Posted in Baltimore Recommendations

Love Shoutout #1: P.F. Chang’s

In line with my theme for the year, I’ve decided to reserve some posts in the upcoming year for shoutouts of love to some people, places, and things that make the food-allergy-ridden world just a little bit brighter. So here we go with shout-out #1…today I’m sending a little love to P.F. Chang’s.

Now as with most things on the internet, if you google PF Chang’s and gluten, you will get an array of responses. Some people will praise the restaurant chain as if they’re somehow responsible for the salvation of the universe…others tear it apart and swear death upon the place that made them sicker than a dog. Of course you’ll find a variety of middle-ground responses too but those are the two ends of the spectrum. And honestly I can understand. Once I get sickened by a restaurant, I tend to swear it off too; though my brain knows that it’s unreasonable to allow the actions or mistakes of one person to impact all future visits, my beaten and abused digestive tract is not so quick to forget. I, however, must say I personally have had nothing but the absolute BEST experiences at P.F. Chang’s.

It’s funny when I think about it because the very first time I ever walked into a P.F. Chang’s was because of a gluten condition…but oddly enough, it wasn’t my own. See I moved to Baltimore in 2010, a year before my official diagnosis, and though a horrible bout with the presumed stomach flu in August of that year was undoubtedly a red flag of my newfound condition, I was blissfully unaware. Another thing you should know is that when I moved to Baltimore that year, I knew exactly one person. Literally. In the entire city/surrounding metropolitan area. My school in DC had closed and despite the fact that I came dangerously close to not even showing up for my interview at the school I now proudly call my home (seriously, I paced outside giving myself a vacillating pep talk…”They’re just middle schoolers, walk through that door” {remember, I was a 2nd grade teacher so they sounded downright terrifying} countered with “Get back in the car now and you’ll just be that crazy name on a resume who never showed up for her interview”), it was only a few minutes into my model lesson that I felt it: I knew in my heart that this was the place God had in store for me next. So I packed my life into my Focus and headed up 295 to Baltimore on a total whim and a prayer…and of course the friendship of that one solitary individual I could call a friend in my new city.

Just another little reminder that I made the right decision in choosing not to run away and to walk through the door to my interview that day in 2010. Middle Schoolers are pretty special 🙂

Those first few weeks and months were a challenge to say the least…but somehow I made it to December. My solitary friend had grown into a small group and one evening we planned an outing of dinner and a show. However, that friend came to me with an issue: the girl he was dating at the time was gluten-free (yes, for health reasons). Oddly enough I remember vividly the day I sat down at my computer and googled what that meant. I searched gluten-free restaurants in our area and I made reservations at the one everyone seemed to praise: P.F. Chang’s. Being the overzealous group “mom” that I tend to be, I printed out a copy of the gluten-free menu to give her in the car on the way there and I still distinctly remember her excitedly grateful reaction and thinking “Poor girl, it must be so hard to never be able to eat out.” I think back on that now…and on the various conversations that friend and I had about the challenges he faced dating someone who was gluten-free…and I just laugh. If I had only known what the future had in store for me. Anyway, the night was a success: she had a safe and enjoyable evening out and so did everyone else. Victory #1 for P.F. Chang’s.

Long story short, over my past 3 years as the one printing out the allergen menus, P.F. Chang’s has become a beacon of light in the tumultuous sea that is dining out with food allergies/intolerances. They have an extensive gluten-free menu, specially marked plates AND dipping sauces. The wait staff is trained to ask about food issues as soon as they introduce themselves. Not to mention, the food is amazing!! Granted my selection is now limited to 2 choices but the waiter was gracious enough to merge the dairy and gluten-free menus for me to provide a printout of the Katie-safe options. Take it from me: that kind of service is rare. Their lettuce wraps are worth their weight in gold…and the lemon chicken is making me hungry just thinking about it. On top of all that, you get a fortune cookie!! I mean I can’t eat them, but that doesn’t keep me from cracking them open with the plastic wrap as my glove and tearing into my fortune.

And last week when I visited for my own birthday dinner, I was surprised to find out that they give a FREE dessert on your birthday. AND they have a gluten-free option!!! (But sadly, not one that is also dairy-free) Since they knew about my allergies, they allowed me to “gift” my free dessert to the other people at my table…and they didn’t even mind when I asked to dive into my own supply of gluten-free/dairy-free cupcakes I was surprised with earlier in the day. (Spoiler alert…that bakery will be getting a little love shoutout sometime this year too!)

Yes, I have to say without hesitation: go to P.F. Chang’s. Whether you have food issues or not, go there, enjoy it, and share in the love. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget about your fortune cookie! In my experience, P.F. Chang’s cookies have always contained actual fortunes…not those “You’re compassionate and analytical” ones. Those always make me want to call the fortune writers and say “Why, yes I am, thank you…but that is not a fortune”. My birthday one was actually pretty fantastic. It has even earned a place of honor on my fridge as a daily reminder to embrace life, not fear:

28 is apparently the year of no fear 🙂

Finally, because I do believe in total honesty even in shoutouts of love, I will tell you the one gripe I have with my local P.F. Chang’s: it’s the door. I know, I know it sounds crazy but the main door is a revolving one and my semi-claustrophobic self just can’t handle those. However, I also don’t want to be that person without a wheelchair or stroller who requests they open the other door. I look at it as my little challenge to get into the proverbial promised land of safe cuisine. And honestly, if that’s the one gripe you have with an establishment, I’d say that’s pretty fantastic.

So thank you P.F. Chang’s for sending a little love my way these past 3 years. Here is my shoutout of love in return. Until next time, keep serving those delicious lettuce wraps and I promise I’ll be back to grace your revolving doorway soon 🙂

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