Friday, November 14, 2014

Gluten Free on the Go: A Celiac Guide to Quick Eats (Gluten Free Friday)

 I was recently in a store when I overheard a woman talking to her friend. They were debating where they should stop to eat real fast before going on to their next venture. It was a tricky situation: they needed to be someplace soon so fast food was what they were looking for. They were hungry. Very hungry. And (dramatic music) one of the ladies was gluten free.

Because I am not a creep who hears "gluten free" and doesn't do anything, I politely asked if the lady was Celiac. No. She did, however, have Rheumatoid Arthritis and eating gf had helped her symptoms greatly. I was very glad she didn't think I was a creep for asking about her life. I told her I have Celiac, and gave her a few suggestions that also happened to be very close by. She was surprised that I knew of so many gf fast food options!

There is nothing more terrifying to me than visiting an unfamiliar town or heading out on a roadtrip and not knowing where I can eat. Just because you are gluten free does not mean you can't snag a bite at fast food joints. While it is far healthier to eat at home regardless of whether you eat gluten or not, there are just times when you crave fries. Or are in a rush and need to snack fast. Or, like I mentioned above, maybe you are traveling! I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of my very favorite fast food options that are gluten free, and relatively "findable" in most cities.

Disclaimer: Though I have Celiac disease and may have not had reactions at any of these restaurants, cross contamination practices may not be up to par at every single restaurant you visit. Please proceed with caution and use your best judgement. If you see blatant gluten dangers, don't just trust that because I was okay you will be too.

This was the suggestion I gave the lady in the store that she ended up going with. Five Guys is awesome. Their regular fries are gluten free and, since they don't fry anything breaded, they get their very own fryer. I am obsessed with them. Though I am sad I can't drown the fries in malt vinegar like I used to, the fries are still very yum-o on their own.

Another awesome thing? Their burgers. They cook them on a totally separate grill from their buns. When you go in to order, ask for your burger without a bun and tell them it is an allergy. The cook who preps your food will change their gloves when they see that on the ticket. I normally do not get toppings on my burger, but I am pretty sure all of them are GF. Ask though, to be safe. You can have your burger lettuce wrapped or just in a bowl. Either way, it's meaty-delicious.

Warning: Their Cajun seasoning for fries isn't GF.

Right before we moved, Chick-Fil-A came to my hometown finally. This is a great, fairly healthy GF option for eating out. Get their grilled chicken anything sans bun. Their fries are cooked in a totally separate fryer from the chicken, so they are safe too!! I have not gotten sick from any of their sauces, but someone mentioned to me that their Chick-Fil-A sauce caused them gastric upset in a gluten-y way. I have never had issues, but you never know. Proceed with caution. Another nice thing about Chick-Fil-A is that you can get ice cream in a cup for dessert!! Or a fruit cup. Your call.

Warning: Their shakes are not GF as far as I know. Only their soft serve is.

This one is new to me!! I was actually super nervous about eating at Jimmy John's for the first time a couple weeks ago. I mean, it's a sandwich place. A bread emporium. I had never heard any reports on the interwebs of it being a GF friendly establishment. But low and behold, I didn't get ill! I had their #5 Unwich (sandwich in a lettuce wrap) and it was amazing. I haven't really had time to explore their menu, but I look forward to it! I was told that all their meat and cheese is GF, but I'm still unsure about other toppings. Like always, ask! People are usually super duper friendly about it.

Warning: Make sure you let them know that your Unwich is a gluten issue, not just for someone watching carbs. They changed their gloves and were extra careful for me.

This is another chain that just arrived in my home town shortly before we moved away. I ate there several times without any contamination, despite the fact that they advise Celiacs NOT to eat their food. It's funny. If you order a gluten free sandwich, it arrives with a disclaimer sticker that says stuff about "there are no guarantees about the safety of your food" and "shared surfaces are used to prep food." The normal schtuff. I took the risk because, really, any food prepared by someone besides me is not guaranteed to GF unless it's essentially cooked in a bubble. Or by someone else who has Celiac. Apparently, at Jason's deli they are careful enough that I have yet to get sick from their food. They have an separate GF menu, which makes choosing and knowing what is "safe" even easier. I always get the roast beef sandwich. YUM. Just, like always, be sure to tell them it's an 'allergy.' The bread they serve your GF sammy on is Udi's, I'm fairly certain.

Bonus: They also have free soft serve which is GF!!

My husband makes fun of me for this one. He laughs so much that "Gluten & Company" actually has GF offerings. Their Pad Thai is GF naturally, and they also offer GF pasta for some of their other dishes. As much as I love Noodz&Co I hesitate to advise Celiacs to eat here, just because I got sick the last time. BUT. I think it was more because a) I was pregnant b) I ordered chicken and c) there might have been a tiny bit of cross contam. I really think it was more my prego-aversion to chicken than anything. But take it under advisement, this place is "Gluten & Company," after all.

Warning: There's a pretty hefty upcharge for GF pasta. Just be ready for that. I kind of freaked when I saw the price the first time I tried to go GF there. It's not a billion dollars, but it's more than your average fast food place.

Okay, because dessert is the most important meal of the day, I have included Culver's on this list. I know this chain hasn't made its way nationwide yet, but I'm a midwest girl to the core. I had to add it in here.

Since most fast food chains don't offer GF shakes, Culver's is a good option if you need a sweet pick me up. Their custard, shakes, and concrete mixers are all GF, depending on what you mix with them. They have nice little allergen booklets up near the counter. If you don't find them, ask. The booklet lists out what is safe to add as a topping. My fave? Raspberries and chocolate flakes. My Seasonal fave? Pumpkin Spice. Beware their Salted Carmel Pumpkin shake. So good. So sugary.

Other than dessert, there are 2 soups that are GF: Mushroom Medley and Potato Au Gratin (I think that's what they call it). Your choices for food stuffs are: a side of green beans and/or a side of mashed potatoes with no gravy. Not the most delightful of offerings, but if it's 8:30 PM and you are in rural Wisconsin, a weird meal of beans and taytoes might be a welcome comfort. Besides, if you finish your veggies, you get dessert. ;)


This post is part of a series I am doing. Each Friday, I explore gluten free options at various types of establishments. I'll be reviewing local, regional, and national eateries as well as offering some tips on surviving various gluten-y situations. Welcome to the first installment of Gluten Free Fridays!

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