Gluten Free dining while traveling can be a very difficult. I sometimes feel paralyzed when trying to decide what restaurants in a new city would be gluten free friendly. It used to be so easy. I’d read a review of a restaurant or even see a mention of a new place, decided to try it, and poof make a reservation. No worries, no questions, just purely based on if the menu sounded delicious. Since my celiac diagnosis there’s a lot more leg work that has to go on now. There are so many restaurants and sometimes so little information on them to make a confident choice. Google has become my best friend. It helps to pull out my phone to search for other bloggers’ finds, also look for restaurants with gluten free menus, or even ones that have items starred as being able to be adapted for gluten free. I know then, that I have something to work with. But vast lists of general restaurants, that’s tough. They don’t really help me. I need a lot more information about a restaurant before I can decided that it’s a place I can eat. Now, I’ve lucked into cities where eating is a breeze like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, or Charleston to name a few. Other places have been a bit more difficult like Miami and smaller towns visiting family and friends. Here’s a few of my thoughts on what to do, who to talk to, and how to prepare to eat out while traveling.
Concierges at a hotel can be very helpful but not all the time. One hotel we stayed at, we were given a list of gluten free friendly restaurants in the neighborhood at checkin-such a nice touch. At another hotel, in another city, the concierge didn’t even want to help with suggesting a restaurant with gluten free options. Obviously, you can’t count on one resource working in every city and in every situation. But these people are paid to know restaurants and to assist the guests of the hotel. It’s a decent place to start your search.
Twitter is another great resource. Ask away. Crowdsourcing is a great way to find out information. I’ll start doing this almost as soon as we book a trip. I love that I can hashtag my questions and get responses from people that I might not even know. You can also start a conversation with a restaurant or chain. You might be amazed what you can find out with few questions posed on twitter.
Search websites: Websites like Find me Gluten Free, Gluten Free Registry, and Gluten Free Travel Site all have have databases of restaurants with reviews from diners. I’ve found they are better for larger chains than for local places. Another way to search is to google gluten free bloggers in specific cities-they are the feet on the ground so they should certainly know what’s good!
Tips: Call ahead to different restaurants and ask their policies/procedures to make sure if they can accommodate you. Ask to speak to a manager as the person answering the phone might not know too much. More than anything use all the resources you can to find out the great places. Use your head to make good decisions when selecting a restaurant. I’m certainly more selective about certain types of cuisines.
To help you while at a restaurant, get some gluten free cards. Triumph Dining makes laminated cards explaining gluten free needs in many languages/cuisines. CeliacTravel has many more languages of cards for traveling internationally. Give a donation, download the info, and laminate them yourself.
Take a deep breath. Being too uptight about finding restaurants isn’t going to help in the long run. I’m certainly trying to learn to enjoy the search and be surprised by the meal. I’ve been pleasantly surprised in many situations just how accommodating restaurants can be.