Is Texas Roadhouse safe for celiac?

For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, dining out at restaurants can be challenging. With gluten hiding in everything from sauces to seasonings, it can be difficult to find truly gluten-free menu options. One restaurant that often comes up in discussions around gluten-free dining is Texas Roadhouse. But is Texas Roadhouse actually safe for people with celiac disease? Here’s a comprehensive look at what you need to know.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system attacks the small intestine, damaging the villi which are small finger-like projections that line the intestine. Villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. When they are damaged, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed, leading to symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Depression
  • Weight loss

Over time, the chronic inflammation caused by celiac disease can lead to long-term complications like malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility and certain cancers. The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly following a 100% gluten-free diet for life. Even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger symptoms and promote intestinal damage.

Texas Roadhouse Menu – What’s Gluten-Free?

Texas Roadhouse does offer some gluten-free menu options. However, individuals with celiac disease need to use extreme caution when dining there due to the high risk of cross-contamination.

Here are some of the gluten-free menu items at Texas Roadhouse, according to their website:

  • Steaks and chops
  • Any meat cooked on the grill without seasoning
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Some sides like baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables, salad/side Caesar salad without croutons

However, there are a number of challenges with ordering “gluten-free” at Texas Roadhouse, including:

1. Cross-Contamination

Even if an item is gluten-free on the menu, the risk of cross-contamination is extremely high in a kitchen like Texas Roadhouse that uses a lot of gluten-containing ingredients. For example, steaks seasoned on the same grill as buns, chicken cooked next to breaded items, side dishes prepared near wheat-based foods, etc. Even a tiny amount of gluten cross-contamination can make someone with celiac disease very sick.

2. Limited Choices

The gluten-free options at Texas Roadhouse are very limited. Those with celiac disease would be restricted to a plain steak, chicken breast or baked potato – not giving much variety. Those menu items also depend on avoiding cross-contamination.

3. Mistakes Happen

It’s easy for kitchen staff to make mistakes and contaminate a meal even when a gluten-free order is placed. Things like adding the wrong salad dressing, cooking on the wrong surface or using contaminated utensils/gloves can inadvertently gluten a “gluten-free” dish.

4. Hidden Gluten Ingredients

Many menu items at Texas Roadhouse contain hidden sources of gluten that you may not realize. For example, the rice pilaf, bourbon sauce, BBQ sauce and many other condiments/seasonings contain soy sauce or wheat. So without thorough knowledge of all ingredients used, it’s impossible to know if something is truly gluten-free.

5. Low Staff Awareness

Studies show that restaurant staff knowledge regarding safe gluten-free preparation is generally very poor. Most staff at chain restaurants like Texas Roadhouse are not properly trained on gluten or how to prevent cross-contamination. So even if you request gluten-free, the awareness to safely prepare your meal may not be there.

What Do Celiac Disease Experts Say About Texas Roadhouse?

Leading celiac disease and gluten intolerance experts advise those with celiac disease to steer clear of Texas Roadhouse and other similar steakhouse chains due to the very high likelihood of gluten exposure.

A few expert opinions include:

  • The Celiac Disease Foundation states that steakhouses like Texas Roadhouse are considered “very high risk” for those with celiac disease due to the chance of cross-contamination.
  • Shelley Case, RD, author of Gluten-Free: The Definitive Resource Guide, writes: “Steakhouse chains like Texas Roadhouse grill gluten-free meats, but cross contamination makes them unsafe for celiacs.”
  • Dr. Stefano Guandalini, Founder of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program, names Texas Roadhouse in a list of restaurants too risky for people with celiac disease.
  • Mayo Clinic experts advise: “People with celiac disease should avoid steak houses, which may serve complex sauces containing gluten.”

The consensus among experts is clear – celiacs should not eat at Texas Roadhouse restaurants due to the likelihood of getting sick from gluten cross-contact. The limited gluten-free options and difficulty avoiding contamination make it an extremely high-risk choice.

Texas Roadhouse Gluten-Free Policy

On their website, Texas Roadhouse states they cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free or allergen-free dining experience:

“While we offer gluten-free options, we cannot ensure that cross contamination will never occur…our kitchens are not gluten free environments.”

They note they do not have designated gluten-free prep areas or surfaces in their kitchens. They rely primarily on normal kitchen sanitation practices to prevent cross-contamination of gluten-free orders.

Texas Roadhouse does say they will try to accommodate requests for guests who must avoid gluten. However, they place all responsibility on the guest to consider their own dietary needs before ordering.

Key things to note about their gluten-free policy:

  • They do NOT recommend their restaurant for those with celiac disease due to the high risk of cross-contamination.
  • Staff receive no specialized training on gluten or allergen preparation.
  • No special precautions are taken to prevent cross-contamination of gluten-free orders.
  • Normal kitchen tools, surfaces and fryers are used for all menu items including gluten-free.
  • They assume no liability for adverse reactions to dietary restrictions not being properly accommodated.

Based on their own policy, Texas Roadhouse essentially admits they are not able to safely accommodate those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Should You Eat at Texas Roadhouse with Celiac Disease?

The short answer is no. Those with celiac disease are at extremely high risk of gluten exposure and contamination when dining at Texas Roadhouse restaurants. Their menu has minimal gluten-free choices, and normal kitchen practices make cross-contact almost inevitable.

Some key takeaways on the celiac-safety of Texas Roadhouse include:

Extremely High Risk of Cross-Contamination

With shared cookware and prep areas, the chance of gluten cross-contact at Texas Roadhouse is very high. Even tiny amounts of contamination can make those with celiac disease sick.

Limited Menu Choices

The few gluten-free menu options get boring fast, and it’s unlikely you can safely eat them due to contamination risk anyway.

Not Recommended by Experts

Celiac disease experts overwhelmingly advise avoiding Texas Roadhouse and other similar steakhouse chains due to gluten concerns.

Disclaimer Assumes No Responsibility

Texas Roadhouse’s own gluten-free policy says they don’t recommend their restaurants for celiacs and take no responsibility for gluten reactions.

Safer Gluten-Free Restaurant Options

While Texas Roadhouse is not considered celiac-safe, there are many restaurant options that are! Here are some tips for finding safer gluten-free dining choices:

  • Dedicated Gluten-Free Restaurants – Seek out 100% gluten-free restaurants, which eliminate the risk of cross-contamination. These niche eateries have popped up in cities across the US.
  • Gluten-Free Chains – Restaurant chains that specialize in gluten-free menus like California Pizza Kitchen, Pizza Fusion and BurgerFi offer much safer options.
  • Informed Staff – Look for restaurants where managers and staff are knowledgeable about gluten and food allergies. Proper training reduces mistakes.
  • Avoid Cross-Contamination – Choose restaurants that store, prep and cook gluten-free foods completely separately from gluten sources.
  • Clean Kitchens – Look for gluten-free dedicated prep areas in restaurant kitchens. Also important – avoiding fried food as fryers often contaminate.

With some research and caution, you can find delicious gluten-free meals out at restaurants. Just steer clear of high-risk spots like Texas Roadhouse.

The Bottom Line

Texas Roadhouse restaurants present a very high risk situation for anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Their menu options are extremely limited, gluten is used widely in their kitchens, staff lack training and their disclaimers admit they cannot safely accommodate celiacs.

Major celiac disease experts strongly advise against dining at Texas Roadhouse. The chance of cross-contamination is far too likely, which can cause severe symptoms and significant intestinal damage.

For those with celiac disease, it’s simply not worth the risk to eat at Texas Roadhouse. There are many other restaurant choices that are safer where you can enjoy a delicious gluten-free meal without worry!

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