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The Best Gluten-Free Restaurants

Laura is a longtime online writer. Her articles focus on everything from sports to gardening to cooking.

Outback Steakhouse is an excellent choice for gluten-free dining.

Outback Steakhouse is an excellent choice for gluten-free dining.

Chain Restaurants That Offer Gluten-Free Menu Items

Thank goodness more restaurants are seeing a need to offer gluten-free menu items and cater to the dietary restrictions of their patrons. As the diagnosis of celiac disease or some form of gluten intolerance continues to rise, food providers and restaurants are finding a niche market. Since my daughter was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, we are always on the lookout for family-friendly eating establishments that cater to gluten-free diets by offering more than just salads and vegetables.

Here are some chain restaurants that offer gluten-free menu items. The list is not inclusive, but it is based on my family's personal experiences.

Gluten-Free Restaurant Reviews

Red Robin

This chain restaurant is known for catering to kids. It also serves several gluten-free items, making it a desirable place for families with wheat allergies. One of the best things about this restaurant is that they actually have gluten-free buns that taste good! In addition, some of their restaurants use a dedicated fryer for the steak fries so they are gluten-free too.

On the Border

If you are allergic to shellfish, milk, soy, fish, tree nuts, or peanuts, On the Border has menu items to serve you. For kids, there is a grilled chicken entrée. Adults have multiple items to select from, including tacos, fajitas (without flour tortillas and condiments), and salads. The company uses a similar disclaimer as others. It also states its foods use a common fryer oil so be aware.

Mellow Mushroom

My daughter was thrilled to find Mellow Mushroom! What kid doesn't like pizza? Their gluten-free pizza menu is outstanding. Better yet, they actually train their cooks to put on fresh gloves and a fresh apron, and to only use gluten-free utensils and ingredients. Their gluten-free crust proves to be quite tasty.

Outback Steakhouse

This national chain has an extensive gluten-free menu with multiple fish, steak, burger, chicken, and salad options. Yum! While their Aussie Fries are not gluten-free, they gladly substitute other side items.

PF Chang's

This Asian inspired restaurant features multiple gluten-free items. Although the waitress wasn't familiar with what gluten-free options they had for kids, she was willing to ask the chef. My daughter was able to order a gluten-free kids chicken meal. They brought it out with gluten-free soy sauce, which surprisingly, she liked! A nice feature at Chang's is that the gluten-free dishes come out on special plates with the PF Chang's logo as a way of making sure you know it is gluten-free. On our last experience, the manager came and spoke with us to make sure we were happy with the meal. He told us that their regular sauces were the gluten culprits, not the meats. We found the staff to be pleasant and eager to serve gluten-free items. Be sure to ask for gluten-free soy sauce!

Gluten-free menu at PF Chang's

Gluten-free menu at PF Chang's

More Gluten-Free Restaurant Reviews

Pei Wei

Although this establishment is owned by the same company as PF Chang's, we found the offerings and service to be quite different. The staff was not willing to make any special accommodations outside of the four limited gluten-free menu items.

Z Pizza

This pizza chain makes its gluten-free pizza crust out of rice, tapioca and potato flours. While I thought it was outstanding, it wasn't as well received by my daughter. She didn't like the crust or the cheese. However, for adults, it has a multitude of options for gluten intolerant patrons.

Biaggi's

For Italian food lovers, this is a gem! Offerings include many chicken, fish, beef, and brown rice pasta entries. Gluten-free sauces to choose from include Marsala, Alfredo, sun-dried tomato, pesto, Italian salsa, and more. The best part is they even bring out special gluten-free bread, which tasted quite good.

Chick-fil-A

This fast-food chain is a good option if you are in a hurry. It features salads and grilled chicken options and even grilled chicken nuggets for kids. They do state on the nutritional information that they attempt to avoid cross-contamination by following their preparation guidelines.

Gluten-Free Apps

Gluten-Free Dining Concerns

Some restaurants may offer gluten-free items on the menu, but it is important to read the fine print. If an eating establishment does not have a separate preparation area for gluten-free items, then there is a significant risk of cross-contamination if the gluten-free item comes in contact with food containing gluten or a utensil used to prepare it. Depending upon the level of gluten intolerance, this can be an issue for the diner.

Many moons ago, I waited tables to help finance my college bills. I cannot imagine the restaurants I worked in being able to avoid cross-contamination. All three of these restaurants had an "A" sanitation rating, but trust me, none of them were tidy in the kitchen. During dinner time, it was pure chaos in the kitchen. I admire any restaurant that attempts to keep separate work areas. Some restaurants use the following disclaimer:

"AS WE COOK, PREPARE, AND SERVE YOUR MEAL, THE LISTED MENU OPTION MAY COME IN CONTACT WITH THE ALLERGEN YOU WANT TO AVOID. FOR EXAMPLE, WE MIGHT COOK THE LISTED MENU OPTION ON THE SAME BROILER AS A MENU ITEM THAT CONTAINS THE ALLERGEN YOU WANT TO AVOID. WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT ANY MENU ITEM WILL BE PREPARED COMPLETELY FREE OF THE ALLERGEN IN QUESTION."

Red Robin is a family-friendly restaurant chain that has gluten-free menu items.

Red Robin is a family-friendly restaurant chain that has gluten-free menu items.

Red Robin Caters to Gluten-Free Customers

Recently my family dined at Red Robin in Burlington, NC. We had nothing short of a fantastic experience. Surprise—they offered gluten-free buns! My daughter was thrilled to order a grilled cheese. The waiter was very attentive and offered to make sure the kitchen staff used a separate prep and cooking area. Red Robin may have standard menus and practices, but on a local level, we found this restaurant was more than willing to go above and beyond the norm in providing gluten-free dining.

Recently, Red Robin added a Customizer Hub to their website. You can build a custom allergen menu based on your personal nutritional restrictions. Way to go, Red Robin!

© 2012 LauraGSpeaks