Celiac Disease / Gluten Free Restaurants / Uncategorized

The Gluten-Free Dining Lesson I Was Too Dumb to Learn the First Time

gluten-free diningOh hey, guys. What’s going on with you? Me? I’m just trying to get over a gluten’ing that was so stupid I have to say that perhaps, I even deserved it. No, no, don’t try to make me feel better. Unless making me feel better involves delivery of gluten-free crackers and fancy cheese. Then, please continue.

You see, I was in Austin, Texas as I do and enjoying the usual “OHMYGOD EVERYTHING IS GLUTEN-FREE HERE” vibe when on my way out of town I tempted fate. I decided stopping by Chuy’s Tex-Mex was  a great idea since I was totally craving burritos, and even though I can’t have burritos, well maybe I could be burrito-adjacent and still be happy.

Why yes I did write once before about how I can never eat there ever again, like never. But I had that craving and I thought, “Hey, maybe they’ve gotten hip to the gluten-free program!” I was so wrong that I was even more wrong than the first time I tried to eat Tex-Mex. I mean, I wrote in my BOOK about the dangers of Tex-Mex. What, in the name of churros, was wrong with me?

I sat down and ordered up some guacamole and queso before I went through my gluten-free spiel. I mean, guacamole and queso, amiright? (Spoiler Alert: I am not right.) The server went to get her manager because she had not one clue (but I appreciated her bringing in the heavy) and the manager had a very unpleasant surprise for me.

It turns out that the only gluten-free items on their menu are the ranchero and tomatillo sauces. You can add some roast chicken to that if you’d like. Oh, and guacamole. At this point I decide, hey, I’m going to make my own nachos! I’ll take the chips (yes, I’m sure they were fried right next to the chimichanga but I was way desperate at that point, and by desperate I mean trying to fill my burrito-sized hole in my heart with tortilla chips), top them with chicken, ranchero sauce, guacamole and queso. BAM. That’s when the manager is like, yeah, queso isn’t gluten-free. Needless to say I’d hoover’d half the bowl at that point.

So I put aside the fact that no one in the world ever puts flour in queso (seriously, NO ONE) and ordered my chicken, ranchero and some grated cheese. Yes, it was sad. But not as sad as what happened to my body after my brief affair with queso. Did you know that it’s especially awesome to get gluten’d before you get on an airplane? No?

I’m not sure why I thought a previously unsafe restaurant would totally be safe the next time I tried it. I’ve never thought that before. I especially don’t know why if I was craving a burrito, I would go to the burrito having place knowing I could not enjoy said burrito. That one is even more puzzling. But not nearly as puzzling as PEOPLE WHO PUT GLUTEN IN QUESO. For the love of all things holy!

Do you guys think that someone at Chuy’s has an ex-girl or -boyfriend with celiac that they want dead? Because that’s really the only explanation here.

So, yeah, don’t go to unsafe restaurants. Especially ones that you, yourself, have personally verified as unsafe. I don’t care how good their burritos are.

51 thoughts on “The Gluten-Free Dining Lesson I Was Too Dumb to Learn the First Time

  1. I feel for you! I used to say it takes me at least 2 mistakes to learn anything, and often 3 times, but hopefully that’s not the case for you. It just sucks never to be able to be spontaneous with food. And damn those flour dosing TexMexers! Wtf?!

  2. I am so sorry you got sick and I sooooo miss mexican food! 😦 Honestly it’s just not the same when you cook it yourself.

  3. I do not consciously eat gluten-free, but I do cook for my friends who have to. A good queso is basically a Mornay sauce, where you start with a Béchamel sauce, a roux (flour & butter) with milk added; then melt in the cheese. It makes it creamier & tastier. Sorry. You really do need to be more careful about eating fine dining and/or anywhere that makes thick/dark sauces from scratch. I previously thought that asian food was already safe & gluten-free; but surprise! You gotta be careful with soy sauce, as most contain gluten, as you probably already know. Sorry again.

    • Good on you for cooking for your gf friends. In Texas the down and dirty queso is usually not fancy enough to start with a bechamel. That’s for you yankees 😉 But yes, I do know about soy and generally check sauces. I’ve been eating and making queso all of my life, so it was one of those tricky ones.

  4. I never would have guessed that about the queso – luckily (not really) I also don’t tolerate dairy, so I didn’t try that. But, we ate at Chuy’s recently and I was assured the corn tortillas were 100% corn, made in house, and I didn’t get sick. I’m not full blown celiac, but even eating fajitas that have been marinated in soy sauce will make me sick, so I think I’d have reacted to the corn tortillas if they really weren’t just corn. Getting glutened before getting on a plane is the absolute worst, though. There’s no feeling like that and being trapped in a seat. GAH! 😦

  5. I’ve gotten in trouble on enough “safe” foods to hopefully learn. It’s tough when they mess with the recipe on one of the few go to options we count on, quit adding flour to everything !!

  6. Chuy’s has a GF menu – and there isn’t much on it – including their chips. You do have to be careful because nacho cheese at some venues have flour in it – they make the cheese sauce like I use to for my macaroni and cheese – it starts out with a roux…

      • WaitWhat?! And people wonder why I’m always so high-maintenance with the questions. I’m constantly reminding my friend that just because she doesn’t use gluten ingredients in food that is normally made without it, it doesn’t mean other people don’t. So you have to ask. I’m just glad I stopped eating there because of the bad service long before I broke up with gluten. And yeah. Who puts flour in queso?

      • The one in Frisco, TX I went to told me the chips were flour tortillas – but everything I’m reading says otherwise – so maybe I was told wrong

  7. Next time friends or family roll their eyes about how careful I am when I’m trying to dine out, I’ll remember this story.

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  9. What’s interesting is that my mom and I ate at a Chuy’s in Austin about a year ago and had AMAZING service from the manager who came and talked to us about our options and even had his kitchen staff clean part of the grill off so that it was safe for us. Good to know that this isn’t typical though… yikes!

  10. Interestingly, the Chuy’s in The Woodlands, TX does have GF options on their menu…their corn tortillas are safe, their chips are fried in a different fryer then their gluteny fried foods, and very few of their sauces have flour in them (but yeah, the queso does…I don’t get it!). I actually love being able to eat here, mind you, I always get the same thing…and they know me and know to keep the gluten far from my food, but I have never gotten sick at this Chuys!

    • So what I’m hearing from everyone is that all Chuy’s are not created equal!

      Just as an FYI, I was dining (this time) at the Chuy’s in North Austin on Lamar. The other time I was at the Barton Springs location.

  11. It really does sound like not all Chuy’s are the same and the only thing to do is ask, ask, ask. I was watching Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey recently and he overhauled someone’s menu and put bread crumbs in the burger and I could not help but wonder if that was noted anywhere on the menu. I always thought a burger was a safe eating out option, but now I’ll have to be even more of a pita by asking about that, too.

  12. Oh, April…Austin has so much better & safer Tex-Mex GF options! Maudie’s (found all over town) has an extensive GF menu and even gives you seperately packaged corn tortilla chips. Their queso is delicious. Lupe Tortilla is also great. I have talked to both the manager & the chef and they are awesome. Only downside is their chips are not GF.

    • I know, Diana! I ALWAYS go to Maudie’s. I just let the force of my found burrito memories take me to Chuy’s. SO STUPID. And thanks for the Lupe tip!

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  14. Did you know you can take activated charcoal after being glutened to help lessen the effects?? Even hours later will help! Though, the sooner the better. When I went to pick my daughter (Age 5 w/ celiacs) up from extended day the other day I caught her eating some gross hostess muffins and I FREAKED OUT!! I made her spit it in the trash and go wash her mouth out in the water fountain while I yelled at the staff. (Who know she can’t have these things!!) Then when we got home I gave her a little bit of apple sauce with the activated charcoal mixed in and she never got sick. I’m sure it still wasn’t good for her digestive tract to be exposed to the gluten but she didn’t get sick!! I swear this stuff is magical!! And there’s really no limit on how much you can take. You start with one or two capsules and if you’re still having problems you take another one…

    • Thanks for the tip Stephanie! I’m actually reading an early copy of Beth Hillson’s book and am on the chapter about coping. I could use all the extra coping skills I can get.

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  19. Thanks for writing this. I’ve come to the conclusion that even though I love being Texan, Tex-Mex is just an abomination. I am half Mexican and enjoy border Mexican food. Mexican not Tex-Mex. It seems like it was a good thing my father (celiac) met my mother as my grandmother and grandfather’s recipes didn’t use too much flour. And I still scoff at the whole roux in queso bit. No dude just no. But then I forget I’m by the border where if you order beef enchiladas you get brisket, not ground beef.

  20. It took me a few times to learn the Chuy’s lesson as well. Your body knows, but your brain doesn’t want to admit it. They also marinate most of their meats in beer. Sigh….why does it have to be so delicious!

  21. Going to Chuy’s today ~ and I will drink only diet free brand name coca cola

    No chips No guac No sauce No bur No tac NO NO NO ~ fortunately before hand I just made some top quality rice/corn cakes ~ fried in a generic oil from WalMart but flavored with vanilla drips put on with the cakes still hot in the skillet.

    Two eggs in there ~ one big cake ~ cut in four after about 5 minutes of cooking.

    Must float to be done.

    Flip ~ brown nicely ~ they should look gold and fluffy.

    Pour on the Pecan or Maple Syrup ~ snarf down.

    100% gluten free

  22. Next time try Matt’s El Rancho!!! One of the friendliest Gluten-Free Mexican menus out there and you can totally feel naughty!

  23. I’ve eaten at a Chuy’s in Mid-TN multiple times, always getting the same thing:
    == Cheese Enchiladas w/Boom Boom Sauce ==
    * Chuy’s Boom Boom sauce is creamy, bold & spicy. Not being able to have their Queso, this sauce is the next best thing!!

    Managers here have been very helpful, even in their ‘To-Go’ ordering. Once, the sweet lady making tortillas knew the corn tortillas had just been accidentally contaminated. She made fresh corn tortillas while we waited & they were delicious! It was definitely worth the wait to know someone cared enough to speak up, while at the same time causing herself additional work during a busy rush hour.

    I have never been gluten at this Chuy’s, perhaps because I do ask questions, letting them know I have Celiac – -and- – I stick to that one specific menu item that I know is GF & satisfies my craving for Tex-Mex!

    How I wish they would make their rice and/or refried beans gluten free!! I agree with everyone else that restaurants need to stop needlessly adding gluten to traditionally GF goods. Progress is being made though, and I am thankful to just be able to eat out with my family again. It took a long time after my diagnosis to even try eating out, and it is exciting to know I have certain entrees at certain restaurants that I trust to be GF every time.

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