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Restaurant Review - Deschutes Brewery

Gluten-free menu - Was there a “gluten-free” menu available? NO. There was a “gluten-friendly” menu for those of you who just feel warm and fuzzy when reading those words. However, if you in fact do have Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, I feel this is very misleading and dangerous. Three of the items on this menu were actually deep-fried, and NOT in a separate fryer.

Service - We were there during a lunch hour (around 12:45 when ordering) and the waiter did seem a bit rushed. When I asked for the gluten-free menu and asked what “gluten-friendly” meant, his response was that they can’t promise everything is prepared gluten-free. Upon further questioning, he did seem to get a little perturbed. Apparently only people with Celiac Disease need to worry about gluten anyway? Right after I gave him my “educational moment” on the fact that 1 in 100 actually have Celiac Disease and 4-6 times more people have a sensitivity to gluten, I mentioned that I was a physician and did gluten-free restaurant reviews… In telling him this I assumed that at least my meal would be gluten-free.

Knowledge - The server definitely had some knowledge of what “gluten-friendly” meant, but really had no idea of the extent and severity of a gluten sensitivity. He basically told me that lots of people with Celiac Disease eat there all the time and many of them come back, so it must be safe. Wow, and how about all those people with heart disease who don’t “feel” their high cholesterol and sclerosing arteries. Do they not have heart disease until those last thirty minutes of life when they suddenly notice crushing pressure in their chest? Statistics show that for every 1 person with Celiac Disease showing symptoms after eating gluten, there are 7-8 with Celiac Disease who show no symptoms. Based on the response of the wait staff, I do believe the gluten topic is covered in training. Sadly, I don’t believe the right information is given.

Safety of Food - You would think that by me telling the server that I was a doctor from the community, who actually specializes in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, and that I would be doing a Gluten-free review after my visit to this restaurant, I would actually be safe ordering from the “gluten-friendly” menu (as long as I avoided the obviously not gluten-free fried items). Oh contraire! Guess who got a nice big biscuit sitting on top of their gluten-free Ahi salad! The one item on the menu that I truly felt would be the most likely to be gluten-free…came with a NOT so gluten-free biscuit. Seriously?! When I mentioned it to the server she asked if I had Celiac Disease before taking it back to the kitchen. Do people often order from the “gluten-friendly” menu just for kicks & giggles?

Taste and Cost/Serving Size - Do I really need to keep going at this point? Portion size and taste were great, and in fact one of the better tasting salads I’ve had in a long time. The cost was about what I expected for an Ahi salad.

Overall Experience - Very misleading and disappointing. Many local individuals with underlying Celiac Disease actually recommend this establishment to others with the same condition, and it even gets good reviews in the local Gluten Intolerance Group meetings. I would not recommend Deschutes Brewery to anyone with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity. This “gluten-friendly” menu needs to be gone, and further education needs to be implemented. Before I left, I asked to talk with the chef, but was told he was gone. I was introduced to the manager who was very pleasant to speak with and allowed me to stand on my soap box explaining the significance of gluten sensitivity, the increasing numbers of this condition, and my part in creating awareness on the subject. She assured me that they did take the whole gluten thing seriously, and that two of the head honchos have a personal connection to loved ones with Celiac Disease. Again, this is just another example of the LACK of awareness. I was unable to get a look at the ingredients for the gluten-free bread because the bread is made off site. She did assure me the bread was 100% gluten-free…I’d still rather see something to confirm the fact. Although they offer a gluten-free beer, I would actually feel more comfortable seeing the brewing process after this experience.

After talking with the manager, I do feel their intensions are good. However, until they make some significant changes I will never eat there again, nor will I ever recommend it to anyone with a sensitivity. Sadly, this used to be one of my favorite establishments in town; A place where I would always bring my out-of-town friends who were here visiting. With the beautiful and spacious new addition to the brewery, would it really have been that difficult to create a gluten-free section of the kitchen and even a separate gluten-free fryer? I will have to limit Deschutes Brewery to 1 star, based on the misleading information and overall experience.