According to a study by the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans spend about 50% of their food expenditures on meals away from home. For people that need to stay gluten-free, however, dining out can be an extremely taxing event.

So instead of just listing restaurants in Phoenix that serve gluten-free food, I thought it’d be more helpful to actually teach you the art of finding them.

The first step to finding gluten-free restaurants wherever you’re located is research, reasearch, research. Although googling “gluten-free resutrants in (insert your location here)” can give you adequate results, not all restaurants advertise being gluten-friendly on their websites, nor are all cities large enough for the search engine to find substantial information.

If I don’t know where I want to eat or am just looking for the gluten-free options around me, I go to the Gluten Free Registry website. This website allows you to search for gluten-free restaurants, bakeries and even caterers by state AND city.

It also provides you with personal reviews of each resturant, along with a small description of what each menu features that is gluten-free.

The thing I like about this website is that the database contains many local restaurants that do not come up on other larger search engines. Instead of providing me with the same six chain resturants I already knew about, the Gluten Free Registery found me some of the best kept gluten-free secerts in Phoenix. In fact, I found what is now my favorite pizza place, Picazzo’s, thanks to this website. (If you ever want phenomemnal gluten-free pizza–and let’s face it, who doesn’t–GO THERE!)

The Gluten Free Registery has an interactive map that can be accessed from your iPhone too–perfect if you’re lost or don’t have access to a computer.

The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program is also another website that provides a gluten-free restaurant search. I’m not a big fan of this one because it’s less in-depth and usually just refers me to chain resturants. It is another resource I’ve used though, and because it’s supported by The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, its results are pretty accurate.

If I know what restaurant I’m going to ahead of time, I always look on its website before I get there.

Many smaller resturants mention their gluten-free features directly on their website, like my favorite fro-yo stop Yogurtini. Larger resturants generally have a seperate gluten-free menu that is within its menu tab, like both P.F. Chang’s and Z’Tejas.

If you end up at a restaurant you’ve never been before and didn’t have time to research it, don’t be afraid to speak up! I had no idea Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen had a gluten-free menu until my server mentioned it after I ordered nothing but a “naked” chicken that had to be cooked in a separate, clean pan.

If the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, don’t stress! Be specific when ordering your food, and use phrases like “I have celiac disease” or “I have a severe allergy to gluten” in order to gain the server’s attention. Don’t forget that you deserve a meal and service just like anyone else!