A few days before Christmas our whole family got together for a meal at an Outback in Austin, Texas. There are several in Austin, and this one is located off Huntland Drive. I had called ahead to talk to the manager and ended up discussing the gluten-free menu, available at http://www.outback.com/ourmenu/pdf/glutenfree.pdf, with the owner, Tim. He was extremely helpful. Although he had not seen the menu, he said he was aware that Outback had one. He printed two out for the night of our family gathering, one for my mother and the other for myself. The two celiacs in the family. My mother and I both ordered the grilled salmon, even though it is not listed on the gluten-free menu. Tim assured us that it would be prepared on a clean grill, with seasonings that were safe. We also asked that the vegetables that went with the salmon were steamed. An additional baked sweet potato was added to our order, to round out the meal. When the food arrived, I was surprised at the very large serving of salmon and steamed veggies. It was delicious, as was the sweet potato. There was a sauce that was served to the side of the salmon, which I did not eat. My mother, however, decided to sample it. She told me the next day that she reacted to something she ate, and we were pretty sure that it was the sauce. It was a remoulade.
On the whole, I would highly recommend this particular Outback restaurant. And if you happen to go – ask for Tim. He’s a great help! (OM January 2003)
It was one of those lovely weekends when we had worked outside until after dark, and no one had been interested in planning a supper menu. The leftovers were down to slim pickings and that old feeling surfaced. The one from the life I used to live when we could just go somewhere on a whim and have a decent meal without planning ahead, making reservations, or getting all dressed up to go out to dinner.
We decided this would be a good time to try out the Outback Steakhouse we had read so much about on the celiac list. I printed out the menu, studied it a little while, and then decided to phone. There are four listed in the San Antonio phone book. I called the one on San Pedro to ask about reservations and waiting time. It was almost 7 pm on a Saturday night, and I was not surprised to hear her say an hour. “But if you make a phone reservation now, it will cut the wait by half,” she informed me. So I gave my name, and we brought the gluten-free menu, http://www.outback.com/ourmenu/pdf/glutenfree.pdf, I had downloaded from their Web site, and off we went.
Once there, the girl told me it would be about 15 minutes. It was busy, and everyone was bustling around. I observed a man who appeared to be in charge, and asked if he was the manager. Indeed, he was, so I asked if he was aware of the gluten-free version of the menu. He assured me he was, and that they have a lot of visitors that ask for it. That was comforting, and it wasn’t long until our personal pager lit up, and we were whisked to a table. John, our server, seemed helpful and aware of the gluten-free menu. After studying the menu and the gluten-free notes out to the side, then checking the actual menu with the prices and other information, I decided to order the grilled shrimp and veggies. I said hold the seasoned rice because the message out to the side said it had gluten in the seasoning. A salad was included, and after a little discussion about the choices, I settled on the house salad, with honey mustard vinaigrette on the side. Great! That was easy. Joe and I each ordered a glass of wine, relaxed, and discussed our day.
Soon a different serving person arrived, with a loaf of bread and my salad, which had a generous helping of big croutons on top. Joe and I both sat up straight, as if she had put a big snake on the table. I was suddenly on alert! She was a little startled by our reaction and my rush to explain why the salad had to begin from scratch, not just have the croutons removed. Sure enough, in due time, John reappeared, carrying the salad himself. It was very crisp and fresh.
When the shrimp and veggies appeared, carried by yet another server, the first thing I noticed was the seasoned rice underneath the grilled shrimp. I went through my scary story again about what would happen to me if he just took it to the kitchen and rearranged it on a new plate. It must be done over. Away it went again. My confidence was not so relaxed anymore.
Pretty soon the man who I had spoken to at the door came over to apologize and let me know they were doing it over. He introduced himself, and we struck up a conversation about which grains are involved and how much (or little) it takes to cause a problem. Meanwhile, Joe tucked into his barbeque ribs and proceeded to put away all his Aussie glutenful fries while I visited with Ben Stubblefield, who is the owner of that particular Outback. We discussed how they might possibly be more alert to the problems I had just encountered. I suggested that the order sheet might be flagged someway, with a big “GF” or something so that as the order is processed down the line, each person would be aware of the special consideration required. We also discussed the idea of someone coming out to talk to them for a few minutes at a staff meeting so that they could all be more aware of how serious this can be.
The Chocolate Thunder from Down Under that I had heard so much about was on my mind, so I asked Ben about it, to be sure that it is gluten free. I ordered it, and I will say, it was very good. Joe and I split it, but I had the bigger share. After those ribs and Aussie fries, he had already had his quota of fat for the evening, and I didn’t feel a bit guilty about it.
I noticed that even the children’s menu for those under 10 also has some gluten-free choices. We both felt that it was a good experience, but it reminded us once again that celiacs can never “relax” and order or eat. We must always be on defense, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a bad attitude. Just keep your good manners about you, and kindly explain why you must be so vigilant. And it doesn’t hurt to tip generously. The more of us who go there and carefully discuss our restrictions with the staff, the more educated each of them will become. (AB March 2003)
I recently dined at the Outback Steakhouse located in the Forum Shopping Center in San Antonio. It was my first visit to an Outback in nearly two years, and even though I knew they had a gluten-free menu, I went prepared with my own copy that I downloaded from their Web site. When it was our turn to be seated, I informed the hostess I had special dietary needs and might need to speak with the manager. Without me even mentioning the word celiac, she replied that Outback had a gluten-free menu and wondered if that would be helpful to me! Throughout my outstanding meal of grilled chicken on the barbie, baked potato, unseasoned steamed veggies, and of course the decadent Chocolate Thunder from Down Under dessert, I scrutinized every food item and peppered the waitress with questions. And each time, I found the food to be prepared exactly as stated on the gluten-free menu and the waitress cheerful about double checking with the chef or manager. My gluten sensitive 9-year old son also enjoyed his joey version of ribs on the barbie and an ice cream sundae. (MP June 2004)