By Kacey Bradley:
Not too long ago, walking into a restaurant and requesting the gluten-free menu might lead to a confused stare from the server. Now, however, the dietary choice is mainstream. At least 3 million Americans have celiac disease, in which gluten causes an inflammatory response in the small intestine. Flare-ups can cause damage to the organ, as well as uncomfortable side effects, including diarrhea and bloating.
On top of that, 18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity, which can cause similar symptoms, including an upset stomach or breathing troubles. Some choose to reduce gluten from their diets or cut it out altogether.
Some establishments have responded unbelievably well to the trend, treating dietary-restricted diners to delicious fare that’s sensitive on their stomachs. If you’re looking for gluten-free food, try one of the seven restaurants below. Each offers a great menu of eats that fit your lifestyle. Plus, the food is fantastic.
1. P.F. Chang’s
Asian food can be a tough find for gluten-free diners since soy sauce contains gluten. At P.F. Chang’s, though, you can slurp up as many savory sauces as your heart desires. The restaurant makes all of their food from in-house.
Their menu includes several gluten-free sauces, which they whip up with gentle ingredients including chicken broth, oyster broth, rice wine, gluten-free soy sauce and sugar. Pour the good stuff onto one of the gluten-free dishes, such as the lettuce chicken wraps or Mongolian beef.
You wouldn’t think a Chicago-style deep dish pizza joint could have gluten-free options. However, Giordano’s locations across the country include multiple delicious options for those who can’t eat traditional double-crust pizza.
Pair a gluten-free thin crust pizza with a crunchy salad for a well-rounded meal. The restaurant’s wedge, Italiano, Greek and house salad all come sans gluten.
3. Outback Steakhouse
Surprisingly, Outback Steakhouse restaurants had gluten-free options before the trend took off. Now, they offer a complete menu for those who can’t eat wheat.
After a starter salad, diners can dig into juicy steaks, grilled fish, chicken on the barbie or baby back ribs. You can even try a sweet dessert option — the chocolate thunder from down under, an indulgent brownie slathered in chocolate sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.
4. Panera Bread
It can be tough for gluten-free diners to grab a quick bite. Fast-food burgers often come wrapped in gluten-filled bread and buns. Then there’s Panera Bread, which, in spite of being a bread bakery, has a full menu of gluten-conscious options.
From grain bowls and soups to salads and triple chocolate cookies, you can comfortably dine at Panera without upsetting your stomach. The restaurant chain regularly updates its menu, and new options will always pop up. Their managers, website and mobile app can confirm what is and isn’t gluten-free.
Another great option for a quick bite, Chipotle offers hearty gluten-free meals for sensitive diners. Your best bet is the burrito bowl, which presents your favorite fillings on a bed of rice instead of a flour tortilla.
The great thing about Chipotle is you’ll never get bored of combining new ingredients. You can try everything they serve— aside from the flour tortillas — because it’s all gluten-free.
6. Bonefish Grill
Is it time for Happy Hour? If so, Bonefish Grill won’t let you down. This restaurant has a reputation for daily Happy Hour, during which the reduced-priced cocktails flow. You can partner your libation with one of many gluten-free dishes from the restaurant’s lengthy specialty menu.
Start with the indulgent Mussels Josephine before tucking into any one of the restaurant’s surf-and-turf mains. Finish off with a seasonally inspired creme brulee or a flourless macadamia nut brownie. You can also visit Bonefish Grill for a gluten-free brunch — shrimp and grits don’t need gluten to taste amazing.
7. Olive Garden
Pasta lovers, rejoice — you can have a full plate of carbs at Olive Garden without upsetting your stomach. The Italian chain serves up a gluten-free rotini, and you can top it with either meat or marinara sauce. Plus, they can whip up grilled chicken parmigiana and a delectable grilled salmon, too.
If you opt for pasta, be sure to tell your server you’re gluten-free. That way, chefs can cook in a fresh pot of water to avoid cross-contamination with wheat products.
Eat Up and Enjoy
Restaurants have responded positively to the rise of gluten-free eaters. When you sit down, ask your server about gluten-free options. Most restaurants offer plenty of options, including classic fare that will fill you up. For those who have to deal with dietary restrictions, the amount of possibilities is exciting.
Are you ready for date night? Don’t stay in and bake a cauliflower pizza. Instead, check out one of the gluten-free options above. You’re sure to find a favorite spot you’ll visit again and again.