And another one bites the dust.
I have now added PF Chang’s to the list of restaurants I can no longer eat at. And yes, I’m quite sad about it.
First…a little PF Chang’s history. After my celiac diagnosis in 2007, I did not go out to eat for a few months. It was simply too difficult. And then I heard that PF Chang’s, which has a location just a few miles from my house at the time, had a gluten-free menu. I love Asian food. I missed eating out. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
I still have vivid memories of that first evening out…
I remember waiting for a table, very anxious about the ordeal. And my little Dudette put her hand on my knee and said “It’s ok Daddy. At least you don’t have cancer.” Little did she know at the time. Mrs. Dude and I had to contain ourselves from breaking out in ironic laughter.
I remember ordering and giving my big celiac speech for the first time.
I remember having my first, and last, Red Bridge beer.
I remember really enjoying the food, my family and the atmosphere and feeling almost normal.
And I remember thanking the waitress profusely when the meal was over, telling her it was my first time out since my diagnosis and actually tearing up as I was talking to her. To me, it was an emotional experience. She probably thought I was nuts.
The next few times I visited PF Chang’s, it was all good. I felt safe (from a gluten point of view), the service was always exceptional, as was the food.
But then little things started happening.
One time, my food came out on the wrong plate. For those who don’t understand this, PF Chang’s has a different plate for their gluten-free dishes, which I love. But my food did not come out on that plate. So naturally, I questioned my server, who assured me it was gluten-free and was a tad put off that I asked her to go back in the kitchen and verify. It left a poor taste in my mouth.
And then, whenever I’d eat there, I’d start to feel like crap afterwards. I’m not saying I was being glutened (I’m not saying I wasn’t either) but I just didn’t feel well.
I know a lot of their dishes are high in fat and very high in salt, but it shouldn’t make me feel this bad.
My visits became less and less frequent and Mrs. Dude suggested I stay away from them permanently, which I have.
I had a meeting in northern Jersey and was headed back to the Dude Ranch at about 2 in the afternoon. I passed by a PF Chang’s and decided to give it a shot. It’s amazing how hunger can cloud your judgement.
I ordered the gluten-free chicken and broccoli dish with brown rice and told the waitress I was a “severe celiac”. I always use the word “severe” when I eat out, hoping it gets them to take me a bit more serious.
My dish came out. Looked good. Took a bite. Tasted fine. But it was really spicy?!?
The chicken and broccoli dish is not supposed to be spicy. I asked the waitress about it and she said they put the wrong sauce on it.
You’ve gotta be kidding me!!
She assured me the sauce was indeed gluten-free and came back a few minutes later with the correct meal.
Should I have eaten it at this point? I don’t know. But again, I was starving, I was already there and for the most part, I know they take the whole gluten-free thing pretty seriously, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
To make a long story short, I ate my lunch and enjoyed the heck out of it.
But as soon as I got in the car, I can’t begin to tell you how much my stomach hurt. Beyond painful. And not in a sour stomach kind of way, but in an “alien ready to explode out of my gut” kind of way. The pressure and the tightness was unbearable for the 20 minute drive home.
As soon as I got home, I had to lie down and I ended up sleeping for three hours.
I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch.
And this morning, I feel out of it and Mrs. Dude says I look “pasty” (how’s that for a visual??)
Now this just shouldn’t happen after a lunch out.
So to you PF Chang’s…you had me but you lost me.
I sincerely appreciate the effort you put in for all celiacs, but our relationship has now come to an end.
I’m not sure what the PF stands for in your name, but for me it now means Painful Food.
(If you’ve had any good or bad experiences at PF Chang’s, would love to hear about it.)