Top 5 Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurant Chains

Nothin but Love from this Restaurant

For those of us who have been dealt a life sentence of gluten-free eating, the demand for more GF options at everyday restaurants is a godsend. The problem? Not all gluten-free options are created equal. For those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease, eating out is almost always a risk. It’s nearly impossible to get a truly, 100% gluten-free meal at a standard restaurant. Because of that harsh reality, it’s important that we know where a restaurant stands on cross-contamination, staff education, and that items labeled as gluten-free will meet a certain standard.


If you read our review of GF options at top fast food chains, you know that it can be a desert out there for GF folks looking for a quick-fix meal for the family. While most of the popular fast food chains (Wendy’s, you get a pass!) failed to deliver, we turned our attention to some of the top family-friendly restaurant chains around the country. We did some digging and rounded up the GF-lowdown for popular restaurant chains around the country. We’re looking for restaurants that aim to do more than simply accommodate your GF diet. We’re highlighting restaurants that demonstrate a genuine commitment to providing those avoiding gluten with great service. Read on to find out which restaurant chains we’re giving a gold star for being gluten-free friendly.

Disclaimer: None of the restaurants listed below can guarantee that your food will be 100% gluten-free. Cross-contamination is a serious risk in any shared kitchen. Always talk to your server first and alert them of your dietary restrictions.

1. Chipotle.

Chipotle Logo

What You Need To Know: All Chipotle team members are trained on exactly how to respond to a gluten sensitivity. They will change their gloves, get clean utensils, and pull from uncontaminated ingredient containers. They can also point out which options contain gluten and which ones are a safe bet.

We’ve been waiting for the right moment to write our love letter to Chipotle. Over the last few years, Chipotle has invested in training their staff to know all the right moves when a GF person walks in: they wash their hands, change their gloves, and pull ingredients from fresh containers. For a GF family, there’s nothing better than walking into an establishment that knows exactly how to proceed when you say you’re on a strict gluten-free diet. Sit back, relax, and devour that gigantic burrito bowl.

Chipotle Restaurants showing some GF love

At Chipotle, just ask them to change gloves because you’re gluten-free. Easy Peasy.

2. Red Robin.

Red Robin

What You Need To Know: Red Robin has earned their stripes by providing gluten-free guests with a separate, GF-only menu (not a corporate binder thick with allergen info!) and a dedicated gluten-free fryer. Bonus: they also carry GF hamburger buns! We know your kids will appreciate that.

We love Red Robin for joining the GF movement before it was cool. For years now, Red Robin has demonstrated true compassion for GF folks by providing clear, informed allergen information and making an effort to modify their menu to create more options than many chain restaurants do. Their gluten-free menu is fairly extensive and thanks to their dedicated GF fryer, you can enjoy bottomless steak fries and their signature seasoning with confidence. Nothing beats ordering a hamburger and fries (with a bun!) among family and friends without blinking an eye.

Red Robin Restaurants have GF buns

G-Free Buns @ Red Robin

3. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

PF Chang's Logo

What You Need To Know: P.F. Chang’s has long been committed to providing guests with GF options and modifying their menu to create delicious GF alternatives. They also take care to prevent cross-contamination in their kitchens during prep. P.F. Chang’s is one of the very few restaurants where a GF-eater can enjoy Asian cuisine worry-free.

One of the first things that a GF newbie has to kiss goodbye is Chinese food. Thanks to P.F. Chang’s, mainstream Asian cuisine is once again on the menu. P.F. Chang’s offers reasonably safe, reasonably authentic options for the person craving Egg Drop Soup, fried rice, or street noodles. They go the extra mile by ensuring that their prep process in the kitchen reduces the risk of cross-contamination. We’re grateful to P.F. Chang’s for going the extra mile to give GF folks an answer to that Chinese food craving we all get from time to time.

PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps at P.F. Chang’s

4. Red Lobster.

Red Lobster Logo

What You Need To Know: Red Lobster takes allergens seriously. The crown jewel of Red Lobster’s response to allergens is their online Allergy Wizard and Interactive Menu. This feature allows you to plan ahead and enjoy your dining experience anxiety-free.

About three years ago, Red Lobster did a major brand overhaul. They redesigned their stores, reimagined their menus, and even experimented with upscale plating and presentation. Along with that revamp came a new investment in serving customers with allergies. What does that mean for you? It means that jumbo shrimp cocktail, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and king crab legs could be for dinner tonight.

5. Outback Steakhouse & Texas Roadhouse.

Outback Steakhouse Logo

What You Need To Know: A little friendly competition never hurt anyone. Both of these popular steakhouses have dedicated pages on their company websites informing guests about their approach to gluten-free dining. Visit their sites to prep for your visit and expect a well-informed, friendly response to your dietary restrictions while dining.

Outback Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse may be fierce competitors in the market, but they’re in perfect harmony when it comes to GF options. Both assert that they take allergies seriously and offer modifications to menu staples for GF visitors. Expect to have solid GF options across the menu, from appetizers to dessert. It’s worth noting that Outback Steakhouse has a deeper menu when it comes to GF options and they do not limit your seasoning and butter options for your steak entrée. Touché, Outback.

Texas Roadhouse Logo

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions…

We can’t all take home the gold. Here are the runner-ups in the race to gluten freedom. These chains have made an effort to accommodate gluten-free guests, but still have plenty of room to grow.

Panera Bread. Panera Bread outright discourages those with Celiac Disease from dining at their restaurants. While there are GF options, cross-contamination appears to be inevitable.

Olive Garden. Olive Garden has a small but impressive GF menu and they carry GF pasta. With a kitchen full of bread and noodles, proceed cautiously.

Denny’s. Three cheers for Denny’s in-restaurant menu, which clearly labels items that are gluten-free. But beware: there’s very little information available on cross-contamination during food prep and most equipment is shared.

Applebee’s. Applebee’s publishes a comprehensive list of all allergens on their site and a hard copy is available upon request in restaurants. Expect a lot of modifications that may take some of the fun (and flavor) out of your dish.

Culver’s. Culver’s made news by adding a gluten-free bun to their menu that is warmed and served separately to prevent cross-contamination. That’s a first in the world of fast food burgers, and we hope other companies follow suit.

Noodles & Company. We commend Noodles & Company for their commitment to GF options at the corporate level. They offer gluten-free fusilli noodles and rice noodles, and they have an easy to understand allergen menu. On a store-by-store basis, there’s only so much GF you can do in a kitchen full of noodles.

What’s your favorite restaurant chain for a GF-friendly meal? Want to shout out a great experience with a restaurant we featured? Share your stories and expertise with us in the comments below!


  • maria e pagano

    what about Burtons Grill? The best food, dedicated gluten free kitchen and they make anything on their menu gluten free. The only restaurant I go to.

    • Michelle Patriarco

      I wish they had more restaurants around! I went to one a couple years ago. Loved it.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Looks like Burtons is popular out there. We’ll have to look into them!

  • Jenn Criss

    Here in Appalachia, Tupelo Honey has won my heart! Typically, they serve biscuits with local honey and jam and for me they brought out Udi’s GF bread! Also, Jason’s Deli will make any sandwich with GF bread! Use caution with the marinated onions and certain cold cuts as they’re typically testy anyway.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Great stuff, Jenn! Hopefully our friends and neighbors out there will heed your advice. 🙂

  • Gail Blackford Humpston

    I’m big on Burton’s. We went for my birthday and we had calamari and fired pickle appetizers and they had GF desserts!! Both my daughter and I have to be GF and we almost cried. They serve GF food on a different shaped plate (square.)

    • theglutenfreebar

      Helpful stuff, Gail. Thanks a bunch.

  • Margaret Clegg

    I’ve had to many people tell me bad situations at Red Lobster to want to eat there.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Good to know, Margaret. Personal anecdotes are always helpful to factor in. Be well. 🙂

  • Michelle Patriarco

    I’ve always ate safely at Ruby Tuesday’s.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Good to know, Michelle. Thanks!

  • Pierre

    Going gluten free is not only for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease as mentioned in the article, but also for those who are allergic or severely allergic to wheat, rye, etc., which contains gluten (but may not have a problem with gluten.) I have an allergy to wheat which is life threatening. I can have gluten all day long if I wanted but I cannot have a speck of wheat.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Stay strong, Pierre! Hopefully it gets easier and easier over time. More options is always better. 🙂

  • Alice

    I love Chipotle and Jason’s Deli. Both have lots of menu options and do their best to avoid cross contamination. I’ve always received cheerful service by able staff at those restaurants. I have an email from Denny’s corporate that states gluten free menu items are prepared using same equipment as other food and they don’t take steps to avoid cross contamination.

    • theglutenfreebar

      Good info, Alice. Thanks for sharing here.

  • LE Eastman

    Carraba’s is good with gluten free options from appetizers and small plates to dessert. They are nice for family dining or romantic dinners. They have gluten free pasta too.

    • Thanks for letting us know!

    • theglutenfreebar

      Thanks for letting us know!

  • Jane Tuley Lentz

    Thanks for all the info you provide for us who are gluten free.

    • theglutenfreebar

      You’re very welcome Jane. Happy to be a part of the community!

  • Coby T. Bascom

    Both In and Out burger and Five Guys have dedicated grills
    and the fries are gluten free as well, because they do not sell anything breaded.
    At least that is in Utah. Not sure about other states, but I would expect it is
    the same company wide for each restaurant chain. Five Guys does use peanut oil
    to fry their fries, so people allergic to peanuts beware.

    • Nancy Miley

      We have had success with Five Guys also. When we traveled to Colorado the one there was excellent, even told us they were changing their gloves and made sure nothing was contaminated.

  • BJ MacLean

    I was shocked to see Red Robin listed. They were the worst I had experienced. Panera’s has nothing
    GF and Red Lobster is terrible, with staff who couldn’t care less about you needing GF food. Olive Garden needs to get more on their menu. All they have is one GF rotini dish— I avoid going there cause their menu is stale and old.

    • lovely76

      I would totally give red robin a chance again. Maybe a different one? They always get it right and happily. I always ask for my gluten free fries extra crispy as well. They never flinch and are careful about contaminants and assure you of this. Go back. For realz.

      • theglutenfreebar

        Hi – thanks for the comment. Great to hear the Red Robin is continuing to do a good job catering to us GF folks…

  • Laura Coulson

    Mission Barbecue is a huge omission from this list. They are not nationwide (yet) but can be found up and down the east coast, and into the central plains states. When told that an order is gluten free, all employees immediately change gloves, open new containers if necessary, and walk the customer through the menu and the many choices of condiments to make sure they know which are safe (all but one is safe even for celiacs like me!). They have gone so far as to cook things fresh just for me, when they had the teensiest doubt of cross-contamination on the line. They’re truly awesome, and if you’re in the Service, you’re the whole reason why they exist. Look them up!

  • Pete

    After a year of eating gluten free due to celiac I can’t beleive how excited I get at the possibility of a new safe restaurant.
    I too frequent chipotle & Jason’s deli almost more frequently than I’d like due to the lack of other safe options nearby or the anxiety of trying a new place.
    Recently while spending over a week out of town for work related training I tried both Red Robin & Outback, while RR was good Outback was amazing !
    Everyone including the bartender assured me my choices were safe….& I had an incredible dessert to top it off !

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