How We Do Restaurants
It’s another “How We Do” post about food! I’m actually excited to share these type of posts because I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with you all. Many of these are not ground-breaking but they have been helpful for us. Hopefully, these tips can be helpful to others who have allergies or food sensitivities. So far I’ve talked about fast food and eating at home. Click below to check out those entries!
Today’s post is about restaurants.
I used to have such profound anxiety when it came to eating out at restaurants. I would leave some restaurants looking 8 months pregnant with horrible reflux, nausea, and cramps. The brain fog would set in and oh man, I was irritable! Over time, my fears increased and I irrationally convinced myself restaurants were “poisoning” me. Meeting others with similar challenges was comforting and I began to learn how to educate myself and communicate effectively with restaurant staff.
With family members and friends, we often have some warning prior to dining out. Once I have the restaurant name, I scour their website regarding nutritional information. If it is nowhere to be found, I will email or call the kitchen during non-busy hours. At times, I do not receive a response and that’s ok! If I can arrive at the restaurant a few minutes early, I inquire with the front of the house staff. Many of the staff offer to have a manager or head chef come and speak with me. I’ll politely explain the restrictions and share I can eat X, Y, Z. Telling them what I can have gives the chef some ideas 🙂 Ultimately, I don’t want to bombard the staff with our special needs.
So here’s the breakdown of restaurants!
Mexican restaurants are generally safe for Shay; we just have to be wary of some sauces that have a sweet taste. Margaritas are usually a no-go since most margarita mixes contains corn syrup. Queso can be a little questionable. If it’s a good restaurant, they likely will not use Velveeta (which contains corn syrup). Some queso tastes like straight up melted Velveeta. We like Uncle Julio’s because they are a made from scratch kitchen.
For me, I inquire about the chips as cross-contamination may occur if they are cooked in the fryer along with other items containing flour (ex: tortilla shell for tacos). Most of the time, I’ll play it safe and ask for cooked vegetables (fajita-style) without the marinade. Rice and beans can be tricky (possibly broth and lard are used) but I’ll have corn tortillas, salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole on the side to help fill me up. I sometimes will bring a few tortilla chips from home and have a separate bowl of salsa for myself.
Oh man. We have to be SUPER careful here! You likely will not find us at a chain BBQ restaurant. Though few and far between, there are a couple of made from scratch BBQ places that sell their own sauces. If the sauces are safe, that’s a good sign. If we are unsure, Shay will select some kind of smoked meat without sauce and a side dish like beans or macaroni and cheese. Some side dishes like coleslaw and potato salad may be sketchy and if they serve the meat with white bread, that can be a no-no. For me, I load up on meatless sides containing minimal dairy or order a salad and potato.
Shay is generally good to go here. He is aware of pizza places that use fresh sauce, dough, and ingredients. Places like Maggiano’s, Macaroni Grill, and Carrabba’s are our favorites for this very reason. Salad dressings, alfredo sauces, and breaded items are red flag items. Sausage on pizzas or Italian sausages in pasta dishes can also be treacherous. For me, if the place has gluten free noodles, I’ll have that with marinara sauce. On that note, Maggiano’s has the BEST pasta and marinara sauce.
Sweet and sour sauces are what we really have to be cautious of for Shay. He loves a good beef/broccoli dish and so far, we haven’t had many problems. He will also order certain kinds of sushi that do not contain any type of sauce or “drizzle” on top. For me, I can get steamed rice and veggies without soy sauce. P.F. Chang’s is a favorite of ours.
I have to brag on Benihana and our local hibachi grill for a second. They have gluten-free soy sauces on hand which is great so I don’t have to bring my own! Both places have been great at either preparing my meal in the kitchen or cleaning the hibachi grill before and after preparing my food with other customers.
Shay is fairly good to go here with the exception of coleslaw (which he doesn’t really like) as well as ketchup and tartar/cocktail sauces. He enjoys popcorn shrimp and fried catfish with french fries. I may order a little bit of grilled or blackened fish sans butter but this has been a long time. Side dishes are the way to go!
A Little Bit of Everything/All-American Restaurants
These restaurants are like your local Denny’s, Texas Roadhouse, Cracker Barrel, Chili’s, etc. Most of these restaurants have a gluten-free guide online for me. For Shay, we stay away from certain sauces, breaded items, and sweet items. I load up on sides because I like a little bit of everything! Eating out for breakfast/brunch is generally safe because Shay loves his eggs and bacon. I can always get fruit, yogurt, or some kind of potato. Can’t go wrong there!
Obvious I did not cover all types of restaurants but these are the common food establishments where we dine out. As I previously stated in my Fast Food post, I try to be flexible and creative. If I have to order a bunch of side dishes, then so be it! It’s about the fellowship and the joining of others around the table…not necessarily what’s on your plate!
Your Favorite Weird Eater,