How to Find Celiac Safe Restaurants

By Jenny Stegen | October 22, 2020

Our family at Monica's, an amazing Italian restaurant with gluten free options in Iowa City

Monica's - a wonderful Italian Restaurant in Iowa City with a celiac friendly menu

It is extremely difficult for restaurants to consistently follow protocols to prevent cross-contamination. This means your chances of getting glutened are high (glutened = another word for getting sick after unintentional gluten ingestion).

The safest way to choose a restaurant is to do your research. Here is how it is done.

Findmeglutenfree is an amazing free app with a database of restaurants that offer gluten free menu options. You can search by destination and food category. It includes customer reviews often written by people with celiac disease. This is truly a great resource for finding celiac friendly restaurants.

Not all restuarants with gluten free options will be found in this app. So - how do you find them? By word of mouth! Ask people you know in the local area where you can find a restaurant that serves GF food. If you have a restaurant in mind, call and ask if they have a GF menu. You can also do a google search for gluten free restaurant options in your area. Gotta love google!

This article provides an excellent summary of food chain options for GF customers. I noticed it does not include Culver's or Red Robin and some of these locations do an excellent job at providing gluten free food. Each restaurant within a chain can be a little different, i.e. not all Culver's are created equal. Always call ahead and make sure they use good practices to prevent cross-contamination - explained below:

Once you choose a restaurant, call ahead and inform the staff you have celiac disease then ask the following million-dollar question: “How do you prevent cross-contamination?” You will usually get one of the following three answers that will determine if you can safely eat there:

  1. A confident answer with a detailed list of steps they take in the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination. This is a place you can try.
  2. A list of a few steps they take followed by a warning statement - something like this: “. . . but there is no guarantee your food will be free from gluten”. This is a place you might try with caution.
  3. Silence, stuttering, or confusion because they have no idea what the heck you mean by cross-contamination. If this happens you should ask the management, and if they don’t have an answer you had better steer clear!

Being gluten free does not mean you have to stay away from restaurants. You just have to be mindful about which restaurants you choose. Remember, just because a restaurant claims something is gluten free does not necessarily make it safe. Do your research ahead of time by asking the million-dollar question, and be sure to check out the reviews on the findmeglutenfree app.

We took the kids to Chicago last year and the Find Me Gluten Free app led us to a 100% gluten free cafe called Wheat’s End. I highly recommend this place. There is no chance of cross-contamination because no gluten is allowed in the place. My kids were thrilled to indulge without the worry of getting sick. I cannot praise this place enough! It is so rare to find a restaurant that is exclusively gluten free. I had a visit with the owners who said they hope to expand soon as they have outgrown their current location. Go try it out - you won’t regret it! I took one of their business cards:

boys eating gluten free breakfast at Wheat's End Cafe in Chicago

Amazing Gluten Free Breakfast at Wheat's End in Chicago!

Wheat's End: A charming European-style cafe - Suprisingly Gluten Free

Happy Dining,

Jenny's Signature