As a general rule, if one is staying overnight in Shenandoah National Park and is not camping, then one will be eating in a restaurant operated by Aramark, the park’s concessionaire. The reason for this is that very few rooms or cabins in the park are equipped with either microwaves or refrigerators, so preparing one’s own meals there is nearly impossible. This practically forces anyone staying at Skyland Lodge to eat in the Pollack Dining Room and anyone staying at Big Meadows Lodge (as was my case) to eat in the Spottswood Dining Room. Accordingly, I wrote to Aramark in advance of my visit to ask if it was safe for me to eat in the Spottswood Dining Room. I received the following response from Ted Floyd, Electronic Distribution Coordinator: “Yes, the restaurant at Big Meadows offers gluten-free options for all meals.” Unfortunately, I found that not to be the case.
GF issues aside, dinners at the Spottswood were no more than mediocre, yet were priced like those in premier dining establishments. In addition, the dinner menu was quite limited. Fortunately, the breakfast menu was sufficiently varied and more reasonably priced. I did not have any lunches at the Spottswood.
My waiter seemed downright frightened when I announced that I had celiac disease and would need his assistance in choosing a safe meal. He claimed that he had served gluten-free diners before, but he appeared to know nothing about the diet himself. He merely carried my questions to the chef. To start, I ordered a house salad with ranch dressing, and I asked the waiter to check the label on the dressing – or, better still – to bring me the label so that I could check it myself. Instead, he returned with a dressingless salad, dropped it on the table in front of me, and started to walk away while saying over his shoulder, “The ranch contains monosodium glutamate, so you can’t have it.” Setting aside the rudeness of slinging a naked salad at me without offering other options, I called him back and explained that not all foods with “glut” in their names contain gluten. From that point on, I dealt directly with the chef, who was kind and helpful but who was only vaguely familiar with the GF diet. For the next two days I selected dishes that I suspected would be naturally GF, then had the chef come out and describe that meal’s preparation in order to confirm the absence of gluten or to discuss modifications. This got me through the weekend, but it gave me very little confidence in the kitchen's ability to limit cross-contamination. I am not a sensitive celiac, so I have no way of knowing to what degree they succeeded. I'm afraid I cannot recommend the Spottswood for safe GF dining.