We go out to eat from time to time, but we try to eat at home rather often. Eating at home helps us: Save money on expensive restaurant food, eat healthier options than offered at restaurants, and also not have to worry about the safety of the food at restaurants for Little Guy.
I didn't order anything at a restaurant for Little Guy until he was close to 1 1/2 years old. I usually fed him healthy snacks/food anyway while we were waiting for our food at restaurants. Most of the time, that's what you have to do with toddlers anyway! I also figured he didn't mind not having food from the restaurant as he was more interested in playing. Now I usually order him chicken, steak or hamburger with steamed veggies and baked or sweet potato if they have the option. I ask to just use olive oil and seasonings like oregano or basil.
This page includes some of our restaurant experiences. MOST have been positive. I do have to say that we choose restaurants where we feel comfortable and confident that they will provide safe food for Little Guy. For example:
- On our first beach vacation I didn't feel comfortable with the restaurants so I packed food for my son for every meal.
- In the past, I called a local restaurant to see if they could accommodate Little Guy's food allergies and they said no. I was appreciative of their honest response, and I know we won't dine there!
- Call ahead and ask about their food allergy policies, ask if their staff is comfortable cooking for someone with food allergies, and ask if they frequently cook for people with food allergies.
- Review the menu ahead of time to see what might work for Little Guy.
- Bring a chef card wherever I go to help communicate about his food allergies.
- Ask to speak with the manager upon arrival at our table.
DISCLAIMER: My reviews are only reviews of our unique experience at these restaurants. They are not an endorsement of safety when eating at these restaurants as each restaurant, staff and kitchen are different. Please do your own research and take all precautions for you and your family when eating out.
We went to Bertucci's with our good friends who also have toddler and pre-schooler. Four kids at a restaurants makes for a crazy lunchtime, but we had a positive experience in general and thankfully a great food allergy friendly experience.
Here's the tasty array of food that Little Guy, Little Gal and I shared between the 3 of us (with a little leftover). Little Guy is now eating wheat (more on that in another post), so this is not gluten-free pizza or pasta. BUT Bertucci's does offer gluten free options which is great for those who need it.
We enjoyed this cheese-free pizza, pasta and sauce, and grilled chicken and broccoli. From our table I could conveniently see the chef cooking this pizza on a special pizza pan. All the other pizzas in the stone oven were cooked right on the oven bottom. It definitely made me feel better to see our pizza on its own pan.
- Food: Bertucci's has great pasta and pizza options for everyone. As you see in the photo above, there was also a nice variety of allergy-friendly foods. It's not everyday that I can order a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and sesame-free pizza for Little Guy at a restaurant.
- Allergy-Friendly? Bertucci's does offer gluten-free menus. I heard through the grapevine that this location was allergy-friendly. When I called the day before to speak with the manager, she told me she has a shellfish allergy so she is especially strict about the kitchen. However, I do wish the manager would have come over immediately to speak with us at the table as I've experienced at other restaurants. I used my trusty chefs card as usual which always helps.
- Atmosphere: It's a great family friendly place. Especially at 11:30am when we arrived! Lots of other kids were there too.
Chick-Fil-AI don't like to eat at fast food restaurants in order to stay away from their unhealthy options. However, every now and then it's at least nice to have the option of ordering something easy and fast after work for everyone! I recently read in a food allergy blog about another family eating safely at this restaurant, and I did more research on the menu. My son can safely have the grilled chicken nuggets and fruit. He may also be able to have the french fries according to Chick-Fil-A, but they are cooked in peanut oil, and I'm still not comfortable trying it out. Here's Chick-Fil-A's statement on cooking in peanut oil.
- Food: "Fast food", but one of the healthier fast food restaurants due to their grilled chicken options, salads, soups and fruit choices.
- Allergy-friendly? Generally, yes. Here is their allergen guide.
- Atmosphere: Fast food family place - some of them even have indoor playgrounds.
This is the first place I ever ordered food at a restaurant for my son! The leader of my Kids with Food Allergies Mom's group knows the owner, and they plan allergy-friendly dinners from time to time. They send the menu to all the attendees beforehand, and usually offer a number of tasty and unique dishes that we usually can't order regularly at other restaurants. We've been there for the two allergy-friendly dinners, and we've been pleased each time. They are usually packed with people, so it's amazing to see other families of kids with food allergies enjoying meals together!
- Food: American-influenced food and huge regular menu of options. I'd like to go back there sometime even for a non-allergy friendly dinner to try out other options. They offer sandwiches, salads, pizza and full dinner options. We were very happy with our meals.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. Others have had mixed experiences at the non-allergy friendly dinners, but I've been pleased with the experience at Christopher's so far. They also regularly offer gluten-free items and allergy-friendly desserts. Look here for more info.
- Atmosphere: Casual and family friendly, especially during the early evening, and great for a date later on. It's located on a cute street in Wayne, PA that's great for strolling around after dinner.
We stopped here on our way back from a trip, and I just had to try to order my son a healthy meal, despite not having a chance to check the menu online or call beforehand. I was a little uncomfortable with it especially since I figured so many college students worked there. However, we were lucky to have an "older" waitress whose mother also had food allergies.
- Food: American-influenced a a huge menu here too! I ordered my son the kids hamburger with no bun, broccoli and apple juice. He enjoyed everything.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. The waitress came back a few times to ask more questions and assured us they were making the meal safely. The manager served our son his meal.
- Atmosphere: Family-friendly, loud enough for kids and a fun since it's in State College, PA!
The Down Under Steakhouse at Toftrees
See my review of it here: The Down Under Steakhouse at Toftrees - Food Allergy Restaurant Review
Firebirds Wood Fired GrillThis is a rather new restaurant in our area and we had a great experience here overall.
- Food: Very tasty "American-influenced" food. A great kids menu that has more than just chicken fingers and fries, and offers healthy side dishes like veggies and fruit to go along with things like sirloin and grilled chicken.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes! I was encouraged to see that they have a gluten-free menu online which showed me they were at least more aware of food allergies than some other restaurants. I called earlier in the day to ask about their allergy-friendly policies, and they said to tell my server about my son's allergies, and he will bring the manager over. So, I gave the waiter my chef's card that clearly lists my son's allergies, and the manager came over as promised so he knew what we were going to order and to make sure everything was correct. My son enjoyed his sirloin, grilled veggies and fruit thoroughly and I felt very confident that it was a safe meal for him. This was probably the best allergy-friendly meal he's had out at a restaurant so far.
- Atmosphere: Mood lighting, stone walls, wine bottles and wood fires...very comforting and somewhat upscale and would be great for a date-night. Yet, also kid-friendly (especially at 5pm when we were there) and loud enough for babies and toddlers!
Harrison's Harbor Watch in OC Maryland
See my review of it here: Harrison's Harbor Watch Restaurant in OC Maryland
Marly'sWe went here once for New Year's Even with friends (adults only), and recently for a cousin's med school graduation celebration that included my son. We had a great experience here each time.
- Food: Local, fresh options. Lots of great seafood.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. I forgot my chef's card, so the manager told me to write down his allergens on a paper she gave me. The staff was very helpful and we had a positive experience there.
- Atmosphere: Small BYO, upscale and unique. Better for date nights, but they happily accommodate families and toddlers.
This was the most popular dish of our large group. I think about 4 people ordered it. My husband was one of them, and he enjoyed the scallops thoroughly. I believe that was risotto underneath:
I ordered the shrimp reggiano served with fresh torn pasta, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and served in a fresh basil reggiano-seafood sauce.
My father ordered the crabcakes served on creamed corn and edamame beans. I ordered this on New Year's Eve, and loved it as much as he did!
P.J. Whelihan'sWe met friends with their children at this restaurant as a middle meeting place. I wasn't too comfortable ordering here knowing that it was a bar-like atmosphere and there would probably be a number of younger adults working there. However, I called beforehand, spoke with the manager, gave the waitress my chef's card and told her I spoke with the manager on the phone as he instructed me to do. We had a good experience there.
- Food: Pub-fare. I ordered my son a plain hamburger and veggies. He liked it in general.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. We went during a slow night and early-on. I don't think I would feel comfortable ordering for my son on a busy, crowded night.
- Atmosphere: Sports bar like - lots of TV's and a big bar at the front entrance. Good for kids early-on as it's very casual.
See my review of it here: Red Robin Food Allergy Restaurant Review
This restaurant has a number of special menus and seem to be very allergy-friendly.
- Food: Great options that are healthy and not overly large. Portion size is just right. Little Guy enjoyed a bison burger (no bun), carrots, asparagus and roasted potatoes. A real feast.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. The waitress was very helpful and the chef came out to check on us. I chose to go to this restaurant after I saw the allergy-friendly menus on their website.
- Atmosphere: A little on the "nicer" side, but it worked out well for a lunch meal with kids. Thankfully it was noisy enough at lunch that no one minded our kid-caused noise!
|Little Guy's allergy-friendly meal at Seasons52.|
Syracuse, NY location
We ate at this restaurant when we were visiting friends in Syracuse, NY. So far, this is my only semi-negative restaurant review (as of Dec 2013)
- Food: This restaurant offers a nice selection of Italian/American-influenced food. My son's steak and broccoli was cooked very nicely, my spaghetti and meatballs was tasty and my Mom ordered a beautiful (and huge!) salad that was a perfect meal. The food quality is a little "chain-restaurant like", but still very tasty.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes and no. I wasn't entirely happy with the communication with the waitress. I should have asked to speak with a manager, but I didn't. Now I know just to insist on it AND not feel bad about it. Something I also must teach Little Guy. There was miscommunication about the french fry oil, and Little Guy almost ate a steak and french fry plate that was intended for another child on the table. The waitress delivered the plate to the wrong child. I still don't know if the french fries were safe for Little Guy. Although they did prepare a safe steak and broccoli meal for Little Guy that he enjoyed, I'm not sure I would go back to this restaurant if we lived close to it. If I DID go back I would immediately speak with the manager upon arrival at our table!
- Atmosphere: Casual and family friendly in every way. If you can eat ice cream, they were going to offer a free scoop of ice cream for all the kids. Since my son couldn't eat ice cream, we of course opted not to get it. Instead, they offered to give the kids candy sticks they sell at the front. The candy had no label, so thankfully I brought a safe treat for Little Guy to enjoy as dessert!
Wegman's PubWe've eaten here a number of times, and have had great experiences each time.
- Food: A smaller menu, but it includes number of great options for everyone. They also list calorie counts on the food items which I appreciate. Healthy options include American food and a few great seafood options which I always appreciate for myself! I always ask for my son's food to be cooked in Wegmans Basting Oil that includes great tasting herbs and is safe for him.
- Allergy-friendly? Yes. The first time we went there our waitress also had a child with food allergies, so I felt very confident she would make sure my son's food was safe. We've been there one time after that, and had a great experience also.
- Atmosphere: Busy, good for people-watching and family friendly. The other great feature about this restaurant is that tipping is not required. They say their employees' are well compensated so I hope that's true.