Saturday, June 28, 2008
One of the most frustrating parts of following a gluten free diet is definitely trying to go out to dinner when you're hoping for a simple, inexpensive meal. Since I follow the gluten free restrictions very closely, I have to scrutinize menus carefully and sometimes find myself having weird, uncomfortable conversations with my waiter or waitress - trying to find out whether or not there is hidden gluten in the meal I am ordering.
So far I've found that when we go out to high end restaurants (my definition by California prices, somewhere between $18 - 25 an entree) I generally encounter no problems and the service is considerate. The real challenge occurs when my husband and I are trying to say, grab a quick bite to eat before going to see a movie. We don't want to pay $80 or $100 for a 40 minute meal on our way to the mall... we just want to fill our bellies with a reasonably good dinner for a reasonably low price.
For a while we were going to Pei Wei, a subsidiary of P.F. Changs... but I found that I got sick on their meals four times in a row. There was also the time that I ordered their Spicy Chicken without the vegetables (since it is clearly printed on their gluten free menu to do so as they are cooked in water with pasta) and my server informed me that "the kitchen says the vegetables are fine now," but then checked with her manager and discovered that "the kitchen got it wrong" and they had to re-prepare our entire meal. Sigh.
Anyway, tonight my husband and I were starving and wanted to get some decent food fast... so when he saw the Chevys sign from the freeway, he suggested that we give it a whirl. I wasn't convinced.
All I have to say is... WOW! What a surprise! The ambiance may not be very "romantic" in these chain restaurants and the music they were playing tonight was way too loud and lame... but seriously, you couldn't ask for more attentive service and better gluten free food!
When our server came to the table, I told her I was thinking of ordering steak fajitas without the tortillas but that I had a problem with gluten intolerance. She said, "Oh yeah, celiac right? My roommate's mom has that too. You can't have anything with gluten in it right? Let me make sure they don't cook that steak in soy sauce."
At which point, my husband gave me a huge "See, Chevy's was a great idea!" grin.
A few minutes later, she returned to our table beaming. "The chef says he has some unmarinated steak and would be happy to make you the steak fajitas, gluten free."
Almost the moment she left our table, the chef himself appeared! He was a tall Latin man with a white cooking smock and a towel on his shoulder, covered in beads of perspiration from the warmth of the kitchen. I wish he had told us his name!
He approached our table and said, "Are you the table ordering the steak fajitas, gluten free?" We affirmed. "I will make you black beans, corn tortillas and unmarinated steak. I will prepare all this dinner for you myself." With which, he smiled and returned to the kitchen.
The restaurant floor was packed, every table full, and yet the chef had made time to leave the kitchen just to assure us that he would personally see to it that my meal was gluten free! I can name a lot of 4 star restaurants we've been to where service wasn't nearly as good as this!
Best of all, my dinner was absolutely delicious and I relished every bite. Seared fajita meat, tomato salsa, guacamole, corn, beans and rice... I'm getting hungry again just remember how great it was! I truly regret not having had a camera with me, I would have loved to have taken pictures of the food. It was presented beautifully on sizzling metal.
So here is my whole-hearted plug for your local Chevys restaurant. Their menu is of course not completely gluten free, but with a staff so warm hearted and attentive - ready to go the extra mile to make sure you stay healthy and that they don't contaminate your food - Chevys deserves to rise to the top of your gluten-free fine dining list!