If you are gluten Intolerant, going to a restaurant can be an incredibly stressful experience. I remember one of the first times we went out to eat after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. It was a family event in another town and I was already very self-conscience and didn’t want to be the center of attention. When I told the server I was gluten intolerant and asked if they could accommodate me, she made it clear to everyone at the table that people like me are simply too much of a problem to serve. I was mortified. If you have ever experienced an unexpected harsh rejection then you understand the feeling that was welling up in my stomach at that moment.
Since that unpleasant encounter more than 7 years ago I’ve learned a great deal about how to advocate for myself and the restaurant industry has come a long way as well. There are more restaurants all the time that are trying to capitalize on the opportunity providing gluten free products can present.
Some are outstanding, some… not so much. But when I have a positive encounter I like to share it. One fun place to go is Chipotle Mexican Grill. It’s a weird word – “Chipotle.” Wikipedia says: “A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno that tends to be brown and shriveled” (like their logo). Okay… that doesn’t make it any easier to pronounce. It’s “chi-POHT-lay” not “chip-odle.” Remember the Jack in the Box promo with Jack’s mouth all twisted up when he tried to say it? Yea, sure you do. Anyway, Chipotle really does a great job taking the stress out of my dining experience. Based on their comprehensive website (which is also fun to visit) the company’s attitude is bent toward good service and high quality food. The format is sort of cafeteria style. The customer moves past a glass sneeze guard and the highly skilled technicians construct your order as per your instructions. So far my experience is confined to the one Chipotle location in our area, but here’s how it went down:
Chipotle Staff: Welcome to Chipotle, what can I get for you?
Me: Mine needs to be Gluten Free.
Chipotle Staff: (With a genuine smile) Okay, let me change my gloves. (At that point they turned to their co-workers and let them know to change gloves, but not before wiping down the counter and area with a clean rag).
Me: Thank you so much!
Chipotle Staff: Not a problem! (At this point they pick up a bowl because they know that the tortillas are not gluten free and I won’t be ordering a burrito).
I love spicy food so I always get the Barbacoa over a small amount of rice, black beans, corn, and whatever salsa sounds best that day. It’s SO good and I’ve never had any problem or reaction after eating there. I recommend it. They also provide options for vegetarian and vegan diets.
Wherever you eat, always be your own advocate. Use common sense and don’t take chances with your health. Ask questions and read labels.