If you are living with dietary restrictions, food allergies or you’re just trying to “be good”, eating out can seem like a risky venture. Fortunately, with more people becoming more selective about what they put in their bodies, having your needs met at a restaurant has gotten easier.
It used to be that the only modification guests would request would be for a dish to be made vegetarian. These days, people ask for dairy-free, gluten-free, low sodium, vegan, and paleo dishes, among others. On the restaurant end, these requests are fairly easy to accommodate with good communication from the guest. Just let your server know what your needs are and ask for menu modification suggestions, or tell the server exactly what you want. “I would like egg whites only with no cheese, please. And no butter on my toast. I eat dairy-free.” Gluten-free bread, pasta, and crackers sit on the grocery shelves alongside their wheat-laden companions. It’s almost expected that a restaurant will keep gluten-free bread on hand, and if they don’t, they’ll wrap that burger in a lettuce leaf for you, no problem. Milk substitute made from nuts, rice, coconut, and soy is the norm at any place that serves a good cup of coffee. People’s dietary needs to drive food trends and vice versa. Some restaurants will even take dietary restriction notes when they take your reservation, so feel free to let them know what you need when you call.
As a guest, remember that restaurants want you to have a positive experience, and most are more than happy to accommodate your needs, so don’t shy away from asking for what you want. A lot of restaurants have menus that indicate if a dish is gluten-free or vegan, making it even easier for you and them! The next time you sit down at a table and wonder if you can get a steaming hot bowl of rice noodles with olive oil, just ask! Sometimes a special order can take a little extra time as the cook may have to get specific cooking pans and utensils that have not been cross-contaminated (a proper procedure for nut allergies for example) or review ingredient lists on packages. As always, your patience will be appreciated by the restaurant as they make sure your order is correct.
Letting your server know upfront, in a warm and friendly way, that you have dietary needs, is the easiest way to getting what you want. If you are not comfortable with your server’s response or not confident that they understand the specifics of your order, ask for a manager and she or he should be able to give you the assurance that you need. If not, find another restaurant that is more accommodating. Most importantly, don’t let your dietary limitations keep you from enjoying a meal out!