Food Allergy Awareness Week – May 13-19
My 5-year-old son is allergic to milk and our server at an upper-scale Mexican restaurant offered us a dessert after our meal. The choices were flan, tres leches, and fried ice cream. We explained that we would not be able to have dessert because we would be horrible parents to eat such treats in front of our kiddo. Our server, who had been informed about my son’s allergy, said with absolute certainty, “None of our desserts have dairy in them.” Excuse me, but in case anybody is confused, tres leches actually means three milks. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common situation when our family goes out to eat.
For families with food allergies, going out to eat can be a really challenging and stressful ordeal.
Often times the menu items themselves are not safe to eat, or the kitchen & service staff are not properly educated on cross contamination procedures. There’s also a common misconception that food allergies are the same as a food intolerance. My son is not lactose intolerant, and while I do feel for the many people out there who do have a particular food intolerance, a food allergy can often be life-threatening. There’s much work to do in educating the restaurant industry on the severity of food allergies and how to keep customers safe, but there’s also a number of restaurants around town who simply get it and are known for being food allergy-friendly.
In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, here’s a round-up of some of our favorite restaurants around town, both locally owned & national chains.
Picazzo’s – The holy grail of restaurants for diners with food allergies and/or special dietary restrictions. Picazzo’s not only does it right, but being allergy friendly is what they’re known for. Servers & kitchen staff are so understanding and knowledgeable about ingredients. As a food allergy-mom, I always feel comfortable and at ease dining here.
In-N-Out – When cravings for burger & fries hit, In-N-Out is the place to go for anyone with a top 8 food allergy. Just about everything on the menu can be ordered to be safe, with some modifications. For example, avoid gluten by ordering a burger “protein style.” When ordering, be sure to mention your food allergy and they actually have a button on the register that indicates an allergy is in the order. A special grill is used for all allergy orders that come in and their fryer is dedicated gluten free.
Pita Jungle – A long time Valley favorite, Pita Jungle is well-known for their vegetarian & vegan dishes. Their website also features a very easy to read allergen chart to help determine what menu items are safe.
GrabbaGreen – Tons of fresh ingredients and healthy options, GrabbaGreen can customize most dishes to accommodate allergies & food restrictions.
True Food – Lots of options for a variety of dietary restrictions and they publish their allergen ingredients.
Flower Child – Lots of options for vegan & gluten free. Lots of items are naturally gluten free, but the kitchen is not GF. Visit their website here.
Red Robin – This national chain offers diners an iPad at the table where they can enter in their allergens and view a list of suitable menu items.
OHSO – They practice great caution in preparing food to avoid cross contamination, including wearing special purple gloves to prepare & deliver food to the table.
Juby True – While this might not be a great option for nut allergy friends, they will happily wash their blender when asked and the staff seems to be well-trained in how to avoid cross contimation.
Chipotle – According to their website, “WE DO NOT USE EGGS**, MUSTARD, PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, SESAME, SHELLFISH, OR FISH AS INGREDIENTS IN OUR FOOD. (**We do not use eggs, except at locations where breakfast is available, as ingredients in our food.) In my personal experience, when I mention that the food is to be prepared for a food allergy customer, they have wiped down all surfaces of the line, changed gloves, and one single person prepares the food from start to finish. They also use trays from the back to further avoid cross contamination.
Does someone you love have a food allergy? What’s your favorite allergy friendly restaurant to go to? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment. Us food allergy mamas have to stick together to continue to spread awareness.
It’s important to mention that while these restaurants do have a variety of food allergy menu options and tend to have good practices in place when it comes to serving food allergy customers, most of the kitchens mentioned still operate with many Top 8 food allergy items present in the kitchen. Normal kitchen operations do involve shared cooking and preparation areas, and cross-contact with other allergen containing foods may occur during preparation. SMB is unable to guarantee that any of the above listed restaurants’ menu is completely free from any particular allergen, and we assume no liability for the accuracy of the information provided. Please always inform servers and food handlers about your food allergies.
For more information about food allergies and Food Allergy Awareness Week, please visit FARE’s website