As I mentioned in my last post, my family and I traveled to a wedding in Texas last weekend and knew we would be eating on the road. For most individuals with food allergies, this is highly doable if you do your homework and research ahead of time…plenty of time.
This routine has become the norm for us when we travel. I usually call ahead to speak with restaurants about at least two or three menu items that would be allergy-friendly for our family. (My son has peanut and nut allergies and I am gluten-free.)
We’ll get the worst of my travel dining experiences out of the way and then end with a positive note on a story about our best travel dining experience.
Texas Land & Cattle (Hickory Falls, Texas)
The rehearsal dinner was hosted at this location so I called ahead to speak with the chef several times only to be put on hold and/or passed around. On my first call, the young man I spoke with said the manager was in and would be happy to answer my questions and asked me to hold for ten to fifteen minutes. I made this call well before the dinner hour rush and was put on hold for a whopping 35 minutes before I finally gave up. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly a happy camper. On subsequent calls I was passed around with the general consensus being, “We don’t have peanuts in our restaurant.” Anyone familiar with food allergies knows that statement is not a reassurance. The only thing it indicates is that the staff is untrained or unfamiliar with food allergies, ingredient labels, and cross contamination issues.
On my last call with the restaurant, I got a marginally better response, but still one of uncertainty. Upon arriving, I spoke with a teenage waitress who was WONDERFUL!!! She helped me choose items that would be safe for the whole family…and even threw in an allergy-friendly dessert. Overall, it was an unpleasant experience, but God bless that young woman who waited on us that evening…she made the dinner enjoyable for everyone! She deserves a raise!
(Special Note: Texas Land & Cattle does offer a gluten-free menu online but provides no additional allergy information.)
Hooray for Cracker Barrel!!!
We made an unexpected stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast one morning. It made me nervous because I hadn’t researched and planned ahead for this particular restaurant. A quick check of the iphone showed the restaurant had no allergy information listed on their website.
I made sure my kids understood that breakfast might just be fresh fruit if we couldn’t find anything safe. I asked the hostess about food allergies and she said to explain it to our waitress and she would coordinate with the kitchen. There were ten in our party on a Saturday morning at peak breakfast time and our waitress took time to patiently answer all of my questions and coordinate our order. She had the chef make allergy friendly pancakes and bacon in a dedicated pan to avoid cross contamination. She was even able to wrangle up a gluten-free breakfast of eggs, bacon, and grits for me.
This was a completely FABULOUS experience for us and the entire extended family was able to sit down to breakfast together. What a treat!
What restaurants have you visited that have been accommodating for food allergies? Which ones have not? Is there a special restaurant that deserves a gold star for it’s good work? Please share your stories and offer recognition to gold-star establishments!