Food and Nutrition

Guide to Eating Out in Gaborone | Gluten-Free Diaries

I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant over 20 years ago. I was living in the UK at the time and in those days, there was a growing awareness of gluten intolerance with some GF options on menus. Not all though, I remember going to a well-known Chinese Restaurant in Canterbury, and the manager telling me in no uncertain terms, that if I was gluten-intolerant, I shouldn’t have bothered coming! So, there was a lot of ignorance back then even in the more developed world. When I got back to Botswana, it was initially quite a struggle with several waiters and chefs completely confused as to what I was asking for. But over the last decade, things have changed considerably, and some places even offer specific GF dishes. With all my experience, I’ve put together this simple guide to eating out in Gaborone if you’re gluten-intolerant.

Be Positive and Patient. I used to get very frustrated when I’d say, “Is this Gluten-Free? and the waiter would be confused. But with time, I grew to see that many waiters hadn’t been trained on gluten-free diets. So, I adopted a more positive approach by explaining gluten intolerance and listing the foods/ ingredients I couldn’t have. What I’ve found to be very important is to explain that this isn’t a fad or lifestyle choice for me, and that eating gluten can have very serious consequences. This makes them very unlikely to dismiss you as a difficult patron. If you see they are uncomfortable, always ask if they prefer you to talk to the manager/ chef.

Be Prepared to Ask Questions. I always go for simple dishes which don’t come with a coating or sauce, or ones that can easily be made without a sauce. Once I’ve chosen a meal that looks safe, I then ask a few questions just to ensure there are no hidden ingredients. For example, have the baked potatoes been coated with flour to make the skins crispier? Are there any croutons in the salad? Does the salad dressing contain wheat or flour? Has the food been marinated in any sauce? Does the sauce contain flour or soy sauce? Does the dish come with any bread? These questions are important because even if a dish looks naturally GF, very often you’ll be surprised by an unexpected addition to the dish that wasn’t initially obvious or evident.

Don’t Expect Your First Choice. Very often, you’ll choose something from the menu – and some key ingredients will be out of stock, so you are forced to look for another meal on the menu. As the meals you can have are usually limited, this can be quite frustrating. Sometimes, you won’t find anything. For example, an Indian Restaurant will almost always have several naturally GF choices, but a Chinese Restaurant or pizza place or hamburger joint won’t. Typically, I won’t visit places that are highly unlikely to be GF-friendly; but if I’ve been invited to them by friends or colleagues, I’ll usually have something to snack on beforehand just so I’m not starving.

Choose a Restaurant that has Gluten-Free Options. My friends have always been considerate about where we go out, and I’ve typically said, I don’t mind where we go as most menus will have at least a couple of options which are naturally gluten free or can easily be modified without too much hassle. But what’s incredibly exciting is that in the last few years, more restaurants have special gluten-free items on the menu (which are typically not gluten free), for example, pasta, pizza, bread and hamburgers. Restaurants I frequent include Sanitas (for pizza), The Daily Grind (for sandwiches), Primi Piatti (for pasta), and The Studio Cafe (for hamburger and pasta).

If You Have a Craving, Call Ahead. BUT even for these restaurants, if you’re going because you have a particular craving for one of their special gluten-free meals, call ahead, as sometimes these items are not in stock and you’ll be very disappointed if you don’t find it!

I hope you find this guide to GF eating out in Gaborone useful! If you are gluten-intolerant, what other tips and tricks should I add to this list? Do you have some great go-to places for gluten-free options where you live?

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