The Works Needs to Work on Its Gluten-Free Options

Visited On: August 10, 2013
Gluten Free Menu: No; some options included on regular menu
Server Knowledge: 1/2
Server Attitude:
Variety of Gluten-Free Options:
Overall Gluten-Friendly Rating:
Price Range: $15-$20 per person, plus drinks, tax, and tip

We’ve visited several of Halifax’s gourmet burger places, but The Works was still on our to-try list. So, when we were looking for a lunch spot last weekend, we decided to give it a try.

We were greeted as soon as we walked in and were taken to a booth. It’s sit-down style (in contrast to Relish and Cheese Curds, where you order at a counter) and the décor is really cool. Mike ordered a beer to start while I opted for a soda.

The menu is a little bit confusing because although gluten-free burger options are clearly outlined, none of the other gluten-free options are marked. None of their appetizers or poutines are gluten-free, which is disappointing. As for sides, anything fried is out, so that leaves Celiacs with the option of steamed broccoli (gross!), celery, cucumbers, weeds (which I think is lettuce), coleslaw, or mashed potatoes.

The burger options are much more impressive. They have 70 burgers that can be done gluten-free by omitting a handful of pretty obvious toppings where necessary: onion rings, macaroni and cheese, teriyaki sauce, gravy, crispy dill pickles, and fried tortillas.

With that in mind, Michael ordered the Smokey Mountain burger ($13.34), which featured barbeque sauce, Jack cheese, and bacon. He chose French fries as his side. I asked for the Growler Five-0, which also featured barbeque sauce, but with Cheddar cheese and double-smoked bacon. I asked for no mushrooms on the burger and a side of mashed potatoes. I clearly specified that I was gluten intolerant and asked for the gluten-free bun.

Our burgers took about 25 minutes to arrive and were dropped off by a food runner. I asked for some butter for the mashed potatoes, and then we looked at our meals. It was very obvious that Michael had the gluten-free bun while I had the regular bun. When the food runner came back, we notified her of the problem, and she took our food back to the kitchen. Since I’d touched the wheat bun, I went to the washroom to wash my hands. When I came back, our food was back, too.

It was very clear that they had simply swapped the buns. In addition to being completely unacceptable for a Celiac, it made the food look really gross. Michael’s burger, for example, had some of the sauce and cheese from my burger smooshed into the bottom of it. I was completely disgusted.

At that point, our server came over to see how everything was going. We explained what had happened and asked him to double-check if they had really just swapped the buns. (It seemed pretty obvious to us, but we wanted him to talk to the kitchen himself.) He came back and confirmed that that was indeed what they had done. He offered to take my burger and re-make it.

I politely said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” We had a full day planned, with the Seaport Beerfest, dinner plans, and a hotel room booked. I was not going to get sick! As well, we had waited 40 minutes for food that I could not eat, and had to be somewhere in another 20 minutes.

I took the mashed potatoes off of the tray (thankfully, they were in a separate bowl) and told our server that I did not want a new burger and he could take the tray back to the kitchen. He looked a bit surprised and uncomfortable, but didn’t argue. Michael kept his food, even though it was getting cold by that time. (He said that the French fries were really good, but the burger was quite overcooked and dry. I’m sure that the shenanigans with my food did not improve his experience.)

I started to eat my mashed potatoes, which were real potatoes and not bad, even though they needed seasoning and butter. Then the manager came over and profusely apologized. She said she wasn’t sure what had happened, but that she had just “castrated” her kitchen staff. She asked if there was anything else that she could get us, and I thanked her but said no. She apologized again and informed us that our entire meal would be free, including our drinks.

Our server came back a few more times and apologized, but that didn’t change the fact that I left The Works hungry. I really do not know what happened. I know other Celiacs who have eaten there and had no problems. Despite that, I don’t think we’ll be trying The Works again.

The Works
5431 Doyle Street (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Web Site:


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  1. #1 by Dave Klein on August 19, 2013 - 5:54 pm

    Ugh. Thanks for the review. I don’t know why managers feel that telling a customer “I just eviscerated the people who screwed your meal up” is the right way to go. I don’t want some poor kid working a minimum wage job to get screamed at for (what I assume is) an honest mistake.

    It wasn’t quite clear in the review, but did you explain to them precisely WHY they couldn’t just switch the buns?

    • #2 by glutenfree4hfx on August 19, 2013 - 7:16 pm

      That is a good point about the kitchen staff. 🙂 Our waiter and manager seemed to actually understand why cross-contamination was an issue. Apparently the communication breakdown was with the kitchen and food runners… Goes to show you can never be too careful!

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