Going (to) Against the Grain…Help!

Tonight, I’m going to a restaurant. For most people my age in New York, that’s a regular occurrence, but as most of you know, for me, it’s not.

The spot sounds great. It’s described on Yelp variously as a “magical hideaway clubhouse” and “the absolute best place to throw a small, intimate party without much hassle.”

However, despite its tease of a name—Against the Grain—its specialties run more toward grain-based dishes (like soft pretzels and “chorizo in a poncho”) than against them. And when I say grain, I don’t mean sorghum.

Yelpers also suggest, “If your tastes run to beer and you want to have it and only it chalkboarded on the walls, enter here,” and, “If you aren’t a beer drinker, well, hello!, don’t come here.

Clearly, this isn’t my kind of place.

But, as you’ve likely gathered, I didn’t choose it. The restaurant is where a friend is having her birthday party. Her tastes do run to beer, and the soft pretzels do sound awfully tempting, and it is her birthday, so I don’t at all fault her for choosing it. In fact, she graciously called the restaurant on my behalf to inquire about gluten-free options and let me know, basically, there weren’t any. (At least, nothing guaranteed safe.)

stack of non-gluten-free soft pretzels with salt

What I’ll eat tonight is unclear, but it won’t be this.
Photo © Tommi Arina | Flickr

The question then became, what do I do? Although I’ve read all the advice in the world, it seems, I’ve yet to experience this situation. Most of my friends throw parties at bars, where it’s far less awkward not to eat anything, or at home, where dinner is rarely on the menu. And my sister’s graduation weekend featured a catering staff that at least made an effort to accommodate me and a birthday/graduation party for which my parents made everything gluten-free.

I’ve spent the week meaning to call the restaurant in a quiet time and ask whether they mind if I bring something with me, but in typical procrastinating fashion I’ve put it off. There’s still time to do it, but even if they say it’s fine, I’m afraid I’d feel awkward when it came time to plop my tupperware down amidst the small plates. But would it be more awkward to be the only one not eating?

I can’t decide, and as I muse over (and blog about) it, my window for packing anything before I leave for the day is closing. I wish it didn’t require this much thought, but such is celiac life.

What would you do in my situation? Let me know in the poll below, and if you have more advice, or stories about your own dining-out travails, go ahead and put it in the comments.

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope your plans for this evening include good gluten-free food, or at least—like mine—good gluten-full friends.

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16 thoughts on “Going (to) Against the Grain…Help!

  1. Mary Kate says:

    I voted “eat first” (I never wait for after — I get too cranky). In a different version of this scenario, I’d also vote for not going, though not throwing a tantrum. In that version, though, this wouldn’t be a good friend’s birthday party. I’m all in favor of opting out of social situations that are going to be too awkward to navigate with any grace (or enjoyment).

    You DO still have time to call between lunch and dinner and find out if there is anything you can order from them, but don’t make yourself sick to be social.

    • Molly says:

      Yes, as a general rule I’ve told my friends not to bother inviting me for dinner events, but given that it was a birthday celebration I made an exception! And it worked out just fine in the end, despite my stressing.

  2. Anita says:

    I would definitely eat first and possibly bring a GF treat like a plate of GF cookies for the birthday friend AND you:) That way you can feel a little better/ less awkward eating what you brought . As for the drink , order something alcohol-free perhaps. I have a stomach disorder (Gastroparesis) which, in the early days of being diagnosed, allowed only liquids to be digested. It was embarrassing at first to try to explain to people and not make them feel badly for me not being able to eat anything. But, I learned that get togethers should be more about the company and not so much about the food, so I tried to focus on that. It’s not always easy, but maybe coming at it from that perspective might be a little easier 🙂

  3. jodi stewart says:

    I usually eat before going, but if it will look really awkward if I don’t eat, I bring sushi. 🙂
    Fantastic Post.

  4. Molly, the irony of the restaurant name is ridiculous! And so is the pic of those gluten pretzels :((

    Though I don’t have celiac, I eat GF with my family and when we go out I only eat what my kid can share. However, we only go to safe places and probably would refuse an invite to a place like that. But you’re young and to turn down every invite to a G place could certainly cramp your style.

    I love the idea of bringing sushi (yum!) and that’s easy enough to pick up at a grocery or deli along the way. Eating before is good, but boring for you at the restaurant. Def bring some delicious chocolate to eat for dessert and maybe share if you’re feeling generous.

    Good luck and keep us posted!
    -Dana

  5. I usually explore the menu before and either/or order something safe plus ask to accommodate or bring my own (no awkward feelings here, or maybe I’m just too self centered lol), I have also brought my own dry pasta on several occasions and asked them to boil it instead of their own (never been rejected but did sign a waiver a few times). I’d never be able to just sit there and not eat so I usually go when invited just get extra prep steps in.

    • Molly says:

      I’m surprised they made you sign a waiver! Geez. That kinda takes the fun out of eating out (not that there’s much left for the gluten-free). What did the waivers say exactly?

      • The waivers mostly said that the place is not responsible in case I’ll get sick, as they were cooking the food I brought from the outside and they can’t guarantee what it is. Never mind it was just dry pasta in sealed packages lol. To the NYC restaurants defense all these places were in other cities or states so I guess we here have more chances of being served at “our level”.

        • Molly says:

          That’s sort of annoying because then if they went ahead and cooked it in the same water as their regular pasta you’d be left with no recourse…but I guess it’s the rare lawsuit that goes anywhere in these cases anyway, so oh well.

  6. Casey says:

    I always call ahead and check out possible gluten free options. If nothing pops out to me, I eat before hand and bring snacks/goodies to keep my hands busy. Socializing is most of the fun anyway, as long as you accept that you aren’t going for the food.

  7. […] about whipping out my mason jar of rice and black-bean salad and gluten-free roll at a restaurant (as I wound up doing last week), but you never would. And, given your level-headedness and communication skills, you’re […]

  8. Molly says:

    Thanks for all of your advice, everyone! Everyone was very mature not to choose the temper tantrum option in the poll. And to the brave souls who would just order something anyway: go you!

    In the end, I brought food planning to eat it beforehand, but I just wasn’t hungry enough then, so I figured I’d bring it with me and see. I checked with the waitress, who was very nice and let me know it’d be fine if I ate my own food. So I did, and no one cared, and I split a bottle of wine with the birthday girl and two others, and it really couldn’t have gone much better. Well, unless we’d gone to Risotteria. 😛

  9. Adam says:

    I love Against the Grain, cool little microbrew place. Not great for gluten-free peeps, though. I don’t know if you figured out why it’s named Against the Grain — not because it’s an anti-grain place (obviously, from the menu and beer selection), but because it’s next to (against) Grape & Grain, a restaurant run by the same people.

  10. rachelmeeks says:

    PSSH. Why would they call themselves “Against the Grain” and have nothing but grain?? Terrible branding, what a tease.

  11. […] advised me on eating out, revealed your doctor horror stories, cheered me on when my results came back, shared your grocery […]

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