Where Were You When I Was At School? Eat’n Park’s New Celiac Menu

So, a couple of months ago I moved back to Pittsburgh. It’s good to be back here, where I went to college and where I have many appropriately fond memories of many appropriately goofy things.

One of my favorite recurrent memories involved this one Eat’n Park, where my friends had developed a “secret code” to talk about which tables had cute girls at them. Ah, college.

I spent a lot of time there, but rarely got anything other than coffee or ice cream – it wasn’t the most celiac-friendly menu, to be honest. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a 24-hour “diner”/Denny’s kind of place. They’re known for their Smiley Cookies and a Midnight Breakfast Buffet in places where people need pancakes at 2am.

Anyway. Somewhere between when I left town and when I came back, things changed. Forgive my tardiness; I’ve known this for a while now and I’m only getting around to talking about it now, but – Eat’n Park has a pretty decent gluten-free menu. Go figure.

As with any restaurant’s gluten-free menu, the crux of this one is the staff awareness. I’ve been a few times now, to a few different locations, and not had a problem or an uninformed staff member. At this point, I feel pretty comfortable that simply by explaining that I’ve got celiac disease and need the gluten-free option, the waitstaff will be able to fill in the rest of the speech themselves.

The other crux here is a gluten-free roll that the company developed. It’s referred to on their website’s celiac menu page as a rice/tapioca bun. If you’ve been eating gluten-free bread for a while, you’ll taste both the rice and the tapioca in here; it has a chewiness that’s unmistakable and not unpleasant.

Eat’n Park’s gluten-free bun is a workhorse: it turns up next to omelettes, steaks, chicken sandwiches, baked fish…all over the place. I can only assume it’s this popularity that allows them to make enough of the buns to keep from raising costs for gluten-free items (Correct! You will not pay a surcharge.). One caveat: if they forget to toast the bun, it’s going to taste like untoasted gluten-free dough. AKA, not great.

Aside from this, the menu lists which of the sides are safe, which spares you the bother of having to ask the server every time if the fries have a dedicated fryer (not here), the mashed potatoes have flour in them (just the gravy), or the breakfast sausage is full of crumbs (nope, eat all the sausage you want).

All in all it’s a nice menu, and it shows exactly what a mid-sized chain can do – with minimal changes to their actual offerings – to make a population feel welcome. Have you been to an Eat’n Park? What did you think?


5 thoughts on “Where Were You When I Was At School? Eat’n Park’s New Celiac Menu”

  1. Hi! I ate at Eat n’ Park in college in Pittsburgh too! Did you go to the one in Squirrel Hill ? I haven’t ate there in about 2 years now. I didn’t know they had a gluten free menu, but now that I know I need to go!

  2. Rege Holden, Eat n Park’s corporate chef was one of the early “champions” of celiacs in the Pittsburgh area. He was one of the first to understand the need for our celiac population to have this offered. Rege was also a presenter at the local support group meeting. Instead of smiley cookies, he brought some cute magnets for the “little ones”. The menu at Eat n Park is geared to lower priced entrees which make it more difficult to make gf. Hat’s off to Rege for this effort. Having moved to SC, I do miss the salad bar. My best to “you all”!
    Miss Mary

  3. I grew up in Pittsburgh and ate at Eat ‘n Park since I was a kid – even dating back to the days where you could order at your car and they would bring it out to your car with trays! What I wouldn’t give for a gluten free smiley cookie!

  4. It is such a thrill to order a hamburger “with a bun” included. We frequent often the restaurants in Chippewa and Monaca. So far we have four celiacs in the family, Wish the restaurants would be built in middle and eastern parts of PA.

  5. We were in an “Eat n’ Park”, while in Pittsburgh for a wedding. I was sooooo happy with the GF menu, we were there for breakfast. I was afraid to get the roll, since most are not very good. I, as the waitress was walking away, called her back. She said they microwave the rolls. They were good that way. When we paid the bill I asked for a bag of rolls to take home. They kind of survived the trip home. And I enjoyed them again and again. Wish there was a Eat n’ Park closer to me- Landenberg, PA.

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