Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gluten Free Offerings at the Cheesecake Factory

Interested in eating at a new restaurant and encouraged by the feedback several other gluten-free people had given, I called the Cheesecake Factory in Colonie Center to find out their gluten free options. A teenage employee answered the phone but promptly put me through to a manager who could answer my questions.

I was very impressed with their level of customer service - the manager I spoke with went through the menu and discussed what was naturally gluten free and what could be made gluten free. We came up with the following options that as of my phone call on 8/29/2008 the following menu options are/can be made gluten free:

Salads

All salads can be made gluten free, with the following salad dressings:
  • Bleu Cheese
  • Thousand Island
  • Honey Mustard
  • Caesar

Appetizers
  • Salsa and Chips
  • Thai Lettuce Wraps
  • Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

Entrees
  • Fresh Fish entrees (e.g. Mahi Mahi, Salmon)
  • Steaks (with no au jus)
  • Grilled Chicken Medallions (avoid the balsamic vinagrette)
  • Cajun Jumbalaya (Manager said there was a trace amount of gluten from worcestire sauce, but I've also heard that worcestire sauce is gluten free)
And of course for dessert they have flourless Godiva cheesecake!

When we told our waiter about Vince's diet, they were very accommodating. They brought a manager over to our table who talked to us about the menu. He was very good about double-checking ingredients - even telling us there was red wine vinegar in the Caesar dressing, and expressing concern over ingredients such as dijon mustard and offering to bring the container out so we could check the mustard ingredients.

Vince ordered Steak Diane, served with mashed potatoes and grilled onions, with a caesar salad (no croutons, of course!) I'm not usually a steak person but I tried his steak and it was extremely good. I had the grilled salmon, plain with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. I would have ended the night with the flourless Godiva cheesecake, but since Vince can't eat chocolate there wasn't any point! (Now, if they come out with a flourless vanilla bean cheesecake, then we could talk!)

Overall we were very happy with our experience, and would be happy to recommend the Cheesecake Factory as an allergen-friendly restaurant!

12 comments:

Lisa said...

Hi Kat,

I'm wondering if you asked the Manager if the Godiva Cheesecake was truly gluten-free. On the Godiva website I read the following statement...

"ALL of our products including solid chocolate pieces may contain gluten. Any person with a gluten allergy should NOT consume ANY of our products."

I think I'd be a little nervous to try it after reading that....

Kat said...

Ooo, that's a good question!

I just called up the Cheesecake Factory to clarify and talked to another manager, Doug. He said that the only thing that might be of concern is the pan spray they used. He said that it used to contain wheat but he believes that it can now be considered gluten free, as well as their pistachio cheesecake.

It sounds like their statement is pretty much CYO. In this case it's a moot point for us (Vince can't eat chocolate) but I can see where it would be a concern. So the next thing I did was talk to a representative from Godiva. Here's the transcript of our conversation:


Jonathan B: Hello. How may I assist you today?
Kathleen: Hi! I was wondering if you could tell me some allergen information in your chocolates.
Jonathan B: Certainly.
Kathleen: Do you know if there are any ingredients containing wheat, rye, barley, or oats in your chocolates?
Jonathan B: Although it is not listed as an ingredient, we advise anyone with a gluten allergy to NOT consume our products.
Kathleen: For cross-contamination reasons?
Jonathan B: Correct.
Jonathan B: We advise dairy, gluten and nut allergics not to consume anything we produce.
Kathleen: I spoke with someone at the Cheesecake Factory who said their flourless Godiva cheesecake could be considered safe. Can I assume that applies to that product as well?
Jonathan B: Correct, as they use Godiva chocolate in it. Again, no ingredients are actually in there, however we would never want to risk our customer's health.
Kathleen: OK. Thank you so much for the clarification as well as taking the time to answer my questions!
Jonathan B: Of course!


There you have it - it sounds like it might be safer to sample the pistachio cheesecake first...

Lisa said...

Kat,

Wow! Thanks so much for all your leg-work! I find it pretty scary eating in restaurants. Even with dedicated GF menus, you're never really sure what you're getting! It's been a big change for me since my husband, daughter and I used to eat out on a regular basis.

I do love KD's Fish Fry and Sherry Lynn's. I think they really understand the GF diet and the cross contamination issues. I also was very happy with Outback Steakhouse. I loved the GF bread and hamburger buns! Even then, I had recently read about how they put wheat bread in their brown sugar to keep it soft....

I will definitely check out the pistachio cheesecake though! Sounds wonderful.

Thanks again for your great blog. Best of luck with school!!!

Kat said...

Thanks so much! :)

Andy said...

Just so you know my wife has been gluten free as she was diagnosed as a celiac 4 years ago. We were in Rancho Mirage on vacation last week and went to the Cheesecake Factory there.

She has the grilled chicken medallions and then the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake and was fine with both. The server confirmed it was OK and it was so we'd certainly recommend it!

dmarie said...

Hi Kat, Dawn from KD's, just wanted to give you a heads up, it is my understanding the only safe worcestershire sauce is Lea & Perrins. Take care.

Kevin said...

Great information - I will be adding this information to the YourBelly.com site for Gluten Free Menus!

Keep up the great work!

Kit said...

just found out last night night the godiva cheesecake is no longer flourless :( also, the bleu cheese dressing is automatically NOT gluten-free because the cultures used to make it blue are grown on wheat. our only dessert option there is ice cream now :(

Elizabeth said...

Why is the Godiva Cheesecake no longer flourless? The website doesn't call it "Flourless Cheesecake" as an official title anymore (probably because it deterred non-Celiacs from trying it) but the description is still the same. It is still flourless, but like the earlier posts have stated it should be eaten with caution.

Elizabeth said...

Also, I forgot to include this in my earlier post. Most blue cheeses dressings these days are made from synthetic starters rather than the traditional molded bread (i.e. gluten contaminate).

If you have problems with blue cheese, then yes!, stay away. However, not all blue cheeses are created equal.

I love blue cheese and am just careful to not eat organic blue cheese since they would never use synthetic processes.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth,
Today I was at the Cheesecake Factory (Tigard, OR location) to pick up some dessert with family. I asked for clarification about the Godiva cheesecake being truly flourless. The staff member was very clear to say that the bottom layer of "flourless cake" was flourless, but that the whole dessert was NOT flourless or gluten-free.

When I acted confused, he again clarified that the other two layers - cheesecake and mousse were not flourless! He went so far to take it out of the case and explain. He challenged that he had a complete ingredient list I could see if "I didn't believe him."

He also explained that he heard there had been misinformation spread about this specific dessert. I would be very cautious if not avoiding all cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory after that conversation.

Ann (Portland, OR)

Miles From Ordinary said...

Told to me by waiter with gf girfriend at the bellevue Wa location: "All of our cheesecake pans are dusted with flour before the cakes go in. So even if it it "flourless" ingredients, it is coated in flour." And he also said only thing he would trust for his girl to eat was omelet. All the salad and stake are cross contaminated.