Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not So Gluten Free at The SPOT in Burlington, Vermont

The Spot is a little surf style restaurant in Burlington, Vermont that serves gluten free bread and is on a long list of gluten free friendly restaurants in the area.

When we arrived, the hostess assured me that they could make gluten free food and pointed out all the things that could easily be made gluten free on the menu. I ordered gluten free/dairy free corn tacos (one beef taco for my 7 year old and a fish taco and chicken taco for me) and a hamburger-no bun. If you have ever been with me when I order I basically say we are gluten free and dairy free about 5 times and double check to make sure it can be made gluten free. I know it can seem like overkill to anyone who is with us--but I have found that it is usually more effective than telling them once.

When the food came it looked delicious--the tacos piled high with lettuce and chicken with glistening red salsa and creamy rice and beans. While eating the rice and beans I noticed that tortillas with the fish and chicken taco  looked lighter colored and flatter from the yellow tortilla of the beef taco.  "Are these tacos gluten free?" I enquired--pointing to the fish and chicken tacos. Our busy waiter stopped for a second to look down at my tacos and  said "Oh, no, they are not. I ordered the corn tacos but they gave you the flour tacos." Hmm. Bummer. I actually hadn't touched the flour tortilla tacos so it wasn't a disaster, but it was a huge disappointment. 

I know they were busy at The Spot and that it is a lot to ask a restaurant to make gluten free/dairy free food but I also know that I had done everything I could to make sure the restaurant could handle our allergies by calling ahead*** and clearly ordering. I guess there was a mix up in the kitchen--which happens, I know. But the way it was handled was not great. I sent the tacos back and said I would just eat the rice and beans because we were running out of time. And the truth was, I had really lost confidence in The Spot's ability to deliver gluten free food. 

Thankfully, I had taken my time before digging in to the tacos. The beef taco was actually quite unappealing  in comparison to the flour tacos. The brownish greasy corn tortilla  fell apart (and looked like it needed some xanthum gum) so I stuck with the delicious rice and beans and the amazing cooked salsa that accompanies the fish tacos. (Although when I requested more salsa, they brought me the fresh salsa while remarking "Oh you wanted the other salsa, right?" Then a few minutes later the waiter returned to tell me that they had run out of the cooked salsa.)  My son loved his burger (no bun with lettuce) and chips as well as his banana/mango/strawberry smoothie. I am grateful they got his meal right because it is a lot trickier when they screw up hungry kids food. I can silently be disappointed and eat what I can. Kids are not so forgiving. 

I guess I need to go back to my allergy cards--which seem to work better than verbally telling the waiter. Sometimes, I have asked to speak to the chef directly--which, again,  seems overkill to everyone with me--I know--but seems one way to prevent this kind of mistake. 

The Spot has gluten free bread but our experience was disappointing and I would caution anyone who has a reaction to gluten to be careful when eating at The Spot to double check anything they are served--or just stick with the rice and beans and cooked salsa. 

***Also, I called ahead to the Spot in Burlington, Vermont to check if they had a gluten free menu because I know that our gluten free/dairy free diet can be a lot for a restaurant to handle. If a restaurant  already has a gluten free menu, it becomes simpler to order and a little easier to know that we will get gluten free/dairy free food. When I called they said they had a gluten free menu--but when I arrived they said they did not. I hesitate to write a negative review of any restaurant who is trying so hard to accommodate gluten free diners by serving gluten free bread and corn tortillas but this was such a disappointment I would like to let them know in writing and hope that they can do better next time.