After being gluten-free for over a decade, one would think there's nothing that would throw me. From weddings to funerals to holiday parties to business functions and non-celiac in-law holidays...I've done it all gluten-free. For the most part, I've done well when not in charge of where we're eating out. I do my due diligence, as always, so I pretty much know what to expect on arrival to a restaurant I didn't have the option to choose myself.
On a recent trip to celebrate an in-laws milestone birthday, I had one of the worst experiences I've had in years. After contacting the chosen b-day dinner restaurant about what I could safely order, I felt good about the options. While the email message I got from some manager at the place was rather curt, I chalked it up to them being from New York and didn't think much more of it.
We arrived with a group of 9 to an overly crowded and noisy place...the latter being a blessing in the end. After I asked the server if they had a gluten-free menu, his demeanor changed in a bad way. A minute later, some woman who claimed to be the owner of the place was quickly shoving a gluten-free menu in my face and rambling - quite rudely - that they "knew what they were doing and I could ask her if I had any questions". My husband and I were stunned at the behavior, tone and comments and had no idea why this happened. I review the limited gf menu and quickly decide that I just want to order seafood (we are at the beach after all) instead of gf pasta or anything else that is considered a replacement item.
When I try to order one of the shrimp entrees, I'm told I can't have it. That's okay...I'm ready with a back up option, as anyone ordering a at new place better be. Garlic butter shrimp was said to be fine - no modifications were mentioned. I was told I could not have the whipped potatoes and would get a baked potato instead. No question about what the other options might be... It's right about this point, that in any other situation, we're out of the chairs and headed for the door. I wouldn't initiate this decision to leave...my husband would have. But we are not in the position to get up and leave, of course.
When our food comes, I'm given whipped potatoes...which I'd earlier been told - rather rudely - that I could not have. Then my entree is put down and it looks like plain shrimp with a lemon wedge. It doesn't look like it's sauteed - nor is any garlic butter sauce to be found. My husband waives over the server and we ask about the garlic butter. He snaps that the sauce isn't gluten-free and quickly disappears from the table. In any other situation, we're asking for my entree to be removed from the check, as I would not want to overpay that much for a bland meal. But again, we don't have that option.
It turned out that the shrimp had been steamed. There was no seasoning...no salt or pepper. I was in a state of shock and my husband was concerned that the potatoes might not be safe. I was so hungry that I could have eaten the tablecloth so if I threw up later, oh well. The decent tasting potatoes were in fact, gluten-free. The unimaginably bland shrimp were also fine - not good - just gluten-free fine. The place did have good gf crackers so I slathered too many of them with butter in order to get full.
In the end, I didn't get sick and I also didn't have a nice meal. My husband ordered poorly - that was on him since he can order anything - and didn't enjoy his meal either. We obviously won't ever go back to the Beachcomber in southwest FL. At least that's something positive that came from this shockingly disappointing experience :)
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