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