Maureen Boyle

Small Middle Eastern restaurant - rude to ask about ingredients?

Recommended Posts

There's a middle eastern restaurant near us (Saalam, in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood: http://www.salamchicago.com/order-online-salamchicago.html)that seems like it would be a perfect option for dining out.  I could get a salad with a chicken or lamb kebab on top.  There are just three words that give me pause: "special house dressing."  I'm 95% sure that this is compliant.  I've eaten there before (pre-w30) and didn't notice anything sweet about the dressing.

 

Obviously, I could ask.  And if this was a big chain restaurant or an expensive hipster gastropub, I'd have no problem doing so.  But this is a fairly small mom-and-pop operation and the kind of place where the owner raises an eyebrow when I pay the check rather than my boyfriend.  I can't imagine asking him what he puts in his food without offending him.

 

Looking again, there's a salad that has "tahini sauce" as dressing.  Can I assume that's just straight tahini?  Some of the salads say "choice dressing."  Choice of dressing?  Or do they mean "choice" as an adjective?  Am I overthinking this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The truth is, without asking and making your requests clear, you cannot assume anything about restaurant ingredients, or any food that someone else prepares for you.

 

I'd suggest using this as an opportunity to politely ask questions about ingredients. You've made a commitment to your health, and for any food you pay for, you have every right to know what you're putting in your mouth.

I recommend calling the restaurant at a non-busy time for them. Explain that you're on an elimination diet and cannot eat certain ingredients, but would like to see what might work for dining at their restaurant.   Have some specific questions prepared about a few entrees or salad you have in mind and ask away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would ask and be very specific. Many people doing the whole30 don't understand the rules so you can't expect others to understand them. If you ask if there is sugar they may say no, but not tell you that they use honey. If you ask is something has peanuts they may say no but forget to tell you they use peanut oil. I would assume that this family owned restaurant would know what is in their sauces and marinades more than a chain store that gets their products pre packaged. The great think about doing a whole30 is you get over your fear of offending. You get to be THAT PERSON who asks for special things and questions the ingredients. If someone is offended then they don't deserve your business. Good Luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could always approach the questions from a complimentary angle -

 

"My friend/sister/husband just LOVES your special house dressing, can you let me know what's in it? I'm on an elimination diet and I'd really like to try it, since I've heard it's amazing, but I need to know if there are some ingredients in it that I can't eat."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can't assume anything when you're eating out.  You can call before you go or simply wait until your 30 days are over.  If you need to go with your boss, coworkers or family.....you can make a meal out of condiments or items that you're pretty sure are compliant.    Lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and that salad with the kabob on top.

 

When you're dealing with Maw and Paw places and generational family recipes, they're not going to tell you everything about the secret sauce.  That's their trademark and yes, face to face - they may take offense.  So call before and you'll still be going on blind faith.   The secret's in the sauce, so they say.

 

 

Sidenote: I was visiting with family about this very subject over Easter.  We're all agreed, keep sending things back to the kitchen and uhhh, well...we know that it doesn't take much to tick the kitchen off.  I'll eat condiments before I'd send anything back.  Wouldn't be prudent.  :unsure: 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would not assume that "elimination diet" will be easily understood. It might be easier to say, "I am avoiding some foods for health reasons. Can you tell me about the ingredients in this dressing? I have to be so careful about sugar and peanut oil"...or whatever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now