One of my friends recently commented that to eat out with me is to love the plethora of modifications that I usually make when eating out. I had to learn to do this out of necessity and it is that habit that has prevented me from (I can only imagine) thousands of instances of getting sick from restaurant food. While her comment was made in jest, I was reminded about just how important it is to be vigilant in a restaurant, a place where folks with food allergies often lose control of their food safety.
In continuing with my theme as of late in focusing on restaurants I thought I would share my favorite questions to ask when dining out that ensure I eat safely (99% of the time). Feel free to add to this list with other helpful questions!
- At a restaurant where you order at a counter (salad place, Chipotle, etc.): “Do you mind changing gloves? I’m gluten free and that will help me avoid any potential gluten.”
- In ordering any salad “What all comes on that? Are there croutons? What’s in the dressing?” Despite salad ingredients listed on menus there are often things like croutons that are added despite not being printed!
- For burgers, meatloaf, etc. “Are there breadcrumbs or other filler in that? Or, is it 100% meat?” Some restaurants add breadcrumbs to their burger patties making them not gluten free.
- Also for burgers, politely decline the bun! Sometimes I request extra lettuce to make a “bun” with that or eat my burger with a fork and knife atop the burger “toppings” salad-style.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side. It gives you the extra opportunity to judge for yourself if something is safe to eat AND you get to control the amount that you eat on your food.
- If a dish comes with bread I either politely decline or ask that it’s brought to the table on a separate plate for others I’m dining with to enjoy.
- “Is that cooked on the same surface / in the same fryer as breaded items?”
- “Do you mind asking the chef about all of the ingredients?”
- Specific modification requests. This can range from declining a granola topping on a bowl of yogurt to verifying flour is used as a thickener in a soup or stew or ensuring that wonton strips, etc. don’t fall on your plate or are not atop a salad.
What are some of your other favorite modification requests at restaurants?