This post has the best apps and tips to find Celiac Friendly Restaurants near you! We also include what to ask your server and tips for tricky situations.
Finding Celiac Friendly Restaurants can be the difference between a happy, active social life with celiac disease or feeling isolated. That's why we wrote a complete guide to best serve your needs!
People with Celiac Disease can eat in restaurants safely by researching ahead of time and knowing the right questions to ask.
Best Celiac Friendly Restaurants Apps
Find Me Gluten Free
This app has search filters for dedicated gluten free facilities, dedicated gluten free fryers, and celiac-safe options.
Why I like it:
- Find Me Gluten Free has extensive search options and coverage in North America. I have less experience using it abroad. However, I know there are some celiac friendly restaurants listed worldwide.
- Data is collected from community members. Members can mark if they have celiac disease and write a review to share if they enjoyed the meal or got sick after.
The paid version of the app allows you to filter for the most celiac-safe restaurants. You can still see the ratings without it, however.
Dedicated Gluten Free
The Dedicated Gluten Free App lists 100% dedicated Gluten Free restaurants near a destination.
Why I like it:
- Choosing 100% gluten-free restaurants means you'll have options!
- 100% gluten-free restaurants are usually created with people with celiac disease in mind, so food is sourced carefully.
- This app is best used for major cities worldwide. However, you can find some rural destinations.
- The app navigation can be glitchy. Type in a specific city to see options.
How to find Gluten Free Restaurants using the apps
There are three ways I find celiac friendly restaurants:
1. Use the apps to find a dedicated Gluten Free restaurant.
I prefer 100% gluten-free restaurants when possible. This means I have more meal options, I don’t need to ask a lot of (sometimes embarrassing) questions, and I support the gluten-free community!
2. Use the celiac-safe filter on the Find Me Gluten Free App (or website).
After applying the filter, I choose nearby restaurants (you can search by location) that are voted celiac-safe by app users. I prioritize ones with a 100% success rate by people with Celiac.
I’m willing to consider success rates of 75% and above. If not 100%, I carefully read through the comments to learn why the success rate is less than 100% and make an educated decision.
Tip: Be aware that some non-celiac gluten-free eaters will mark “celiac-safe” on restaurant ratings. While some of these are valid, I read comments carefully. Some non-celiacs are less educated on gluten cross-contamination risk.
3. Check gluten-free facebook groups, forums, blog posts, and internet search engines.
Most of my restaurant planning is solved with the apps. However, sometimes the apps miss new or non-chain local options.
It's helpful to browse blogs, social media, and internet forums to find othersafe options.
Bloggers like Legal Nomads and Becky Excell (based in the UK) have extensive restaurant lists and safe foods for gluten-free travel destinations.
Note that Becky Excell does not have celiac disease. However, she usually notes if a place is 100% gluten-free or prevents cross-contact with gluten.
How to order a celiac-safe meal from a shared kitchen
I get lots of questions from readers asking “would you eat at _____________ ?”
Whether or not you will eat at a restaurant with a shared kitchen is a personal choice. I encourage you to do what makes you feel safe.
I do feel comfortable eating in some restaurants with a shared kitchen. Here is how I decide:
Tips to decide if a restaurant is celiac-friendly:
1. Inspect the menu online.
There are often celiac-safe options with grilled meat and fish, steamed seafood, steamed or roasted vegetables, or fries in a dedicated fryer.
Do the salads have croutons? If so, the salad bar may be at risk for cross contact with gluten.
Is there a gluten free menu? Is there a tiny disclaimer about cross-contamination somewhere on that menu? If so, proceed with caution.
2. Call ahead.
Sometimes twice, and avoid busy meal times if possible. Explain that you have celiac disease. Tip: In many cases, it’s more successful to explain celiac disease as an allergy to wheat or gluten.
Then use your knowledge of the menu to ask specific questions about items you want to order. Ask:
- Do you have a gluten-free menu?
- Do you keep croutons at the salad bar?
- Do you have a dedicated gluten-free fryer?
- Are your sauces/seasonings/spices gluten-free?
- Is there a dedicated area for gluten-free food prep?
- Are all of your chefs and servers familiar with gluten-free?
My trick: I ask probing questions but never use the words cross-contact or cross-contamination. If they can come up with these terms for me, there's a good chance this is a safe place to eat.
I'm also satisfied if they can explain the process to prevent cross-contact without using the official term.
Helpful tip: Ask restaurant staff to change their gloves before handling your food.
3. Ask questions in person.
When I arrive at the restaurant, I generally know what I want to order because I checked the menu online and called ahead.
I explain that I have celiac disease (or a wheat or gluten allergy) and ask the same questions I did on the phone in person.
It's also good practice and highly recommended that you talk to a chef or the manager in addition to your server. This works really well in upscale sit-down restaurants. I find less success in more casual restaurant settings.
4. Inspect your food.
When you receive the meal, take a very good look at it. Do you see crumbs? What about sesame seeds that are only found on the wheat buns (I had this happen at Five Guys)?
Are there any unexpected sauces or spices? Other signs of cross contact with gluten?
As uncomfortable as it can be to send a meal back, it is not worth eating the food and harming your body.
When you advocate for your needs, you not only help yourself, you spread celiac awareness for all of us. It also helps if the people eating with you understand and support you.
Tips for Tricky Situations
What if there is no online menu or you can't call?
On the rare occasion I visit a restaurant without information online (usually while traveling), I ask to see the menu before sitting down. Then I ask questions to the host or manager.
Without knowing for sure that a restaurant is celiac friendly, I never order complicated dishes with sauces, broths, or other flavorings. I only consider these dishes if they know about gluten-free, cross-contact, and celiac disease.
These restaurant meals can often be made gluten-free and celiac-friendly:
- Salads without dressing (bring your own from home) or oil and vinegar
- Plain fish
- Plain meats
- Steamed seafood
- Steamed or roasted vegetables without sauce
- Fries in a dedicated fryer
I find success with seafood restaurants around the world. I also safely ordered meat and vegetables at rural restaurants in South Africa.
Sometimes they have no knowledge of gluten-free. However, the combination of translation cards and sticking to simple meals worked well!
Gluten-Free Vegetarians and Vegans
I eat meat, eggs, and some dairy, especially while traveling, because they are often reliably gluten-free options.
Vegan/Vegetarian readers tell me they often find safe options at Indian and Thai restaurants around the world.
Personally, I do not feel safe eating at restaurants with lots of sauces and possibly contaminated spices. I recommend looking into the Nima Sensor for these types of meals, especially while traveling.
Ordering gluten-free food in a Foreign Language
This can make any gluten-free eater freeze in place! But don't despair - there are resources available to you.
You can learn more here:
More Celiac-Friendly tips:
- How to go Gluten-Free - 10 best tips for beginners!
- 10 Things I wish my Friends knew about Celiac Disease
- How Celiac Advocates are changing Medical Care + How to talk to your Doctor
- Gluten Free Shampoo & Conditioner (+ salon tips!)