We went to Universal Orlando. Upon arrival, my children announced that they were hungry…and if we waited much longer, their feeling of being “hungry” would turn to a feeling of being “hangry”. So instead of dining at the usual place we frequent on the City Walk, we went to The Hard Rock Cafe. We had been to many of them across the coast, and even around the country, and had many fun moments there, so we were used to it being a safe place to eat…until this time.
When we sat down, I graciously asked the hostess for a gluten free menu. She answered me, very nicely, stating that they did not have one, but she would send the manager over to help me. Now, let’s get something straight. Being that I have been living a gluten free lifestyle for many years, I really didn’t need “help” reading a menu. I was perfectly capable of reading through the choices and narrowing it down, which is what I did before the manager came over. I had decided on 2 options…a salad with grilled chicken, pecans, cranberries and bleu cheese (I would leave that off), and the other was a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles on a gluten free bun. I had told the manager my choices and here was her response:
“The salad would be ok to have, except we would have to do the chicken plain, because I am not sure if the seasoning they put on it is safe. We would also have to leave off the pecans because they are seasoned, and the cheese you already said you do not want. So it would be lettuce and plain grilled chicken with cranberries, and the dressing is balsamic vinegar. The sandwich we can do, but the chicken, again, would need to be plain, no cheese, and the bacon on a gluten free bun with the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.” I decided on the sandwich since that sounded the most appetizing of the two options.
After waiting about 20 minutes for our food, the dishes arrived. In front of me was a plate with a large gluten free bun with a very small piece of plain grilled chicken. There was about 10 french fries on the plate, but nothing else. No lettuce, no tomato, no onions and no pickles. The bacon was also on the side of the would-be sandwich. I asked the waitress that delivered our food for the “accoutrements” that should have accompanied my sandwich and she said she would bring them. Needless to say she did not. I was forced to take them off of my daughters plate. Oh, and the dijon mayo I asked for came out…except it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was a small cup of mayo, and a small cup of dijon mustard. I laughed out loud.
OK, so it wasn’t the lunch I had planned to have. My disappointment lied in another area. I understand that food is always going to be different than what you thought it would be. However, here is where my upset came into play. For a restaurant chain that is known around the world, with establishments located worldwide, I was shocked that they did not have a separate gluten free menu. The major disappointment was when the manager did not have any straight answers for me regarding the seasoning and what I could and could not eat. She was uneducated about the dishes she was serving and really did not know how to accompany me.
Here’s what I got out of this lunch. I got a learning experience that really opened my eyes to what’s out there for gluten free thrivers. I learned that although I have a wide range of knowledge in this field, I should not “expect” the same from everywhere I go. My advice to you is this. Aside from me telling you to not dine at The Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, do your homework. Make sure that when you are going out to eat, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that you peruse the menu beforehand. It will make the difference in your experience. There are so many restaurants that have gluten free menus, restaurants that are knowledgable about their dishes, their seasoning, and the proper way to serve guests with dietary restrictions. All you have to do is ask.