The Best & Worst of Eating Out With Food Allergies: Two Restaurant Reviews

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!


11 thoughts on “The Best & Worst of Eating Out With Food Allergies: Two Restaurant Reviews

  1. That’s great to hear about your Cracker Barrel experience. Last time we went to one we were told by the waitress that they had no allergy information in the restaurant and couldn’t guarantee anything safe for my son. We haven’t been to any Cracker Barrel since which is unfortunate since we love that place.

  2. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am going to have to update my post about Cracker Barrel after a recent bad experience we had. We tried eating at a Cracker Barrel in Houston and they said they couldn’t make anything allergy-friendly. So my kids ended up with fresh fruit only. It was a less than perfect experience and although we complained to management, they said they were unable to help. Their explanation was that everything was cooked on the same flat grill and that nothing could be made separately in a pan. I personally find it hard to believe they didn’t have a pan anywhere on site, but they assured me that was the case. It’s especially difficult for families with food allergies to spot an allergy-friendly restaurant when their policy changes so much from location to location. I’m sorry to hear you had an unfortunate experience as well.

  3. Hi. Thanks for the info on TXLC and Cracker Barrel. I found out last week that I have both soy and wheat allergies. So. I’m having a hard time finding out where I can go out to eat. I happened to go to McAllister’s deli last night and found out that they didn’t have any allergy information available but the cook and the order taker was very helpful and trying to make sure that I could eat with my friend. I managed to order a baked potato with butter and bacon. Not the most flavorful, but it was nice to eat and not have her feel bad because I couldn’t join in. haha

  4. @ A. Melendez: I completely understand what you mean about your meal not being flavorful but it was still worth it to be able to eat with your friend. I’m sorry to hear about your allergy diagnosis, but am soooo impressed that you didn’t let it hold you back! Pat yourself on the back! Best wishes to you in your food allergy journey!

  5. HuHot Mongolian Grill has allergy information readily available on their site, and they will work with you to make sure there is no cross-contamination. They have a wide variety of items that are safe. We eat at the one in San Antonio, and they are great. Unfortunately they are only in a few locations across the country.

    One of my students works for Outback and told me that they have a gluten-free menu because the owner’s wife is gluten intolerant. And she seemed very knowledgeable about food allergies from waitressing there.

    I am traveling to visit family in North Carolina and may try a Cracker Barrel. My allergy (casein) is not so bad that I might die if I’m exposed to it (at least not in the immediate term, long term is another matter), it will just make me feel like I’ve been run over by a truck is all (which I’d like to avoid LOL) I think honestly that it depends on the restaurant itself and who is running it that day, and really, all of the food comes labeled, and so the service in general is probably bad if they won’t take the time to investigate what is safe for you and what isn’t.

  6. Red Robin is the BEST for dining out with food allergens. Their website is fantastic. You can select what allergens you need to avoid and they will give you a list of what you can eat, including items that can be subbed or left off your order to make it safe. They have gluten free buns! Can’t rave enough about them!!!

  7. Which Cracker Barrel gave you special attention to your allergies? I am sitting in a Cracker Barrel in Hampton, VA right now and the waitress knew nothing about allergies. The manager came and gave me a menu that contained only nutritional information and gluten free items. He asked about my allergies. After I told him he gave me the nutritional info, and left. There was no attempt to assist. It’s unfortunate that the company/restaurant doesn’t care about people with food allergies. I think all restaurants need to return to whole food cooking.

  8. I am giving Cracker Barrel a second chance after we left the other morning due to a completely rude host. I spoke with a manager and this location has actually turned out to be very helpful.

    The message I want all restaurants to get is this:
    You are not just losing the business of one person when you mess with people with good allergies. We have friends and family that want to eat with us, too. They WILL go where we can eat if we are all going together. It’s their revenue loss, not the loss of our good time!

  9. I’m on the dairy/lactose free bandwagon and since it’s a relatively new problem, I’m still learning what places are safe. I just finished reading about Cracker Barrel’s dairy free menu, as well as a dedicated egg and peanut info. I was impressed. I can now visit them with confidence. Glad your experience was positive!

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