Gluten-Free Dining Disaster

I am fired up about something that happened last night. I am fired up, and I’m not even the one with Celiac Disease. I think last night’s experience tops every other gluten-free dining mishap I’ve seen in the last 2.5 years Sherpa and I have been together. Other mishaps Sherpa has had include ordering mashed potatoes that turn out to have wheat in them, ordering foods that have sauces with hidden wheat in them, ordering burgers with no bun and the bun comes anyway. His symptoms seem to be getting more severe lately, so he has even stopped ordering fries if he knows the restaurant is frying breaded foods in the same fryer. And if he knows bread has touched his food, he’s been asking for a completely new meal. Quick refresher, when someone with Celiac Disease eats wheat, it inflames/damages the cilia in the intestines, preventing them from absorbing nutrients and causing pain and bad GI symptoms — for about 2 weeks, or at least that’s about how long it takes for Sherpa to feel better.

So, Sherpa and I went to a show last night at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. Before the show, we met up with my brother and sister-in-law at the restaurant across the street, the Waterford Inn. Granted, this restaurant is very old school and the servers probably have never heard of Celiac. But our server treated us incredibly poorly on ALL levels, so I just had to tell the story. Sherpa and I both ordered a salad with grilled chicken – “no croutons!”, which we repeated twice and our waitress repeated back to us while apparently writing it down.

Half an hour later when we are starving and our salads finally arrive, I poke through mine to check for croutons. This was of course after I had moved the toothpick-speared green olive from my salad to his, ’cause I know he likes olives. Anyway, I check for croutons and my first forkful of lettuce yields a crouton.

“Aaah!” I yelp, and show him my fork. Defeated, he drops his fork into the salad.

“I can’t eat this!” We call the server over and remind her we asked for no croutons, and while it doesn’t matter for me, he can’t have them in the salad. She just swipes his salad and is off with it.

Not even a minute later, she comes back with a “new” salad and drops it on the table. Right away I see two green olives on toothpicks.

“Is this the same salad with the croutons taken out?” I ask.

“No, it’s a new salad,” she says. Oh, it’s on, bitch.

“Yes it is! The olive that I took off my salad is still in it!” Liar McLiarson is caught, and now she’s pissed.

“Well, what do you want, a whole new salad?!” she asks us, like we are the most inconvenient table she’s ever had.

“Yes – he has a food allergy to wheat,” (technically a lie, but she started it) “and bread can’t touch his food.” She swipes the salad away again in disgust.

She comes back again with a “new” salad, and I try to make sure to ask her if the restaurant has a salad mix with croutons already in it, but she has run off before I can. Sherpa tells us he feels bad making a scene like this and we assure him that it it NOT his fault. I am also still worried that she dressed up the same salad, because there are flecks of bread-looking substance on the black olives. I start combing over the olives and pecking off the crumbs to test them, and they taste bready to me, but by now Sherpa is ravenous and angry and cares less about knowing for sure than he does about getting some food in him. He eats the salad.

When we can finally flag her down again, I ask if the restaurant uses a salad mix that comes with croutons in it, and she says, “No, there are NO croutons in that salad!” Very helpful.

I ask Sherpa, “What would Laura do?” because our friend Laura is an amazingly diplomatic complainer. “She would have the manager over here right now!” Sherpa shakes his head; he doesn’t want to go that far. He and my brother go to the bar and he leaves me to do what I will with the bill. I give her a 10% tip and write on the tab, “Please don’t lie to customers with severe food allergies!”

Too far? Not far enough? Anyone else out there with Celiac who have dealt with this situation want to chime in?

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