As I mentioned a few days ago, I had a dining experience that I wanted to share. It’s a little long-winded, and if you just want the outcome, you can skip down to the end of this post. For those of you that want all the gruesome details, here’s the story:
Last week we went to Bru’s Room, a local sports bar, to watch the UFC. It was Sunday at 9pm, so the place was definitely not busy. We normally go to Duffy’s when we want to go out and watch sports, because they have an excellent gluten-free menu. However, we had heard that Bru’s now had a GF menu too, so we decided to try it out.
When we got there we checked out the menu, which seemed to have a good selection. The first thing I noticed was french fries. Cool, I love french fries! And you never see french fries on the gluten-free menu…
Which got me thinking, there’s a reason you never see french fries on a gluten-free menu…because most places use a shared fryer. And frying a gluten-free item in the same fryer as mozzarella wedges, breaded calamari or anything else containing gluten guarantees cross contamination. Seriously, that’s something every restaurant should know.
So I flagged down our server and asked her if they had a dedicated, gluten-free fryer. She shook her head and said no, there was just one fryer for everything.
Really? That meant everything fried on the “gluten-free” menu really wasn’t gluten-free. And in my mind, that meant everything else they cooked there would be suspect, too. There was no way I was going to trust my health to the Bru’s Room kitchen, and I decided not to eat anything at all.
A few days later, I was thinking about what happened. Mainly, I wanted to know what the kitchen practices were at Bru’s Room and if the company intended to upgrade them at any point. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time that I had dealt with a misinformed server, or with a restaurant that had just implemented a gluten-free menu but hadn’t worked out all the kinks yet. So I contacted them and sent the following message through their contact page:
“I was at your Delray Beach location on Sunday. I am gluten-free, and was going to order off your GF menu, but found out from my server that you do not use dedicated fryers for your gluten-free offerings. I’m glad I asked! I could have ended up very sick. As a result, I decided not to eat anything at your restaurant. I wanted to let you know that gluten can be transferred from item to item in a shared fryer, on a shared grill, and by not having dedicated serving utensils or food prep areas. Are you planning to add these precautions to your kitchen so gluten-free diners can eat safely, and if so, when are you planning to do this? Thanks for your assistance!”
Later that day, I received this reply from the Director of Marketing and Advertising:
“Thank you for writing to us about our gluten free menu. While we try to make accommodations for those with food sensitivities and allergies, we do not proclaim to be experts in gluten free menus or to be a gluten free restaurant. We do have a note at the bottom of our gluten free menu, which I have attached, which alerts guests to the risk of cross contamination and that we cannot guarantee that any menu item is completely allergen free.
“We feel that we have taken more steps than most restaurants to be cognizant of food allergies and try to be sensitive to the risks of certain diet restrictions.
“If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.”
(Here’s a link to Bru’s gluten-free menu.)
I have to say, I’m rather disappointed in their reply. I understand they aren’t experts, nor are they a gluten-free restaurant. But they went to the trouble of putting out a gluten-free menu. Therefore, there should have been some research into what constituted safe options, and there also should have been some staff training. From what my server said, and from the email above, it doesn’t seem that much of either went on.
It seems that when it comes to safe gluten-free dining, Bru’s Room is either A) ignorant or B) apathetic. I hope it’s not the latter; I would hate to see a business try to capitalize on a market trend in a way that could harm its customers. (Like this!) Wanting to sell more french fries shouldn’t mean making your customers ill in the process. I understand that mistakes can happen, and I don’t expect to be 100% safe when I dine outside of my own home. But if someone tells me they have something that will be gluten-free, I expect reasonable precautions to have been taken. And sorry, but frying your french fries in the same fryer as your mozzarella wedges just doesn’t cut it.
Okay, if you’ve stuck around this far, here’s my opinion: I feel it’s not safe for gluten-free diners to eat at Bru’s Room. I will definitely not eat there in the future, and I recommend you avoid them, too. If you are looking for a sports bar experience in southern Florida, I can heartily recommend Duffy’s. They have a great gluten-free menu, and have taken the time to properly train their staff. I have eaten there many times and have never gotten sick.
Remember always, no matter where you’re eating and how much you trust them, your health is your responsibility. Take the time to ask questions, find out what’s going on, and make sure the server understands your needs. It’s worth taking an extra few minutes to preserve your health.