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FYI: Restaurants with MSG-free food!

Battling the MSG Myth » Brand Names of Food Products You Have Found Safe » FYI: Restaurants with MSG-free food! « Previous Next »

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Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 3:46 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

FYI, the chain restaurants Bob Evans and Ruby Tuesday now carry MSG-free menus. At Ruby Tuesday they are available with the hostess and contain the entire allergen-free menu. At Bob Evans the MSG-free menu is included with the regular adult menu (or was, the last time I was there about a year ago). However, I am uncertain as to the other ingredients in the "No MSG" food.

A friend of mine who is also extremely sensitive to MSG (hospitalization every single time she has a reaction sort of thing) tells me that she has never, ever had a problem at the Cracker Barrel chain restaurants.

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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 5:01 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Unless things have changed in recent years Cracker Barrel is one ofmy worst offenders, as with Red Lobster. I hadn't been at RL in over 10 years and a friend convinced me to go,
I came home so sick. Never again.
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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 6:33 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I suspect they may be avoiding the pure chemical MSG now - but so few understand FGA and how it is multiplied in processed food with (see hidden names list) ingredients that increase FGA in our food. I would not trust the menu without knowing every ingredient in the food, and then you run into the processing/packing, food source and for me, sulfite issue. It's way more trouble to try and eat at a chain restaurant, than it is to cook my own, or eat something I know I can tolerate at a restaurant.

And I don't know what the heck your friend is eating at cracker barrel, but every chicken dish they have is an FGA bomb - and I bet the same is true of fish, pork, etc. The spice mixes used in chains like this routinely list MSG as an ingredient.

Long before I got very sick from FGA toxicity, I stopped eating at Cracker Barrel. I loved their Sunday chicken, but found I got diarrhea every time I ate it. Took about 3 Sundays before I got a clue and realized it was the food there.

If I want to go out, my choices are limited to Indian, Greek and now I am discovering African restaurants, though I don't like the food as much. Fast food, I was able to tolerate Chipotle (carnitas occasionally, and only about 1/2 a serving, because it is slow-cooked and I don't want to overdo) and Inn and Out Burger (no bread, sauces, or cheese).
Roy Piwovar
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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 7:44 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I love good Indian food and have also had Ethiopian food with no problems, but I can't eat at some Greek restaurants because they've admitted to adding MSG to the food. If I'm dragged to Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel or Ruby Tuesday I may have coffee and dessert, but that's about it.
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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 1:19 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

We all react differently to MSG. Personally, I tend to avoid it as much as humanly possible. I have no idea what my friend eats when she goes out but it may very well be true that while the Cracker Barrel doesn't bother her it may build up enough glutamate in her system that the next dose will.

In regards to Ruby Tuesday: They say in their allergen menu that they have no added MSG or processed free glutamate. The MSG free items are their garden bar (some of the premade pasta and potato salads are questionable) and a number of their hamburgers (no buns & fries allowed). However, my absolute worst reactions have been from hamburgers, so I tend to tread carefully. They do have a number of fresh vegetable dishes in the MSG free section.

Bob Evans has a few supposedly MSG free dishes but some of them are questionable (potato crusted flounder, for one). I've had good luck with a pasta dish that contains nothing else but olive oil, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and chicken (I always ask for no cheese, and I pick out the chicken for the dog when in doubt).

Roy Piwovar
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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 2:02 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I had checked before and Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday's online menus don't list ingredients.

Ditto Bob Evans, which only lists some selectively, and "No MSG" doesn't mean "No FGA".
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Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 8:04 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

not that i care, really, but where is the msg free stuff? every item on the linked menu in the msg box...
Roy Piwovar
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Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 - 12:45 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Evelyn, the msg free stuff must be what isn't on the linked menu for it. Of course, their msg list may not include menu items that don't have pure msg but may have the other free glutamic acid containing ingredients found here:
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Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 10:03 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've gotten really good at being able to find stuff I can eat at restaurants so I thought I would share that information here. I've stopped telling them that it's an MSG reaction because it immediately inspires defensiveness. Instead I say I'm sensitive to a lot of different ingredients that are often in spices and stocks, fake butters, and whipping cream.

Recently I made up a card (like a business card). If anyone wants a copy I'll send you a PDF and you can print it or copy the text and print your own (I can share the text here if you prefer). I only included the really bad sources because my experience (for my level of sensitivity) is that this rules out all of the main issues anyway. On the front I list MSG, protein, yeast (with a little explanation), carrageenan, artificial sweeteners, and malt. On the back I say something like, "cook with real butter or oil", "No prepackaged spice mixes" "no stocks" and "no whipping cream."

I've been *amazed* at the response to my little card. Suddenly my requests get careful attention that they never did before. One place printed the recipe for the salad dressing and the cornbread and brought it out to me. Another noticed MSG in the hoisin sauce mixed into the eggroll I ordered. Others read the entire label and check it against my list.

So here is my process. If I know nothing about the restaurant I look them up on the web, and if I have advance notice, I call them at about 3 in the afternoon when they are least busy but the chef is likely to be there. Otherwise, I do this in person with the waitress.

First I look on the menu for something I think could be modified, or that I really love. I try to pick out 2 entrees and a couple different sides to have them check in detail. For restaurants we go to a lot, I do this over multiple visits -- at one I think I ate Prime Rib 4-5 times before I decided to look for another choice :-)

Then I ask, "Can you tell me about this? Do you pre-mix/pre-coat the meat with spices other than salt and pepper? Do you make it from scratch, or is any part of it made from something in a mix/box/spice mix?"

If they say, "oh, I'll check" I ask them to wait, and I say, "I have a card" and ask them to check my 1-2 dishes and the sides and sauces I want. Sometimes I ask about brand of sour cream -- some restaurants use daisy sour cream which is safe, others don't. Some things I never trust without speaking with a chef, such as soup, au jus, creamy dressings.

Recently at a festival I was very nervous, but I ate all kinds of things. I went to all the booths in the morning before they got busy. I found that I couldn't have any of the flour tortillas (sodium metabisulfite) and the vegies at one booth were marinated in a commercial balsamic dressing. I had the fish tacos without the taco (lots of coleslaw which they made from scratch), basil-chicken dumplings and peanut noodle salad from Sisters (the best ever), baklava, Boulder ice cream, and more.

I just never really know what I'll find. One item I adore is fish-n-chips. I gave them up for a while, assuming the batter would have malt and yeast extract. I've found two places (one in another state, but one locally) that I can eat the fried fish. Sweet potato fries, and sometimes regular, almost always come from a bag of frozen and aren't safe, which surprised me.

Hope that helps someone....

Deb A.
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Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 10:11 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Great advice, Lisa!
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Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 4:28 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Your approach assumes the cook and/or the server understands English, has enough brains to understand the situation and cares whether you get sick after eating there.
Won't find that around where I live.
Sorry to rain on your parade but I don't eat anything cooked in resturants, I will eat a raw things only salad with no dressing.
Roy Piwovar
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Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 12:17 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)


I've had food preparers swear it isn't in the food, and after I've gotten a reaction shrug and admit that there was College Inn broth or some other ingredient full of MSG in there, even if they didn't add the flavor enhancer individually. They'll hide it because they're not proud of their shortcuts. Often only the ingredients they think will favorably impress are initially revealed. I eat out, but have learned to be far from adventurous in ordering and will avoid anything that could be a problem if bought in a supermarket. When I show my card and it's greeted with a blank look I know I'm in trouble.
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Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 9:25 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yes, I'm assuming that the server speaks English..I ate in one sushi place that a lot of the sauces were in Japanese, so the chef warned me away from everything that had unknown ingredients in it; but that assumed they could figure out what I was asking.

Roy, one thing I forgot to mention is that I no longer ever say "MSG". I get a very defensive reaction if I do, so instead, I say, "I'm allergic to many ingredients that sometimes are part of spice mixes, heavy cream, fake butter, etc." I make it all about me, not about the quality of their food. Of course, I can't check for everything, but my experience has been really positive.

I also write down all the information I find out in my phone, so that I know it for the next time. Although, this almost got me in trouble, because one of my favorite restaurants started adding Worcestershire to their burgers. But luckily I was asking about the bison burger, and then mentioned that the regular burger wasn't safe either, and they made me a lovely bison burger from scratch with only salt and pepper.

Of course the caveat I should have added is that I'm not as sensitive as people here - I can handle a traditional bun usually, with all of the junk they put in it. I do react to modified starch, I think, but I find it rarely travels alone anyway, except in dressings and I never eat any dressing that the restaurant doesn't make and tell me what's in it (usually I just avoid salads now because of sprayed-on sulfites anyway).

Roy Piwovar
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Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 2:36 am:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Lisa, I would be in trouble if I used your screening method. If in doubt, I don't try it. I don't risk dressings. Instead I ask for oil and vinegar to be brought to the table. I can't remember the last time I ordered a burger.

I tried sushi once, years ago, but am leery of the seaweed used in wrapping it, which would be high in FGA content. Also, people of Japanese descent can digest the polysaccharide of the seaweed, but gut microbes from North Americans lack the necessary enzymes. Beware of surimi, which can have MSG in it.
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Posted on Saturday, August 11, 2012 - 4:00 pm:   Delete PostPrint Post   Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

What I say, and have had a lot of very helpful response (note that it is a child I am talking about) is that my son has a metabolic disorder. I think it sounds as serious as it is to him!

I tend to only go places where I am fairly sure they care about making foods from the basics and also more from scratch, this usually does mean higher end!

I have had the staff even offer to melt down chocolate chips that were safe and blend them into steamed milk for chocolate milk when the other options were not safe!

Not sure why my approach has been working so well (other than one place in Belgium, yetI stood my ground). I tend to be up front with the hostess, who then gets the manager who then checks on me often. I also always write to the company and sing praises when I do get good service, and I try to tip well too- and encouragement.

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