Gluten Free (GF) Review Crieria

GF Restaurant Reviews

Each of our Gluten Free Reviews (GF Review) is our assessment of a restaurant’s ability to deliver a safe, gluten free meal and dining experience. We are not reviewing the quality of the restaurant in terms of food, decor and service a la “Zagat.” Our reviews are intended to give you a qualitative score based on our personal dining experience(s).

Our gluten free reviews are based on our personal experience. The restaurants do not know they are being reviewed. We devised a GF Review Scorecard that captures and reports on the concerns of a gluten free diner. Each question/criterion can receive a rating from “0” – “10”.  Each question/criteria are weighted equally. We then simply average the individual scores into a final summary score (K-Score™). How do we interpret the K-Score™? It’s quite simple:

  • If the K-Score™ is 8.0 or greater, then we eat there with confidence.
  • If the K-Score™ is between 6.0 and 8.0, then we ask a lot of questions before we eat.
  • If the K-Score™ is less than 6.0, then we won’t go back.

Please note that all scores are qualitative (based on our experience), and we look for you to submit your own scorecard in the notes below the review. Your opinion counts!

Prices

We provide a rough cost guideline with each of our reviews as outlined in the following table.

Typical cost for a meal (not including taxes or tip)
$$$$$$$$$$
Breakfast<$10$10 - $15$15 - $20$20+
Lunch<$10$10 - $20$20 - $30$30+
Dinner<$10$15 - $25$25 - $40$40+

Criteria

Here are the definitions and clarifications to our review criteria:

Does the menu clearly indicate gluten free (GF) options? 

  • 10 – The menu has gluten free options clearly marked.
  • 8 – There is a separate GF menu (my concern is many separate GF menus are created and not kept current).
  • 6 – The main menu says items can be made gluten free (often means leaving out key ingredients of the dish).
  • 4 – There is some indication on the menu, but it is not clear.
  • 2 – The menu indicates to ask your server regarding dietary needs.
  • 0 – No mention of dietary needs or gluten free options.

How diverse are the GF options?

Typically, restaurants will have salads as Gluten Free options and may have a couple of entrees (grilled chicken or fish). The rating reflects the general percentage of items that are gluten free. If about half the menu is gluten free, then the restaurant will receive a score of 5. If 4 out of 5 items are gluten free (i.e., 80%) or can be made gluten free, then the restaurant will receive a score of 8. Diversity is also important. If a restaurant does not offer any gluten free options in a menu category (e.g., soups), it will lose a point. If a restaurant offers all meals Gluten Free, it receives a rating of “10“.

Does staff clearly understand gluten free needs?

This is a highly qualitative review of how well the wait person demonstrates an understanding of the needs of the gluten free meal. I look for the waiter/waitress to understand three things:

  • What is gluten and where can hidden sources be found (e.g., broth, soy sauce, dressings)? (worth up to 3 points)
  • What ingredients are in each dish? (with up to 3 points)
  • How is the food prepared? (e.g., separate toaster, dredged in flour before being fried, reduction sauce no flour added, shared fryer). (worth up to 3 points)

It is an added bonus if they demonstrate a clear understanding what Celiac disease (worth 1 point). They might  have a friend or family member with Celiac as this increases the possibility that they really get it.

Did GF meal arrive at same time as other meals?

Restaurants who take the time to prepare gluten free meals separately often indicate an item may take a little longer to prepare. I am perfectly okay with this and appreciate knowing the meal may take longer to prepare and serve. The key is, does the restaurant plan accordingly and time the meals so that the person with the gluten free meal is not left observing everyone else eating? If all the meals come out at the same time, the restaurant receives a rating of “10“. For every minute there is a delay, they lose one point.

How good does the GF food taste?

This is qualitative rating that is very subjective. It is not a rating of the overall food taste from a culinary perspective. Most Gluten Free products are substandard to gluten products. This is most pronounced in bread type foods (e.g., toast, pancakes, rolls), but it can be applied to a whole meal. On this rating we look at two things:

  • How does the food taste relative to other gluten free foods of the same category? (e.g., bread, pancakes, sauce, pasta) (worth up to 5 points). A lower score could mean the consistency is wrong, the meal is plain (lacks sauce or seasoning) or has a gluten free after taste. If the meal is one of the best I’ve had, then it can get score up to 5.
  • How does the gluten free food taste relative to its gluten counterpart? (worth up to 5 points). This is tested by a non-Celiac person who has a lot of experience in tasting and preparing gluten free food.

The ideal restaurant is able to offer the same items for both gluten free and gluten diners meaning the Celiac person does not feel like they are missing out. If the meal is prepared differently to be gluten free, but I can’t tell its gluten free, this is almost as good.

How comfortable did I feel dining there?

This is a combination of factors from how we are greeted at the restaurant to receiving the order. It encompasses everything from how the order was handled to the final product. I love when a restaurant server places my meal before me and says, “here is your gluten free entree”. I have confidence the order was noted GF all the way through the process, from order to table side delivery. This type of service can receive a rating of “10”. We score this category using the following guideline:

  • Entry / Greeting – When entering a restaurant, I ask about a GF menu or GF accommodations. What is their response? (worth up to 2 points).
  • Environment – Am I comfortable when I sit down? For example, are there crumbs on the table? (worth up to 2 points)
  • Ordering – My confidence that the order was placed gluten free (e.g., Was the order read back to me as GF? Was there discussion during the order process?) (worth up to 2 points)
  • Delivery – Is there a verbal or visual indication that the meal placed before me is gluten free? Does it appear that the meal was kept separate (e.g., placed on top of the other order or served separately) ? The worse case is when I order the same meal as a gluten diner and we can’t tell the difference. We worry that it isn’t gluten free or the I’ve receive the wrong meal. (worth up to 4 points)

Was the order accurate (all items GF)?

Sometimes the meal arrives, and for some reason, does not look Gluten Free. For example, the salad arrives with croutons on the plate or there is a side of toast. The points in this category are divided equally across each part of the order (e.g., soup/salad, appetizer, entree and dessert). If the order is accurate for all components, the restaurant receives a rating of “10”.

Does the restaurant have process for GF orders?

We are rating the process from placing the order through the delivery of the meal to the table. Is there a defined process?

  • Ordering (worth up to 2 points) – How is the order noted?  Is the order marked with GF or with a food allergy alert? Is it entered into their system as such? (worth up to 2 points)
  • Kitchen (worth up to 4 points) – How kitchen notified?  how does the kitchen handle it (e.g., new utensils, clean pan, new gloves)? Does the kitchen mark the order for the delivery person?
  • Delivery (worth up to 2 points) –  Often times the person delivering the order to the table is different fro the person who took the order. Are they made aware the order is gluten free? Are they careful about cross contamination and make sure the right order gets to the right person?
  • Training (worth up to 2 points) – Has the restaurant invested in training its staff how to handle gluten free orders?

Did I experience any ill effects?

I am very sensitive to gluten. If I have ingested gluten, I usually know within an hour.  To be fair to the restaurant and to best assess what I have just eaten, this rating is based on how I feel after I’ve eaten at the restaurant and before I eat my next meal. The timeline could be as short as 3-4 hours (time between breakfast and lunch) or as long as 14 hours (time between dinner at a restaurant and breakfast the next morning). Using this criteria, I can be reasonable sure the way I feel is due to the last meal I ate.

  • 10 – I feel fine when I go to eat my next meal.
  • 5 – I feel a little off.
  • 1 – I have a strong reaction.

How likely am I to eat there again?

This is a confidence rating on how well I trust the restaurant to meet my needs. Ratings are assessed as follows:

  • 10 – I have no hesitation about returning.
  • 5 – The experience wasn’t perfect, but good enough to try again.
  • 1 – I experienced a problem (e.g., order mistake, got sick, etc.), and I’ve lost confidence in the restaurant to deliver a save gluten-free dining experience.