Eating Out: Asking for Something Wonderful and Getting It

If you are eating out and you have special dietary restrictions – even if you’re just trying to lose a few pounds – the conventional wisdom is that you should always ask the server to have your food prepared in ways that suit your needs.

I’d heard this a thousand times, but I’d never actually done it. It always seemed scary and a little rude. “Why should I have them do something special for me? I’ll just have salad and water. Poor, pitiful me, etc, etc.”

Have I ever mentioned that martyrdom runs in my family?

Last night I realized that I was going to have to shake off the sackcloth and ashes because not only were MJ and I were going out with friends to celebrate the completion of three work related projects, but I also have four additional work-related dinners out planned over the next two weeks. You heard me: five dinners out in a two week period!

What a potential nightmare for someone who is trying to avoid wheat and dairy, let alone not gain 15 pounds in the process!

So last night, I screwed up my courage and asked the cute young server with a super hip haircut if I could just get them to throw some roasted veggies and a salad for me – essentially taking the sides and making them into a meal. I figured that wouldn’t be too much trouble, right?

She looked at me blankly and I said, “I’m on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Let me go talk to the chef. He knows what’s got gluten in it and what doesn’t for everything on the menu.”

Even though the restaurant was hoppin’ – it was a Saturday night after all – a very tall man dressed entirely in white with a strong accent came out to the table. “What can I do for you?”

I explained the situation, while my table mates looked on with interest.

“I can make you whatever you want. What do you want?”

Great! All except for the part that I hadn’t thought it through to quite that level of detail.

I started the bit with the roasted veggies and salad and he looked absolutely disgusted.

“I can make you something wonderful,” he said. “What would you like?”

I actually put it back in his hands. “That sounds great. Why don’t you just whip me up something wonderful.”

He actually smiled. “Do you like shrimp?”

“Yep.”

“I will make you something wonderful.”

And you know what? He absolutely did: a rich tomato based seafood stew with a spicy gluten-free thickening agent that could be added at the table. There were baby mussels, salmon, scallops, and shrimp. Not only was it delicious, it was also absolutely gorgeous. I was completely satisfied and didn’t feel deprived at all. In fact, I actually felt a little special, because when the server sat it down at my place with a flourish she smiled and said, “And here’s something wonderful for you.”

So, assuming that you’re at a restaurant where real people are cooking real food, don’t limit yourself for fear of asking. Because even though it was busy, I actually got the impression that the chef (who came back by to check on my satisfaction) and the server actually had as much fun making it – and serving it – it as I did eating it!

I can only hope that the other four nice restaurants in the area will be just as accommodating! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my culinary adventures!

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