Hello, my name is Tianna. I am a mom and foodie who writes my life story and food obsessions at Babbling Panda, and I’m a contributor to Urbantastebud.com.
My guide to eating gluten-free in a pub…..
I have met people who have been gluten-free for ten years or more and they swear it gets easier. I’m a “newb” at being gluten-free, having been diagnosed only a year ago. My doctor thinks that I have always been gluten-sensitive and that my extreme food poisoning last June is what tipped me over to being gluten-intolerant. If only we had picked up the gluten-sensitivity earlier, it could have saved me years of discomfort. As I am now, it is impossible for me to eat gluten as it causes extreme pain: bloating, gas, diarrhea, migraines, joint pain and, sometimes, fever.
Being new to this has been a huge learning curve! I had no idea so many salad dressings, condiments and candies have gluten in them. Eating out and snacking are minefields of potential distress the following day. But pubs have to be the trickiest.
I thought a pub would be easiest to eat in, foolishly. In my mind, I just had to avoid anything breaded, and pastas and burgers were obviously out as well. Wrong. What I failed to think about entirely was the cross-contamination factor and the potential flour usage in the oddest places. Also, most sauces have something with gluten, like soy sauce, in them, and it seems almost every vegetable is breaded. That means most of the menu is off limits to you! *sigh* Even wings are often coated in flour before applying the sauce and being cooked. Fryers will also be cross-contaminated- unless they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer.
Surprisingly, most pub chefs can be accommodating (although I always wonder if they spit in my food for being a pain). Sometimes they will be willing to wrap a burger in lettuce instead of the bun or to put the sauce on the side. The waitress is always willing to check if they use rice flour on the wings or if their nachos are made with corn chips. A lot of the time they are extremely, and authentically, sorry if the answer is no. Usually I just order fries and eat only a quarter of the order, giving the rest to my husband to avoid the cross-contamination affecting me. (If you’re Celiac this probably won’t work for you.)
Banff, Alberta, Canada had the best pub experience of my life. They had dedicated fryers in most of the places we went to, including the pub. The waitresses knew off-hand what was gluten-free on the menu and the wings were coated in RICE FLOUR. I was so happy. Not only that, they had several gluten-free beers on their drink menu.
With practice you find which pubs are willing to modify recipes to suit a gluten-free diet, which pubs have dedicated gluten-free fryers, and what menu items are, almost always, safe. I am not there yet, but I am learning as I go what to ask when I sit down.
- Are the nachos corn or flour?
- Are your wings coated with rice flour or white flour?
- Is your chef willing to sub out items?
- Is there soy sauce or salad dressing in the sauce?
- Do you have a dedicated fryer for Celiacs?
ALSO- Most pubs take “I am gluten-intolerant” fairly lightly and will NOT be careful with your food. (I have heard even at five-star hotel restaurants there is a “Oh it won’t kill them if it’s not REALLY gluten-free” attitude in the kitchen. This comes from several people who work in the business). Therefore- when asked, “How gluten sensitive are you?” ALWAYS answer, “I’m Celiac and extremely allergic. It could kill me.” I know it sounds over-dramatic, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
So that is my advice for eating gluten-free in a pub. I sincerely hope it helps you.