously for some reason. I then ask how they can make sure my dish is prepared separately from gluten-containing meals.

  7. Oh, and as annoying as it is, I ask every single time they bring something over, “So this is gluten-free?” just because I know restaurants can get busy and maybe they forgot and brought the wrong thing, etc.

  8. I’ve struggled with the same thing for a long time. After getting burned too many times, I’ve resorted to saying I have a “severe allergy” while looking them straight in the eyes. Then I just smile big and thank them profusely. Works well!

  9. I had a mixed experience at Masa 14 as well. I asked three times whether they use a designated frier for non-gluten items and got three different answers.

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