Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

Dining Out with Food Allergies

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Laurie Tarkan, @IsItAllergy on Twitter and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, recently featured an interview with Food Allergies To Go in an article regarding Dining Out With Food Allergies at She expressed my thoughts better than I could have done myself. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone in the restaurant business and anyone with food allergies. Thanks Laurie.

Want to Travel and Dine Out with Food Allergies? Our Son Does!

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Back in the Spring of 1996, our youngest son was eight and the oldest was ten. They both had multiple serious food allergies and food labeling was sketchy at best. Dining out was extremely risky since most people didn’t know about food allergies. Heck, I found out the hard way.

I was itching to go somewhere, so I took a ride down to Cape Cod one day with my sister while the boys were in school. We had vacationed a couple of times on the Cape at a place called New Seabury, so I figured I would check in there to scout for a summer rental. As fate would have it, the entire village was already sold out for the season.

On the ride home, I realized I wasn’t very upset about missing out on the rental. It dawned on me that I honestly wasn’t in the mood for a quiet week on the beach. I was looking for an adventure. I hadn’t been to the west coast in ten years and I was yearning to show my boys the other side of the country.

My sister, who has the travel bug worse than anyone I know, egged me on to go west. But how could I? I was responsible for two kids with multiple food allergies, complete with Epi-pens. Airlines were handing out complimentary peanuts left and right. Small dogs and cats were allowed on most flights. Odds seemed pretty slim until she mentioned the magic words, motor home.

Yes, that was it. I would take the kitchen with me! And so we did. And it was terrific. We were gone for five weeks and saw many fabulous wonders along the southern and northern routes that cut across this awe inspiring country.

For the next decade, we were constantly firing up that RV for summer vacations, traveling the U.S. and eastern Canada. It was a lot of work because of the driving and upkeep, but we learned some shortcuts along the way. And there are definite benefits to staying in campgrounds vs. staying in hotels. I wouldn’t trade those memories in for anything.

One night in May of 2008, I got an 11:30 p.m. phone call from our then twenty-one year old who is allergic to milk, egg, and nuts. He was hankering to take his first trip to Europe and had finished his finals early. He wanted to let me know that he was making plans to leave for Barcelona in two days in order to be home in time to start his summer job. Yikes! This travel thing must be contagious!

At home, we were smack in the middle of a full blown, gut the kitchen remodel, and now this. Not to be the one to dampen anyone’s curiosity for travel, I asked if he would consider two things. “ Can you please consider an English speaking country, and can you wait until Friday (it was Tuesday) so you won’t have to travel alone? I can go with you. It‘s not fair that you‘re going to Europe when I‘ve never been there. Whine, whine, whine.” After some heavy resistance to the thought of traveling with Mom, I heard tap, tap, tap, in the background and knew he was on his computer. “Virgin Atlantic is showing some unusually cheap flights to London, so how about meeting me Friday at Logan around five p.m.? Silence. Do you want me to go ahead and book it?” “Ahhh, sure. Dad’s tied up with work and your brother still has finals that day, so it will just be the two of us.” “Ok, done.”

Fortunately, hubby and I had been anticipating this, so we did have a little bit of info on a few restaurants in London. Of course, I still had a whopping two and one half more days to do some more restaurant research, give instructions to the contractor, and pack my bags.

Somehow it all worked out and all four of us landed in London by Saturday night. It was a little scary , but we somehow managed to find a half dozen restaurants that could deal with the milk, egg, peanut and tree nut allergies. We packed extra Epi-pens and had the time of our lives.

Somewhere around our fifth day in London, I woke up at four in the morning and thought “Eureka! When we go home, all of our restaurant notes will be lost in some pile and what if we want to come back again? What if somebody else wants to come to London with their food allergies and they don’t know that we did all of this research and ate in all of these wonderful places? I can’t let that happen. I can’t be that short-sighted. I should share. It’s the right thing to do. I have a background in software, so I can put this on the internet and everyone who needs it will be able to see it.” Hence, was born. I un-crumpled my papers, started taking notes and tried to anticipate what others would need to know about our trip to get themselves safely to London and have a great time.

Our food allergy related travel experiences are on the internet for anyone to see. The restaurant and hotel data is arranged by country, state, and city to aid the planning for a vacation or business trip. Other people have graciously started to contribute their favorite restaurant experiences to share.

I have a vision. If we all pool our restaurant experiences together, then we make it easier for each other to get out of the kitchen and dine out in any city of our choosing. If we don’t share, then many of us might still be trapped at home.

I am writing this on a United flight from Lihue on Kauai to San Francisco. My son with the food allergies is currently in law school. I’m trying to anticipate his next phone call by vetting as many restaurants as I can before his spring break! It’s a big world, so please share it with us.


P.S. Please keep in mind that just because one person has a safe experience in a restaurant, it doesn’t guarantee that subsequent patrons will also have a safe dining experience. There is an inherent risk to dining out with food allergies.