EVERYTHING Gluten-Free at The Habit Burger Grill in 2022

The Habit Burger Grill has been tweaking their burgers to perfection since 1969. While not as famous as McDonald’s or Wendy’s, this restaurant specializes in juicy charbroiled burgers that are made fresh to order.

It’s the perfect place for a quick burger fix if you’re looking to indulge. 

So what’s Gluten-Free at The Habit Burger Grill?

The gluten-free options include juicy burger patties, chicken breast, salads, dressings, burger toppings, scrumptious sides, and even desserts!

The Habit Burger Grill also provides its customers with complete guidelines on how to stay gluten-free at the burger chain. 

The restaurant advises customers with gluten allergies to order their burgers in a lettuce wrap or bun-less. Moreover, you’ll need to stay clear of the enticing fried items since they’re fried in the same oil as battered items. 

Eating gluten-free at a burger joint seems like a pretty simplistic endeavor – right? All you have to do is swap out that wheat burger bun for a gluten-free one or replace it with a lettuce wrap. 

Or so you thought. This is, unfortunately, not exactly the case – and we’ll explore why. 

Those looking to avoid gluten completely do have options available to them at The Habit Burger Grill, and we’ll focus on what can be safely eaten there.

At the same time, it is important we make clear the potential risks and problematic foods that you need to steer clear of while dining. 

We’ve touched on the possibility of “cross-contamination” before and what it means for those looking to avoid gluten when eating out at restaurants: be it for health reasons, due to Celiac Disease, or an allergy/intolerance (which are only now becoming more widely recognized)

So, while eating at a burger or grill joint compared to any other establishment may seem safer and easier, this is simply just not the case. 

Let’s take a closer look at The Habit Burger Grill’s gluten-free menu up close and then dive into possible gluten-friendly alternatives and some key information for diners. 

The Habit Burger Grill Gluten-Free Options

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Gluten-Free Options at The Habit Burger Grill

The Habit Burger Grill does explicitly state that they offer “gluten-free” options for hungry patrons, and have commented on various reviews off Yelp and other websites stating that their Customer Care department can always be contacted for more details on their menu offerings. 

While staff do seem knowledgeable, it is extremely important for customers and patrons to know that the fryers are “common” and potentially have come into contact with gluten during use (fries cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings).

If you are highly allergic, intolerant, or have Celiac Disease – this is an important caveat to keep in mind. 

They provide a very explicit (albeit fine-print) disclaimer on their website that reads: “The Habit Burger Grill does NOT claim that any of its foods are 100% gluten free.

The Habit does not use dedicated chopping boards, fryers/frying oils, utensils, or food surfaces for gluten-containing foods. We therefore do not [and cannot] guarantee that cross contact with gluten-containing foods will not occur.” 

This is vitally important for those with Celiac Disease, as it essentially means you may need to avoid The Habit Burger Grill completely, and opt for a different restaurant establishment – which we will touch on (and provide some options for) later. 

Let’s explore the marked and indicated gluten-free options at The Habit Burger Grill, and what they’ve specifically mentioned as being ‘true’ GF via their website and customer support. 

On their website, they have a “Celiac and Gluten-Free Guidelines” page which states that the following Menu Items do not contain wheat, wheat-related grains, or gluten. 

Avocado: “All avocado on the menu is gluten-free and can be added to any choice of menu item.”

GF Burger Patties, Chicken Breast, Ahi Tuna: “Order these items instead with a lettuce wrap or without croutons to make them a gluten-free option.”

Salads: “Need to be ordered without croutons or ‘fried’ items and can be made gluten-free by doing so.”

Salad Dressing: “All Habit Burger Grill salad dressings are gluten-free.”

Gluten-Free Add-Ons: “Include: Bacon, Yellow & White American Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Mustard, Sweet Mustard, Tartar Sauce, BBQ Sauce.”

Kids’ Favorites: “Order these items lettuce wrapped instead or without a bun: this includes Apple Slices or Apple Sauce, which are gluten-free.”

Desserts: “Shakes, Whipped Cream, and Sundaes are gluten-free.” 

Drinks: “Fountain Beverages, Juice, Iced Tea, and Water are all gluten-free.”

They also provide a list of menu items to explicitly avoid when dining there. These are listed as the following:

  • Buns, Rolls, and Croutons: “All made with wheat flour and wheat by-products.”
  • Fried Items: “All fried items are cooked in the same fryer and oil, and will likely have come into contact with the present allergens from other fried items during preparation, including wheat and gluten.” 
  • Veggie Burger: “Contains wheat, and gluten.”
  • Teriyaki Sauce: “Contains gluten and wheat by-products.”
  • Tri-tip: “Marinated in the teriyaki sauce – so not gluten-free.” 
  • Malt Vinegar: “This condiment contains wheat by-products and is derived from a barley source.”
  • Ice-Cream Cones: “Contains wheat and gluten.”

Now, let’s take a look at the actual menu and what this means in terms of what you can order off of the menu.

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Gluten-Free Burger Options at Habit Burger Grill

*Cheese, Bacon, Avocado, Mushrooms, or Lettuce Wrap are available to either be added or as substitutions, and are all gluten-free.

Santa Barbara Char: Two freshly chargrilled beef patties, avocado, caramelized onions, American cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo on grilled sourdough (can be substituted for lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free).

Charburger with Cheese: Award-Winning burger, topped with caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, mayo and cheese on a toasted bun (can be substituted for a lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free).

Charburger: Award-Winning burger, topped with caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, mayo, and cheese on a toasted bun (can be substituted for lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free).

Double Char with Cheese: Two freshly chargrilled beef patties, caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, mayo, and cheese on a toasted bun (can be substituted for lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free). 

Double Char: Two freshly chargrilled beef patties, caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, and mayo on a toasted bun (can be substituted for a lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free). 

Portabella Char: Freshly chargrilled beef patty, Portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, melted White American cheese, crispy lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, and roasted garlic aioli on a toasted bun (can be substituted for a lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free). 

BBQ Bacon Char with Cheese: Freshly chargrilled beef patty, hickory-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, crispy lettuce, fresh tomatoes, mayo, and cheese on a toasted bun (can be substituted for a lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free). 

BBQ Bacon Char: Freshly chargrilled beef patty, hickory-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, and mayo on a toasted bun (can be substituted for a lettuce wrap instead to make it gluten-free). 

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Gluten-Free Sides Available at Habit Burger Grill

Side Caesar Salad: Needs to be ordered without Croutons. Chopped Romaine Lettuce, tossed in Caesar Dressing with Croutons [omitted] and fresh Parmesan. 

Side Salad: Needs to be ordered without croutons. Chopped Romaine lettuce, Iceberg, Red Leaf Lettuce, Roma Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots, and Croutons [omitted]. 

Gluten-Free Signature Sandwiches at Habit Burger Grill

Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Hand-filleted marinated chicken breast, melted cheese, crisp shredded lettuce, fresh tomatoes, mayo, and BBQ or teriyaki sauce* (you’ll need to opt for BBQ sauce instead of teriyaki as the teriyaki contains gluten and you’ll need to opt for a lettuce wrap or no bread). 

Chicken Club: Hand-filleted, marinated chicken breast, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, fresh avocado, and mayo – served on toasted sourdough (omit to make it gluten-free). 

Tenderloin Steak Sandwich: Hand-cut and marinated beef tenderloin with mayonnaise, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and choice of BBQ or teriyaki sauce on artisan ciabatta roll (omit teriyaki sauce and ciabatta roll to make it gluten-free). 

Gluten-Free Salads at Habit Burger Grill

*Can add Ahi Tuna (gluten-free) or Tenderloin Steak (gluten-free) to many of these options, along with a choice of gluten free House Dressing (balsamic based or olive oil based). 

Garden Salad: Romaine, iceberg, green and red leaf lettuce, red cabbage, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots, and croutons (omit to make it gluten-free). 

Caesar Salad: Chopped Romaine lettuce tossed is Caesar dressing, crotons (omit to make it gluten-free) and freshly grated Parmesan cheese).

Santa Barbara Cobb: Crisp, shredded iceberg and Romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, hickory-smoked bacon, egg, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette, with chargrilled chicken breast. 

Grilled Chicken Caesar: Chopped Romaine tossed in Caesar dressing, with croutons (omit to make it gluten-free), fresh Parmesan and topped with grilled chicken breast.

Grilled Chicken: Romaine, iceberg, green and red leaf lettuce, red cabbage, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots, croutons (omit to make it gluten-free) and topped with a chargrilled chicken breast. 

BBQ Chicken: Chargrilled chicken breast atop garden greens, hickory-smoked bacon, diced red onions, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and ranch dressing, topped with tangy BBQ sauce. 

Frozen Treats & Desserts at Habit Burger Grill

Sundaes: Vanilla soft-serve style, Hershey’s Chocolate, whipped cream, and nuts. 

Shakes: Handcrafted and made-to-order. They offer the following gluten-free flavors: Mocha, Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla, Coffee

It should be once again reinstated, and noted, that the food at Habit Burger Grill is prepared in a kitchen that contains a huge number of gluten-containing items: particularly breading for the fried chicken and onion rings (which is used in the same fryer as French fries), along with the burger buns – which are cooked and prepared using the same utensils and equipment. 

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly expansive array of menu options – what you can actually safely eat at the Habit Burger Grill will depend on your severity of intolerance and response to gluten.  

As such, those with Celiac Disease or any sort of severe gluten allergy/intolerance need to be extremely strict and cautious about eating there – otherwise, this seems like a restaurant to be avoiding altogether. 

How to Safely Eat Gluten-Free While at a Burger Joint or Grill

While patrons and customers report the staff there being educated on Celiac Disease and allergy handling protocols (like changing gloves), it does seem to vary from location to location – and they still are clear in the fact that there is a lot of wheat and gluten in their kitchens that they cannot avoid.

There is genuinely no sort of reassurance provided for those looking to avoid gluten here. 

There are still some strategies and tips you can implement to ensure you minimize your risk while dining at Habit, should you choose to. 

Communicate to Staff About Gluten Allergy or Intolerance, Ask About Their Safety Precautions

As someone likely well versed on the risks of “cross-contamination,” – you probably know this is a common occurrence in kitchens (especially restaurant kitchens) and is not specific to gluten (but can be related to any allergen like nuts or shellfish). 

While some restaurants may explicitly state they are “gluten-free” or have “dedicated kitchens,” (meaning none of the gluten-free food or cooking appliances come into contact with gluten), this is often not the case

– and is especially not true for a restaurant like Habit Burger Grill. 

They may not go to the lengths as outlined in the Celiac Association’s location chapters on how to prepare a safe gluten-free meal for those with Celiac, but you can still advocate for yourself and your concerns for your own health and then judge how safe the restaurant is for you based on their responses to your inquiries.

Based on customer feedback, it does seem like staff are receptive to changing gloves, rigorously washing hands, and ensuring no wheat or gluten winds up on your plate if you request it.

However, they still make clear they cannot ‘guarantee’ the dining experience will be gluten-free based on the possibility of gluten in their kitchens. 

What are the Customers of The Habit Burger Grill Saying Online?

Unfortunately, the wide, varying range of responses to The Habit Burger Grill does not provide much in the way reassurance that they are ‘safe’ for those going gluten-free. 

You have customers rating various locations 5/5 stars, and proclaiming that staff understand Celiac Disease properly and the risks of cross-contamination – while you have others, stating that the food itself was good and staff knowledgeable, but that they still got sick from cross contamination due to the grills being used for wheat bread & buns.

For this patron, despite the care and effort being there, the end result of getting sick from gluten was still inevitable. 

For others, we have a completely different story.

A review for the location in Castro Valley, CA notes that the manager of that specific location is extremely well-versed in preparing gluten-free dishes, and that all grills, countertops, and cooking surfaces would be properly cleaned before cooking their food – in addition to advising them want to order.

This is a customer ordering what we’ve listed as one of our safe options: a lettuce-wrapped grilled chicken sandwich with avocado. 

One thing in the restaurant’s favor is that all the sauces and marinades, dressings, etc. are all gluten-free except for the teriyaki, which they make note of on the menu.

So: Ranch, BBQ, and all their vinaigrettes are completely safe in terms of being gluten-free ingredient wise. 

Considering the complete mix of reviews (some quite negative, some extremely positive), we’ve outlined alternative dining for you below, that specifically mentions and takes care of their gluten-free patrons. 

Gluten-Free Restaurant Alternatives

Bareburger

Providing gluten-free, high-quality burgers to hungry patrons – even if they’re craving a fried chicken sandwich: they’ve got you covered on your gluten-free needs.

With overwhelmingly positive reviews, Bareburger stands in stark contrast among the gluten-free crowd to Habit Burger Grill, especially when it comes to delivering on gluten-free safety. 

They operate using a dedicated separate fryer and separate cooking utensils, with gluten-free flour used for anything of the deep-fried variety. They’ve also got gluten-free burger buns on deck.

Multiple customers who report having Celiac Disease (or children and family with Celiac) are overjoyed as to their positive (and safe) experience dining at Bareburger. 

The Bareburger website explicitly makes it clear: “the best ethically sourced ingredients, an allergen-friendly kitchen with dedicated fryers, and organic, grass-fed, anti-biotic free beef. 

Offering a diverse range of menu items from unique salads (South-Western or Mediterranean) to classic burgers (with vegan options), gluten-free fried chicken sandwiches, and a whole lot of sides. Gluten-free sweet potato fries, anyone? 

There’s a certain level of assurance to Bareburger that is just simply not there when it comes to Habit Burger Grill.