If you are like me, you enjoy being able to eat out. Maybe it's for the convenience or for the taste of a dish that isn't easily replicated at home. Some restaurants are more accommodating and safer than others. Here is what we've been able to find out in our six years of being gluten-free.
Update: Since we made this list many years ago, there have been an increasing number of gluten-free establishments open (and close). Below are some fairly common places where one can get a gluten-free meal with little to no cross-contamination. We have found several other places that are not part of a larger chain by doing searches on the internet. Typically they are operated and owned by someone with Celiac disease or other food allergies, so they really know what they are doing.
New Wildwood Bakehouse (Austin, TX) - My wife found this small restaurant while planning for a short trip to Austin one summer. When I say small, I am talking about less than ten tables small. The food is extraordinary. It is not your normal run-of-the-mill food. I am talking about chicken fried steak, Chicken Parmesan, French toast, and many other entrees in addition to a wide selection of in-house baked goods.
New Unrefined Bakery (Dallas, TX area) - We found this quaint place while evacuating from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. They have a few stores in the Dallas area, but the one we went to was on the east side in Rockwall, TX. It is a simple, yet delicious, sandwich/bake shop. They offer a variety of sandwiches and custom desserts. They even have their own version of Chex Mix. We tried their banana bread (moist and sweet) and their coffee cake (topped with cinnamon, a perfect complement to any breakfast). I highly recommend them if you are ever in that area.
Red Robin - This is one of our favorite places because of their attention to detail when it comes to allergies. They put a note on the order so that everyone knows that we have a gluten allergy. Their (bottomless) fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer, and we order them with no seasoning. They typically use Udi's buns. They are okay, but not the best. Still it is nice to know that we can safely eat out.
P. F. Chang's Chinese Bistro - This is one of our favorite places to eat out. It is a bit on the pricey side, so we have to wait for special occasions (or a gift card). Although I do wish everything could be made gluten-free, I am more than content with the choices available. We always get their chicken fried rice, lettuce wraps, and beef and broccoli. My son has never had issues after eating there. Strangely enough, the servers always leave us fortune cookies when we are done.
Fuddruckers - It's pretty simple because you can order your meat how you like it. Most locations have gluten-free buns. (At our local establishment, they use buns from The Local Oven, a dedicated gluten-free facility in Mesquite, TX. The buns are individually wrapped and frozen, and they are not opened until you order. In my opinion, these buns taste more like the real thing than Udi's buns.) I think they use the same butter roller for all of their buns, so there is an issue with cross-contamination unless you ask them not to butter the bun. Like in all places, you should order your fries without seasoning, and be aware that they have a common fryer. The toppings are whatever you happen to put on your sandwich.
Mellow Mushroom - If you need to get a pizza while you are out, this is the place to go. They have a dedicated oven and utensils for their gluten-free pizzas. They even have the option of goat cheese (really important for those that are lactose intolerant). We have never had a bad experience, and the pizza is delicious. Update: They have changed the size of their crusts, and they are now smaller and more expensive. The Mellow Mushroom will work, but it will definitely cost you.
Chipotle - Forget about getting a burrito. The bowls will contain the guts of the burrito and are just as good. They also have crispy tacos made from corn, and my son had no problem with them. You may want to ask the server to use fresh gloves to avoid cross-contamination.
Salata - In the same vein as Chipotle, you should ask them to use fresh gloves. Then they build your salad with all kinds of fresh ingredients. The only questionable ingredients are the meat because of the seasoning and some of the dressings. The establishments that I have visited have things labeled, or if they don't know if something is gluten-free, they can find out for you. I think it goes without saying that the bread is off limits. :(
Funky Chicken - This is a local establishment that makes fantastic gluten-free chicken tenders! They are delicious! They also make wonderful mashed potatoes. It is however disappointing that their fries are dusted with flour before being fried. Why they do this is beyond me. I can get over it because the tenders are so good. Update: Sadly this establishment closed its doors a few years ago. That was a tremendous shame...
U-Swirl/Menchie's - Frozen yogurt shops are good places for a sweet treat. There should be labels indicated if a particular flavor has gluten. Typically, half of the flavors are safe, and my sons never have an issue finding a flavor they like. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pecan praline, and cheesecake have been gluten-free.