Pollo Tropical

Food that’s fast and gluten-free?! Who knew it was possible? But it is at Pollo Tropical

Today I had lunch with my husband at our neighborhood Pollo Tropical and had a wonderful meal again. This is my go-to place for fast, easy, always GF food. Pollo Tropical is actually a member of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), which helps regulate the use and disclosure of the eight major allergens. So they’re really aware of what’s necessary to accommodate food sensitive people. The staff at the three Pollo Tropicals I frequent are always super nice and friendly. And every single employee with whom I’ve interacted has taken my food “allergies” very seriously  (that’s what I say there, ’cause the language barrier can sometimes lead to confusion, but they always get “allergy to bread”) and are extremely conscientious with the gluten. Since going GF I’ve been here dozens and dozens of times and have only had one reaction. Since then I always watch them prepare (they have an open kitchen so you can see them make your food right there) and have never had any problems. I also always try to go at off times (before noon and after 1:30 for lunch… we don’t usually go for dinner).
So, what do I eat here? I love the Tropichops! It’s a bowl of rice and beans with your choice of meat on top. I usually get the Chicken Tropichop with white rice (I vaguely remember reading somewhere that the yellow rice has gluten in it, but it’s not listed on the official Pollo Tropical Allergy List… but I always get white to be safe) and black beans. They have a Regular and a Large but the large comes with a side Caesar salad which is not GF, so I always get the Regular (and it’s more than enough to eat.. I usually take some home!). I usually get the combo meal (adds a side and a drink). For my side I always get the super delicious Plantains. They’re yummy, ripe & sweet and are somehow cooked to a beautiful caramelized texture (I don’t like bananas, but I LOVE these cooked plantains!).

So in doing research for this post, I found out that Pollo Tropical has four meals that they claim are free from the 8 most common allergens, including wheat.
Now I have to go back to Pollo Tropical so I can give the other three GF meals a try! :) To help myself remember what’s GF and what to avoid, I made some modifications to the Allergy PDF on Pollo Tropical’s site. I noted which had gluten, so I can check it at a glance when ordering. So I’ll add this new list to my Pollo Tropical Gluten Fact Sheet to my Free Downloads Documents, so you can download and use it too. :)

And here are some tips to help you stay gluten-free at Pollo Tropical.

1) Let the staff know you have Celiac, an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. (Like I said earlier, I’ve found the “I’m allergic to bread” statement the most quickly understood and helpful way to relate the need for a gluten-free meal at Pollo Tropical.)

2) Request that the person who makes your dish change their gloves and complete the order (sometimes if it’s busy, one person will do part and the next will finish the order)

3) Be wary of the salsa bar. While pretty much everything on it should be gluten-free, you never know what’s happened to a spoon or ladle before you’ve gotten there. Especially on busy days or late in the day, there’s always a chance that someone with a sandwich or wrap or croutons used the spoon and inadvertently touched some gluten when ladling it onto their food. Just to be safe you can skip the salsa bar or ask for some from behind the counter. They have little pre-made containers ready for To Go orders, so it shouldn’t be a hassle for them to slide you a few.

Well, I hope this helps you find some easy, safe gluten-free fast food at Pollo Tropical. Enjoy!

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