Over the past two months we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching about how we look at restaurants and how gluten-free restaurants can be. For instance, we reviewed a certain restaurant in Portland, and someone who went there later reported that their server told them that the fries weren’t safe. When we called the restaurant about the fries, we were told that the fries were safe. Whether or not they were safe hinged on whether or not the fryer was dedicated gluten-free only AND all the employees followed that.
So here’s the deal: We know that some of our audience needs to stay away from all gluten at all times, and we know that others are eating gluten-free for health reasons and are going to be OK with some here and there. We also know that depending on how they’re set up, and how vigilant their staff is, different restaurants have varying degrees of control over how gluten-free their food is.
Sooooo… we have decided to create a classification system for restaurants based on our experiences with them and things we know about them. This shouldn’t replace vigilance on the part of our readers, but I think it will ease our minds a bit. We don’t really want people to walk into the restaurants we review and assume that they don’t have to worry. Here’s what we’ve come up with:
Gluten-Free Mostly Safe – We will use this to designate the few places that have dedicated facilities or who (like the Whole Bowl – except for their cookies) are gluten-free by nature.
Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions – We will use this to designate places at which most gluten-free people should be able to enjoy a meal after they ask a question or two and make sure their waiter or waitress is on board. Usually this will mean that we have asked questions about cross-contamination.
Gluten-Free Friendly But Be Warned – A place we might put in this category would be a bakery that cooks wheat goods and gluten-free goods in the same facility and that was unable to convince us that they are safe (Sweet Pea Bakery, we are looking straight at you) and some of the pizza places around town who offer both gluten-free pizza and pizza on wheat dough. While someone who is gluten-free for health reasons would probably be OK eating here, we would not recommend the establishment to people who are very sensitive to gluten.
Obviously what you choose to do with the information is up to you. We’re not doctors, and if you find yourself wondering how much you should worry about cross-contamination, that’s a question for your doctor.
We plan to go through our restaurant listings to categorize everything, but this is definitely going to be a work in progress. If you have any information about various restaurants in town, drop us a line or send us an email. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate it!