Tuesday, February 10, 2009

McDonald's Local Response


I spoke with the manager of the McDonald's in Port Isabel, TX this morning. He called me in response to my complaint. He was very apologetic and felt my question about the ice cream ingredients was an easy one, one that never should have resulted in an issue.

When the Assistant Manager didn't know the ingredients, he just should have said, 'I don't know." The manager will provide training to the employees concerning questions about ingredients and appreciated my bringing this issue to light.

As always, the intent of this blog is to educate. I come from a restaurant family and understand full well the activity that goes on behind the kitchen doors. It is possible for any of us to receive the facts needed to make informed decisions about our dietary needs. Any server should know what is in the food they are serving, or know where to find that information.

I did assure the manager that I was not looking to have Asst. Manager fired, just to educated. And...we will return to the restaurant for a chocolate sundae (and my husband's weekly fish sandwich!). I'm sure they taste as good as they look!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

McDonald's Corporate Response

McDonald's corporate sent a generic response to my experience at the Port Isabel, TX location. They do state they are investigating the issue with the individually owned and operated restaurant, but I take exception to that. McDonald's has always impressed on its customers that you will receive the same service at any location.

Below is the actual message received yesterday. It is encouraging that the incident is being taken up with the McDonald's local management. I hope the person I dealt with will be counseled on the importance of customers knowing exactly what ingredients are in the products.

And, as I stated in my earlier post, McDonald's does list all their ingredients on the McDonald's USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Items page. Further information from McDonald's will be posted here as well.

Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald's Customer Service Center to bring your recent experience to our attention.

First, I hope you will accept my sincere apology for your disappointment in McDonald's. I can assure you that we want you to be completely satisfied every time you visit one of our restaurants.

Because most McDonald's restaurants are independently owned and operated, I have forwarded your comments to the franchise owner or local representative for follow up at the restaurant you visited in Port Isabel, Tx. Please be assured that your comments will be investigated and, if appropriate, corrective action will be taken.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald's Customer Service Center and giving us the opportunity to address your concerns. Customer feedback is very important to us as it helps us improve.

McDonald's Customer Response Center


Thursday, February 5, 2009


Type of Experience: Wrong But Resolved
1401 Highway 100(W*M)
Port Isabel, TX 78578

We were in Walmart and stopped in the on site McDonald's on the way out. Now, I know that McDonald's is not exactly the best place for a Gluten Free person to hang out, but Honey wanted a Hot Fudge Sundae and it did look good. And they are only A BUCK!
I asked what the ingredients are in the ice cream, and the Asst. Manager looked at me like I'm some kind of idiot and responded with: "Ice Cream Mix." I asked what are the ingredients in the Ice Cream Mix and got the same response..."It's just Ice Cream Mix."
I then explained that wheat is a hidden ingredient in a lot of foods these days. He held up an ice cream cone and said, "This has wheat." Then held up a dish of ice cream and said, "This has Ice Cream Mix!" I gave up and passed on the Hot Fudge Sundae.
Today, I visited McDonald's Nutrition Info page and learned that the Hot Fudge Sundae has the following ingredients and is safe for me to eat:
Hot Fudge Sundae:
Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Milk, sugar, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, dextrose, sodium citrate, artificial vanilla flavor, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate.
Hot Fudge Topping: Sugar, water, sweetened condensed skim milk (milk, sugar, corn syrup), partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat dry milk, cocoa (processed with alkali), corn syrup, salt, disodium phosphate, potassium sorbate (preservative), artificial flavor (vanillin), soy lecithin, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids.
Peanuts (for Sundaes):
Peanuts, dry roasted. MAY CONTAIN TREE NUTS.
On their nutritional page, McDonald's lists all the ingredients of their products. They do note that you should check back regularly, as ingredients can change.
So, I will order the Hot Fudge Sundae in the future, probably without the nuts...or I will go to an ice cream parlor and get a real sundae with natural ingredients! Or make my own! At any rate, the McD's Hot Fudge Sundae is something us Gluten Free folks can enjoy. Perhaps McDonald's will counsel the Asst. Manager about ingredients and responding to customer inquiries in a responsible manner, so the next person who asks this question will smile with every bite of their $1 Sundae.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Longhorn Cattle Company/San Benito, TX

Type of experience: Wrong But Resolved.

Longhorn Cattle Company

3055 West Expressway 83
San Benito, TX 78586


Date and time: Tuesday, January 20, 2009, evening

On the recommendation of several people, we joined a group of neighbors to go to Longhorn Cattle Company for dinner. We'd heard so much about it, and I figured with careful consideration a steak place should be just fine. While the meal turned out to be very good in the end, it was a trial to get it right.

Upon arrival, I asked for the manager to determine what would be safe for me to eat. He/she never came out, but the waitress informed me that the kitchen did not know the ingredients to the spices added to their grilled meats. I opted for a steak with no seasoning, a baked potato and a salad with oil and vinegar and no croûtons. ( I never use salad dressings from restaurants unless I know for sure there is no gluten in them.)

My salad arrived promptly. It was fresh and just fine. Then the meals came out and they all looked wonderful, except mine. It had a thick slice of Texas Toast across the top of it.

I had watched the waitress put explicit instructions on the order ticket before it was sent to the kitchen, and still my meal came with a big chunk of gluten on it!

Again, I asked for the manager. I went to the lobby area to wait and again asked for the manager. I waited several minutes...he/she NEVER came out.

The waitress brought me a new freshly cooked steak and baked potato, assuring me that it was a new steak and gluten free. The steak was cooked perfectly, juicy and full of flavor, even without seasoning. I was a bit nervous as I tasted something extra in it, and the waitress explained that the steaks are cooked over mesquite. It was scrumptious!

The rest of the party enjoyed their meals without any issues. Some had chops, some steak, some had the chicken. All were pleased and received their meals as ordered.

Would I go here again? Maybe. I'm a bit leery as the manager did not come out after two requests. I wish I got the waitress' name, as I would ask for her specifically next time. I do think for all the trouble I went through, the management should have 'comped' my meal, or at least discounted it, or at least come out and apologized, but they did not.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Type of experience: Couldn't Eat It!

1301 Highway 100
Port Isabel, TX 78578

Date and time: Monday, January 19, 2009, 12:48 pm Check #0023

Upon arrival, I asked for a Gluten Free (GF) menu. There were none on hand, but the hostess promptly printed one out for me. I then had to ask for a 'regular' menu, as there are no prices on the GF version.

From the GF menu, I ordered the Mushroom Swiss Big Mouth Burger with a side of Guiltless Fresh Vegetables. I reiterated with the waitress that it had to be gluten free with no bread. When the meal arrived, the burger was on a huge bun!

I immediately stated, “I can't eat this. Please send the manager.” She wanted to just replace it, but I felt it was important to involve the manager as my biggest fear in these situations, is that the kitchen staff will take the bun off and send out the contaminated food to me. Usually, the manager will oversee that the meal is recooked to my needs. Not in this case.

The manager laughed. Yes...she may have been nervous, but the fact that offered to bring me something else with a big grin on her face showed me that she and her staff did not understand the seriousness of the event, and most likely, if I ate from this establishment, I would leave very ill.

The charge for my meal was removed from the bill. My husband finished his meal, paid the bill and I left hungry. When we got to the car, we noted they had kept the receipt. I returned for it.

The manager retrieved it from the trash for me. As calmly as I could, I spoke with her, the hostess and two waitresses, indicating my fear that they do not realize how unsafe it is for people with Celiac Disease and other food issues when the restaurant staff does not follow instructions. I suggested they do some training on this issue.

The fact that Chili's has a GF menu, indicates there is a procedure in place to serve us. This particular Chili's clearly does not follow those procedures.

My husband said his meal of Chicken Fried Steak was very good.

Would I eat at this restaurant again? No! This is the second Chili's I visited since going GF, and my second disappointment.

Chili's is owned by Brinker International, who also own one of my favorite establishments: Maggiano's little Italy. I've never had a bad experience at Maggiano's. Perhaps, the folks at Maggiano's could do some training for the people of Chili's.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marcello's Italian Restaurant and Lighthouse Pub

Type of experience: Great!

Marcello's Italian Restaurant & Lighthouse Pub

110 N Tarnava, Port Isabel, Texas


Date and time: Friday, January 16, 2009, Evening

Surf and Turf: 6 oz sirloin and 4 grilled shrimp, salad with oil and vinegar, baked potato. Came to my table exactly as ordered, no bread, no croûtons, and FABULOUSLY delicious. The steak was a real medium...juicy and full of flavor. My husband said the shrimp were tasty (they came on a separate dish as I'm allergic to shellfish too!) Salad was fresh and potato plentiful.

No Gluten Free menu is available at this restaurant.

Our waitperson was the manager, and he handled my order perfectly, checking on what options would work for me with the chef before ordering. Clearly, the kitchen followed his instructions completely.

All members of the party were pleased with their meals.

Would I eat at this restaurant again? YES...absolutely! As would the 11 other members of our party.

Welcome to Gluten Free Encounters

Welcome to Gluten Free Encounters. Here you will find experiences of those who must follow a gluten free (GF) diet, as they navigate the food service industry.

We all like to eat out, but this leaves us the mercy of restaurant employees and their knowledge about gluten issues, and expertise in cooking gluten free. We've had great experiences, and we are sorry to say, even more bad ones, prompting the creation of this blog. I am so tired of watching my companions eat while I wait for my meal to be recooked, (or on few occasions don't eat at all).

Here the many folks who suffer with Celiac disease or wheat allergies or just choose to eat gluten free, can share their own GF experiences. When time allows, the posts will be forwarded on to the restaurant (and/or its headquarters) with the hopes of prompting a response that makes life easier for all of us.

It is my hope that this blog will stir the restaurant industry to a greater awareness of the consequences gluten causes to Celiacs and other gluten intolerant people.

Please post your questions, comments or experiences here, or email to GFEncounters@gmail.com.