Dining Out 101
I recently returned from a trip to Chicago (more about that in a future post!) where we ate out - a lot. That is not my usual norm, so I tried my best to make good choices with the options that were available. Luckily, in Chicago there is not an shortage of amazing restaurants that are real food friendly! However, even if you aren't going to be dining in Chicago anytime soon, these tips will apply to most restaurants you might visit in your area!
1. If you can, research before you go
If I know the name of the restaurant I'll be going to and I've never been there before, I always Google the menu. This way, I have at least glanced over the menu once before arriving so that I know what kinds of options will be available to me.
2. When you arrive, ask if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu or gluten-free items marked on the menu
When I eat out, I choose to be a little more lax when it comes to cooking oils and minor added sugar in certain items, but I always try and be as close to 100% gluten-free as possible. I find that it really just doesn't work well with my body due to it's pro-inflammatory effects to the gut and digestive system. If the restaurant doesn't have specific gluten-free options, you'll have to piece together your own!
3. Order simply - meat + veggie
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to keep it simple. Seek out a piece of meat or seafood that catches your interest (steak, salmon, chicken, etc) that isn't breaded or fried. Look for the words "grilled" or "broiled" for protein options. Steak and salmon are my two go-to options! Then, see what veggie based sides are available. Most restaurants will have steamed broccoli as an option. I like to order a double or triple batch of veggie to go alongside of my protein. Salads would be another option here, given that you avoid most of the dressings and stick with plain olive oil and/or lemon juice. I'm not a salad fan, so I don't normally order them, but they are a great option!
4. Ask questions
Ask your waiter lots of questions (in a pleasant tone of course!). It is part of their job to make sure that you are satisfied and know exactly what you are ordering. But you don't have to be a b**** about it - ask polite questions to help clarify what certain items are, especially different sauces or dips. For instance, guacamole seems like a good option, but it might be made from a powdered mix - it's critical to ask!
5. Don't be afraid to make substitutions or ask for certain things to be added or deleted
I almost never order anything off the menu as is. I usually am making substitutions for a grain/rice based side dish for veggies instead or having them keep the bread off my plate in favor of (you guessed it!) more veggies. For example, if I see that they have avocado on one of their salads, I'll ask for it on the side of my meal. You can really customize the meals to what you like! Just remember to be polite, clear, and concise with your order. I always repeat it again after I order it to make sure the waiter/waitress has it correctly! (Don't worry, I always tip well :) )
6. Relax and enjoy!
Once you've ordered, it's time to enjoy the meal!
Remember, when it doubt at a restaurant, keep it simple: meat + veggie. It's really hard to screw up a steak and a double order of steamed broccoli, and I don't know about you, but steamed broccoli in a restaurant always tastes better than mine at home!
What are your favorite restaurants or restaurant tips?