As a person with dietary restrictions, it took some practice to enjoy going out to eat. I am an accommodating person. I like to say yes, please, and thank you. Advocating for myself in a restaurant used to make me self-conscious. Do you remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally when Sally orders her meal with everything on the side? I can’t imagine being that person. And yet…
Sometimes it’s inevitable. I have to ask questions to know that what I’m ordering is safe for me to eat, and I’ve sent plates back to the kitchen when they arrived with bread on top. I still have the occasional pang of guilt when I tell a busy waitress that I can’t eat what she just served me, but on the whole I no longer feel responsible. I’m not being difficult—I just don’t want to get sick.
Even when something, by all logic and reason, should be gluten free, I still make it my practice to ask. I’ve found that gluten can sneak into the unlikeliest of places and it’s just not worth taking a risk. That’s why I focus on restaurants that know what they’re serving. Places that make their food from scratch are more likely to have gluten free options, and far more likely to know if what they’re serving isn’t safe for me to eat.
If I haven’t been to a restaurant before, then I will call and ask if they can accommodate someone with celiac disease. If I make the reservations myself, I mention my dietary restrictions right away. That way I don’t feel like I’m surprising the wait staff or the chef. Sometimes when I ask if an item on the menu is safe, the waiter responds with “I think that’s gluten free.” That’s when I politely ask if they will check with the chef before placing my order. And if a waiter ensures my meal is safe, I respond with a generous tip. I’m also grateful for my partner, friends, and family who are supportive instead of embarrassed. Thank you!
The reality is that most commercial kitchens contain gluten, and some cross-contamination is likely. I do what I can—avoid foods fried in the same oil with wheat products, and not use jars of condiments that have probably experienced double dipping. Even so, if I eat out frequently cross-contamination adds up. Fortunately Portland is a fairly easy place to find good, gluten free food. I thought for my weekend post I would share a few of my favorites.
What are yours? Please post dining out tips, stories, and restaurant recommendations in the comments!
In the affordable category
This is a haven for people with any dietary restrictions. Inspired by the paleo diet, Dick’s keeps salt and sugar contents low, and they make their sauces from scratch. The menu is easily labeled for vegan, dairy-free, and gluten free.
This food cart is full of comfort food, revamped to be a little healthier and always made from scratch. The menu looks like it’s all sandwiches but the owner is happy to turn anything into a salad. Since they make all their own dressings, she knows they are gluten free.
Who doesn’t love a Jewish deli? Especially when they can serve me a classic corned beef sandwich on gf bread!
This is my favorite place to have breakfast. Without gluten or eggs, breakfast is rarely a treat. Utopia can make any scramble out of tofu instead of eggs, and they have gf bread and a separate toaster, so I even get to have toast! The cornmeal cakes are 100% cornmeal and safe for celiac consumption.
The owners are from Northern Iraq, and everything from baba ghanoush to falafal to stuffed grape leaves is delicious. They also serve a date rolls for dessert that are gffriendly.
Porque no indeed! Serving Mexican brunch on the weekends, this place is a hands-down favorite. Their tortillas are all handmade corn, their tamales are safe, and everything just tastes fresh and delicious.
This is such a treat for lunch. It’s like dining in an open kitchen. The menu is on a blackboard and you can watch the chefs cook. Everything is fresh, seasonal, and delicious.
Indian street food! Indian food relies more on chickpea and lentil flour than wheat, so it is often naturally gf.
This is easily my favorite restaurant in Portland. It’s a husband and wife team—she cooks, he serves. The menu is short and everything is made to order, so they can accommodate a variety of food restrictions. You will definitely need to be patient as service is slow, but the vegetable pad thai is so worth it.
Okay, this is my other favorite restaurant. Peruvian cuisine, perfectly prepared. Their gf menu is almost as long as their full menu, and they even have a gf drink menu and safe desserts. Plus everything is delicious.
I was surprised to learn that I could still eat French food, but as it turns out, it’s still delicious without gluten. The food here is superb and the staff is always kind about accommodating.
Everything. Just everything about this place is amazing.
My partner has some family coming to town this weekend and we are planning to drive the orchard loop by Mount Hood. Next weekend’s post may include some photos of the pear festival happening this weekend. Check back for recipes and ripe pears!