Each time I go to a restaurant that is not dedicated gluten free (and there's aren't many), I dissect the menu like a high school student with a scalpel and a pinned down frog ready to get to the heart of the matter. Do you have a separate gluten free menu? What exactly IS gluten free on the menu? How shared is shared equipment? Why do you have "low-gluten" on the menu? Many of my cues come from the server...if he or she says "ummmm, let me check with the kitchen" that is generally not a good sign. Confident servers with knowledge eagerly helping you navigate the menu are a godsend. When the meal is good and fulfills those great moments of anticipation, I am overcome with joy and relief. Yes, I sound dramatic but its how my life is day in and day out.
There are those times that the meal is bad. Let's not even discuss a meal that makes you sick because of a kitchen error or lack of knowledge. Rather its about the "creations" made by cooks and chefs that they serve on a plate and feel a gluten free person will just deal with. I remember ordering a sandwich in Florida at a place that boasted "many, many gluten free options". I assumed the reuben I ordered would be gluten free (on an Udi's or Rudi's bread if they didn't have capability to make their own). Instead I was served a reuben on lettuce. Last time I checked reubens don't come with lettuce and a definition of a sandwich is two pieces of bread with some type of filling.
I have a dream one day that I will be able to walk in to other people's restaurants and order pretty much want I but until that time I have to be one of the people creating the place.
How does eating out affect your food experience? What food items would you like to see on local menus?