Gluten Free FAQs: How we Choose Gluten Free Restaurants

After lots of questions about how we choose which restaurants we include on Wheatless Wanderlust, how often we update guides, and more, we’ve compiled a selection of FAQs to help you understand how we run this site SPECIFICALLY as it relates to gluten free city guides.

Do You Have Celiac Disease?

Matt has Celiac Disease, and Alysha is along for the gluten free ride because it is easier for everyone that way.

However, it’s worth repeating that YOU AND I ARE DIFFERENT, and our specific needs and requirements for restaurants are also different

It’s also worth repeating that neither of us is a doctor, and this site is not meant to constitute medical advice

This site is a collection of our own experiences meant to help give you the information we’ve gathered through research and actually doing the things so that you can use it to plan your own trip. 

Can’t I Just Rely on One of the Gluten Free Apps?

Generally speaking, the gluten free apps (we like Find Me Gluten Free the best of the bunch) are very, very useful for finding potential gluten free restaurants. 

However, the reality is that those apps are essentially crowd-sourced, which means you’re relying on random internet strangers to vet restaurants for you.

Unfortunately, we’ve had some fairly negative experiences with restaurants that are supposedly gluten free according to an app that turned out to not be safe for Celiacs AT ALL.

A particular unnamed pizza restaurant comes to mind where we showed up and they basically said “LOL we’re not even a little safe for Celiacs” despite the 20+ 5 star reviews on the app. 

We’re not saying “don’t use the apps at all” because the truth is, almost all of our research starts on Find Me Gluten Free. 

In our guides, we use the apps as a starting point, but we go a level deeper by scouring menus and reviews, reaching out to restaurants ourselves (either via email, phone, or Instagram DM), and making sure they meet our needs. 

Fairly often, we find that restaurants with lots of positive reviews on the apps don’t quite stand up to scrutiny once you start asking questions. 

There’s a famous biscuit place in Seattle that, until relatively recently, got very positive reviews on Find Me Gluten Free.

However, as someone who lived in Seattle for a while, I know for a fact that they make those gluten free biscuits on the same equipment as the regular ones, both when they’re baking them and when they’re preparing them. Which, at least for me, is a strong “NO THANKS.”

Only the restaurants that both meet our needs AND whose food is actually good make it into our guides.

What Are Your Celiac-Related Requirements?

Here’s a quick overview of our requirements. 

  • No shared fryers. This is often the first question I ask. If there’s any doubt, avoid fried food. 

  • No mixed bakeries. To me, the risk of cross-contamination is too high with mixed equipment, utensils, etc. 

  • No gluten free oats. Oats are a minefield of cross-contact issues, and I’m sad to see that many gluten free bakeries have started using gluten free oats in basically every product. Not all gluten free oats are safe for Celiacs. Here’s Gluten Free Watchdog’s take on it. 

  • No gluten reduced beer. There’s a reason it’s called “gluten reduced” and not gluten free. Spoiler: it’s because we can’t confirm that it’s gluten free (and, also, we’re pretty sure it’s not). Here’s Gluten Free Watchdog’s take. 

  • I’m always skeptical of gluten free pizza in a mixed kitchen, but I will eat there if they have separate pans, utensils, topping tubs (cross-contamination when they reach into a tub of cheese or mushrooms with a flour-dusted hand), etc. Basically, a separate part of the kitchen, and ideally a separate oven. I will consider eating at a place that puts my pizza in a shared oven on a dedicated gluten free pan, but the risk is higher. 

How Do You Choose the Gluten Free Restaurants in Your Guides?

The amount of research that goes into our guides is pretty staggering, when we take a second to really think about it. 

At a high level, our goal in our gluten free city guides is NOT to give you a list of literally every single place you could find a safe gluten free meal. It’s to give you a list of places that can serve you a gluten free meal that is both safe and tasty. 

Also known as “places we, ourselves, actually want to eat.” 

It starts with building a list, which is generally some combination of using the gluten free travel apps (Find Me Gluten Free, mostly), searching “gluten free” and “Celiac” on Google Maps, and searching “gluten free *city name*” on Google to build a list. 

Then comes trimming the fat. We’ll start by visiting social media and websites of each place to get a feel for what they’re offering. Another good resource to see menus is Google Maps, but that can be hit or miss since menus change fairly often. 

In general, if they don’t have either a clearly marked menu OR some mention of gluten free on their website or social media, we’ll go ahead and cross them off the list. 

Then we’ll go through and add them to our Google Maps Saved Places so that we can visualize the locations, which helps a lot with planning. 

Only the places that both meet our standards AND were actually good make our guides. Occasionally, we’ll include a popular spot even if it wasn’t particularly good (looking at you, Pizza in Trevi in Rome) and give our unfiltered review (“you can do better”). 

The other thing you should know is that we generally only include places we’ve personally eaten at.

For full disclosure, this was not always the case in the past, but if there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the past five or so years of running this site, it’s that you, dear reader, want more from us than just a two sentence overview!

You want to know what the ambiance was like, whether or not the food was good, what the highlights were. The details matter! And for that reason, we generally only include restaurants that we’ve personally eaten at. 

Which brings us to our next question…

How Often Do You Update Your Guides?

This might be a controversial idea to some, but we feel pretty strongly that there are only two reasons to update a guide: something in a restaurant we’ve already written about changes (e.g. they introduce gluten into the kitchen) or we revisit a city ourselves. 

That means that, in general, we probably won’t have that exciting new gluten free bakery in Paris or that gluten free pop up in *insert any city here* in our guides unless we’ve actually visited ourselves. 

Allow us to explain that philosophy. 

Because of our focus on our own personal experiences informing our guides, we generally WILL NOT add a new restaurant to a guide until we revisit the city.

Which, as you might imagine, means that we don’t have every single gluten free spot in the world in our guides. 

There are pros and cons to this approach.

On one hand, following those guidelines allows us to be sure we’re giving good recommendations, especially because the easiest way to ask questions and get the answers we need is in person, face to face with a server or manager. 

On the other hand, it does definitely mean that we might be missing a place or two. 

But we know that you, like us, are probably looking at other resources as you’re planning, so we hope that you’ll be able to find those missing spots in those other places. 

It’s also worth noting that every winter we go through our guides and make a list of updates we want to make to freshen them up a little bit.

Usually, those updates are either structural, adding new information, or reworking the places we’ve included. 

Why Don’t You Charge for Your Guides?

We’ve gone back and forth on this question over the years, but we always come back to the original mission for Wheatless Wanderlust: to enable our fellow Celiacs to travel the world safely and confidently, and to eat ALLL the gluten free food. 

The truth is we have literally spent THOUSANDS of dollars eating at the restaurants in our guides. 

But the other truth is that we probably would have done most of that anyway, because we love to eat, and Matt has been known to drag family and friends miles out of the way to go to that one gluten free bakery that he read about. 

So, we keep them free because we feel that’s the best way to arm you, our reader, with the information you need to travel confidently and safely with Celiac Disease. 

At the end of the day, we want you to have an amazing trip, eat all the gluten free pastries/pizza/etc, and come back home energized and ready to plan the next trip. 

How Can We Support You?

We’ve had more than one person reach out and say something to the effect of “you clearly spent a lot of money making this guide, how can we support you so that you can keep doing it?”

The answer is to keep reading our guides (you obviously noticed that we have ads, which is one way we make money here) and tell your friends – gluten free or not – about our guides as they’re planning trips. 

More on Traveling with Celiac Disease

Our Latest Gluten Free City Guides

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