Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cheeseburger in Paradise

"Well, where CAN you eat?" my sister asked. She was in charge of choosing a restaurant for a family dinner and had to juggle my gluten and dairy intolerances, my dad's spicy food intolerance, my stepmom's vegetarianism, and her love for a good meal. I told her there are pretty much two ways to go: small hole in the wall restaurant where the chef can easily create a dish for me or a chain restaurant where corporate headquarters likely started outlining the allergens in the foods. She chose the later and started naming off restaurants nearby while I was google searching the name "+ gluten". Cheeseburger in Paradise came up. Not too bad, I could always get a bunless burger or a salad. Whatever. And then I went to their website...

How are they not exploding in the gf blogsphere and twitterverse as being a super friendly restaurant for those who are gluten free??? Cheeseburger in Paradise partnered with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) to create their gluten free menu. I was excited to eat there and my sister was thrilled that there was a place nearby where we could all eat (and my dad was perhaps the most overjoyed because he is a huge hamburger fan).

At the restaurant, I told the hostess that I was gluten intolerant. I got my very own menu - that looked like everyone else's! It had a smaller selection and did not list any prices, but the look and feel of it was the same. (Other restaurants have quickly made one page print outs of what is gluten free - I appreciated the professionalism and respect for me as a consumer for getting something that is high quality.) As we looked over our menus, the manager came by to see who was gluten intolerant and went over some cross contamination concerns and the gf training the staff went through. The fries still seemed too good to be true, so I asked and they said that in order to have their fries be gf, they now make ALL their french fries in a dedicated
fryer - nothing but fries go in there! Win! Also, every three months their menu is updated so what I saw was only the beginning of them reaching out to their gluten intolerant customers.

I ordered a Bacon Cheddar Burger (hold the cheese.) For a dollar extra, I could get my burger on a bun (yes, please!). The manager said that they used French Meadow buns and went back to the kitchen to confirm that they were also dairy free. When my food arrived, it was introduced as a gluten and dairy free burger (additional win!). The bun was pretty good - even if it didn't hold up through the entire meal and I had to flip my burger upside to eat some more and then ultimately, just use a fork and a knife. Everything was delicious - it felt great to bite into a juicy burger and also have some thin french fries. My sister commented that this was the most normal thing she has seen me eat (we don't eat together very often) since going gf. She couldn't come up with anything I ate that was particularly weird, but sometimes my meals looks like they are missing something. At Cheeseburger in Paradise, I had a normal restaurant experience. If you photographed a gfdf burger and a traditional allergen filled burger, only the cheese would alert you to something being different. The manager and staff went the extra mile to make sure that I was comfortable and my food was safe for me.

Worth going back? Oh, yes! There are two Illinois locations - Algonquin and Downer's Grove.

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