How allergen-free friendly is your town?

Since learning of my gluten sensitivity almost 3 years ago (after more than 15 years of symptoms!), I have been lucky enough to live in 2 amazing cities which are progressive in their health, wellness  and dining options. Yes, I migrated to 2 different foodie towns, and have learned to love eating a gluten-free life thanks to the amazing restaurants and supportive restaurant staff.

I began my gluten-free  journey in Boulder, Colorado where I learned that by ordering a gluten-free version of a meal while eating out, I was able to eat foods that were prepared without many of the highly caloric sauces that I would typically have eaten.  I was also excited to learn that many restaurants had a separate gluten-free menu which helped me to feel more confident in what I was ordering. Not that I didn’t trust what I was being told by the wait staff or management, but I felt that if a restaurant took the approach of setting up a gluten-free menu, they were likely to be more aware of not only gluten-laden ingredients, but of cross contamination concerns as well.

So I began to realize that I could enjoy living a gluten-free life, with some modifications on my part, and a little more research to make sure I was visiting restaurants and stores which could accommodate my needs.  Before long, coffee shops started carrying gluten-free pastries and the local supermarkets had dedicated aisles and sections in their freezers for gluten-free foods. I was a happy girl! After 5 great years in beautiful Boulder, we decided to pack it up and head south to Austin, Texas, home of my husband’s alma mater, and (surprisingly) and ever ‘foodier’ town than Boulder was!

And so I continued my gluten-free path in Austin, learning while here that I was allergic to all grains as well, so after a brief time of enjoying some gluten-free goodies here, I am now living a grain and dairy free life in Austin, and yes, I’m still enjoying fabulous foods and loving it!
Big city vs. smaller towns; which are more allergen-free friendly?
One thing that surprised me was how some of the larger cities aren’t quite as progressive in their handling of gluten-free needs. I have a friend who moved to Austin from San Francisco recently, and he was surprised that you can walk into a restaurant in Austin and ask for a gluten-free menu. I’m not honestly sure as to why a larger city would be less progressive in their accommodations; but I did experience that when I was in New York a couple of years ago. I had assumed that restaurants in Manhattan would be equally as aware of gluten-free needs, but I didn’t find that to be the case.
It’s an interesting question; is the catering of allergen-free living a reflection of the size of the city, ratio of restaurants per capita(making it more of a “foodie” destination),  or simply the overall compassion of the community. Having lived in New York for several years, there is obviously a lack of community in a large city like Manhattan, though I can imagine that some of the boroughs might be more accommodating as they have more of a neighborly feel, and are able to connect more with their residents.  I love large cities; the energy, excitement, drive and electric aspect are invigorating, but as a gluten-free girl, I’ll take my smaller town any day if it means I can  enjoy eating out without fear of contamination or being compared to Sally, from When Harry met Sally (and yes, I do like my sauce on the side!).
So tell me, are you able to walk into a restaurant and ask for a gluten-free menu, or do the wait staff tell you they cant really accommodate a low sugar diet? 🙂