Original ChopShop Co. Raises Gluten-Free Questions

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You'd think a place billed as "healthy," a place that serves quinoa as a side dish, would be a gluten-friendly place.

At the Original ChopShop Co. in Tempe, you'd be right -- and you'd be wrong.

See also: Spinato's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Passes Expert Inspection

I went there for lunch the other day, with some friends from work, and standing in line to order at the counter, I was pretty excited about the menu options, because it looked like there were several things I could eat.

But I wasn't really sure, because nothing was marked gluten-free on the menu. It did say that gluten-free wraps were available as a substitute for the whole-grain variety. It didn't mention any gluten-free bread. But I was most interested in the beet salad.

It has greens, arugula, roasted beets, sour apple, goat cheese, cashews and golden raisins, and is served with a red-wine vinaigrette. It looked safe based on the menu, but anyone with a gluten allergy knows you can't go by that.

So when I got to the register, I asked the man taking my order if the salad was gluten free. He hemmed and hawed a little, mumbled something about mayonnaise, which wasn't listed anywhere in the ingredients, then said it "probably" was OK.

Well, "probably" doesn't cut it. And any place that serves food should know that. And so should their employees. All the way down to the guy at the cash register. You wouldn't tell anyone with a peanut allergy that they "might" be OK, but they "might not."

I asked if there was anyone he could check with. He seemed reluctant, but left, going back toward the kitchen, where he disappeared. The line grew longer behind me.

For those with this disease, there is a meal-by-meal frustration of having to quiz every server about the kitchen, the recipes, the oil in the fryer and the wheat hidden as thickeners in salad dressings, soups, or gravies. And then, there's the knowledge that you're putting people out, even the friends and family members at the table waiting for their meals. It's discouraging.

So, I grew more and more uncomfortable as I waited, knowing those in line behind me were on limited lunch breaks, just like me, and were getting stressed out.

Finally, he returned, saying the dressing was gluten-free and that the salad was safe.

We grabbed our lemonades and headed out to the front yard to sit in the surprisingly tolerable weather.

When my salad arrived, it was great, with lots of beets, nuts, and goat cheese, just like I like it.

The ChopShop should revise their menu to make it clear what items are gluten free and thoroughly train all their employees. And while they're at it, they should add some gluten-free bread, so we celiacs can enjoy the interesting-sounding sandwiches.

Gluten Free Calendar

Gluten Free Calendar, the organization that works with professional athletic teams around the nation to raise awareness of celiac disease, will host a May event in Phoenix in conjunction with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The organization also raises money for research facilities and related non-profit organizations.

The event will feature gluten-free vendors, food, special guests and book authors.

Udi's Gluten Free, Glutino and Schar will sponsor the even and hand out free goodies for all to enjoy. For more information please visit, http://www.glutenfreecalendar.com.

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