It was a long drive and a long day, but we're back in Georgia. I did discover a couple of gluten-free jewels on 1-75. Luckily they did not cause traffic to back up!
At exit 5, just in the Georgia line, is a great Sonny's restaurant. I say it is great because of their amazing salad bar. What makes it amazing is the lovely woman named Pamela who runs the salad bar. She makes every salad on there (tuna, smoked turkey, etc.) and she can tell you EXACTLY what is and isn't in there. For instance, there are no onions in the tuna, which made my dear onionless Randy happy, and there are no marshmallows in the Watergate salad, just pudding and pineapple. And they have plain chunked, unsauced turkey on there, too! She'll even tell you what kind of mayonnaise she uses if you ask (I didn't, but she was that nice). There's a lot of dressing choices, too, plus pickes, olives, okra, etc. I had a hearty lunch and drove on with no ill effect.
At exit 109 is one of my favorite places on I-75, Ellis Brothers Pecans. They make all their own candies there, and their nuts are freshly roasted and cracked. OK, it's not your place if you have a nut allergy...and I'm sorry for that. But they list all the ingredients in their candies (in English since they are made there and not elsewhere) and even have a great selection of sugar free stuff. They also have homemade preserves and the like. REALLY FINE STUFF. They're also a certified farmers market, so I got some beautiful okra (more friend okra coming up soon) and fresh figs, Not the big ones, but the beautiful little ones that grow here in Georgia. YUM. I'm getting some in a few minutes. I also got some roasted pecans. We Georgia (state, not UGA, sorry Julie) love our pecans.
I was pleasantly surprised when I went to our Wally World (Wal Mart) to find DeBoles Brown Rice Pasta AND Spaghetti, Van's Wheat-free Waffles, and a decent selection of Amy's Entrees. I also found my favorite peanut butter and Activia Prune Yogurt (sorry, Joy, but I like it). There's also a new cheese that's overpriced but has active cultures in it. I checked it, and it's wheat additive free.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came at Chili's in Milledgeville, which now wins the champion award for catering to someone who is gluten free. (Me!) I asked our server a specific question about their fries, and she went to ask the manager, who brough out the BOX so I could make sure it was not dipped in flour. Then he told me what else is fried in that oil (just fries). The manager was very nice when alerted to my allergy, before he found out who the customer was -- the manager was my former student Bo Smith, who then told me some additional details about the food there.
Bo said managers at all Chili's are alerted to be ultra attentive if a customer identifies an allergy and need. I like that (as I said, he didn't know it was his old prof, just a customer with an allergy). He asked some good questions, too -- he didn't know about the soy sauce issue, or why most Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings aren't permitted. Some things he told me:
1) Ask about the arrangement of the fryers. You might be OK if the store separates cheese sticks and fries, if that is a big problem for you. You, too, could have fries with that!
2) Their fajitas are not GF because put soy sauce on their onions, but I didn't ask what brand. I might call and ask...if it's LaChoy, then it would be OK. Or you could ask they not add any -- it's added during cooking, not before :-) And they also will gladly substitute corn tortillas for wheat.
3) They have a list available for every potential food allergy, from nuts to soy to eggs to wheat to milk. He gave me a copy, and it is quite nice. In the GF category, all their ribs, most of their steaks, some of the chicken, and some of the fish are prepared GF (and of course the burgers, without the bun...) But they really will leave stuff off it you ask. If you're really concerned, ask the manager to give you the 10-page Chili's Allergen Information Guide.
You can ask Randy, I've never really liked Chili's much, but now, I'm a new convert. I feel like I can get a good meal there, prepared to suit my needs. Their list is complete and good, their people know the ingredients, and they were willing to help a customer with a food allergy.
Kudos, also to the server, Kim Moseley, who attends my university but isn't one of my majors :-(. She was very attentive and did exactly the right thing.
If you read this and haven't seen the list and want more, let me know in the comments and I'll zap it over to you.
Much love from home, sweet home.