When you have food allergies, no matter how severe, there is one thing that strikes fear in your heart like none other…eating at a new restaurant.
Here are a few steps I take before trying a new restaurant. They aren’t fool proof, and it doesn’t mean that you will be able to eat anything you want on the menu, but they should save you a few uncomfortable evenings after diner.
1. Look them up on line especially pay attention to their menu. If they have instructions at the bottom…* eating undercooked…yada, yada, and it also says to “alert your server if you have food allergies”… then in my experience you should be in luck.
2. Call them, but not at a peak time. If you google the restaurant during their peak times should be listed. When you call them ask, specifically, to speak to a chef or the kitchen manager. Do not just talk to whomever answers the phone, if they aren’t aware of food allergy severity or if they aren’t a part of the ordering process they will not be able to thoroughly answer your questions.
3. Get a name for when you go into the restaurant. This way you can give your server the name of who you need to talk to concerning your allergy. I always call, then double check when I get there. You can never be too careful.
4. Get a card listing your allergies, your allerigst should be able to help here. If not there are companies who will make them for you. This makes it easier for your server. They can take the card back to the kitchen so the chef can come out and quickly lay out your options.
I’ve been asked several times if I had a card, which I don’t because of the nature of my allergies, it’s hard to list out what I’m allergic to. Often people assume that since I’m allergic to soy, so long as there is not soy sauce I should be fine. But that isn’t the case. I have make sure there’s no mayo, or that the restaurant only uses real butter as opposed to a margarin butter blend. And the list goes on and on. Never be afraid to repeat yourself.
5. Keep your expectations in check. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a new restaurant and had one of two things happen.
I either found I could only have one thing on the menu, or that the chef would have to make something not on the menu for me. Which I have to tell you isn’t such a bad thing.
I can have anything on the menu, that isn’t asian inspired, and I’m so overwhelmed I can’t decide.
While I’ve come to appreciate the chef who is willing to go off book, I typically get food that is so good I’m willing to eat the same thing every night for a week. It’s not always that easy.
Once when on a trip we went to a seafood restaurant in Las Vegas. I had called a head and talked to the chef, so they were prepping an area in which to make my food and we had settled on what would be made for me.
We were on a field and track trip so there was a rather large group of us going. When we got there, I spoke with the chef again confirming that I could eat what was being offered. While I was doing this the server came and took everyone else’s order.
Once my order was confirmed: pan fried trout (a personal favorite), steamed asparagus, potatoes and brussel sprouts, and an olive tapenade. I sat back and enjoyed the conversations going on around me. As everyone’s orders began coming out, seafood platters, crab cakes, a bunch of deep fried goodness I sat there calmly waiting for my food.
The chef brought it out himself. After confirming everything looked ok, the chef returned to the kitchen and I looked up to many pairs of eyes staring at my plate. One of my friends raised his hand, while looking at my plate and proclaimed, “I think I have food allergies”. HA!
I must admit it was one of the best meals I had had up until that point in my food allergy journey.
On the opposite side of the coin, we recently had a new restaurant open here and I made the mistake of calling during their opening night. I checked for peak times and none were listed, I quickly realized why none were listed. Anyway, I talked to someone in the kitchen who was very frazzled, and she asked that I email, but also said that she would get some answers and call me back.
I emailed them asking about their menu, and never heard a thing back. It’s rather disheartening, but I will not eat there. Hubby has asked a couple of times about it, but since I do not have answers I will not be eating there. It’s that simple.
What are some steps you take to ensure you don’t take a hit when eating out?