Q: I have celiac disease (gluten allergy) and it is very hard to find restaurants in the Chicagoland area that have gluten-free menus. You can't rely on the staff to have understanding of gluten free items, and having a menu that is certified gluten free puts one at ease. It would be nice if you could list the many restaurants in the area that have gluten free menus. For those newly diagnosed it would be very helpful. Not to mention maybe more restaurants will continue to jump on the band wagon. Anything regarding celiac disease and food options would be nice to see.
--Margaret Childs, Oak Park, Ill.
A: You're in luck. Gluten-free cuisine is expected to be one of the hottest restaurant menu trends for 2011, according to a new survey from the National Restaurant Association.
Certainly, there are options in the Chicago area. Phil Vettel, the Tribune's restaurant critic, recently wrote up a list of restaurants: Adobo Grill, Ben Pao, Bistro 110, Bistrot Zinc, Charlie Trotter's, Chicago Diner, Chipotle, D&J Bistro, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, Frontera Grill, Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Maggiano's Little Italy, Outback Steakhouse, Ted's Montana Grill, Le Titi de Paris, Sola and Vinci.
Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation in Studio City, Calif., said restaurants are taking the issue more seriously now as more people, even those without celiac disease, search out dishes made without wheat, barley or rye products. Even so, those who want gluten-free foods have to stay vigilant and ask the right questions, she said.
Carol McCarthy Shilson, executive director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center agreed. Mistakes can happen even when dining out under the best of circumstances, she said. Shilson recommends looking at restaurants accredited by the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program and listed at its Web site, glutenfreerestaurants.org.
"This says the restaurant has taken steps to educate from the front of the house to the back," she said.