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?