Dealing with Food Allergies When Dining out

AlmondsThe Atlantic features a thoughtful piece on the many challenges dining out presents for people with food allergies. The writer, Alyssa Rosenberg, suffers from an allergy to tree nuts, and navigating a menu is a perilous process as the wrong order could potentially kill her.

Ms. Rosenberg isn’t alone; according to The New York Times, more than 11 million Americans are estimated to suffer from food allergies. Naturally, then, I (and probably you, too) have a few friends with food allergies. Mick, like The Atlantic’s contributor, is allergic to tree nuts (thankfully, he can eat peanuts, as they are a ground nut). Dave is lactose intolerant, but he can indulge in dairy if he remembers to arm himself with some Lactaid pills. Claire can’t eat seafood, so we’ve never been able to eat at my favorite sushi restaurants together. Nancy, who is in my book club, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few years ago, and she has to steer clear of all gluten proteins, which are found in many grains. This means she must eschew flour, which figures into countless restaurant recipes, so she has to ask an array of questions about virtually every menu item.

The best experiences for diners with food allergies are those in which the server is both knowledgeable and patient. To be sure that a dish doesn’t have any verboten ingredients, the kitchen staff may have to be consulted – more than once. And, in the future, concerned restaurateurs and chefs will probably begin addressing this issue on their menus, as our appetite for dining out isn’t diminishing.


  1. says

    Dining out has become perilous with Celiac Disease. And in many restaurants the pickings are very slim to none. I can’t tell you how many times my dining companions have had delicious entrees while I’ve had to get the grilled fish, hold the sauce! Please, please, please restauranteurs, start offering more gluten-free options.

  2. Ann Landau says

    Legal’s Seafood Restaurants has a gluten free menu to hand to a patron. My daughter said, “Oh, great! I don’t have to look at stuff I can’t have..”

  3. Kathy says

    It would be very helpful if Open Table would have a category for restaurants that offer Gluten Free menus. This way those of us with Celiac Disease could select a restaurant and know we could eat there with our friends and family without worrying. I know I would always use the service.

  4. Amanda-Beth says

    I really hate dinning at new restaurant its terrifying as my allergies are uncommon. They are olives amd mulberries. I’ve often gotten eye rolls from servers who don’t believe me. I am hoping the chef cards I made will help esp sense will be dinning at new restaurant I do want to try new restaurant but its nerve racking. Mullberries can be disguised as figs neither of wish which are required by law to be listed also olives or olive oil in small doses can be listed as natural spices. I feel like I’m always in mind feild and never know when one will explode. I wish the law said every last ingredient must be listed on label in full and accurate terms but that’s wishing for to much I guess it will be challenge for me.

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