When Gluten-Free Restaurants Aren’t Safe


gluten-free restaurantsI’m a “yes” person. Don’t laugh. I like to share positive information with you kooky gluten-free peoples, rather than dire warnings. I even posted what I thought was an exciting gluten-free announcement from Starbucks, because I never learn. (P.S. Maybe don’t tweet news stories from three years ago, people.)

Which is why it is with a heavy heart that I make the announcement to celiacs everywhere that you cannot safely dine at the biggest hippie, gluten-free (or so I thought), vegetarian joint on the West Coast. And believe me, there’s a huge amount of competition in this particular category, so this is kind of a big deal.

Where, you ask?

Cafe Gratitude became my new BFF when it opened up in Larchmont Village in Los Angeles a few months after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I mean, when a healthy, delicious, restaurant opens up and only has one gluten item on their entire menu right around the corner from your house, you kind of look at that grand opening as a gift from god. I love me some Cafe Gratitude. LOVE. I even put up with the craziness of the ordering process where you are forced to say, “I Am Vivacious” when you really just want some kale chips. Naturally, I planned on listing Cafe Gratitude in the resource section of my new book in the “No, Really You Can Eat Here” section. It’s a good thing I fact checked those restaurants because here was the response from the CG:

“We are not a certified gluten free kitchen. There is possible cross contamination. We do not recommend our restaurants to highly sensitive gluten free individuals. We do offer delicious gluten free food, but there is a possibility of cross contamination.”

Out of all the restaurants I spoke with — and we’re even talking Chuck E. Cheese here people, where everything in that joint is contaminated except the gluten-free pizza — the last place I expected to come back with an answer like this was Cafe Gratitude. After all, everything in the entire restaurant, including desserts, is gf except for one lone whole wheat bun for the veggie burger. Apparently that bun gets around.

Cross-contamination is a very real thing. Explaining that your kitchen isn’t certified gluten-free is also an honest answer to my query. But I cannot figure out for the life of me how come The Melting Pot is more cautious about their gluten-free guests than a restaurant that prides itself on healthy food and only has ONE GLUTEN ITEM IN THE ENTIRE BUILDING. Does someone come in every morning and take that bun and wipe it on all the counters? Does every fork get a good poke in the bun before being set out on their pristine tables? Are the wait staff required to roll around in the buns singing, “I Am Grateful” as they contaminate themselves? I just don’t understand. It’s weird, ya’ll. But umm, yeah, I guess don’t eat at Cafe Gratitude if you are one of those highly sensitive individuals. WTF?

“I Am Sad.”

7 Comments

Filed under Celiac Disease, Gluten Free Restaurants, Uncategorized

7 responses to “When Gluten-Free Restaurants Aren’t Safe

  1. I feel that sometimes restaurants (and companies) are on the extremely conservative side in their response just to absolve themselves of responsibility should cross-contamination occur.

    • I have to agree with Amanda – it’s a matter of “covering their ass”. Should one, highly-sensitive Celiac patronize their restaurant and get the one serving of kale chips that just happened to have a crumb from that lone, whole wheat bun, (hey… it could happen), the restaurant is indemnified because they said they were NOT certified as GF. Can’t blame them in litigious society.

  2. Yes, it is a total CYA situation. It just bums out since if any restaurant could make things safe, it would be the one that doesn’t serve gluten with one exception. Of course, I’m sure I’ll eat there again. ;)

  3. Yeah, everyone is worried about getting sued, but still, with one gluten item on a menu you’d think they’d try to figure it out.

    “Does every fork get a good poke in the bun” is my new favorite sentence.
    -Dana

  4. Jas

    Granted I have only been here for a few months, but I have frequented Cafe Gratitude off and on and I have never had problems with their food. Although … your entry gives me one hellacious idea for a comedy short about that one, bitter employee among a vegan and gluten free mini-society that passive aggressively takes out their anger by poking that wheat bun with a fork and then poking various other ingredients. As they finish their wicked deed, they rub their hands together in a goblin like fashion.

    Wait. What.

    I used to do something similar with my sister’s toothbrush when I got mad at her. Except I’d dip it in the toilet and put it back.

    • Yeah, I actually don’t think I would ever actually have a problem. Which is why I was so surprised at the “Hey, if you have a problem, don’t blame us” response. I also believe that just the reality of Cafe Gratitude is enough for a comedy short. The first time I went they asked me, “What warms your heart?” And I was all like, “Wine,” and then I realized it was more of a philosophical question. At a restaurant.

      Anyhoo. I am now obsessed with your building and the errant tenants. Flushing a bag of Tostitos? WTF?

  5. Amy

    Eating GF stinks eggs at restaurants!!! One restaurant brought me chicken, (it was the only thing I could see that I could eat on the menu), and the server swore it would be fine. It arrived with panko bread crumbs all over it. The server explained it wasn’t bread, but crumbs….(seriously!)

    My absolute favorite was the shrimp I was served at a restaurant, and I said “umm this has breading on it” the server glared at me, and said “it’s not breading, it’s batter”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s