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. Note that these are all US-based. Menus and ingredients vary country to country.
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, Chick-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. (Note: Since this post, they’ve gotten a lot better at responding to email, which is a huge relief, because phone is super stressful for me.)
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) 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 – i.e., rinsed – between drinks?). Too risky. As much as I loved that Strawberry drink, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
What is safe? Many 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. (Update 3/2/2019: For a few years now, I’ve only been getting plain lattes, and I get the flavor I want from Nestle’s liquid Coffee Mate product line. Less fake aftertaste, and I can control how much flavor I add!)
Olive Garden – October 2008
They sent me a long list back, which, 11 years later, I’m deciding not to include because it has surely changed since 2008.
“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.”
Bolded text by me. Basically, they sent me a “cover your ass” statement, and if you get, sick, too bad!
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!
2019: I’ve seen many, many, many reports over the years by people who have been glutened at Olive Garden because they cook all the pasta, gluten and gluten-free alike, in the SAME pot and in the SAME water!
Don’t risk it.
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 also means your steak 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. (Mind you, the day they glutened me, I had explicitly told them about no flour, no bread, etc, and they still seasoned my steak with a flour-based seasoning.)
Update 2019: After 2008 or 2009, I never ate there again.
Panera Bread – October 2008
Thank you for contacting Panera Bread.
Panera also sent me a list, but like with Olive Garden, I’m not including it now because I can’t believe that after 11 years, it would be the same 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.
Sincerely, Chris Customer Comment Coordinator
Although 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.
Note: Panera is a minefield of cross contamination. I cannot recommend them as a safe place to eat — then or now. March 2, 2019
The Judge’s Chambers – 2008, 2009 Roanoke, Virginia This restaurant opened at the end of 2008, and was located on 1st Street, in downtown Roanoke.
The owner was very understanding about being gluten free and 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! Meals were healthy, tasty, and inexpensive!
They closed several years ago, and to my knowledge, have not re-opened anywhere in Southwest Virginia. If you know otherwise, please update me!
Pomegranate Restaurant – 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 should all be 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.
Update March 2, 2019: At the time I wrote this, I was not aware of cross contamination via flour dust in the air. Once I became aware of that, I stopped eating at CB. It may be true that they get their pancake mix already made and in a tube, and the biscuits premade, but I have not had time to verify this. If you have, please comment and let me know. If I get a chance to check, I will amend this post.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. – February 2009
6312 S. Fiddlers Green Cir., #200N
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
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.
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 are cooked in a shared fryer, and even if they weren’t, they bring their own gluten to the table. And MSG.
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 research, 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.
This is current as of March 2, 2019, from their menu:
Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Salt. *Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.
Contains: WHEAT, MILK.
Cooked in the same fryer that we use for Donut Sticks which contain a wheat and milk allergen.
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. (Spoiler, 10 years later, and they still haven’t responded.)
Chick-Fil-A – continuous
I have never specifically contacted this establishment. They do, however, provide GF information on their website. Their fries are safe as they are gluten free on their own and made in a dedicated fryer! 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.
I have eaten at CFA up and down the east coast, and in Arizona, and never once had a problem. This is one place I still visit, especially on road trips, and have never gotten sick. (And I could drink gallons of their sweet iced tea!)
Jonathan’s at SML – October 2009
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!