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It seems that most food allergy research these days, including the pioneering LEAP study published late last year, is focused on young children or babies. However, a recent study out of Melbourne, Australia – the School Nuts study – was instead focused on adolescents with food allergies. After reading this article reviewing the research, I thought it raised many points worth discussing. It indicated that:

  1. 44% of 10-14 year-old children had experienced a food-allergic reaction in the past year
  2. Just shy of 10% of these children experienced a potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction
  3. Reactions most commonly occurred at home versus restaurants, schools, or other venues
  4. Teens and young adults are most at risk of dying from anaphylaxis (thought little research has been done on them)
  5. There are many questions lingering regarding why these children are having such frequent reactions
  6. Precautionary food labeling may actually be more problematic rather than helpful

The first two points are pretty straight-forward, albeit concerning, facts from the study. I’d like to comment on the last four.

Reactions most commonly occurred at home

I think most parents hit a “new level” of concern about their food-allergic children when these kids reach the age where they are going out with their friends alone, often to foodservice facilities (e.g. Starbucks, Chipotle, etc.). Parents also, of course, have a very difficult time sending their kids off to school for the first time (when they’re much younger, of course). That’s part of what makes this observation so shocking.

As parents, we think that if we can only keep our kids at home, they’ll be safe. This study says otherwise.

The article doesn’t say whether the at-home reactions occur more often when parents are present or not, but perhaps the knowledge and preparation sweeping schools and restaurants around the world are paying dividends. Or perhaps the explanation is simple – that kids are home more often than they are out. Either way, the bottom line is that parents need to teach kids about always being vigilant everywhere – even in their own house. I confess to not only having made one or two mistakes in my own home with my kids, but also being caught (thankfully) by my young daughter just prior to making one or two others. I am in my 40’s. She was 6 or 7 at the time.

Teens and young adults are most at risk of dying from anaphylaxis

I think this has always been the common assumption and won’t surprise that many people. As kids gain more freedom, they don’t have their parents – who have been taking precautions on their kids’ behalf for 10+ years – to watch over them and provide a strong layer of protection.

That said, I would posit the theory that adults with food allergies may be an even greater at-risk group than teens or younger children. In fact, most food allergy fatalities in restaurants that I’ve heard of have been adults. Why? Complacency. “I’ll be alright.” No epinephrine. No disclosure to restaurant staff. No vigilance. It’s a recipe for disaster and often leads to it. I can’t tell you how many food-allergic adults I’ve spoken to just in the last few months who don’t carry epinephrine! (For those, by the way, I print out and give them the form for free Auvi-Q’s – this seems to be the least onerous way to get epinephrine into the hands of those who “don’t want to be bothered.”) This is another reason to train our kids well now, whether or not they are the most at-risk group. Teach them to be vigilant and share with them the stories of adults who take risks that they eventually pay for (when the kids are emotionally ready). Hopefully, this will educate them for a lifetime.

There are many questions regarding why adolescents are having so many reactions

The common refrain is that kids at this age are greater risk-takers and thus the increase in reactions. Probably much truth to this, but I would suggest that it might not be the entire story. As mentioned above, just the fact that parents are not around as often clearly increases risk. Also, however, the article suggests two other possibilities: are they less educated about how to avoid the foods they need to avoid, or is their food allergy itself changing in nature? My instinct says these are less likely, but I wouldn’t rule them out and believe more studies can definitely help us find ways to lessen the risk to our children.

Precautionary food labeling may be more risky than less

“The food industry’s self-regulated ‘precautionary labeling,’ where consumers were warned the food ‘may contain traces of nuts’ was widely over-used and could lead to complacency. It is actually unhelpful for consumers because there is no indication about what is safe to eat. We think the food industry wants to cover themselves and in fact that’s doing a disservice to the consumer because the consumer is taking all of the risk… in my view, it’s become almost useless.”

This is a tough one. Clearly, the optional labeling leaves a lot to be desired. Are the food companies just covering themselves legally? Should we be given these “kind-of warnings,” like we are now? Or would it be best to have a more clear ‘safe’ or ‘not safe’ designation. This is far from a black-or-white subject, in my opinion, and would require a long blog in and of itself. For now, I will just pose the question.

One point I didn’t mention above, but I’d love to learn if it is true or not is the assertion that “Melbourne is the food allergy capital of the world.” Just for interest sake. My Spidey-sense doubts it.

So what do YOU think of this article and the points raised in it? Are your kids in this age group? Where do you agree/disagree? And where do you think my commentary is off-base or spot-on? We love hearing your opinions, so please share them below!

I would also point out that AllergyEats has, on its website and app, a list of tips for parents of teens with food allergies, and even a list of questions to ask when dining out, both of which might be helpful during this phase. Teens can save the tips to their smartphones and, as fast as you can say “selfie,” use them as a reference point when talking with restaurant staff.

Lastly, of course, please take a moment right now to rate all your recent food allergy dining experiences on the AllergyEats website or app. Each rating only takes a minute, but helps an entire community! We’re all in this together!

The post Teens and Food Allergies: What Can We Learn From Australia’s Allergy Study? appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Last week, Pfizer, seller of EpiPens in Canada, published a disturbing press release saying that EpiPens would be unavailable in Canada for two weeks and then in limited supply thereafter (subsequently confirmed as through February).

Here is their release from January 11:

“As a result of a supply interruption, Pfizer is experiencing a supply shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors in the 0.3 mg format in January 2018.  EpiPen is a medically necessary product with currently no alternatives on the market in Canada.  At this time, there is limited supply of auto-injectors at wholesalers, distributors and at pharmacies.  While we are working closely with our distributors to avoid long-term supply shortage at the store level, we expect a period of between two and four weeks of no inventory.  Additional limited inventory will be supplied at the beginning of February 2018 which will be placed under allocation and we will continue to manage supply carefully.

Pfizer has advised and is working with Health Canada on this situation and we are exploring remediation plans to address this situation.

We understand and regret the challenges this shortage poses to patients.  Ensuring continuity of the supply of our medicines is paramount, and this temporary supply interruption does not indicate an impact on the quality, safety or efficacy of EpiPen auto-injectors currently available on the Canadian market.  Pfizer fully realizes the importance of this medicine to our customers and patients, and has taken action to minimize the duration of the supply interruption, including efforts to expedite delivery of available supply.”

Subsequently, we reached out to Mylan a few times to ask about any potential supply disruptions in the U.S. It took a week, but Mylan finally responded to us with a new statement put out today, calming any fears.

“Mylan is aware that Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing partner for EpiPen® Auto-Injector, has a temporary supply constraint for EpiPen® Auto-Injectors (0.3 mg) in Canada. Patients in the U.S. should not experience any difficulties in filling their prescription for a Mylan epinephrine auto-injector at this time.”

We hope this allays any concerns of patients in the U.S. who read the news out of Canada and we also hope those in Canada have enough epinephrine to carry them through this disruption or seek EpiPen alternatives elsewhere. “Don’t leave home without it.”

The post EpiPen shortages in Canada; U.S. unaffected appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Fast food. We can debate the health merits of consuming it, but one of the main reasons it is popular (besides speed) is the consistency of menu items around most of the country and even the world. For example, if my egg-allergic daughter is able to eat a Jr. Cheeseburger without mayo at a Wendy’s here in the Boston area, she likely can do so anywhere in the country.

Bad example. That’s no longer true.

Wendy’s recently announced a change in their burger-making process (as of 1/1/18) that renders many products previously “safe” for egg-allergic diners now UNSAFE even when requesting mayo be left off. Why? Wendy’s made a corporate-level decision that, rather than squirt mayo and ketchup on burgers with traditional squirt bottles, it is now better practice to spread condiments on with spoons (for consistency around the burgers). In other words, one spoon goes into a mayo bin and is then used to spread the mayo onto a burger bun while another spoon does the same with ketchup.

The result? NEW cross-contamination risk.

All hope is not lost if you’re a Wendy’s fan with an egg allergy, however. Wendy’s is recommending that if you want a burger without mayo but with ketchup that you ask the server for a burger leaving off both products, requesting ketchup packets instead that you can apply yourself. This is a reasonable solution (to a problem that maybe shouldn’t have arisen in the first place, but that’s Wendy’s prerogative).

I asked the company why not have a separate ketchup spoon for egg-allergic customers that would never touch mayo. The problem is that even this separate spoon would go into the same ketchup bin that the contaminated ketchup spoon does. So the only solution would be a separate ketchup bin as well, which they’re not going to do (and, frankly, could be confusing enough for young, inexperienced staff that it might actually increase the risk of cross-contact versus the currently proposed solution).

I believe FARE was the first to report on this yesterday and I thank them for finding and breaking the basics of this new news. It is important to note however that the “affected burgers” go beyond the 5 FARE mentioned (Double Stack, Jr. Hamburger and Cheeseburger, Kids Hamburger and Cheeseburger). In fact, the company told me that this change affects all burger products, except the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, which doesn’t come with ketchup anyway. Similarly, chicken sandwiches don’t have ketchup either (and some don’t have mayo as a standard ingredient).

The bottom line is that there’s a new risk at Wendy’s for those with egg allergies. There is a workaround in place that will allow you to still have all the products you previously enjoyed, but you MUST be aware of the new changes and how to now order your burgers.

This is reminiscent of Wendy’s “buttered bun issue” 7 years ago… but that’s another story.

Please be cautious, all of you, and of course ALWAYS have epinephrine with you when you dine out – at Wendy’s or anywhere!

Feel free to add your comments about this news and blog post below.

And while I’ve got you, please rate any recent restaurant experiences on the AllergyEats app or website. Rating a restaurant takes just a minute, but every new rating you add makes AllergyEats a more valuable resource for our entire food allergy community!

The post New Egg Allergy Risk at Wendy’s! appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Choosing the best place to dine in New York City can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of allergy-friendly restaurants based on AllergyEats’ user reviews near attractions in four areas: Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, Downtown/World Trade Center and Uptown.

Midtown/Times Square:

In Midtown/Times Square, indicated here as the area between 34th and 59th Streets, famous landmarks include Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, the Theater District and elegant Fifth Avenue

Recognized worldwide by its Christmas tree and iconic ice rink, no visit to New York City is complete without a trip to Rockefeller Center (Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 48th and 51st Streets). You can stroll over from “Rock Center” to two highly-rated steakhouses, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle (not to be confused with Del Frisco’s Grill), or take the family to American Girl. All of these restaurants are close to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (50th at Madison Avenue) and the Museum of Modern Art (6th Avenue and 53rd Street).

If you want to “be a part of it,” then put yourself in Times Square  (the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue from 42nd to 47th Streets) by dining at either Blue Fin or Dos Caminos. Whether you opt for seafood or Mexican, both are in the W Hotel Times Square and run by a restaurant group that has a stellar reputation in the food allergy community, BR Guest Hospitality Group. Blue Fin and Dos Caminos are also good choices if you are seeing a show in the Theater District, as is Nizza, a restaurant that is not only allergy-friendly, but embraced gluten-free meal preparation long before it was more mainstream. Nizza, in the neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen, is also the closest allergy-friendly place to dine if you’re visiting the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (12th Avenue and 46th Street Pier 86).

If trying new restaurants is out of your comfort zone, there’s a Chipotle Mexican Grill just 3 blocks from Bryant Park (41 West 40th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues), whose seasonal skating rink is a free alternative to the one at Rockefeller Center.

After all the sightseeing, you can reward yourself with an allergy-friendly dessert by walking up to 55th Street and First Avenue to A La Mode. We continuously read rave reviews about their ice cream, free-from nuts, eggs and sesame. While A La Mode is destination in itself, it’s also an easy walk from there to Fifth Avenue for window shopping and to see the Plaza Hotel (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South), whose luxury accommodations are featured in the Eloise children’s book series. What could be better for the allergy girl in your family than a night in Eloise’s suite, lunch at American Girl and dessert at A La Mode?

To avoid the crowds of Times Square, other top-rated choices in Midtown are Bistango at the Kimberly Hotel for Italian food or Dos Caminos Third Avenue location for Mexican cuisine. One of AllergyEats’ team members chose to dine at Bistango after seeing Wicked and said that the mile-walk from the Gershwin Theater helped build up an appetite for a great allergy-friendly dinner!

Not to be forgotten, particularly if you’re visiting the city over the holidays, is Herald Square (at the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Avenue and 34th Street), the final stop on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. Macy’s Department Store is popular for its festive window displays and massive Santaland.  Some of the restaurants listed in our food allergy restaurant guide for Midtown South (coming soon!) are closer to Herald Square than those highlighted in this blog, so if you’d like to dine in this specific area, consider Blue Smoke or Bistango’s second location.

AllergyEats Midtown/Times Square NYC – 2017:

Dos Caminos, 5.0 Rating, 1567 Broadway and West 47th Street (Located in the W New York Times Square)

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 5.0 Rating, 25 West 45th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues

A La Mode, 4.9 Rating, 360 East 55th Street and First Avenue

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle, 4.9 Rating, 1221 6th Avenue and 48th Street

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 4.8 Rating, 148 West 51st Street and 7th Avenue

American Girl, 4.7 Rating, 609 5th Avenue and 49th Street

Blue Fin, 4.6 Rating, 1567 Broadway and 47th Street (Located in the W New York Times Square)

Bistango, 4.5 Rating,  145 East 50th Street and Third Avenue (Located at the Kimberly Hotel)

Dos Caminos, 4.4 Rating, 825 Third Avenue and East 50th Street

Nizza, 4. 4 Rating, 9th Avenue between 44th and 45th Street

Midtown South:

Midtown South, indicated here as the area between 14th and 34th Streets, is where you’ll find noteworthy destinations including Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building and Herald Square.

‘Tis the season for classic films like Miracle on 34th Street, and if you’re lucky enough to visit New York City over the holidays, we imagine that a visit to the movie’s featured retailer, Macy’s in Herald Square (34th and 35th Streets at Seventh Avenue and Broadway), might be on your list of things to do.  After strolling by the store’s holiday windows, visiting its Santaland, or just seeing the site of the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade, you can venture over to two different allergy-friendly restaurants within minutes: Blue Smoke for upscale BBQ or Bistango for Italian cuisine.

Both restaurants have been spotlighted before on the AllergyEats blog, based on our team’s personal experiences: Blue Smoke in NYC is Smokin’ Good with Food Allergies and Amazingly Easy Food Allergy Dining Experience in NYC. Bistango may sound familiar as its sister restaurant was recently mentioned as one of AllergyEats’ top-rated restaurants in the Times Square area. (Blue Smoke also has a second location, closer to downtown.) In case you are in need of a bite to eat before leaving the city on Amtrak, these restaurants are about a 10 to 15 minute cab ride to Pennsylvania Station (31st to 33rd Streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.)  Sports fans take note – Madison Square Garden, home to the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks, sits atop Penn Station.

While in this vicinity, be sure to walk along 34th Street to visit the Empire State Building (Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets). To grab a treat after admiring the skyscraper, walk down Fifth Avenue or take a five minute cab ride to Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., whose flagship store is just down the block from Union Square Park. Chloe’s fruit pops and soft serve items are free of all the Top 8 allergens (but the shop does offer some toppings that contain gluten, dairy and nuts.)

We recognize that so many food allergy articles these days focus on children with food allergies, and it’s important to point out that there’s a growing population of adults with food allergies, too! With that in mind, Del Posto is a good choice for food-allergic diners seeking upscale dining in New York City. The Relais & Chateaux recognized restaurant is known for its prix fixe menu, though a la carte options are available, and it discourages guests under the age of 6. Del Posto is just steps from the High Line if you’d like to capture some unique (dare we say, romantic?) views of the city from 30 feet above street level before or after dinner. Another fun stop in the area is Chelsea Market, largely an indoor food hall, but also a marketplace featuring locally made art, jewelry and other goods. All of this sounds like a great date, no matter what time of year, for the food-allergic adults in our community!

AllergyEats Midtown South NYC – 2017:

Del Posto, 5.0 Rating, 85 10th Avenue and West 15th Street

Blue Smoke, 4.7 Rating, 116 East 27th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., 4.7 Rating, 25 East 17th Street and Broadway

Bistango, 4.5 Rating, 415 Third Avenue and East 29th Street

Downtown:

Important landmarks below 14th Street include the 9/11 Memorial, Statue of LibertyWall Street and SoHo

If the prospect of seeing celebrities in fashionable SoHo is part of your plans while in New York City, there’s a highly rated Dos Caminos in the midst of the neighborhood’s many art galleries and boutiques. The purveyor of Mexican cuisine has five locations in Manhattan, two of which are highlighted in our recent blog about dining out with food allergies in the Midtown/Times Square area, and this location is equally well-regarded with its 4.6 rating on AllergyEats.

Dos Caminos is also AllergyEats’ closest allergy-friendly restaurant to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the Statue of Liberty. Many tourists choose to pay their respects to those fallen on 9/11 or take a boat to see Lady Liberty up close and should take into consideration that it’s about a 15 minute cab ride or a 45 minute walk from Battery Park, where the ferry departs for both Ellis and Liberty Islands, to Dos Caminos in SoHo.

If you’re on the hunt for a sweet treat after touring lower Manhattan, two top-rated choices are  The Donut Pub on the west side and Erin McKenna’s Bakery on the east side. While those with peanut and tree nut allergies can be accommodated at both shops, we hear an occasional concern that Erin McKenna’s uses gluten-free flours processed on equipment that packages hazelnut, almond flours and soy, so the choice is dependent on your comfort level. Also note that the majority of The Donut Pub’s reviews on AllergyEats are from diners with tree nut and peanut allergies, who have rewarded it with a near-perfect rating of 4.9.  Fun Fact: The pub is open 24/7, so you can easily work it into your schedule, day or night! If you need to burn off some sugar after all those donuts, it’s just a 10 minute walk to one of the entrances to the High Line (Gansevoort and Washington Streets), a 1.45 mile scenic trail that runs along the west side of Manhattan.

Rest assured, diners who are allergic to egg, dairy, soy and wheat can indulge at Erin McKenna’s entirely gluten-free and vegan bakery, which has a superb rating of 5.0 on AllergyEats!  The bakery (originally called Babycakes NYC) also has locations in Los Angeles and at Disney Springs Resort in Orlando and its shops are popular destinations for those in the food allergy community. After your visit to Erin McKenna’s Lower East Side location, another worthwhile destination is the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street), where visitors can book a tour to interact with guides who recreate immigrant life in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Choosing the best place to dine in New York City can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of allergy-friendly restaurants near some of the most popular attractions based on AllergyEats’ user reviews. In a series of 4 blogs, we’ll feature top-rated restaurants across different regions of Manhattan: Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, Downtown/World Trade Center, and Uptown.

This week’s guide highlights restaurants above 59th Street. Notable landmarks include Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, and the “Museum Mile”.

Uptown Allergy-Friendly Restaurants:

Away from the hustle and bustle of midtown, visitors to Manhattan can get a glimpse of city living in the largely residential areas of the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. These neighborhoods border Central Park, home to multiple playgrounds and recreation areas, among other things. If you’re visiting during the winter, it’s just a short walk to take to the ice at picturesque Wollman Arena after entering the park on 59th Street at 5th Avenue. If you travel just a bit further, you’ll reach popular Central Park Zoo, open year-round.

Looking for a bite to eat after leaving the park?  Lilli and Loo, a Pan-Asian style restaurant, is a short cab ride or 10 to 15 minute walk from the zoo’s entrance at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. Of note, it’s casual enough for families and best known for gluten-free options, but has been reviewed favorably on AllergyEats for its ability to accommodate other allergies. If you’re craving a sweet after your meal, Lilli and Loo is also just two blocks from the flagship location of Dylan’s Candy Bar (Third Avenue at East 60th Street), a coveted stop for kids (and kids at heart!)

If your travels take you further uptown on the East Side or you’d prefer a more upscale menu, TBar Steak & Lounge has also received a high rating from AllergyEats’ users who’ve dined in this area. The steakhouse is relatively close (under a mile) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street), the first of many art institutions that stretch along a portion of Fifth Avenue known as the “Museum Mile”.

On the other side of Central Park, you’ll find the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West and 79th Street. If you’re looking for a bite to eat before or after your time exploring the museum’s many exhibit halls, Rosa Mexicano, one of four in the city, is an allergy-friendly option located about a mile away. The Mexican eatery, which has opened locations in other cities since it originated in Manhattan years ago, is a leisurely walk or quick cab ride straight down the street from the museum. It’s also a convenient choice for food-allergic diners who are seeing a show just steps away at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. 

AllergyEats Uptown NYC – 2017:

Lilli and Loo, 4.7 Rating, 792 Lexington Avenue and East 61 St

T Bar Steak & Lounge, 4.6 Rating, Third Avenue and East 73rd Street

Rosa Mexicano, 4.3 Rating, 61 Columbus Avenue and West 62nd Street

As always, comments on our blog posts are encouraged – we love (and need) to know what YOUR dining experiences have been at the restaurants mentioned here and anywhere else in New York City or across the country. Please take the time to rate your restaurant meals, as all of us benefit from hearing every individual experience.

The post Take An Allergy-Friendly Bite Out of the Big Apple: Uptown appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Choosing the best place to dine in New York City can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of allergy-friendly restaurants near some of the most popular attractions based on AllergyEats’ user reviews. In a series of 4 blogs, we’ll feature top-rated restaurants across different regions of Manhattan: Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, Downtown/World Trade Center, and Uptown.

This guide highlights restaurants below 14th Street. Notable landmarks include the 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and SoHo. 

Downtown Allergy-Friendly Restaurants:

If the prospect of seeing celebrities in fashionable SoHo is part of your plans while in New York City, there’s a highly rated Dos Caminos in the midst of the neighborhood’s many art galleries and boutiques. The purveyor of Mexican cuisine has five locations in Manhattan, two of which are highlighted in our recent blog about dining out with food allergies in the Midtown/Times Square area, and this location is equally well-regarded with its 4.6 rating on AllergyEats.

Dos Caminos is also AllergyEats’ closest allergy-friendly restaurant to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the Statue of Liberty. Many tourists choose to pay their respects to those fallen on 9/11 or take a boat to see Lady Liberty up close and should take into consideration that it’s about a 15 minute cab ride or a 45 minute walk from Battery Park, where the ferry departs for both Ellis and Liberty Islands, to Dos Caminos in SoHo.

If you’re on the hunt for a sweet treat after touring lower Manhattan, two top-rated choices are  The Donut Pub on the west side and Erin McKenna’s Bakery on the east side. While those with peanut and tree nut allergies can be accommodated at both shops, we hear an occasional concern that Erin McKenna’s uses gluten-free flours processed on equipment that packages hazelnut, almond flours and soy, so the choice is dependent on your comfort level. Also note that the majority of The Donut Pub’s reviews on AllergyEats are from diners with tree nut and peanut allergies, who have rewarded it with a near-perfect rating of 4.9.  Fun Fact: The pub is open 24/7, so you can easily work it into your schedule, day or night! If you need to burn off some sugar after all those donuts, it’s just a 10 minute walk to one of the entrances to the High Line (Gansevoort and Washington Streets), a 1.45 mile scenic trail that runs along the west side of Manhattan.

Rest assured, diners who are allergic to egg, dairy, soy and wheat can indulge at Erin McKenna’s entirely gluten-free and vegan bakery, which has a superb rating of 5.0 on AllergyEats!  The bakery (originally called Babycakes NYC) also has locations in Los Angeles and at Disney Springs Resort in Orlando and its shops are popular destinations for those in the food allergy community. After your visit to Erin McKenna’s Lower East Side location, another worthwhile destination is the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street), where visitors can book a tour to interact with guides who recreate immigrant life in the 19th and 20th centuries.

If you’re looking to eat lunch or dinner nearby, The Meatball Shop, one of seven in the city, is just a five minute walk from the museum. The restaurant’s menu is flexible, inviting guests to create their own meals by selecting a type of meatball, sauce and side dish, so food-allergic diners should feel comfortable that the restaurant is accustomed to making dishes based on the guest’s preferences. Of note, pesto is on the menu, the Chicken Balls are gluten-free & pork-free, and the Veggie Balls are vegan.

Alternatively, those who’d rather grab a bite to eat on their way back uptown can stop in the West Village at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria. Otto is owned by a restaurant group whose proprietors include celebrity chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, and despite its name, the menu extends beyond pizza, making a good choice for diners with a variety of allergies. Looking for one last photo op? The restaurant is just a two minute walk from one of the city’s most recognized landmarks, Washington Square Arch, located in the park on Fifth Avenue between MacDougal Street and University Place.

AllergyEats Downtown NYC – 2017:

As always, comments on our blog posts are encouraged – we love (and need) to know what YOUR dining experiences have been at the restaurants mentioned here and anywhere else in New York City or across the country. Please take the time to rate your restaurant meals, as all of us benefit from hearing every individual experience.

The post Take An Allergy-Friendly Bite Out of the Big Apple: Downtown/World Trade Center appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Choosing the best place to dine in New York City can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of allergy-friendly restaurants near some of the most popular attractions based on AllergyEats’ user reviews. In a series of 4 blogs, we’ll feature top-rated restaurants across different regions of Manhattan: Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, Downtown/World Trade Center, and Uptown.

This week’s guide highlights restaurants in Midtown South, indicated here as the area between 14th Street and 34th Street. Notable landmarks include Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, Empire State Building and Herald Square. 

Midtown South Allergy-Friendly Restaurants:

‘Tis the season for classic films like Miracle on 34th Street, and if you’re lucky enough to visit New York City over the holidays, we imagine that a visit to the movie’s featured retailer, Macy’s in Herald Square (34th and 35th Streets at Seventh Avenue and Broadway), might be on your list of things to do.  After strolling by the store’s holiday windows, visiting its Santaland, or just seeing the site of the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade, you can venture over to two different allergy-friendly restaurants within minutes: Blue Smoke for upscale BBQ or Bistango for Italian cuisine.

Both restaurants have been spotlighted before on the AllergyEats blog, based on our team’s personal experiences: Blue Smoke in NYC is Smokin’ Good with Food Allergies and Amazingly Easy Food Allergy Dining Experience in NYC. Bistango may sound familiar as its sister restaurant was recently mentioned as one of AllergyEats’ top-rated restaurants in the Times Square area. (Blue Smoke also has a second location, closer to downtown.) In case you are in need of a bite to eat before leaving the city on Amtrak, these restaurants are about a 10 to 15 minute cab ride to Pennsylvania Station (31st to 33rd Streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.)  Sports fans take note – Madison Square Garden, home to the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks, sits atop Penn Station.

While in this vicinity, be sure to walk along 34th Street to visit the Empire State Building (Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets). To grab a treat after admiring the skyscraper, walk down Fifth Avenue or take a five minute cab ride to Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., whose flagship store in just down the block from Union Square Park. Chloe’s fruit pops and soft serve items are free of all the Top 8 allergens (but the shop does offer some toppings that contain gluten, dairy and nuts.)

We recognize that so many food allergy articles these days focus on children with food allergies, and it’s important to point out that there’s a growing population of adults with food allergies, too! With that in mind, Del Posto is a good choice for food-allergic diners seeking upscale dining in New York City. The Relais & Chateaux recognized restaurant is known for its prix fixe menu, though a la carte options are available, and it discourages guests under the age of 6. Del Posto is just steps from the High Line if you’d like to capture some unique (dare we say, romantic?) views of the city from 30 feet above street level before or after dinner. Another fun stop in the area is Chelsea Market, largely an indoor food hall, but also a marketplace featuring locally made art, jewelry and other goods. All of this sounds like a great date, no matter what time of year, for the food-allergic adults in our community!

AllergyEats Midtown South NYC – 2017:

Del Posto, 5.0 Rating, 85 10th Avenue and West 15th Street

Blue Smoke, 4.7 Rating, 116 East 27th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., 4.7 Rating, 25 East 17th Street and Broadway

Bistango, 4.5 Rating, 415 Third Avenue and East 29th Street

As always, comments on our blog posts are encouraged – we love (and need) to know what YOUR dining experiences have been at the restaurants mentioned here and anywhere else in New York City or across the country. Please take the time to rate your restaurant meals, as all of us benefit from hearing every individual experience.

The post Take An Allergy-Friendly Bite Out of New York City: Midtown South appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Choosing the best place to dine in New York City can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of allergy-friendly restaurants near some of the most popular attractions based on AllergyEats’ user reviews. In a series of 4 blogs, we’ll feature top-rated restaurants across different regions of Manhattan: Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, Downtown/World Trade Center and Uptown.

This guide highlights restaurants in Midtown/Times Square, indicated here as 34th to 59th Street. Notable landmarks include Times Square, Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, the Theater District and elegant Fifth Avenue

Midtown Allergy-Friendly Restaurants:

Recognized worldwide by its Christmas tree and iconic ice rink, no visit to New York City is complete without a trip to Rockefeller Center (Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 48th and 51st Streets). You can stroll over from “Rock Center” to two highly-rated steakhouses, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle (not to be confused with Del Frisco’s Grill), or take the family to American Girl. All of these restaurants are close to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (50th at Madison Avenue) and the Museum of Modern Art (6th Avenue and 53rd Street).

If you want to “be a part of it,” then put yourself in Times Square  (the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue from 42nd to 47th Streets) by dining at either Blue Fin or Dos Caminos. Whether you opt for seafood or Mexican, both are in the W Hotel Times Square and run by a restaurant group that has a stellar reputation in the food allergy community, BR Guest Hospitality Group. Blue Fin and Dos Caminos are also good choices if you are seeing a show in the Theater District, as is Nizza, a restaurant that is not only allergy-friendly, but embraced gluten-free meal preparation long before it was more mainstream. Nizza, in the neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen, is also the closest allergy-friendly place to dine if you’re visiting the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (12th Avenue and 46th Street Pier 86).

If trying new restaurants is out of your comfort zone, there’s a Chipotle Mexican Grill just 3 blocks from Bryant Park (41 West 40th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues), whose seasonal skating rink is a free alternative to the one at Rockefeller Center.

After all the sightseeing, you can reward yourself with an allergy-friendly dessert by walking up to 55th Street and First Avenue to A La Mode. We continuously read rave reviews about their ice cream, free-from nuts, eggs and sesame. While A La Mode is destination in itself, it’s also an easy walk from there to Fifth Avenue for window shopping and to see the Plaza Hotel (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South), whose luxury accommodations are featured in the Eloise children’s book series. What could be better for the allergy girl in your family than a night in Eloise’s suite, lunch at American Girl and dessert at A La Mode?

To avoid the crowds of Times Square, other top-rated choices in Midtown are Bistango at the Kimberly Hotel for Italian food or Dos Caminos Third Avenue location for Mexican cuisine. One of AllergyEats’ team members chose to dine at Bistango after seeing Wicked and said that the mile-walk from the Gershwin Theater helped build up an appetite for a great allergy-friendly dinner!

Not to be forgotten, particularly if you’re visiting the city over the holidays, is Herald Square (at the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Avenue and 34th Street), the final stop on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. Macy’s Department Store is popular for its festive window displays and massive Santaland.  Some of the restaurants listed in our food allergy restaurant guide for Midtown South (coming soon!) are closer to Herald Square than those highlighted in this blog, so if you’d like to dine in this specific area, consider Blue Smoke or Bistango’s second location.

AllergyEats Midtown/Times Square NYC – 2017:

Dos Caminos, 5.0 Rating, 1567 Broadway and West 47th Street (Located in the W New York Times Square)

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 5.0 Rating, 25 West 45th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues

A La Mode, 4.9 Rating, 360 East 55th Street and First Avenue

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle, 4.9 Rating, 1221 6th Avenue and 48th Street

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 4.8 Rating, 148 West 51st Street and 7th Avenue

American Girl, 4.7 Rating, 609 5th Avenue and 49th Street

Blue Fin, 4.6 Rating, 1567 Broadway and 47th Street (Located in the W New York Times Square)

Bistango, 4.5 Rating,  145 East 50th Street and Third Avenue (Located at the Kimberly Hotel)

Dos Caminos, 4.4 Rating, 825 Third Avenue and East 50th Street

Nizza, 4. 4 Rating, 9th Avenue between 44th and 45th Street

As always, comments on our blog posts are encouraged – we love (and need) to know what YOUR dining experiences have been at the restaurants mentioned here and anywhere else in New York City or across the country. Please take the time to rate your restaurant meals, as all of us benefit from hearing every individual experience.

The post Take An Allergy-Friendly Bite Out of the Big Apple: Midtown/Times Square appeared first on AllergyEats.

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There has been a lot of concern lately from both the dairy-allergic community and the wheat-allergic community over changes at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.

Those with dairy allergies are feeling dismayed by Chipotle’s introduction of a hot queso sauce which is positioned near the various meats Chipotle offers for their burritos. As for those with wheat allergies, there is disappointment by Chipotle’s discontinuation of soft corn burrito tortillas.

Is this all true? Is there more to the story? Is Chipotle still a top option for individuals with food allergies?

We called to get the real story.

Introduction of hot queso sauce

Chipotle began offering queso sauce in all US locations two months ago. Due to the need to keep it hot, the sauce is, in fact, kept near the meat section of the burrito line. Clearly, a cross-contact concern between the queso and Chipotle’s various meats make sense.

Management of Chipotle, always cognizant of food allergies (as recognized by their continued strong AllergyEats ratings by diners and their recurring strong position on AllergyEats’ Annual Top 10 List of the Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in America), has tried to minimize this cross-contact risk by designing the burrito line layout such that the queso sauce container is closer to the behind-the-counter staff than any of the meats – thus minimizing the chance queso will drip into the meat bins (i.e. the queso ladle should never go over meat products).

For some, that may be re-assuring enough. However, management has still heard the (valid) concern that splashing could occur that would cause cross-contact. While the company believes their employees – trained to be food allergy conscious – would be cognizant about not letting this happen, I believe they understand that there is still potential risk, especially given the number of stores they have along with simple human nature and the fact that mistakes happen.

For this, they suggest that any customer who is uncomfortable in any way with receiving meats from the containers on the burrito line request that the server retrieve fresh meat off the grill. This, of course, may involve a longer wait (particularly during very busy times); however, it is certainly a workable option for those who are not in a hurry. The wait may be short or it may be long – it depends on a number of factors and may be impossible to predict in advance.

All this said, Chipotle has NOT made the decision yet to keep queso as a permanent option. They continue to evaluate feedback on the product (which I have heard some negative comments about myself, though a small sample size), so there’s still hope that this concern may eventually go away. It also might suggest that this is an optimal time for concerned individuals to and express their opinions.

Discontinuation of corn tortillas

While the introduction of queso sauce has drawn much of the attention from the food allergy community on Chipotle lately, those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies have bemoaned the fact that it appears the company will no longer have their restaurants carry corn tortillas, leaving them with no alternatives for a burrito.

Regretfully, I have to acknowledge that this is true.

Management made the decision to discontinue soft corn tortillas because they were just not popular. (In fairness, I wonder how many people – like me – didn’t even know they existed… and if that would have made a difference or not.) On the flip side, the hard corn taco shells have been popular and will continue to be offered at all Chipotle restaurants.

The result is that those with celiac, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergies have in fact lost the opportunity to buy burritos at Chipotle. However, they can still enjoy burrito bowls and tacos containing the same meat products and add-ons.

What’s Chipotle up to next?

The truth is I don’t know, but I DO know where to get a glimpse of what they’re considering.

Chipotle has a restaurant in New York City called Chipotle Next Kitchen, which I was previously unaware of. This is where they test new products – some that will ultimately make it to the restaurants and some (maybe even most) that never will. As an example, the queso was tested here 3 months before release to all the traditional Chipotle Mexican Grills.

For those in New York or visiting New York who want to check it out, Chipotle Next Kitchen is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan at 504 6th Avenue (at the intersection of 13th street). If I get a chance to check it out soon, I’ll report back on what I find. If any of you have a chance to hop over there, we’d love to read what you learn in our comments section. Maybe even send us pictures!

I hope this was helpful in addressing the recent concerns by many about Chipotle Mexican Grill. I always appreciate this company’s commitment to its food-allergic guests and their openness and honesty when I raise important issues from our community. I know the news is not good for those who need to avoid wheat and gluten, though at least there are still other options. As for those who can’t have dairy, I hope this information helps you make more informed decisions when considering dining at Chipotle and/or when in the restaurant.

We love to read your comments! Please share your thoughts, concerns, praises, and anything else regarding Chipotle and these changes in the Comments section below.

And as always, please rate ALL your restaurant experiences – quick serve to fine dining; good, bad, or so-so – on the AllergyEats app or website. Every new rating you add makes AllergyEats a more valuable tool for our entire community. We are all in this together!

The post Chipotle Concerns? We’ve Got Answers! appeared first on AllergyEats.

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Top AllergyEats Rater, Deborah Blumenthal, at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant in Chicago

We have a great community here at AllergyEats – so many people who believe in our mantra “We’re all in this together.” Each time one of our members adds even just a single new rating, it helps all the food-allergic diners who visit our app and website. Of course, there are also our “power raters,” for lack of a better phrase – those members who rates dozens and dozens of restaurants. One such member has rated so many restaurants, with such detailed and valuable reviews, that she has earned more recognition points than all other members… even those of us working here at AllergyEats! We needed to learn more about her. What follows is her great story about embracing your allergies with a positive attitude, partnering with other family members, and the importance of how a little planning and a lot of communication goes a long way when it comes to dining out with food allergies. Enjoy our interview with AllergyEats user and top rater, Deborah Blumenthal:

AllergyEats: Tell us a little about your food allergy journey, what allergies you have, when you were diagnosed and how it felt growing up with these allergies.

Deborah Blumenthal: I have anaphylactic allergies to dairy and peanuts, and borderline allergies to tree nuts, except coconuts. I was diagnosed at 18 months old, so I have no memory of it other than what my parents have told me, which is that they tried giving me things like yogurt and cottage cheese, causing me to throw up constantly. So they had me tested, and that’s how they found out.

As I grew up, that was really all I knew. My parents are rock stars and they did an incredible job figuring things out as they went along, as they didn’t have resources like parents do now. I have very clear memories of my parents sitting down with school nurses and with teachers and really explaining everything and walking them through everything. I have memories of my dad following people into restaurant kitchens and telling them, “This is how you’re going to keep my child alive.” They’re great, and they taught me really well. I had a really full understanding of what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, and really it came down to “do not eat anything that doesn’t come from our house. If your mom didn’t give it to you, it does not go anywhere near you.”

Deborah and Her Amazing Food Allergy Advocates – Her Parents!

That was my childhood, and frankly, we didn’t eat out much, I think because it was just a hassle and scary. When we did, we kept it very easy. I ate a lot of plain pasta with ketchup and a lot of salads. We just kind of did it the easy way and ate at home a lot. My parents have a few family friends who my parents taught to cook for me, and that was kind of it – we kept it really close to home.

AE: Did it scare you when you went out to eat and you’d see how incredibly serious your parents were taking your food allergies and how they had to educate restaurant staff (who were much less knowledgeable and familiar with food allergies as they are now)?

DB: I don’t remember it being scary, to be honest. We had a few places in my hometown where my parents got to know the owners, and because I was just ordering something so easy, I think it became kind of a ritual. But I do remember – I was maybe not even 13 – going to Charleston, and when traveling, I think eating out becomes a necessity rather than something that you want to do when you have really serious allergies. We just sort of blindly picked a restaurant, and I remember my dad asking the manager to just make plain pasta in water with no butter, and he said to my parents, “Do you expect me to stop my kitchen for this?” I was old enough to be angry and frustrated. But I do think if we had ever asked people to do anything more elaborate than that, maybe I would have found it scary.

AE: How was college?

DB: I went to college in Manhattan and I grew up really close to New York City, so I found a couple of places that were okay for me. I was raised Jewish and Kosher food is extremely convenient for people who have dairy allergies. I ate a lot of that because there is an abundance of it in New York, and before I started, we met with the guy who ran the dining hall. I went to Barnard, which is part of Columbia, which has a really big Jewish population so there was a kosher food plan, which again, made it really easy. But the first year, we were required to be in a dorm that didn’t have a kitchen, and we had come up with some sort of arrangement where I could have a microwave that wasn’t shared, because college students get cheese everywhere in a microwave. We had to go through the Office of Disability Services and it was a lot of procedures, but I made it work. Then the first year that I was able, I had an apartment with a kitchen and really just prepared my own food, because it was just easier.

AE: So you went to college close to home, but now, based on your ratings on AllergyEats, it seems like you travel a ton. We’re always amazed here at how many restaurants you rate all over the country.

DB: Yes, I travel a lot now. I moved to Chicago when I was 24, so almost seven years ago, and my family is still on the East Coast, so I travel a lot to see them.

AE: How challenging is that with your food allergies, and do your allergies ever hold you back from a trip?

DB: I’ll answer the first part of that first. It’s gotten a lot easier. I remember Disney World, which we can talk about later, was a really big part of this sort of awakening that I think I’ve had in the past five, ten years. But when I traveled as a kid, we definitely kept it really easy. I let my parents handle everything because I didn’t want to talk to managers myself.

Even more recently, if I traveled, I would rent an apartment or do an Airbnb and make sure that I had a kitchen, either as a fallback or the way that I would provide food entirely for myself. There was a period in my life where I was really phobic of restaurants. I think it happened probably when I moved, because at least in New York I had a short list of places that I knew I could go, I knew I could be safe, and it was comfortable and easy. Then, when I moved here, it was brand new. Chicago has so many restaurants and it just seemed easier and safer to not bother. I got really good at—you know, if my friends wanted to go to dinner, getting a salad or just having a drink and going for the company and really just—it was part fear, and part just not wanting to deal with, frankly, the hassle of it and how much work you have to go through to explain to somebody how to not kill you.

Then, about two years ago, I was in L.A. visiting a friend who has another good friend with really severe allergies. This friend of mine is assertive and great, and she wanted to take me to lunch so she got on the phone and she said, “Hi, I want to come in for lunch. My friend has such-and-such allergies, can you accommodate her?”

It had never occurred to me to do this. I have no idea why. She just made these phone calls as I was sitting next to her. I also think that on the West Coast, especially in L.A., they have heard everything and they will do anything. That was the first trip where I really ate out a lot and really enjoyed it, and started to see, sort of, what kind of rock I had been living under and how much the food industry is starting to change, and how much people are educated and willing. That was really, really exciting!

After that, I started to dip my toes in, in other cities, and I did the same thing she did. I would call places ahead and ask them. Typically, the answer for me is yes [that I can be accommodated]. I’ve been doing that same kind of thing ever since.

AE: Just backing up, Deborah, I like the phrase you used, “…the awakening that started with Disney World.” Tell us about that.

DB: This is actually kind of a unique story, but my dad used to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and in the mid to late ’90s, they used to have these big sectional gatherings at places that you could bring your wife and kids to, so they did a few of them at Disney World.

Allergy-Friendly Food at DisneyWorld

One of them was at the Grand Floridian, where we happened to meet the guy who was the head chef there at the time, and he’d come to Disney from of the big soy companies. He had a background in food science and he was really interested in figuring out ways to accommodate me. It was like having a personal chef for a week, and I had chocolate pudding for the first time and he made me pizza. He would just sort of follow me around the resort being like, look what I made, look what I created for you.

He was one of the people who was instrumental in creating what we now know as the gold standard of food allergy programs at Disney. I remember going back a few years later after he had left and having the chef come sit down next to me, and seeing that develop. But it used to be that Disney was really the only place I felt comfortable, and now I’m starting to see that level of care in other places, which is really exciting.

AE: In all of your travels, do any cities stand out as being particularly allergy-friendly?

DB: L.A., for sure. I think it may just be a West Coast thing. They have a lot of people who are gluten free or vegan by choice, so none of it seemed shocking to them. I was just in Minneapolis last week where they’re really big on organics, farm-to-table, and I find those places to be easy and accommodating. I did pretty well in D.C. a few years ago. I think the one thing that I have not really tackled yet is international. I’ve been overseas a few times, but usually just cook for myself. I do find that a little bit scary.

AE: Among all these trips and your 100+ restaurant reviews on AllergyEats, which restaurant or restaurants stand out as your favorites and why?

DB: There’s a recent one. My parents actually just moved to Florida and they happened upon a restaurant called Farmer’s Table, and my dad did what my dad does and talked to the chef and the whole thing. Farmer’s Table actually doesn’t cook with butter, so that makes things really easy off the bat. I met their executive chef the first time I was there, and unfortunately, he recently left, but his sous chef took over —both are deeply confident, totally understanding, and even bring you the food themselves. Even in talking to other people on the staff there, they’re all very highly trained. It’s one of those things where an easy menu to start with certainly makes the whole thing easier. But, they do use cheese and almond milk occasionally, so you do still have to be vigilant. The food’s great, it’s creative and they made me a flatbread with Daiya cheese.

Where else….last weekend, I was at the French Meadow Bakery and Café in Minneapolis. I had remembered their name because I used to buy their frozen packaged brownies Whole Foods. They were really willing to make modifications. I wouldn’t normally have asked this anywhere else, but they had a chicken piccata on their menu, and I thought, maybe there’s a slight chance they make it without dairy because they were very good about being vegan-flexible and all that. They usually make it with butter, but offered to do it with vegan butter for me, which was shocking and very nice.

Deborah at Milt’s Barbecue in Chicago

There’s another restaurant, Il Cielo in L.A., that I think is wonderful. They do everything from scratch. They were just kind and accommodating. I also have been to a lot of places in Chicago that have just been really creative and willing to go the extra mile. Everything owned by Lettuce Entertain You is great – I love it. I love the places, and I’ve talked to some of their managers at length about what goes on behind the scenes. They own a ramen restaurant downtown called Ramen-san and they do their broth traditionally with butter, but they did one with tahini paste for me instead, which was really creative and I never would have thought of that. But yes, it’s nice to see people go out of their way and not just be like, sorry, you can’t have this.

AE: Have you found that the more upscale restaurants are as accommodating as some at the casual-dining level?

DB: That’s what I’ve found. I find that chefs in hotel restaurants are typically really highly trained. One of the things that I think, as I started to branch out with my parents’ help, is that it seems like the upscale places are more likely to help you out.

Before I go somewhere, it takes a ton of research. I’ll start with AllergyEats, and a lot of times if it’s an obscure town or something, there may not be many ratings. So if I find something that looks interesting, I’ll just Google the name of the restaurant, plus allergies. I’ll look for places that either are vegan and don’t have a lot of nuts, or have vegan options, or are vegan-flexible. I’ll also look for places that do organic, farm-to-table and make everything from scratch kind of places. The thing is, it can be such an abyss of options and you don’t know where to start so those are things that I tend to look for when I do research. I’ll even look up “best restaurants in whatever city” and just sort of look at their menus and see. I think you can get a sense of what can and can’t work for you pretty easily.

Sometimes there’s nothing, which is then when I get on the phone and start asking. People are typically really honest. A few weeks ago, I spoke to someone and they said, “….with cross-contamination, the risk is really high.” I can tell within 10 seconds of that conversation, whether someone is taking you seriously, but also whether they understand — whether they’re comfortable and all of those things that play into it You can tell when people sort of go silent and they’re nervous. It is a bit of a guessing game, but I think you get better at it, figuring out what’s going on on the other side of the conversation.

AE: It sounds like you do quite a bit on the phone before you even get to the restaurant. Is that accurate?

DB: Yes, I do. I’m just a planner when I travel, in general, and it makes the whole thing easier. It’s a little bit less stressful if you at least have a list of places you think are okay.

AE: Your reviews on AllergyEats are so detailed, so high quality, and we really love that. I have kind of a weird question, and maybe a little self-serving, but what motivates you to rate restaurants with such detailed, high quality reviews? I mean, you’ve put a lot of time into what you’ve put onto AllergyEats and we really love that. What motivates you to do that?

DB: It’s not a weird question at all! I remember seeing AllergyEats, I guess when it first became a thing, and I sort of felt like I couldn’t be useful to it and I didn’t have much use for it because I was terrified of going to restaurants. Then last year, I was going to visit my parents in New York for my birthday and my dad was like, “Well, why don’t we go out to dinner somewhere, why don’t we go somewhere we’ve never been before?” So, I remembered that you guys existed. He was just like, where do you want to go, what do you want to do? I didn’t know. I started looking around there, and there’s an Italian restaurant in New York that everyone on AllergyEats loves so we put that on our list and we…

AE: Is it Bistango?

DB: Yes! Where I’ve now been several times. I would never have known about that if not for AllergyEats. In this case, we ended up going to one of the old school, really traditional steakhouses just because we thought it would be fun, and it was, and that’s the first review I ever posted on AllergyEats. They were incredibly accommodating. My dad put so much work into that. He went ahead of time to meet with the manager, and even went that morning to deliver rolls that I could eat so they would have them. It was very sweet. But anyway, when we got home that night, he was sort of still bowled over by the entire experience and how easy it was, and how discreetly they handled it. There was no show, there was no production, which is another thing that I think is hard to do but important.

He was typing away on Yelp about how well they handled his daughter’s allergies and I was like, you know what, Yelp is sort of going to care about this, but where this information is really going to be valuable is on AllergyEats. So, I told him about you guys and he’s like, well, why don’t you post about it? So I did.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet; I like the Internet. I like that we can all talk to each other from all over the world – I always have. I had been hesitant to kind of connect with the community for a while, but what I found as I started to look around is that it seemed a lot of parents were trying to travel with their children and have these normal eating out experiences. I felt like if I had been to one place that I could suggest to somebody and help people who now have resources my parents didn’t have, then that would be useful.

Then, you know it’s also nice when people click that your comment helps them out. But I think for me, I’m starting to learn sort of late, that food doesn’t have to be scary and eating out doesn’t have to be scary. I love food, and I think that’s a big change from when I was a child and my parents used to have to beg me to eat.

I thought that this was information that would be useful to the community, and I remember struggling, and I know that it’s still a struggle, so if I can get out there and figure it out, then other people should too.

AE: You said a comment that resonated with me. We did a survey a few years ago and some people said they didn’t rate because they said, “Well, we’re new to this and we don’t think we have much to add.” It sounds like you went through that stage but then realized that you DO have a lot to add.

DB: Right, and I think, yes, it’s one person having one good experience, but that’s better than having no information at all.

AE: We completely agree and, again, very much appreciate everything you’ve put in to help AllergyEats and help everybody else – it’s been really spectacular.

 Just to go back a minute, you were talking earlier about your initial experiences, I think in Chicago, where you’d go out with friends to a bar or dinner, just to be social, and you might just get a drink or a salad. We have plenty of people on AllergyEats who maybe don’t have children or have food allergies themselves as adults. Do you ask questions when you order alcohol? How does that work?

DB: I do, almost always. I mean, there are certain things that I’ve had before, or I just know enough about to feel safe ordering. But, I typically, honestly, avoid mixed drinks because there’s always an ingredient that I have never heard of. I can sit there and I can google it, but then I can worry about, and wonder if the tools that they’re using are clean, and a bar is such a fast-moving environment and they’re noisy, and I just feel, frankly, that it’s usually not worth it. But you usually have to be careful with other drinks – like beer. I was at the Goose Island Brewery a few months ago and I happened to say, because some of their beers are kind of off-the-wall, “I have a nut allergy, is there anything I need to worry about?” They brought the guy who literally brewed the beer out, and he said, “You can have these, and not these.”

AE: Interesting….and while we’re talking about other types of dining experiences, have you ever gotten ice cream in an ice cream shop?

DB: No, but I do have a really good ice cream story. I used to eat at a lot of Italian ice places when I was little, and we’d have them wash the scoop. One of the things that I realize now, thinking back on those experiences, is how much less careful we were in certain situations, I think just because we didn’t know. Like, cross-contamination was a thing that you talked about but that you didn’t understand to the degree that we do now. So, yes, they ran the scoop under water but then they stuck it in the sink with other scoops and I watch this now and I’m like, how did I do this?

But I’ve never been to a real ice cream shop – I think just because I haven’t been in places where an accommodating shop exists. I think there’s an ice cream place in Philadelphia that could accommodate me, but they were closed when I was there. Anyway, so yes, [I usually eat] Italian ices. I tend to avoid sorbets, too, just because of the risk of cross-contamination, if they’re made in a place where they make ice cream.

The worst reaction I’ve ever had actually was at a restaurant that’s now closed that was in New York. They specialized in non-dairy cooking. They didn’t cook with butter, but they had some cheese around and they had dairy options in desserts,..

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