La Rosa's Restaurant, Northwest Crossing, Bend OR
Gluten-free menu- Was a gluten-free menu available? No
Service - While our server was friendly enough, her overall service was actually quite poor. Upon receiving our menu and tempting tortilla chips and salsa, my wife asked which menu items were gluten free (as a Mexican restaurant, all menu items appeared as though they could be gluten-free). In response to the question, the server pointed to the bottom of the menu which stated something about all menu items being free of MSG and trans fats. My wife then again asked if there were any menu items that could be made gluten-free and the server responded that all items are gluten free. With this, I asked if the kitchen served flour tortillas and was informed that yes, the kitchen does serve flour tortillas. Feeling as though we were getting nowhere with our bilingual server (who may not have understood what we were asking), we then requested a manager or cook in order to get some straight answers on possible sources of cross-contamination. When the manager appeared at our table we were informed that the tasty tortilla chips in front of us had actually been cooked in the same oil as the flour tortillas (my wife, a celiac, luckily knows better than to try food without first knowing how it is prepared). We were also informed that all menu items were in fact gluten free, except for anything with Mole sauce or flour tortillas…. and of course those tempting tortilla chips. Turns out our initial server was wrong in informing us that “everything” was gluten free.
Knowledge - As I said, our first server was bilingual with English her second language. I’m not sure how much she knew about gluten, however my instincts say she probably didn’t know a lot since she referred us to the place on the menu that talks about MSG and trans fat when we asked about gluten. The manager seemed to know a little more about gluten and cross contamination although it appears that no training is done at the restaurant to ensure all staff is educated equally.
Safety of food - Upon speaking with the manager, I was informed that the kitchen does everything in its power to reduce the risk and that all of their seasonings are gluten-free. However, with flour tortillas and mole sauce being prepared in the same kitchen as the gluten-free items, there is always the chance of cross contamination. Many don’t realize that most restaurants will use the same oil over and over throughout the day; meaning that often when you think you are being “safe” by ordering corn tortillas, there is the possibility that they were fried in the same oil as the flour tortillas. Obviously the corn chips that are brought to the table are not safe for gluten sensitive or celiac diners, however they can (and did for us) offer to prepare a new batch of chips for us in new oil and a clean pan. While this is helpful for those wanting gluten-free tortilla chips, the servers are actually trained to ask if a person is celiac or just gluten sensitive when they request gluten-free tortilla chips. Since when did food servers gain the ability to determine just how serious somebody’s allergen or gluten sensitivity is? My best advice for those with any gluten-related health issue is to ALWAYS inform your server that your reaction is severe and that every precaution should be taken to ensure that your food is safe. Don’t leave it up to the restaurant staff to determine just how much gluten is safe for you.
I ordered the chicken fajitas. Honestly I’m not confident that my meal was 100% gluten free as I’m not sure if my corn tortillas were prepared in the same oil as the flour tortillas. My wife ordered a plain fish salad with salsa on the side. As always, she requested that her fish be prepared on foil to prevent cross contamination and asked for no seasonings on her fish.
Taste and cost/serving size - I felt that my meal was satisfying and I was happy with the taste and amount of food. My wife on the other hand left the restaurant still hungry and mentioned that her salad was pretty scant for the amount of money that we spent. If you’re looking for a filling meal at this restaurant, I don’t recommend ordering a salad. Overall experience - With my first visit to La Rosa’s I was extremely disappointed with our experience. However, even after the initial experience, I decided to give this restaurant the benefit of the doubt and ended up going back a week later with a friend. Unfortunately, my second visit ended up being even more frustrating than the first. Upon ordering gluten-free tortilla chips the server looked hesitant to comply and asked if this was for celiac disease or just a gluten sensitivity (again, when did it become the servers job to determine the severity of an allergen or sensitivity?). In addition, my dairy free meal was served to me with cheese on and in it even after I mentioned my dairy allergy. Knowing that I ordered gluten and dairy free, and seeing that my meal came with cheese oozing out of it, I can’t help but question just how “gluten-free” my meal actually was. I will not be going back to this restaurant anytime in the near future (unless I hear of some serious changes in the way that the food is prepared) and unfortunately I can’t recommend this restaurant to anybody with a gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, or food allergy. As a result of my back-to-back unsatisfactory experiences, I give this restaurant 1 out of 5 stars.