Prior to diabetes and celiac, we would frequently eat out – probably too frequently. This was a habit we picked up since moving to Oklahoma. In fact, since moving to Oklahoma, I have gained roughly 15 pounds. I’m sure some of those pounds are due to the convenience of delicious, yet unhealthily prepared, restaurant food.
After my son’s diabetes diagnosis we cut down on eating out. Not necessarily to be healthier, but because counting carbs to determine his insulin dosage is such a pain in the butt. Seriously. The aggravation of a restaurant not publishing their nutrition information cannot be fully understood until you have a diabetic in the family. But like many other dedicated dining-out families, we figured out a way to guesstimate carb counting and pushed through; thus continuing on our unhealthy journey.
Enter my daughter’s celiac diagnosis. Although Type 1 diabetes and celiac often go hand-in-hand, celiac disease and its required gluten-free lifestyle are a completely different ballgame than diabetes and carb-counting. If diabetes were baseball, celiac would be ballet. If diabetes was an apple, celiac would be a Snickers. You get the point. Anyway, because finding restaurants that consistently offer reliable, REAL gluten-free entrees (like for real gluten-free; not just a menu that says “gluten-free”) is so difficult, we rarely eat out. So when we do eat out I savor every moment – because it is a real treat for me, as the family chef, to get to go out to eat and not have to cook and then clean the kitchen.
My daughter’s favorite restaurant since her celiac diagnosis is Santa Fe Steakhouse. The first time we went there post-diagnosis we met with the manager (who is a fellow Celiac), she went over their GF menu with us, and ensured everything was prepared separately for E and it was a great experience. We’ve been back several times and never had any issues…until this past weekend.
The restaurant was super busy, which looking back, should have been a red flag for us. That tells me that the line cooks probably won’t have time to worry about keeping E’s food separate. But E had her heart set on Santa Fe, so we waited about 15 minutes to be seated and then I asked for their GF Menu (which they didn’t have printed). So after waiting about 20 minutes for the GF Menu, I went and asked for it at the front again (our server was running around – not great service) . The GF Menu never did come so we ordered what we knew to be gluten-free (which is risky and never a good idea), a plain hot dog and baked potato, which we explained cannot have a bun and cannot touch a bun.
So then we wait. And we wait some more. Probably 20 minutes or so later our server brings our food out and goes to set E’s plate in front of her and says, “I don’t know why they put a bun on this when I told them not to.” Now, why would he even bring the plate out like that? So my husband, who doesn’t like confrontation (bless his heart) says, “Um, she can’t have anything on that plate because it’s all been contaminated by the bun. So it will all have to go back.” So off our server goes with E’s plate. Her salad shows up with a side of ranch that I can neither confirm nor deny is gluten-free because I still haven’t received the @^% Gluten-Free Menu that I asked for 3 times already so I ask the server (again) for the menu so I can verify the dressing is GF. FINALLY some manager brings out the menu but drops it on the table and dashes away real quick (not giving me a chance to voice my concerns darnit) and I verify that the ranch dressing is in fact, NOT GLUTEN FREE.
Here’s a pic of E before we figured out that the ranch has gluten (pre-meltdown)…
By now E is in tears, starving and just wants to leave. I’m tearing up because I’m mad. Hubbs is irritated but because he doesn’t like confrontation, he acts like everything is fine. Brother N has scarfed all his food down so he’s happy as a clam. Finally (hallelujah) E’s plate arrives and she and I get to eat. I’ve mostly lost my appetite so my shrimp goes to waste and my potatoes are cold (serves me right I guess).
I realize that having food allergies or a special request can be trying for a restaurant kitchen, and I truly appreciate when they accommodate my daughter’s needs. I recognize that working in food service can be a thankless job so I am sure to always be kind to my server and have even left notes for waiters/waitresses who I’ve felt have gone above and beyond what they had to. But what really irked me was that after all was said and done, crappy service, messed up my daughter’s food, and the issues with the menu – when the waiter dropped of the ticket it was full price. I can think of several restaurants where I’ve had fewer issues but they’ve still comp’d something in order to make up for whatever it was that went wrong. They could have at least given E a free drink. Really, she is the one who sat there and ate peanuts forever….
So very long story short, just when I thought I’d get a reprieve from real life and enjoy pretending that we are “normal” again (our normal anyway) – NOPE. Thanks, Santa Fe. Your fan-base just decreased by 4.