Allergy Eats | The Leading Guide to Allergy Friendly Restaurants Nationwide
AllergyEats is a crowd-sourced U.S. restaurant guide for the food allergy community. AllergyEats user rates a restaurant, it helps the entire food allergy community make more informed and comfortable dining decisions
Chinese food – one of the “scarier” cuisine choices for food-allergic diners due to the frequent presence of soy, sesame, and peanuts, among other allergens. However, as we often say (and as AllergyEats user reviews show), it IS possible to get a safe, Asian-inspired meal if prepared by a restaurant that truly understands, and commits itself to, food allergies. Such is the case, we believe, with Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, a fast casual chain with 169 restaurants in 21 states across the U.S., plus 5 international locations.
Pei Wei came out with a press release last Tuesday, addressing new gluten-free menu options and reiterating a commitment to their clean label initiative “The Wei Forward” and their “Made For You” program, which is designed for guests with all kinds of special diets (including food allergies). [*As part of this release, Pei Wei announced a partnership with AllergyEats. More details at the end of this blog post.]
Not entirely aware of Pei Wei’s efforts to accommodate the food allergy and gluten free community, we called senior management to learn more.
I confess to being blown away.
The First Step Towards Making Things “Wei” Better
It all starts with The Wei Forward, Pei Wei’s “guiding principle on how we think food should be,” (not just at Pei Wei, but across the restaurant industry). Their Wei Forward website has great detail and I recommend you click the link to visit it. However, let me share their summary:
“We believe that for food to deliver world-class flavor, it should begin with simple, fresh ingredients that are minimally processed and free of artificial color and preservatives. We believe consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, so they’ll be able to make informed choices without being misled by crafty marketing. At Pei Wei, we take pride in preparing our fresh whole food in-house and make our dishes to order. And with The Wei Forward, we make it easy for you to eat the food you love, with less of the stuff you don’t.”
As part of this commitment, Pei Wei lists EVERY ingredient in 3 of their popular dishes (including their most popular dish, Wei Better Orange Chicken) on the website, with a goal of having the full ingredient list of EVERY dish available and published over the months ahead! That transparency is obviously great for food-allergic diners! In addition, the fact that the food is prepared in-house, made-to-order, and customizable (to the extent possible) is also a huge benefit. For those who are gluten-free or allergic to wheat, Pei Wei is continuing to expand their gluten-free offerings too, with the addition of 4 new gluten-free dishes, including their very popular Kung Pao and Mongolian. Roughly half of Pei Wei’s rice bowls are now available gluten-free, and we expect to see even more in the future.
Allergy Accommodations Are About More Than Ingredients
More important than just introducing new gluten-free dishes however, and relevant to the food allergy community as well, Pei Wei understands the difference between a meal simply having gluten-free ingredients versus creating a meal free of gluten, including cross-contact prevention, and safe for those with Celiac disease or a wheat allergy (this applies to other allergies too) – “Our goal is not to be ‘gluten-friendly.’ Our goal is to be able to deliver a fantastic, fresh-made Asian dish to someone that is completely gluten free.” The key to doing this is out of the customer’s sight, in the kitchen. So, what happens in the kitchen?
Pei Wei has a separate celiac workstation in their kitchen, sterilized woks and utensils for preparing allergy meals (with red handles to indicate their designation for allergy meals only), allergy buttons on their point-of-sale systems for communication from those taking the orders to the kitchen, and different colored bowls for food allergy meals (white, instead of red) as an indication that the food allergy was acknowledged and the meal prepared appropriately. This entire process was recently enhanced, so hopefully Pei Wei “regulars” will notice the positive changes.
Per Pei Wei’s Chief Marketing Officer, “It’s really important that every single customer at every single Pei Wei, every single day, if they have a special dietary need, is going to be safe, so we take it very, very seriously. We want to be able to serve all of the members of our community, not just those whom it’s easy for us to serve.”
But is this commitment shared across senior management? Well, when the CEO’s family is impacted by Celiac disease and a number of Board members have food allergies, everybody understands the importance of proper procedures and protocols. This is the difference between Pei Wei (along with other restaurants and chains that “get it”) and the many restaurants where food allergy accommodations are lacking. Commitment from the top is key!
Of course, none of this commitment nor any set of procedures & protocols are going to make a difference without appropriate staff training. Again, Pei Wei is impressive. Food allergy training occurs for every worker on every shift.
Pei Wei Done Your “Wei”
Given Pei Wei’s commitment to transparency, we asked them some of the tougher questions we know you want (and deserve) to have answered.
Are there peanuts or tree nuts on the premises? Peanuts are in the Pad Thai, but are kept in a sealed container in the kitchen. Staff is trained to avoid cross-contact.
Are any allergies especially challenging to accommodate? Soy and corn are particularly challenging allergens for Pei Wei; otherwise “we feel very good about our ability to handle just about any allergen.” [We were impressed, during our conversation, that management often referred to accommodating non-Big 8 allergens, such as garlic.]
Egg is listed as an ingredient in a lot of dishes. Can you still accommodate an egg allergy? While egg is traditionally in some dishes, like Pad Thai and fried rice, they can be made without it upon request. In other dishes that feature an egg-battered chicken, for example, the guest can modify the dish to include tofu and/or vegetables as the protein selection.
How about sesame? Pei Wei does have sesame seeds and use sesame oil in some dishes, but there are options for an individual with a sesame allergy.
The online allergen chart shows a lot of “X’s” – dishes that contain a certain allergy. That suggests that there are a lot of dishes food-allergic individuals can’t have. As mentioned, Pei Wei can customize many of its dishes to remove certain allergens/ingredients upon request. The online allergen chart is currently being renovated to better reflect the available options for diners with food allergies.
Part of what makes food allergy accommodations a little easier for Pei Wei, alongside the fact that food is prepped in-house and is made-to-order, is that the process is relatively simple in choosing a protein, vegetables, and a sauce. Much of what we, as a community, would need to avoid would be in the sauces, which can obviously be substituted. We still do have to ask about the proteins, as some may have been battered or have a marinade that includes our allergen, but those are obviously substitutable as well.
For those with other specific questions or recommendations, Pei Wei acknowledges that “we’re active listeners on social media and we have a guest contact hotline, and we review those to see what folks are asking for” regarding the next steps in the continually evolving and improving Wei Forward initiative.
Walking the “Wok”: A Call for Change in the Restaurant Industry
Lastly, as a tremendous sign of commitment to the food allergy community, Pei Wei started an FDA petition in late September in order to insist that all restaurants label all ingredients in every dish for customers to see. “I called for regulation of our industry, mostly because the industry is doing a terrible job of regulating itself in this area.” So far, the National Restaurant Association is not supporting this petition, nor do I think they ever will. Their constituency will not only (understandably, to a degree) balk at the additional costs they will bare, but they’ll be afraid of their secret recipes being “stolen.” Pei Wei believes this fear is unfounded. Knowing a meal’s ingredients and knowing how to prepare that meal are two separate things. “There is nothing that somebody would have to disclose in an ingredient statement that would compromise their secrecy or recipes. We’re not asking for the secret formula to Coke; and by the way, Coca Cola is required to put on their packaging exactly what we’re asking – a nutrition facts panel and an ingredient statement.”
There has been a lot of interest from the food allergy community for this very type of labeling requirement in restaurants for years. It’s nice to see a large restaurant chain on board.
Pei Wei isn’t just talking the talk; they’re walking the walk. From their Wei Forward web page:
“Our beliefs center around the need to demand transparency and allow consumers to make informed dining decisions. Allowing guests to know the ingredients in their food not only calls attention to its nutritional value, it also makes it easier for dietary preferences to be carefully accommodated. We hope to affect more than your health with this information about your food, we want to empower you with a healthy peace of mind about it.”
As previously mentioned, Pei Wei has committed to have all ingredients of all their dishes online by the end of 2020, combined with their clean label initiative to eliminate artificial colors, preservatives, and additives.
Pei Wei has collected over 2,000 signatures for their FDA petition so far, but we, as food allergy individuals and advocates, have the opportunity to dramatically increase that number. We encourage you to visit their change.org page, support their petition, and share it broadly within our community.
That’s the current status of The Wei Forward. But again, The Wei Forward is not a static program. This is an evolutionary process by Pei Wei to “clean up” their food, increase transparency, improve the options for those with Celiac disease, and accommodate as many special dining needs, including food allergies, as possible.
Personally, I’m looking forward to my first visit the week before Christmas near St. Louis. I’ll have 3 food-allergic kids (tree nut, dairy, egg, and sesame) to really put them to the test!
If you’ve dined at a Pei Wei recently – or anywhere, of course – we encourage you to rate your experiences on the AllergyEats website or app. Each new review you provide makes AllergyEats a more valuable resource for the entire food allergy community. We are all in this together!
[*AllergyEats Partnership Program is designed to provide those restaurants that want to communicate with our community a platform to highlight their food allergy accommodations. This program naturally attracts those who are comfortable that they can provide an excellent guest experience for food-allergic diners. As part of the program, AllergyEats creates “enhanced listings” of these partners’ restaurants within AllergyEats’ search results by including additional information provided by the restaurant, such as interactive allergen menus (for those who have them), links to relevant pages on their websites, an “Allergen Commitment Statement” that we ask every partner to write, and more. CRITICAL to note is that AllergyEats does not, and will never, compromise the integrity of either our user reviews or our published information. The responsibility for us to maintain high ethical standards is paramount given the potential devastating effects of any “foul play” – and as parents of food-allergic children ourselves, as well as long-time advocates for this community, we hope you know we get it! User ratings are never removed or altered. The associated reviews are also never removed or altered, except in the rare case when the commentary is not related to food allergies. Further, the publishing of blog posts such as this are not a part of our partnership program; however, where we see relevant, important, or interesting information – from a partner or non-partner – we want to present that to you. If you have any questions about our partnership program, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Pei Wei, we value transparency – in our practices as well as others’.]
Over the years, we’ve been asked time and time again to consider expanding AllergyEats into Canada. As of today, there is no AllergyEats Canada (though it certainly does make sense, doesn’t it?). In the meantime, however, we’re happy to have a great relationship with Toronto-based food allergy blogger, Kathleen O’Hagan, who has a son with multiple food allergies and is the founder of Allergybites, a restaurant review website featuring accommodating restaurants in Toronto and more. Kathleen was gracious enough to write the following AllergyEats blog post for those living in, or traveling to, Toronto or Ottawa with food allergies.
Your neighbours to the north may be super duper friendly… but are we allergy-friendly? Read on to find out…
The truth is, there are A LOT of allergy-friendly options in major cities like Toronto and Ottawa these days, but it can be challenging (and stressful!) trying to figure out which ones are free from your family’s allergens, what allergy protocols they have in place, and how well trained their staff is — especially when you’re doing your research from afar.
The good news is, if you’re planning a trip to Canada’s largest city (Toronto) or our nation’s capital (Ottawa), I’m here to help. Ever since my son was diagnosed with multiple allergies almost three years ago, I’ve made it my mission to seek out allergy-friendly restaurants in Toronto (and beyond) and share my findings with the food allergy community. And this includes food-allergic tourists, of course! (We all know how important it is to have your allergy-friendly spots mapped out before you embark on a trip.)
So without further ado, here are the friendliest of the friendly. The most accommodating. The ones free of top allergens and more…
Free of the top 10 allergens, Sorelle and Co. has been providing food allergy families with a safe place to grab a sweet treat or a savoury meal for close to 3 years. And since first launching in 2016, this lovely spot has expanded to 4 locations across the city — so no matter where your hotel happens to be, there’s no excuse not to experience what is truly an elegant dining experience. (They even serve high tea at two of their locations, but you must book your seating in advance.) You can find Sorelle and Co. in Vaughn (north), downtown (central), Yorkville (central), and most recently, in Etobicoke (west). Okay, okay… If you’re in the east end, you may have a problem. But scroll down to #2 for a solution that is pretty wonderful too.
A recent (and much-loved) addition to Toronto’s allergy-friendly scene is fast-casual restaurant & bakery, Hype Food Co. If your travels take you to Toronto’s east end — the Leslieville/Riverdale area specifically — you won’t want to miss this fabulous place. Heck, if your travels don’t take you east, I say: “Go there anyway!” Hype Food Co. is seriously that good. It’s also free of the top 10 allergens, but owner and allergy mama, Pauline Osena, will go one step further to accommodate allergies outside of the top 10 when possible. This adorable spot also has an interactive play area for the little ones, so you can rest your weary (well-travelled) bones while your kiddos play nearby.
Yet another bakery and fast casual spot that can accommodate multiple allergies (and other dietary restrictions) is La Vida Cocoa. This north-Toronto eating spot uses ingredients that are not only top allergen-free, but organic AND low in sugar — making their sweet and savoury options a great choice for diabetics too. And their fabulous selection of frozen items make it easy to stock up on allergen-free foods if you’re staying at an Airbnb. La Vida Cocoa also has an interactive play area for the kids. You know, so they can have their fun… and eat it too.
Calling all pizza lovers! It doesn’t matter what allergies you or your loved ones have, Famoso Pizzeria is always happy to accommodate. While this particular pizzeria isn’t allergen-free, the staff at this lovely Annex location goes above and beyond to accommodate patrons with food allergies. The servers are knowledgeable, patient and really good at making food allergy families feel safe and welcome. And — get this — even if you’re dealing with allergies in the double digits, you can safely eat at Famoso Pizzeria. Just be sure to communicate your allergies with the server before you order!
“Their processes and policies make it the only place that could accommodate my son’s 12+ allergies. The first time we ate there, I cried I was so happy.” – Allison Venditti, Food Allergy Mom
If you’re feeling homesick, give The Bread Essentials in Etobicoke a visit. Josée, the owner and head baker of this nut-free bakery, is so warm and so accommodating that you’ll want to pop by more than once during your stay. And not to worry, if you have multiple allergies, Josée also offers a wide variety of vegan options and doesn’t use soy in any of her recipes. Plus she bakes everything free of wheat on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Josée will go above and beyond to customize her recipes and bake what you need — just be sure to call in advance if you want her to make you something special. P.S. If you want to try some authentic Canadian cuisine, grab one of her delicious tourtieres (meat pies) while you’re there.
If you’re heading to Canada’s capital city, keep your eyes peeled for this lovely teal spot, tucked away on a residential street in Wellington West. Free of dairy, egg, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, Strawberry Blonde is a little bakery with a huge selection of sweet and savoury items to devour. If you have allergies outside of the 5 listed above, be sure to call in advance to see if they can accommodate you. The owner and baker will be sure to let you know if safe options do exist, and is always transparent with regards to risk of cross contamination. This is another great option for Airbnb-ers looking to stock up on frozen meals and desserts that are allergy-friendly.
This quaint little bakery is located in the outskirts of Ottawa, in the small town of North Gower. But no matter where you are staying, Dolly Doll Cupcake Co. is worth the drive! Not only is this spot free of peanuts, dairy, soy, egg, sesame, mustard, shellfish, sulphites, preservatives and casein, the owner and allergy mom only uses 10 ingredients in her recipes — so there’s a pretty good chance it’s free of your allergens even if they happen to fall in the “less common” category. Dolly Doll will also customize orders upon request and can provide baked goods that are free of sugar, oil, seeds, gluten, and can even cater to those following a FODMAP diet. This spot is super safe, delicious and the owner is as friendly as can be!
While Toronto and Ottawa both have a wide selection of other allergy-friendly options, the eating spots included in this review are either top allergen-free or unbelievably accommodating. If you like to base your travels around your dining experiences, be sure to include some (or all!) of these 7 spots into your Toronto/Ottawa itinerary. Just be sure to contact them in advance if you have any special requests. Most will be more than willing to help you out if they can.
City-specific guide allows AllergyEats users a more effective way to find allergy-friendly restaurants across Manhattan
BOSTON –AllergyEats, the leading peer-reviewed restaurant guide for food-allergic diners, is introducing “AllergyEats NYC”, a designated guide to help app and website users find the most allergy-friendly restaurants across Manhattan.
While AllergyEats users can already search for restaurant reviews in New York City (and every other area in America), this city-specific guide allows the food allergy community to better search the many key regions of the borough and find places to dine near popular landmarks.
“New York City has so many wonderful allergy-friendly options of various cuisines which, when combined with its geographic density, makes it a natural choice for our first city-specific guide,” said Paul Antico, Founder and CEO of AllergyEats. “We saw the need in our community for a guide that allows for easy identification of accommodating dining options near major attractions or in specific regions of the city. This guide allows us to drill down to that level of geographic focus.”
AllergyEats NYC includes a new map feature pinpointing the most allergy-friendly restaurants in four popular Manhattan regions: Uptown, Midtown/Times Square, Midtown South, and Downtown. It also allows users to find and rate any restaurant in each given area of the city using the traditional AllergyEats list option. While AllergyEats NYC is a Manhattan-based guide, other New York City boroughs can still be searched via the core AllergyEats search process at AllergyEats.com and on the mobile app. The guide additionally features New York City-specific blog entries from AllergyEats’ award winning blog and will be fully accessible on both the AllergyEats website and app. This is the second destination-specific guide produced by AllergyEats, joining AllergyEats Disney World which launched in 2011.
AllergyEats (www.AllergyEats.com) is a crowdsourced restaurant guide for the food allergy community, available as a free app on both iTunes and Google Play, as well as on www.allergyeats.com. Food-allergic diners can search for allergy-friendly restaurants in the U.S. based on desired location as well as by dietary restrictions and are encouraged to offer their own ratings and reviews of any restaurant in America where they’ve dined. AllergyEats lists more than 850,000 restaurants nationwide and also offers user comments, web links, menus, directions and more. The app and website, along with AllergyEats’ award-winning blog, annual “Top Ten” listings, and related social media forums, help families with food allergies reduce the guesswork and the anxiety surrounding dining out with food allergies whether they are near home or traveling. For more information, please visit www.AllergyEats.com.
Transparency is great. Transparency allow us, in the food allergy community, to make the most informed choices given our individual allergy sets and risk tolerance. To that end, I am very happy that a Starbucks barista stepped forward with a concern she felt would create greater risk to Starbucks’ food-allergic customers, and I am also very happy that Starbucks corporate office was willing to take the time to address my concerns and clarify, openly and honestly, the risks to our community.
For those who do not know the genesis of this story, a Starbucks barista shared a concern that was widely spread across social media a few days ago. It said, in part, “Starbucks made the decision to stop separating their milks into different steaming pitchers, blender pitchers, and shakers. We took off all the labels and now dairy, soy, coconut milk, almond milk, and other non-dairy liquids are no longer separated in different pitchers and while cross contamination was still an issue, it is now completely unavoidable.”
As this post spread, a few other baristas stepped up and to confirm. In addition, other individuals asked their local Starbucks baristas, called customer service, and even called corporate, all claiming to receive the same information. We wanted to verify or clarify, so we called corporate ourselves and had an excellent, open and frank discussion with a senior rep.
The bottom line is this – the risk level for food-allergic customers at Starbucks has really not changed. However, before anyone gets excited, the bad news is that the cross-contact risk was already significant and probably higher than people realized before.
For anyone who has stepped foot in a Starbucks (and who hasn’t), you know that it is often quite busy and employees have to move fast and keep moving. So the truth of the matter is that, while baristas DID in fact have labels on pitchers detailing the milk that should be used in that pitcher, those labels weren’t always being strictly adhered to and the baristas were often just grabbing whichever was nearest.
So why take off labels? Starbucks says they made the change in the name of transparency. In other words, they don’t want to give a false sense of security (and a false representation of risk) to their food-allergic customers.
Why do I believe them? The fact is that Starbucks is, and has been, very open about the fact that they use shared equipment and have a tremendous cross-contact risk. So even before these labels came off – and even now if you request a “fresh pitcher” that is sanitized– the product is still being exposed to cross-contact risk with the other equipment used to make your drink. That has not changed and will not change. Starbucks cannot guarantee safety from cross-contact and I appreciate that they are willing to make that clear. As a food-allergy advocate and father of kids with food allergies that would be at risk in this situation, am I happy about the level of risk at Starbucks? No. Do I wish they would do more to accommodate our community and make us feel more welcomed? Yes. But do I appreciate the up-front honesty that lets me know this isn’t a risk I want to take? Absolutely!
So, in summary:
Starbucks has and will continue to use shared equipment that poses a cross-contact risk – nothing has changed there
The removal of stickers on steaming and blending pitchers, etc. IS happening, but hasn’t changed the risk; if anything, doing so helps improve transparency about cross-contact risk
Individuals can still request a barista get a fresh pitcher (deemed sanitized), but the cross-contact risk from other equipment will still exist!
Starbucks pitchers on the customer side of the counter with regular milk, soy milk, etc. are also subject to the same cross-contact risk, even though the milk inside will be as advertised
Starbucks is very clear that customers with food allergies need to know that the company cannot guarantee their safety from cross-contact
Unfortunately, there are no initiatives in place at the moment to improve accommodations for food-allergic customers at Starbucks (however, they do read their customer feedback!)
I am very happy this issue came to light and thank those who brought it to our attention. While we would obviously like to be reading about more positive initiatives at Starbucks, we always welcome and appreciate the opportunity to share the truth with all of you, positive or negative.
AllergyEats Releases 2018 List of Top 10 Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains in America
New List Offers a Variety of Dining Options: Italian, Mexican, Steaks, Seafood & More
BOSTON, MA (March 7, 2018) – AllergyEats, the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants in the United States, has just released its 2018 list of the Top 10 Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains in America. The chains on this highly-anticipated annual list have earned top ratings on the AllergyEats app and website, per feedback from the food allergy community. These chains are rated solely on how well they have accommodated food-allergic diners over the past year.
“For the over 15 million Americans with food allergies, it’s incredibly important to know which restaurants are the best at creating allergy-friendly experiences so these individuals can more comfortably dine out,” said Paul Antico, Founder and CEO of AllergyEats. “The restaurant chains on our 2018 list have differentiated themselves with exceptional food allergy protocols, education, and training, according to peer reviews from AllergyEats users. Even better, this year’s list includes chains that offer diverse types of cuisine – from Italian and Mexican to steaks, seafood, and more.”
AllergyEats’ Top 10 Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains are grouped into two categories – large (50 or more restaurants) and small (under 50 restaurants). The list was created per crowdsourced feedback from the AllergyEats app and website through December 31, 2017. Ratings are based on a 1 through 5 scale, with 5 being the most allergy-friendly.
** Denotes restaurant chains that are new to the list this year.
“We are excited to announce that four restaurant chains are new to the list this year, earning top honors for their exceptional food allergy accommodations, as determined by AllergyEats users. These new additions to the 2018 Top 10 list – Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, Longhorn Steakhouse, Weber Grill, and 110 Grill – have shown the same outstanding commitment towards accommodating food-allergic guests as those chains that consistently make this list, such as Maggiano’s Little Italy, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Burtons Grill, and Legal Sea Foods,” Antico added.
“On behalf of all of us at Bertucci’s, we are honored that AllergyEats users have recognized our brand and the efforts of our local teams to individualize guest special requests,” said Brian Wright, CEO, Bertucci’s. “We take pride in our scratch kitchens, fresh ingredients and passionate culinary staff and we are ever-grateful for a legion of amazing guests who’ve supported us since 1981. Thank you, AllergyEats, for providing your service and giving voice to this distinctive guest recognition.”
The AllergyEats Top 10 Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains list – and the growing number of AllergyEats ratings of all restaurants around the country – helps the food allergy community make more informed decisions about which restaurants to visit and which to avoid, based on how well or poorly they’ve accommodated other diners’ food allergies.
AllergyEats is a crowdsourced restaurant guide for the food allergy community, available as a free app on both iTunes and Google Play, as well as on www.allergyeats.com. Restaurants are easily searchable by geographic location, so people can find allergy-friendly establishments anywhere in the country.
The Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains list was created by the food allergy community, for the food allergy community. Please share your own dining experiences at these restaurant chains (and any independent restaurants, too!) by rating them on our app or website.
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, aPan-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.
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.