Rebecca's Gluten Free Blog

Gluten Free in the Upper Midwest

Chipotle December 2, 2009

Chipotle is such a great restaurant choice for celiacs that want a quick meal at a reasonable cost. for starters, there are locations scattered throughout the region and the country. it may not be as ubiquitous as McDonalds, but they do have quite a presence and seem to be growing quickly.

the other reason I enjoy Chipotle so much is that it’s one of the few Mexican restaurants where celiacs can actually eat the chips and hard shell tacos! those are the only things they fry, so there no oil contamination. in fact, the only item there with gluten, according to their allergy chart, is the flour tortillas. (if you have allergies to dairy, then the cheese and sour cream are the only other limitations, but if you have a soy allergy, everything but the cheese and sour cream use soybean oil).

the only problem that I’ve had with Chipotle is that as a faster-food restaurant, things just fly down the assembly line, which gives greater chances of contamination.

what I do is ask one person to wash their hands and change gloves and just do my entire order for me, and I usually ask for the manager and have them do it, because they tend to be more aware of the allergy situations. I always watch carefully though, because they still will sometimes change gloves and then naturally rest their hands on those flour tortilla shells! so don’t be afraid to speak up if they’re getting close to touching some. the managers are usually good at telling the people down the line who reach for my food that they’ll be doing my entire order. before I started this procedure, I’d sometimes feel unsure about whether it may have been contaminated by something someone did. but I’ve found that since I started doing this I haven’t really had any problems anymore.

if possible, I still try to go at off hours (although Chipotle seems to have a line at almost any time of the day!) my favorite time is right when they open for lunch, because everything is in place still (no ingredients have been thrown around in a mad flurry), and the lines haven’t yet formed.

some people are concerned about the contamination of the serving spoons that transfer the meat or salsas to the hard shells or burrito bowls (or flour burritos, hence the contamination), which I am always hyper-vigilant about as well. but for some reason I don’t get too worried at Chipotle. it’s probably because I didn’t think about it when I first started on my gluten-free diet, and since I’ve never gotten sick from it, I haven’t been too worried. it’s my one exception to my hyper-vigilance. that could all change if I do get sick one day. but as of now, I haven’t had problems with gluten there. however, if you’re concerned but would still like to go there because it’s convenient, you could still choose to get some chips (which I love eating plain, if I don’t trust them to do my order right on any given day). other contamination issues for those with dairy allergies are that the cheese is sometimes thrown into the tacos, burritos, etc so quickly that there may be a few shreds in the lettuce or something, so watch for that.

all in all, it’s a good, fast option. it obviously carries the concerns with it of fast preparation and attention to detail with your order, but I’ve found that with my precautions, things have gone fine. and you can’t beat the convenience.

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