Control Freak, me Never! I like to think of myself as a planner extraordinaire, the one who plans all the activities of our vacation in advance. Where we are going, what hotel has the best beach and what local activities are a must. When a close friend developed food allergies to gluten and dairy my planning skills were completely caught off guard. I began to research restaurants in a particular area we may want to travel to and printed off menus & read some online-reviews. I got this, let’s go out to eat no worries right?
Hi Joey the waiter, we have an allergy to gluten & dairy so can I have a burger with avocado and a side of French fries lettuce wrapped no bun. Will that be okay for my friend here? Oh sure no problem as he checks out the score on the football game from the giant flat screen tv in the restaurant. Lunch arrives it looks so yummy and we begin to eat, drink & enjoy our day.
My friend takes a second bite into his burger and says is that cheese on there? I begin to inspect his burger and low and behold there is cheese underneath the avocado! My heart drops as I see the disappointment in my friends face. We were just all smiles and laughing a minute ago.
Control freak I mean planner extraordinaire appears and calls over Joey. Yes Joey my friend’s burger has cheese on it, we asked for no gluten or dairy. Cheese is dairy Joey says? Yes genius cheese is dairy. Since I had no faith in the waiter at this point, I begin to quiz him on the rest of the meal, these French fries they are gluten free right? We fry them in oil like we do everything else on our menu he says. So let me get this straight the fried fish you have on the menu that has breading with gluten is fried in the same exact fryer? Genius Joey replies ah, yes I believe so. No apology, just a would you like me to get you something else? Yes Joey I would like something else it’s you showing me the thing called the EXIT. We are done here and will not be returning but hey have a great day and enjoy that football game.
This began me upping my volume on planning restaurant outings. I have 5 fast rules I apply when picking an allergy friendly restaurant:
- Always pick a restaurant that has a dedicated gluten free menu. (while this doesn’t guarantee you still may not have a problem it shows the restaurant actually may care if you fall into your lunch as you reach for your stomach in pain)
- You get more flies with honey. I tell the server politely that someone in our party has food allergies. I’ve learned no one will care about your food allergies as much as you do and that’s okay. If we don’t feel comfortable then a manager is called in or we leave.
- High-end restaurants are better. I believe it’s because they make more of their food from scratch so they are able to accommodate a little easier since a lot of chains use premade items. I was shocked to find out how many fillers they put into items at restaurants. French Fries with Canola & Soybean Oil, Wheat and Milk Derivatives, Dextrose & Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate sounds yummy right? High end restaurants can be a little pricier but well worth it. The servers & chefs are more aware of food allergies and don’t act like Joey who basically could care less. Yes Joey I am talking about you the one who expects a tip for just being you know Joey! I’ve had much more luck at high end than eating at the chain restaurants however smaller local chains seem to be an exception to this rule.
- Plan in advance when traveling. I will research the area restaurants and like to find a place that can accommodate the whole group. That way everyone can feel comfortable. Recently one person in our party had a gluten & dairy allergy and one person was a vegan so I found a GREAT place Bandaloop they have a fabulous menu online which showed little indicators next to each feature for food allergies. I had both parties look at menu in advance to make sure they like what they saw. This helps take away any anxiety before we go to the restaurant so we can just focus on enjoying the evening out together!
- Don’t be afraid to go out to eat & travel. This to me is one of the most important. Now days many places are more open to accommodating special diets and you can’t let fear overcome your desire to travel. Travel feeds the soul & once your realize there are options for you happiness & joy will replace fear & anxiety!
Have a suggestion or tip that works when you go out for an allergy friendly meal? Please tell! I love to share!