The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide review

A couple of weeks ago, I received a complimentary copy of a book that I’d been considering buying, The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition).  My son and I were diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago, when very few restaurants had heard of “gluten-free.”  Prior to diagnosis, my husband and I used to delight in hole-in-the-wall, mom & pop restaurants, especially ethnic ones.  Probably my toughest adjustment to a g.f. life is that of eating-out monotony:  As a family, we’ve become accustomed to the few places we know are safe.  (Or, at least, the safest possible, as very few establishments are 100% safe for a celiac diner.)  However, as the gluten-free diet grows in popularity (for sometimes dubious reasons), and as more and more people become acquainted with celiac disease, the options for eating out have been expanding!  Thankfully, I live in a large city where there are numerous, unexplored options for g.f. eating, and I’ve been wanting to expand my gastronomic horizons.

Thus, I’m very pleased to own this book.  It, combined with my local Yahoo Celiac group, gives some great suggestions which I’m excited to try!

I will put this guide in my truck and travel with it every where I go.  There are a few websites that have reviews of restaurants with gluten-free options, but for those of us (like me) without a smart phone, and for those of us (like me) who just like books, this is a great way to go.

The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition) is a 468-page, 50-state guide to restaurants which

  • Have gluten-free menu, and/or
  • Regularly stock g.f. menu items (like pasta, beer, etc.), or
  • Are a 100% g.f. facility
  • Are a chain restaurant which has a g.f. menu (menus — sans prices, of course — are included in the rear of the book)

There are also symbols noting which meals each restaurant serves, as well as its price range.

Each entry has a 3-10 line description of the restaurant, often noting g.f. menu items, and other things for a gluten-free diner to consider.  Picked at random, here is what is noted for Bloom, a Scottsdale restaurant to which I’ve never been.  Bloom does not have a g.f. menu, and is in the $$ range, and serves lunch and dinner:  “Marketing Coordinator Julia reports that many menu items are naturally GF.  She advises making reservations noting GF and calling ahead to speak with a manager or chef.  She also notes that all chefs are trained on the GF diet.”  Another restaurant, Bombay Spice Grill and Wine, in Phoenix, does have a gluten-free menu, serves lunch and dinner, and is in the $ price range:  “Extensive GF menu includes mango chicken salad, kebab skewers, tikka skewers, biryani, chicken keema, curries, and more.”

The book also has about 15 pages which supply (good) advice on safely eating gluten-free in restaurants.  Toward the end of the intro section, an author notes that restaurants policies, menus, and ownership (and even their existence) are always in flux, and reminds readers to use the guide “as a starting point, not a definitive resource.”


Case in point:  The Scottsdale location of small chain, The White Chocolate Grill, recently worked with a local celiac, Nina Spitzer, who owns a business (Gluten-Free Absolutely!) that helps restaurants create a g.f. menu, and trains staff in how to safely prepare gluten-free food.  The restaurant was certified by Nina in November of 2009.  However, it is not listed in the Scottsdale section of the Guide.  (It is, however, listed in the guide under its Naperville, IL, and its Lone Tree, CO, locations.)  That’s a shame, because my husband and I went to The White Chocolate Grill a few weeks ago, and it was easily the among the best gluten-free dining experiences I’ve ever had.

I have a couple of other quibbles with the guide, all dealing with the finding of information, within the guide.:

  1. I wish the Guide had an exhaustive, alphabetized index.  Oftentimes, I will hear the name of a g.f. restaurant, but I’m not sure where it’s located.  Perhaps it’s a chain, but I don’t know if it has a local franchise.  Or, I might know it’s in Arizona, but I don’t know where in Arizona it is.  Rather than skim through the 11 pages of Arizona entries, it would be nice to have an index to which I could refer, ensuring that I don’t miss the entry, and making it easier to find the info on that particular restaurant.
  2. The Guide’s by-city layout bothers me.  Of course, I’m most interested in Arizona, since that’s where I live.  I find it quite difficult to find restaurants within the Arizona section.  That’s because the entries are for Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, and All Other Cities.  The Phoenix metropolitan area is comprised of at least twenty cities, and they’re all adjacent to each other.  So, a restaurant that is in Peoria would be found in “All Other Cities”, even though it could literally be directly across the street from a restaurant found in the “Phoenix” section.  I think it would be a better layout to have Greater Phoenix Area, Greater Tucson Area, Other Cities — Northern AZ, Other Cities — Southern AZ or something similar.
  3. Similar to Quibble #2, above, a MAP would most certainly be in order — a numbered map with statewide locations pinpointed, as well as metropolitan area maps.  This would be especially valuable when traveling to another state, with which I’m not familiar.

In spite of my concerns, this is a very worthwhile book for anyone on a gluten-free diet to own.

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on November 6, 2010, in Books I'm Reading, Celiac Disease, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, gluten-free, Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources, Reviews, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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