Eating out gluten free

Gluten free fish and chips

Out to Lunch -- Best Restaurants

I eat out often, usually locally, and usually lunch. But all my life I have suffered a dibilitating, if short-term sickness when travelling or eating out. I never knew why. Then a few years ago my doctor recognized the symptoms of Celiac Disease. In short, I need to avoid even the smallest traces of wheat, rye, and barley because they contain gluten. Over the long term, gluten destroys the small intestine's ablity to absorb nutrients. Not good. And in the short term, gluten induces severe headache, bloating, diarhhea, vomiting, and even itchy skin. So not good!

Wheat is the biggie. It's in so many foods. Breads, pastries, and pastas are the obvious culprits, but I have avoided them for years now because of the way I felt after consuming them. What I did not realize is that wheat is  used in thickeners for soups, coatings on French fries and hash browns, it's even in salad dressings and soya sauce!

After getting horribly sick from an overnight trip to Vancouver last July, I've learned to be more careful. 

Later in July we were booked to stay in Sidney BC for three nights. I began to dread being away from home and eating so many meals out. But by being super careful, and always asking for gluten free or sticking to simple foods like baked potatos, fresh vegetables, grilled meats and fish without sauces, and salads dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, I came home still feeling great. Woo hoo!

I haven't been sick since that day in early July and it's coming up on four months, which is a bit of a record, so I'm touching wood and keeping my fingers crossed to stay feeling well! 

I've decided to chronicle our restaurant meals, to share the places and foods we enjoy, gluten free or not. But more than that, I hope this helps  others stay gluten free feeling good! 

More and more reasturants nowadays cater to gluten free diets, the most important thing is to ask you server. Don't be shy, it's important!

Gluten free fish and chips!

The fish and chips in the above photo are gluten free and delicious! I enjoyed them at Fish on Fifth in Sidney, BC, our first lunch out on a three day mini-holiday on southern Vancouver Island. Fish on Fifth is a busy little restaurant that at first glance ressembles a fast-food or take-out, but definitely is not! Step inside to one of few restaurants that offer a full and separate Gluten Free menu. That's guaranteed gluten free, not just gluten friendly, or gluten sensitive—something to watch out for if you suffer from Celiac disease. If you are gluten sensitive only, you should be able to handle a small amount of gluten, consumed inadvertently as a result of cross-contamination. That means foods cooked on the same grill or in the same oil as was used for foods containing gluten. Even some rice cakes and oats for porridge can contain gluten due to cross contamination at the factory!

Look for gluten free oats, if you're cooking at home, or carry individual sized portions with you to microwave in a breakfast room at your hotel.

More Southern Vancouver Island Restaurants

Still in Sidney, on Saturday we treated our granddaughter and her boyfriend to lunch at Sea Glass Waterfront Grill, overlooking Van Isle Marina.  The young folk are in the twenties and we, of course, are not but we all enjoyed our meals. For once we chose well. Woo hoo! 

I had the Sea Glass Niçoise Salad, one of several gluten free items on the menu and I really enjoyed it. The Niçoise is a delicious mix of Albacore tuna, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, green  beans, sweet peppers, carrots, red onion and hard boiled Vancouver Island fresh eggs, dressed in a red wine vinaigrette. Yum!

Memory Lane, Victoria

On the Sunday we took a tour of Victoria, visiting places we used to live and some of our favourite spots in the city. Like the gardens of Government House where we had our wedding photos taken so long ago. Fifty years later we asked a tourist to snap a photo of us as we look today. Good news! The gardens are as gorgeous as ever! 

We then drove around Beacon Hill park, where I used to play, and along beautiful Dallas Road, with a stop at Clover Point for a short walk by Juan de Fuca Strait. We then followed the length of Marine Drive to sandy Willows Beach, popular with young and old, canine and human!

J J Morgan Restaurant

Still in Victoria, BC, that day we went to J J Morgan Family Restaurant on McKenzie in the University Heights Shopping Centre. While I have been disappointed in their dinner menus in recent years,  their Sunday brunch buffet is one of the best I've had in a long time. There is lots of variety, from eggs, sausages, and ham to seafood, fruits and salads. And the bonus was a very knowledgeable server who pointed out which items were gluten free and safe to eat.

This is often a huge drawback to any restaurant buffet, without labels or an informed server it is difficult to know which items to eat and which to avoid.

Lunches closer to home

This section chronicles my  recent lunches and occasional breakfasts in the Campbell River/Comox Valley areas, plus a few from further afield. I will share my favourite and not so favourite restaurants, whether you can eat everything on the menu like my husband, or need to be careful what you put in your mouth, like me. I hope it helps you choose the restaurant that's right for you! Eat happy! Be healthy! 

Boston Pizza, Campbell River We hadn't been to a Boston Pizza in any town for months so thought we'd give Campbell River a try. Turns out BP has a new menu, which we've learned usually means the same choices at higher prices.

I'm not sure about the pricing but the pineapple, beet and goat cheese salad was new and sounded good. It seems to me I've had a warm beet and goat cheese salad at BP in the past and it was yummy. This new one wasn't yummy. I won't order it again, but may return to try something from their extensive gluten sensitive menu. Like a clubhouse sandwich, which seems utterly sinful or chicken wings and fries!

Gary had a hamburger and fries that he said was "all right." Not the highest praise ever!

Discovery Inn Restaurant, Campbell River 

A couple of weeks back I met my friend, Kristin, for lunch at the Discovery Inn. I've had their seafood salad and usually enjoyed it. At least once it was disappointing, but this time it was really, really good! If you like seafood you'll love this salad!

Union Street Grill & Grotto, Courtenay

The Union Street Grill is on Fifth Street, go figure. I like it because it has good food, and a whole gluten free menu, separate from their regular menu. 

Turtle Beach, Port Alberni

We drove to Port Alberni the last day of September, a beautiful sunny day, and went to  the Turtle Beach Restaurant for oneour favourite lunches. It's located  in the old Blue Marlin Inn. The cook makes their seafood chowder from scratch as you wait. 

  The first time I had it I thought  it was too good to be true, filled with scallops, prawns, and chunks of salmon. Yum. 

  The bad news was that I felt so full the rest of the day and night that I thought I was going to be sick. That was before I discovered I can't eat gluten.

This time I asked if they could make it gluten free and to my delight they did! The bad news this time was that I really didn't enjoy it. There seemed to be a lot more chowder and a lot less seafood than I remember. And I found the chowder to be more like a paste than a thick soup. Maybe it's the gluten free version, I don't know, because Gary enjoyed his as much as ever. Next time, if there is a next time, I'll order a salad.

Best Breakfasts

We recently enjoyed one of the best breakfasts ever in the restaurant of the Best Western, Westerley in Courtenay, we've been there before and have yet to be disappointed. Their Great Bear Rainforest coffee is always excellent, so rich and fresh tasting two cups go down way too fast!

  As usual, I enjoyed the garden omelet including their gluten free  house potatos so much I almost ate the whole thing! I think they get better every time!

 Gary never liked eggs benedict, mainly because he never tried them, but one bite of the Westerley's west coast bennie, made with smoked salmon, and he's fallen in love with bennies!

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The Lighthouse Bistro

This used to be one of our favorite restaurants in Nanaimo when our mother was in care and my sisters and It ook her out to lunch.

This time I went with my husband and had a gluten free quesadilla! Wow! I hadn't eaten a quesadilla in years whih made in all the more yummy!

The Creekhouse Café

Just down Highway 4 from Coombs on Vancouver Island is the Creekhouse Café. I've driven past it for years but never noticed it before. What a nice surprise! I met my two sisters here for lunch before driving to Little Qualicum Falls to scatter our mother's ashes. A sad but happy day, as Mum had been so sick for so long.

We were surprised that this little out-of-the-mainstream restaurant was so busy. But no wonder! The food was excellent. And I had a sandwich on gluten free bread. A sandwich and a quesadilla in thje same month. I feel absolutely decadent!