Restaurants – Company Responses

This entry will showcase responses I have received from eating establishments – restaurants, cafes, etcetera. Other types of companies (ex: candy manufacturers) will be covered in a separate entry. I will also try to include contact information for each place. Remember that ingredients can and do change. Sometimes this is due to the supplier and the company may have no control over it.

Companies listed: Starbucks, Olive Garden, Logan’s Roadhouse, Panera Bread, The Judge’s Chambers*, Pomegranate Restaurant*, Cracker Barrel, Red Robin, McAlister’s Deli, McDonald’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, Chic-fil-A, Jonathan’s at SML*

* indicates a restaurant which is not a national chain.

Starbucks – August 2008 and September 2009

Calling the customer service number provided on the above page worked best for me both times. I tried emailing Starbucks and never received a response. Do Sbux drinks contain gluten? YES, some do. I was told to avoid drink toppings (i.e. in addition to the whipped cream – the whipped cream may or may not be safe, it’s not something I can have for non-gf reasons) and all blended drinks. Some of the drinks, such as the java chip and vanilla bean have gluten in their mixes! Other blended drinks may be safe but due to cross contamination (we’ve all seen, I’m sure, how the blenders get washed – read, rinsed – between drinks?). Too risky. As much as I loved that Strawberry drink, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

What is safe? Most of the hot drinks, but you should call to check on your favourites. I checked on the mochas (including the Peppermint one) and the Pumpkin Spice Latte, as these are my favourites. I am very sensitive to very little gluten, and none of these drink have made me sick.

Olive Garden – October 2008

Thank you for your inquiry regarding menu items for Gluten Intolerant guests. We can recommend the following items with some adjustments. Let your server know you are interested in menu items especially for Gluten Intolerance. Your server will be happy to accommodate your request.

Garden Salad - Order without croutons
Caesar Salad - Order without croutons

Steak Toscano brushed with Italian herbs and served with grilled vegetables
Pork Filettino marinated in extra-virgin olive oil and rosemary and served with broccoli and red bell peppers
Herb-Grilled Salmon brushed with Italian herbs and extra-virgin olive oil accompanied by broccoli and grilled vegetables
Mixed Grill - Skewers of grilled steak and chicken marinated in Italian herbs and extra-virgin olive oil and served with broccoli and grilled vegetables
Mixed Grill with Chicken only- Skewers of chicken marinated in Italian herbs and extra-virgin olive oil and served with broccoli and grilled vegetables
Children's Grilled Chicken - Grilled chicken breast served with broccoli and grilled vegetables.

 While Olive Garden has made an effort to provide complete and current gluten content information, changes in recipes, and the hand crafted nature of our menu items, mean that variations in the ingredient profile of a particular menu item may occur from time to time. Therefore, we make no guarantees regarding the gluten content of any of these items. Guests with gluten intolerance or other special food sensitivities or dietary needs should not rely solely on this information as the basis for deciding whether to consume a particular menu item, and are individually responsible for ensuring that any such menu item meets their individual dietary requirements. Olive Garden assumes no liability for your use of this information. Any medical concerns regarding the consumption of these items should be directed to your physician or other health care provider. If you would like to speak with an Olive Garden representative, please call us at 800-331-2729.
I've made additional inquires in 2009 regarding their practice in avoiding cross contamination with proper cleaning of cookware, educating employees, so forth. The did a superb job of completely avoiding all those types of questions, so eat at your own risk. Remember, this is an Italian restaurant. Lots of gluten in the air - and a bag of flour opened can let flour drift and contaminate for hours!
Logan's Roadhouse - October 2008
The seasoning on their steak (and potentially other meats) has FLOUR in it. Thus, so does the grill. If you eat here, tell the server you need your meal cooked in a clean stainless steel skillet that has not been floured and that the mean canNOT be seasoned. Failing the skillet, a clean and non-scratched microwave safe plate will do. I got glutened here before I knew about the seasoning. After I asked them not to do that, I never had another problem.
Panera Bread - October 2008
Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. I have included below a list of our gluten-free menu items. Not all of these items are currently on our menu and some new menu items have not yet been evaluated for the purposes of this list. However, you can find complete ingredients listings for current menu items on our website. Click on Menu and Nutrition, choose the Bakery or Cafe menu, select a product category from the links at the top of the page, then click on the individual menu item to display a page with that item's ingredients and nutritional content.

Please note that nutritional information on our website is updated periodically. New products may be available in our bakery-cafes before a periodic update of this site. In addition, some menu items may be available only on a regional, test or seasonal basis. Nutritional information about these menu items is available at
the participating bakery-cafes. Tests of new recipes of existing products may be conducted from time to time in certain markets. These new recipes may contain different/additional ingredients, including allergens, as compared to the original version. Nutritional information about these menu items is available at the participating bakery-cafes. For the most update-to-date information, please call or visit your nearest bakery-cafe to speak with a manager. 
Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your business and value your comments.

Customer Comment Coordinator

GLUTEN FREE LIST - Panera Bread **

we do our very best to meet your special requirements, we cannot rule out the possibility of cross contact between these items and gluten-containing foods in our bakery-café.

Salads: (including the salad dressing)
(source of modified food starch is corn) 
Greek Salad 
Fandango Salad 
Caesar Salad (without croutons) 
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (without croutons) 
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (without Won Ton noodles) 
Classic Cafe Salad 
Strawberry Poppyseed Salad 
Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken 
Fuji Apple Chicken Salad 
California Mission Chicken Salad 
Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad

Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean
Cuban Black Bean and Lentil
Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil
Vegetarian Butternut Squash
Creamy Tomato (without croutons)
Low-Fat Vegetarian Southwest Tomato & Roasted Corn 
Turkey Chickpea Chili
Summer Corn Chowder

Salad Dressings:
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Raspberry Vinaigrette
Asian Sesame Vinaigrette
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Roasted Garlic & Meyer's Lemon Vinaigrette

Juice, both apple and orange
Soda, fountain and bottled
Tea, regular and Chai Tea
All lattes & Frozen beverages
Strawberry Smoothie   

I ate at a Panera’s before knowing I needed to be gluten free, but aware of other food problems. The staff was very considerate and helpful. They cross referenced a notebook that listed all the ingredients of their products to make sure what I ordered was safe. 

The Judge’s Chambers – 2008, 2009
Roanoke, Virginia
This restaurant opened at the end of 2008, and is located on 1st Street, in downtown Roanoke.

The owner is very understanding about being gluten free and has told me I can bring in a toaster and gluten free bread which he will keep separately, should I ever want a sandwich there. So far, I’ve stuck with his chicken salad which is out of this world! They have a page on Facebook, and I’m working on a website.
Meals are healthy, tasty, and inexpensive!
This restaurant is currently closed.

Pomegranate Restuarant – January 2009
106 Stoney Battery Road
Troutville, VA  24175

I spoke with our chef regarding your question.  Yes we can accommodate people who are gluten intolerant.  He was familiar with Celiac’s Disease.  We ask that you mention this when making your reservations.
Thank you and we look forward to having you visit us.

Roxie Henderson
Office Manager

Cracker Barrel – Continuous

While I have never specifically asked what is/is not gluten free at large, I can provide some information based on my experience. CB is helpfully the same no matter which location you eat at. Factors like that help us GF folks out tremendously!

Eggs, bacon, fried apples, and grits are all safe. They are cooked in their own equipment. Eggs and bacon are done on a separate grill from the pancakes, biscuits, etcetera. Waitresses have provided me with the ingredients and prep methods of the apples and grits. I have never gotten sick from any of these foods at any CB, and I’ve eaten at a number of them up and down the east coast, and in Arizona.

You do, however, need to tell your server that you are gluten intolerant, have Celiac’s Disease, etcetera, and that it is VERY important that nothing with flour in it of any kind comes in contact with your plate.

You may have to tell them it’s an allergy to make some of them understand. I had one waitress once who was also a nurse and she was fabulous, but most people didn’t know what I was talking about unless I called it an allergy.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. – February 2009
6312 S. Fiddlers Green Cir., #200N
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
(303) 846-6000

Red Robin has a gluten free menu, and you should contact Red Robin and ask for a copy which you then print out and take with you to the restaurant. Be sure to inform your server so that they are aware! Red Robin sent me a PDF menu, but warned me that it could change from month to month, so I won’t include the attachment.

McAlister’s Deli 
(I used: “I have a comment about a specific McAlister’s restaurant.” to start my contact request.)

They will provide an up-to-date file on gluten free items if asked. It will come as a PDF, and may list other allergens as well. (When I asked, I also checked on items containing MSG, which I cannot have either). 

There is a lot of back and forth discussion on GF sites as to whether or not the fries are safe. They are NOT. They may be cooked in their own oil but…. FULL of gluten – including the seasoning (and also MSG if you are on the alert for that nasty little ingredient). I’ve yet to run across an employee who knew this and they didn’t make it easy to verify this information on their website. An employee told me point-blank that the fries were safe.   They made me sick. I did researched, contacted McDonald’s …. nothing ever came of it. I received a very polite, very vague – and completely useless e-mail. I didn’t bother to pursue the matter further.

T.G.I. Friday’s – Sept – Nov 2009

An unknown and a risk I am not taking. I researched their website and came to the conclusion that you have to take your chances. They indicate that emails asking about nutrition information will be referred back to the website which …. doesn’t provide the kind of information we’re looking for!
Additionally, I had questions about one of their drink mixers … they ran me around in circles saying the American Beverage Corp would contact me. Never happened. Complained. Told I’d have to contact the ABC. Completely unclear why TGIF is unable to state yes or  no on allergens in their products.

At this point (several months have gone by now), I wrote them back and said that if TGIF was unable to admit if there were allergens in their foods/drinks, I was going to assume that they were not safe, and would post as such to my GF blog.

Should I hear differently in response to that e-mail, I will share what I learn. After all the run-around though, I’m not sure I’d trust them.

Chick-Fil-A – continuous

Again, I have never specifically contacted this establishment. They do, however, provide GF information on their website. Their fries are safe, as is their carrot raisin salad. The ice cream (their original ice cream, not the new shakes) should be safe as long as you don’t get a cone! Have not checked on the shakes.

Their website will provide up-to-date information.

Once I knew what was safe, I’ve never had a problem.

Jonathan’s at SML – October 2009
Moneta, VA
Yes, we can prepare Gluten Free items for you. Please ask for me or my chef
(Chris) and we can accommodate your needs.

Our servers are trained as well and we be very careful with you needs.

Jim Cavanaugh
Director of Operations
50 First Watch Dr.
Moneta, VA 24121
Ph: 540-719-1212
Fax: 540-719-3336   
Always play it safe, no matter how gluten-free friendly places say they are. Do your homework. Bring chef cards. Be prepared to explain about cross contamination. Ask to speak with the chef if you don't think the waiter understands. If you don't think anyone understands, go somewhere else!