Last weekend Mike and I went to Grand Junction, Colorado. It's turning in to one of our favorite spots, since there are lots of wineries in nearby Palisades, and there are dog-friendly parks and trails galore.
The first time we visited, I packed all our meals in advance. This time, we planned to go to a nice restaurant, 626 on Rood, for my belated birthday dinner. We called in advance to make sure the restaurant could handle gluten-free, and they assured us they could make almost any dish gluten-free. We confirmed this with the waitress as we sat down, and she told us the same thing.
To start, we ordered the smoked duck salad, which normally comes with couscous (ie not gluten-free). I asked the waitress if they could make it without the couscous, and again emphasized that I needed to be gluten-free. We also ordered our dinner entrees, with the appropriate gluten-free substitutions. We never got to see them because....
Our salad came out sprinkled with farro. It looked delicious. It smelled amazing. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was covered in wheat! It took us several minutes to flag down the waitress to ask her exactly what that was all over the salad, but as soon as she confirmed my suspicions, I informed her that it was "straight up wheat." She apologized, told us that she had told the chef "no grains," and whisked it away.
Mike and I sat there for a minute, dumbfounded, glad that I did not dive into the salad the way I wanted to. I realized that if my order came out sprinkled with little balls of gluten when I had already emphasized the need to be gluten-free, that I simply did not feel safe dining in this restaurant.
We told the hostess at the bar the situation, and that we were leaving, and barely turned around to go when the manager came out to try to convince us to stay. She said she understood how serious this was, and offered to "make it right." In the moment, I couldn't see a way to make it right. Gluten-free dining is all about trust. We decided to trust this restaurant with my health, and they lost it in one fell swoop. Short of me supervising the proceedings in the kitchen (which would have defeated the purpose of dining out), nothing could make me trust this restaurant again.
I don't think the manager got it. She kept going on and on about how her best friend is celiac, and how they keep all the right gluten-free ingredients on hand so gluten-free diners can still eat all the foods they love, and how she hoped I'd give them a second chance. I've given second chances before - to restaurants, to bad boyfriends, to toxic friends. When it's as big of a mistake as this one was, the mistake usually repeats itself.
When we walked out of the restaurant, I was shaking. Happy that I'd stood up for myself, but exhausted by the experience and still starving. We went to another restaurant that had good gluten-free reviews on findmeglutenfree, but the wait was an hour. We tried another - it was closing. We ended up at the grocery store, trying to rustle up dinner. Standing in front of the freezer aisle, looking at food that I don't like eating on a good day, and thinking of that beautiful salad I couldn't eat, I burst into tears. I know. I was that freak crying in the freezer aisle. All over a salad.
We'll definitely be going back to Grand Junction. But I don't think I'll be returning to 626 on Rood.
If you're gluten-free and considering this restaurant, I'd strongly recommend against it. There are lots of other places that get stellar gluten-free reviews in Grand Junction. Your health is simply not worth the risk.