I have decided to share the worst gluten-free meals I was unfortunate to eat in 2013 in an attempt to save others from the same unpleasant fate. I am not writing this article to 'out' any particular restaurant, or to tell you not to go there; rather, I want to start a dialogue where people can feel free to share their unpleasant gluten-free meal experiences.
These meals featured bad food, but they also included uninformed wait staff, unsafe, and overpriced food. Each meal is listed in alpha order by restaurant.
- 5 Seasonings Brewing - this restaurant was recommended to me by people for their gluten-free knowledge and options. I was anything but impressed with their options, which are limited, and the quality of the food. The staff was very accommodating, but the fish tacos I ate and the barbecue chicken quesadillas Jojo ate were horrible. The fish tasted frozen, the tortillas didn't hold together, and the rice and beans tasted like they came out of a can. Both Jojo and I had wretched heartburn for hours after consuming this below average food. I forgot to mention that two entrees, a salad, and a kids meal cost more than $50 for lunch. Outrageous!
- La Parrilla - my family has been frequenting this restaurant for years, but recently the changes they have made to the menu make it no longer worth the trip. I just learned that the fajita seasoning they use contains gluten, which has to be an ingredient change because it used to be safe. I was also informed that the rice and beans are no longer safe because they use chicken stock that contains gluten to keep them warm for service. I could always find something other than fajitas to order, but if I can't even enjoy rice and beans at a restaurant featuring Mexican cuisine, then I am not dining there.
- Marlow's Tavern - I have had two bad experiences here in the last year that involved uninformed management and unsafe food. On the first trip, I ordered fish tacos on corn tortillas, but the entree arrived with wheat tortillas. I told them they would have to redo the entire order, so when a replacement entree arrived too quickly, I was suspicious. I asked the server if they just switched out the tortillas and brought it back out and she said yes. The second trip involved an uniformed manager who told me that dish after dish was gluten free. When I inquired further about preparation, he confessed that none of the fried dishes were actually safe because they were prepared in a dedicated fryer. No need for me to go back to Marlow's Tavern until they make an effort to train their staff and understand the meaning of providing safe food.
- Ted's Montana Grill - for years I have been enjoying their chili. I realize the chili isn't on the menu, but I had been told by numerous staff members that the chili is gluten free, which meant chili cheese fries for me. On a trip with Jojo, I was informed by my server, who is gluten sensitive, that the chili does contain gluten. What? Are you kidding me? For a year and a half I have been regularly consuming (once a week) gluten due to misinformation by Ted's staff? If I hadn't have been starving and there with Jojo, I would have stood up and left at this news. The manager did apologize for the confusion and gave us our cheese fries sans chili for free, but what good does that do my body? I haven't stepped foot in this restaurant since July.
- Yum Bunz - I was really looking forward to trying the Pho at this restaurant. I haven't had Pho before, so I brought a friend with me who has, so I could gauge it. The Pho arrived at the table and it smelled good. I added in the bean sprouts, Thai basil, and lime served along with it and I dug in. After a couple of bites it was clear that this Pho was tasteless. It was like eating poorly seasoned beef broth, so I added in Siracha (I don't like anything spicy) to attempt to get some flavor going. According to my friend, Pho broth is supposed to be so layered with flavor that you are tempted to pick up the bowl and slurp. Unfortunately, this was not the case, but I did enjoy the noodles. I recently heard that the restaurant is closed for restructuring.
These restaurants need to know that their food isn't up to snuff. If you say an item is gluten free, then it should be tasty and not bland because the kitchen it too afraid to season it. Their menu items should also be prepared safely and not just contain gluten-free ingredients. If a restaurant does not truly understand the importance of providing safe food for those who eat gluten free for health reasons, then they should not attempt it. I would rather be told that nothing on the menu can be prepared safely than take a chance and get sick.
Have you had the same, better, or worse experience at any of these restaurants? Where did you have your worst gluten-free meal this year? Please share!