Restaurant Reviews - Café YummGluten-free menu - Was there a gluten-free menu available?
No. There was not a gluten-free menu available and there was no gluten or allergen labeling on the menu. However, when speaking to the owner/manager, she ensured me that her entire staff is well aware of cross contamination and they all know what sauces and menu items have gluten. As this could potentially become one of the safest eateries for the gluten or dairy-free population (do to the limited number of gluten/dairy containing items in the kitchen), I am planning to contact and work with corporate headquarters to develop an improved/simplified menu and discuss the possibilities of becoming a 100% gluten-free restaurant.
Service - After my meeting with the local chain owner who assured me of how well her staff was well trained on the importance of food allergies and sensitivities, I decided to bring my wife, Cassie, (a Celiac) in for lunch. There were two employees helping us on this particular occasion, and many of our questions or concerns regarding gluten were not answered the way I had hoped they would be. Any server or food handler who responds to questions with It shouldnt contain gluten or I dont think there is gluten in that has not been properly trained. It was quite an ordeal for my wife to order gluten-free on this particular day. When asked about certain items (aside from the Yumm Bowls which are all naturally gluten-free) there was definitely some uncertainty. She ended up ordering a simple chicken salad and skipped the salad dressing altogether as the servers were unsure exactly which salad dressings were gluten-free and my wife didnt want to hold up the line any longer.
Knowledge - After speaking with the chain owner, I was very impressed with the steps taken to avoid cross-contamination at Café Yumm, and about how well staff members are trained upon being hired. Although, I was unable to venture back into the kitchen area, the owner explained in detail the kitchen set-up which includes a separate gluten-free soup heating area as well as a designated sandwich area where the gluten-containing lunch meats and bread are handled. However, after ordering there a few days later with my wife and seeing the amount of time it took to place our order due to the uncertainty of what contained gluten, I do believe there is definitely a little room for improvement (especially when trying to order something other than the Yumm Bowls). It seems that if this facility were to implement a simple gluten-free menu which clearly lists all gluten-free salad dressings, meats, soups, and other products; the process of ordering gluten-free could be simplified greatly.
Safety of Food - As MOST people do not feel the immediate effects of the inflammatory cascade after ingesting gluten for those with Celiac Disease or a sensitivity, Cassie did feel fine after eating there. Sadly, most people assume that because they feel fine after eating at a restaurant that it must be safe to eat there. Unfortunately, this is just not the case and is the biggest reason I am out in the community doing these reviews. Although I wasnt allowed back in the kitchen with my initial visit, I did feel quite confident with the specific items that the restaurant markets as 100% gluten-free. Again, a simple labeling system or gluten-free menu would be extremely helpful in further simplifying the ordering process. One positive thing that Ive noticed with small chains such as this is that many have systems in place that all restaurants in that chain strictly adhere to (such as how they prepare ingredients and menu items). This means that if your local Café Yumm is safe to dine at, you can often expect the same experience when visiting other Café Yumm locations. Ive also noticed that smaller chains such as this are more willing and able to make changes based on consumer suggestions than larger chains (such as Taco Bell or Mcdonalds), thus Im hoping that by being the squeaky wheel and contacting corporate about a possible gluten-free menu, I may be able to help this company make some progress in the direction of gluten-free dining.
Taste and Cost/Serving Size- The taste of my large Chilean Zucchini Yumm Bowl was great, but the portion size for the large bowl seemed a little less than adequate. In this case, if I had the option to Supersize my healthy bowl of rice, beans, and vegetables I would have. Apparently though, thats only an option offered by larger chains offering things like artery clogging french fries and sodas loaded with high fructose corn syrup. But I digress. My wife enjoyed her salad as well, however she did mention that it could have used a bit more chicken and vegetables and of course a salad dressing would have also been nice addition.
Overall Experience - Good. I would have liked to have been invited back into the kitchen area, but I do understand there use of caution with not letting all their secrets out to just anyone. It was great meeting with the owner and I was impressed with her knowledge and understanding of providing gluten and allergen-free meal options. I give Café Yum 4 Stars at this point, and would recommend the Bend location for those with a gluten sensitivity. My suggestion would be to just stick to the Yumm Bowls to be safe. I am planning on contacting the Corporate headquarters of Café Yumm and giving them my list of suggestions for making their chain a 5 Star Gluten-Free Restaurant chain (or at least make ordering a little easier for those with allergens and sensitivities).