Thank god it's gluten free!
Hello blog readers, my name is Becky and I work at DS-gluten free. I’ve been tasked with the job of scouting out restaurants which cater for a gluten free diet. Now this may sound easy (enjoyable almost) but in fact, for people following a gluten free diet, eating out can be one of the major bug bears. Faced with a problem of what actual outlets do in fact provide gluten free food, diners then need to trust that the staff know about the condition and that the kitchen isn’t at risk of cross contamination. Eating out on a gluten free diet– not so easy after all!
Continuing with the quest to spread awareness of a gluten free diet amongst caterers, DS asked Facebook Fans which restaurant they would like us to review next! The choices were between T.G.I Friday’s, Chiquito, Zizzi’s and Yo-Sushi. The winner with 42% of the poll vote was T.G.I Fridays.
Named after the expression “Thank God It’s Friday”, TGI Friday’s is an American restaurant chain focusing on casual dining. The menu has a range of steaks, burgers, pasta dishes, fajitas and salads. We visited the Trafford Centre branch.
Normally, we’d always encourage our customers on a gluten free diet to call restaurants beforehand, this is to pre warn staff and more importantly to make sure there are gluten free foods on the menu. For this review - we didn’t. We wanted to put ourselves in the position of a person following a gluten free diet turning up unannounced. Sometimes it’s not always convenient to call, instead we approached T.G.I and gazed at the outside menu with baited breath! To our utter disappointment there appeared to be no “gf” symbol on the menu or mention that T.G.I catered for a gluten free diet. Just when we were thinking that it would be the world’s shortest review we were approached by a waiter. T.G.I Fridays’ are renowned for their friendly atmosphere and we weren’t disappointed. When we asked the waiter if T.G.I offered any gluten free foods he jumped up and down whilst clapping his hands shouting “we’ve got loads!” I was then presented with a different menu, one side of it was labelled “Lactose Intolerance” and the other “Gluten Intolerance”. Whilst I mulled it over, the waiter explained that all of the staff had been trained on the condition and I was welcome to ask them any questions and that the kitchen staff were aware of cross contamination.
Visit T.G.I Friday's website for their lactose and gluten intolerance menu with prices - includes a kids' section!
Admittedly, I was excited when I saw burgers on the menu but T.G.I don’t actually provide gluten free alternatives, it is simply the burger without a bun. However, they were very knowledgeable on the dishes which were naturally gluten free and I could still choose from three appetizers, a selection of mains including steak (with sauces and sides!), chicken and seafood dishes as well as salads. (See the menu for a closer look)
To Start - Nachos and dips
Nachos may seem a very safe choice but in fact there could be room for a “glutening”. People following a gluten free diet must be careful to check the nachos and sauces are gluten free. The waiter confirmed to me that the nachos and salsa were from Discovery. Discovery clearly labels these foods with a gluten and wheat free symbol.
Main Course - Steak with a peppercorn sauce served with chips and salad
Be wary of sauces folks, my friend who follows a strict gluten free diet always ask for the sauce served separately or not at all. Usually, the ingredients used to thicken sauces contain gluten which is why it’s always best to read the label, or if you’re in a restaurant ask the waiter to check! I did just this and the waiter returned to say that this sauce was delivered to the restaurant in a sealed packet and was definitely gluten free. The waiter also informed me a separate fryer is used for gluten free diners. Another one to watch out for – chips fried in the same oil as onion rings, scampi or anything with batter! This can be a common misconception amongst caterers so it was great to see that staff were aware. Satisfied with this information I dug in and the meal was delicious!
We were far too full for dessert which was a choice of two sundaes; strawberry sundae or popcorn sundae. Again it’s always best to check that the sauces and that the ice cream are gluten free.
Overall, I was impressed by the service from T.G.I Friday’s staff, eager to answer questions and query ingredients with chefs. The food was naturally gluten free rather than using gluten free substitutes but it was delicious and it was a first for me to come across a specific menu, as opposed to a separate list or allergen booklet. As always we must make blog readers aware that although T.G.I Fridays produce a glossy menu for gluten free diners and train staff on allergens there is always a risk for those following a gluten free diet to eat out of the home. Service may vary between branches and there is no guarantee that cross contamination won’t occur.
If you’ve dined out of home and follow a gluten free diet we’d love to hear your story, alternatively if there’s a specific restaurant you’d like us to review let us know! Please comment below or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter.