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Food Allergy In Restaurant Experiences [split from L.A. thread]

[Original thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/476897

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Thanks Debbie and Diana. The first go around I was willing to accept it- I understand people make mistakes and I didn't actually put the food in my mouth. Having gotten several meals comped for this very reason (predicated by me going to the restroom to attempt to throw up, shooting myself in the thigh with an epipen, and chugging a few benedryl, and on two occasions actually being taken to the hospital) I'm not sure why restaurants don't seem to be much more careful. It is a very common allergy. The best I've ever seen it handled was at Sona- where prior to ordering, the server actually asked if we had any food allergies that they needed to make the kitchen aware of. If a dish had nuts in it as a substantial player, they actually replaced it with an entirely different dish and didn't make one mistake.

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  1. I've nearly been killed at some fo the best restaraunts in town, n ot to mention Whole Foods.

    I've had good experiences at Spago and Providence for tasting menus.

    Caffee Angeli is also good about it.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Diana

      We should make this a separate topic! :-) My worst experience to date has been at Jer-ne. Not only was the food mediocre but the server gave me attitude about the allergy- I explained it to him, and when a different server brought out a dish that looked like it had nuts in it, I asked him to make sure. Original server came back out, huffy, and chastised me about it saying he had definitely heard me. Two dishes later, WALNUTS. I had to throw up the mediocre meal, shoot myself with the epi in the bathroom, and spend the rest of evening in a benedryl coma. The management at Jer-ne was terrified- not only did they know I had repeatedly told them about the allergy, that the server had provided me with attitude, but they were also dealing with an law school student and an attorney who had been trying treat his girlfriend to a special 30th birthday dinner.

      1. re: PrettyPlaty

        My worst experiences have been at smaller places, usually where there is a language barrier. It's sad to say.

        I was at Anarbagh once, and we let them know over and over I was allergic to nuts. We made it through a pre-fixe tandoori meal OK, then got to the "mango ice cream" for deesert when I discovered small chunks (really small, I'm talking hard to see) of a nut. My husband called over the waiter and said, "We TOLD you when we made the reservation, when we came in, and WHEN we ordered and when you served us that she was ALLERGIC to nuts. This ice cream has NUTS IN IT and she ATE SOME!!! What are your trying to do?" Meanwhile, I was starting to ooze and close up.

        The waiter replied, "those aren't nuts. Those are pistachios. pistachios are not nuts."

        My husband called hte manager (who also had been told) and reiterated his complaint, now more angrily. "oh, yes. There is pistacio in the ice cream. Don't eat it then."

        "She already had a bite. We told you several times that she is allergic to nuts. Why didn't you tell us? Why did you serve her this?"

        "Well, you didn't ask if the ice cream had nuts."

        I ran and threw up in the bathroom.

        My husband met me at the door and rushed me off to find benadryl and high caffine soda.

        Still, if you are firm enough, you can at least cover your legal bases. I often give places a link to here- the food allergy and anaphylaxis network.

        http://www.foodallergy.org/
        also
        http://www.ming.com/faan/

        Ming Tsai is a major rep, and his Blue Ginger goes above and beyond in mnaking dining out good for allergic people. Of course, it isn't in LA> Still, talking about him and giving owners and managers the link helps educate them and inspire them to care.

        1. re: Diana

          I agree that small places with language barriers seem to be the most problematic.

          My husband suffers from severe peanut and cashew, as well as "normal" legume and other nut allergies. Our last three ER trips were due to Mexican (Guelatzca on Palms), Indian (Annapurna) and a coffee shop (Cow's End - peanuts in a Tuna Wrap.). 7 years ago, he got a peanut in a piece of sushi! So, we joke that he is only allowed to eat hamburgers and spaghetti.

          But, he does love food. Like Diana, when we make the reservation, we try to mention the nut allergy - in writing if possible. And, if we show up at a new restaurant and see peanuts used more than once, or lots of different nuts - we tend to leave for a safer option.

          We call the epi/liquid benedryl combo effect "gorked" -- as in "You'll be so gorked that you won't move for 3 days after that." It is *really* scary to see a reaction.

        2. re: PrettyPlaty

          I did not know that one would use both an epi and benedryl - that sounds like a serious combo! Please clarify: Did you throw up as an involuntary reaction to the nuts, or you forced yourself to throw up to get the walnuts out of your system? If I had a customer suffering from this, I would be worried about bad press, not being sued for negligent infliction of nuts, and I would probabably ask her if she wanted me to call an ambulance.

          1. re: Bite Me

            When you go into anaphylaxis, you use the epi and should go to the hospital, where they ALWAYS give you intraveinous benadryl.

            You would be a great owner/manager. Many others don't think about allergy problems unless they have a realtive or friend with food allergies. Ingorance breeds a lack of concern.

            And yes, I have thought about legal issues. Fortunately, most places are concerned once it happens, and offer to pay hospital fees or do whatever they can. The ones that don't are the ones you dream of suing.

            Throwing up is a common result of an allergic reaction, as the body seeks to rid itself of the food. The more experienced of us have learned that when we find we have eaten an allergen, it's best to purge it fast. (eew)

            1. re: Bite Me

              I can usually tell within a few seconds if I've put something in my mouth with nuts in it- my mouth gets "itchy" and my tongue starts to swell. It's easier to tell with some nuts than others- walnuts and pinenuts for me. However, if it is ground into a sauce or in chocolate, for whatever reason, it is more difficult for me to tell. In the former, I would probably just spit the food (very ladylike) into my napkin. In the latter example, I can tell seconds after I swallow because my mouth will start to itch, my tongue will start to swell, followed by a throat closing sensation. If it doesn't feel severe, I excuse myself to the restroom and try to get rid of it. Sometimes, that coupled by a benedryl pill and a coke will suffice. However, if after I throw up the throat closing sensation does not go away, I get the epipen out, followed by the benedryl and coke routine.

              The epi saves your life, basically- the benedryl is an antihistamine that will get rid of the actual "reaction". If you are going into shock, the benedryl is not going to help you.

              1. re: Bite Me

                Hi there, A combo of epi and benedryl is the standard protocol for a severe allergic reaction. Most individuals (myself included) will throw up involuntary and with any luck we will make it to the restroom before this happens, only second to stabbing ourselves with an epi-pen. We dined at an Italian fast food chain (carrabbas) and shortly after starting to eat what tasted great ( I could not taste the onions), my mouth started to swell and I started feeling sick to my stomache. Our wait staff ran out back and came back to reassure me that there were no onions in my dish. At this point I was having a hard time breathing and out came the Epi Pen and benadryl. As I was running to the bathroom to throw up the chef came running out and spoke to my husband. Apparently they had run out of shrimp in the station where my dish was prepared and they replaced the shrimp from another area that had been marinating in a mixture with onions. Not the best night but not my worst either. My all time "favorite" thing wait staff do is taking off the foods you are allergic to instead of remaking the dish. It is the oils in onions and peppers that I am allergic to so although the onions are gone their oils are left behind to spice up my day.......or not!

            2. re: Diana

              While not having an allergy to nuts, I agree with your comment on WFM - they seem to want to put nuts in everything meant for takeout, thinking it must always be wholesome and in everyone's best nutritional interests. Well, I feel the opposite and have known your thoughts as well.

              1. re: Diana

                I will say Carnival Cruise Line does an excellent job with food allergies. You send them your allergy/reaction list information before your cruise and the management comes to your table at the very first meal and goes over your allergies and reactions. They had me order my dinners each night for the following day. It did not matter what restuarant I ate at because once we booked our dinner resevations it red flags the party as having someone with an allergy. At any buffet you ask to speak to a chef and they pull up your allergy/reaction list and tell you what foods can be made to order in a seperate area. By the time my family scooped up more food than I ever thought possible my food was ready. I was extremely impressed. It was a great worry free trip. If you have severe food allergies you know that does not happen very often....

                1. re: Diana

                  An Epi-Pen Note: When you are putting in a request for a refill at the pharmacy ask for the latest dated one they have in stock. Like most items they are cycled like a gallon of milk.

                2. This a very tough issue. Certainly if you have severe food allergies and you decide to go out to eat you have some responsibility to tell the waitstaff. If they are not competent and bring you dish not knowing that a pistachio is a nut then WOW what can you do?

                  I know a few folks with food allergies and it can make dining out a challenge. I appreciate when they suggest a restaurant that they've frequented and know is especially accommodating of their needs. Perhaps if more establishments knew that folks with food allergies, and people that enjoy dining with those so afflicted, specifically choose the accommodating places, such handling would be more common.

                  OTOH if people with severe allergies specifically choose a place but there is STILL a slip-up and something prohibited makes to the plate of a sensitive diner is not the potential liability to the establishment even greater?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: renov8r

                    If I owned a restaurant and someone informed me that they were at risk of their life if their meal were to be contaminated by nuts in some form, even from cross contamination of the utensils or plates, I am nor sure I would be okay about serving them. What if something happened and their epi pen failed for some reason?

                    On the other hand the fact that the person with the allergy is informing the restaurant of the risk to their life must say something about them going into this with the understanding that they are taking this risk with informed consent. The fact that they are carrying an epi pen and benadryl also shows that they understand that the restaurant is not set up and equiped to perfectly protect their health, no matter how much the restaurant may try to do so. I don't know what liability attaches to the restaurant in this situation. I just hope that they are current on their liability premiums.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      I think that restaurant owners have a responsibility to ensure that their staff know basic food allergies and are at least familiar enough with the food served to warn patrons or to ask the chef about it. I can certainly understand that this does not always happen- however I would hope that at the prices some restaurants charge for their food, ... It's part of the business.

                      I also understand that mistakes happen. As I mentioned in my Melisse review, I had a lot more problem with the actual quality of the food than that they messed up and served me something with nuts. It would take a rather gross violation for me (a future attorney) to sue someone over such a mistake, partially because I'm not litigious by nature and the remedy from a negligence claim would be minimal and most likely not worth the trouble. Additionally, yes, I carry an epipen and benadryl with me- while the nuts are deadly, I'm really not likely to die from it. At the worst, I have a bad night and depending on the restaurant's reaction, I may or may not go back.

                      1. re: PrettyPlaty

                        PrettyPlaty, if you are not litigious by nature, you might want to reconsider your career goals (sorry, just had to drop that in...!)

                        I have a nephew who is 12, and has many allergies, including nuts. He and his family dine out often, and I've watched him manage this himself. A few months ago we were a large group at dinner, and he sat at a separate table from his parents. When it came his turn to order, he asked the waiter which dishes were prepared with nuts, and explained his allergy. The waiter was well trained and showed him numerous options from the menu and he chose from those. No emergency that night. If more restaurants would at least acknowledge the potential problems, and train the waitstaff to respect this, you might be able to avoid more of the scenarios noted above. I was impressed that someone mentioned a waiter that actually ASKED about food allergies! THAT fellow would receive a generous gratuity from me, and I have no food allergies!

                        And if I owned a restaurant and one of my waiters said a pistachio is not a nut, I would show him the door and invite him NEVER to return.

                        1. re: Cheflambo

                          Hahaha- I'm not planning to be a litigator, my work is actually in business and regulatory compliance.

                          The server who asked before we ordered was from Sona. While it ranks among the most expensive dinners I've ever had, I thought the service was impeccable and the food was delicious. And yes, they got a fat tip out of me!

                        2. re: PrettyPlaty

                          As a chef, I can tell you that the waiters will claim to go back in the kitchen to "ASK" about a dish to find out the ingredients but it does not always make it back to us. This really did not affect me until I got married to a man who is allergic to gluten (celaic) Soy Products and Dairy. It can make dining out quite challengeing. My biggest suggestion is if it is a NON CHAIN restaurant, ask if the chef or sous chef will come out and talk to you, or can you back and talk with them. If not ask the waiter to get the manager. I always explain in detail to the server what he can eat and I also let them know that we are a great tippers if they get it right. If they dont get it right my husband has a night of horrible pain ahead of him.

                          Dont be afraid to send the food back, if it is wrong AND make sure that if a dish comes out with nuts on the plate, you tell the kitchen that they must prepare you a whole new plate, if not they will disassmeble the plate, and replate it with out the nuts (merely scrapping the nuts as an example) and that could potentially lead to a problem

                          1. re: offpremisechef

                            Typical chef attitude. As a professional waiter for more than 20 years I can tell you that most of us care as much, if not more, about ours customers than the chef does as to whether or not they have an food allergy. We're out there on the frontlines - we see these people face-to-face and we don't want someone in our section having a severe allergic reaction to something either! That being said, I have the following observation:

                            If you're deathly allergic to something, PHONE AHEAD to see if the restaurant can accomodate you!! I had one girl ask, at the END of the meal, if the cheescake that she'd ordered for dessert had nuts in it. Why? Apparently both she and her dining companion were DEATHLY allergic to nuts. This was news to me! The first mention of a serious food allergy was at the very end of their meal. When I tried to express to her how important it is for a customer to allert the server as soon as he or she sits down she roller her eyes asked to speak to the manager and said that I was "talking down" to her. Ya, I could have been talking down to her as she lay dying on the floor!

                            And another thing: don't say that you're allergic to something just because you don't like it. Allergy is a buzz word now. Don't like something? Just say that you're allergic to it. I had a table of eight one night and they were ALL "allergic" to garlic. How is that possible? Did they just come from a Garlic Allergy support group?

                        3. re: Servorg

                          Used right, epi pens don't fail.

                          The diner has a right to a good meal. You can't deny service due to a medical issue.

                          It is rather easy to keep yourself from serving customers nuts. Ming Tsai has developed a system at Blue Ginger that does just that. It also covers wheat, gluten and other allergies. Of course, he was made aware of the need by his own son's allergies. He simply keeps a folder with a list of ingredients of all his dishes. Each ingredient list also highlights possible allergens. It says on his menu to make your server aware of your allergies. Then, the server goes to see if anything could kill the customer. After working for a while, most servers begin to memorize what is what. Hugo's in LA also keeps a list of ingredients.

                          I am covered in an emergency, but expect when I pay for a dinner and make an establishment aware, they should do whatever they can to not serve me nuts.

                          If the diner makes the establishment well aware of allergies, then the restaraunt itself is fully liable.

                          When I make a reservation , I let them know I have allergies. Then I call to confirm the reservation and re-iterate at least once before the meal. Then I tell my waiter as I order. It may seem like overkill, but it helps. Spago refused to let nuts near me during the tasting menu-which sadly invovled a ver spartan bread basket and a fruit dessert. At Providence, Micheal came out and cheked himself if he thought a dish would hurt me. Angeli Caffe, after one accident with beet salad, now knows me well enough that waiters stop me if I even try to order a dangerous dish with "sorry, not for you honey!"

                          Many places are good if you let them know,a s it is so easy to protect an allergic diner. The places that don't are just lazy and silly, and really need to open their eyes.

                          Food allergies are more prevalent than ever.
                          But yes, mistakes do happen. When Angeli had the accident, the waiter served me all the free coke I could down (caffine helps) and then ran down to the closest store to get me as much benadryl as he could find. Then they comped a chunk of the meal. AMrmalade in Sherman Oaks was similarly good when they served me a walnut-flour scone.

                          Whole foods, who tried to kill me because the new staff was not aware that one spoon could not be used to serve all the deli dishes, did a sort of OK job. The manager loaded me up with coffee, soda, a gift certificate and more. I should have called 911 though, and so should they. They don't carry antihistamine. My husband himself took me to another store to get some. I saw the servers at the deli getting chewed out. You could tell from the faces who the idiot culprit was. Whole foods policy is to use seperate spoons for each dish. Some nitwit either wasn't paying attention at orientation or was lazy.

                          I never go back to a place that made a mistake and then did nothing to help or repair the problem. Anarbagh, anarkali, and the Paradise Cove place are the worst so far. All had full knowledge, all served me nuts or penut oil, all tried to convince me it was my fault, and all refused to comp the meal, call 911, or do anything.

                          1. re: Diana

                            Diana, you wrote "Used right, epi pens don't fail." Unfortunately that has not always been the case. Back in 1998 Meridian Medical Technologies voluntarily recalled nearly one million EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. devices when it was found that a percentage of them could fail to deliver the necessary dose of epinephrine.

                            Just remember Murphy's Law and carry two EpiPen's with you (and watch the expiration dates). Don't be a nut...or eat any either! ;-D

                            1. re: Servorg

                              good idea! I have a few for different purses..another couldn't hurt. Also, you need to get a new one every year..they expire!

                          2. re: Servorg

                            Hi there, I went to a restuarant once and was told that they could not guarantee that there was no cross contamination. I respectfully Thanked them and went somewhere else. I truly appreciated their honesty instead of yesing me to death and then causing an allergic reaction. I have learned to eat at just a few places and to be very clear.

                        4. Jfood is allergic to nuts and mrs jfood most shellfish, but not to the extent of OP. For jfood its a big rash on the shoulders and swelling of the lips, like sunburn, not a very attractive picture.

                          jfood always tells the server about the nut allergy and jfood would need to ingest more than trace elements to have an effect. 99% of the time the servers are great, check with the kitchen and have on numerous occassions recommended jfood stay away from certain dishes, "just in case."

                          But you would be amazed at some servers that can blatantly disregard this allergy warning. Once jfood asked the server at a high end to ask the pastry chef about the desserts. This is normally where jfood's nut allergy comes into play. He returned and pointed to the three items jfood should consider. Jfood chose one, it was delivered and jfood took a nice big bite. Then fear engulfed the mood. Under the wonderful chocolate dessert was a praline cookie, a good chunk of which was already in the mouth. A quick visit by the napkin removed the perpetrator and jfood callled the server over and asked the obvious question. Response - No he had not check with the pastry chef since he was busy but the server did not see the praline on the menu and thought it was OK. No it was not.

                          So even when asking the guest still needs a level of diligence.

                          1. If I had a life-threatening food allergy, I would not eat in a restaurant, ever. If you're severely allergic to nuts, for instance, you don't need to eat a nut to suffer anaphylactic shock: Food prepped on the same cutting board as nuts can do it. Putting your life in the hands of an over-worked, possibly indiffernt server? I don't think that's rational.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I understand where you're coming from but it's easier said than done. I do have a life-threatening allergy to skate. Luckily it's not something as common as nuts. If I see that a menu has skate, I don't order fish (have a reaction, even if the cutting board has been washed) and alert the waiter of my allergy and explain the severity of it. If I was allergic to a more common item as nuts, I probably would be alerting the manager. It is indeed unfortunate that some of the workers take this allergy thing lightly, however I don't think it's totally rational to deny yourself from going out at all. For example, car accidents kill a lot of people -- but does that mean one never gets into a car? I think people with allergies need to take proper precautions -- and also hope for the best.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                obviously, you don't have a food allergy. NEver eating out? you're kidding! I want to enjoy things as much as any other person. If other people with medical issues can eat out, why can't I? Establishments are required to meed the medical needs of thier customers. They provide aceess for people in wheelchairs, serve food to the blind and more, they can meet needs. Allergies aren't leagally calssified as a handicap;maybe they should be.

                                People in LA can now go out and not be bombarded with cigarette smoke-it's a health issue.

                                I agree wioth Miss Needle-we can't deny ourselves pleasure out of fear of something that can be prevented with safe measures. Don't drink and drive, buckle up, obey speed limits and drive defensively, and your chances of car accidents are lowered drastically.

                                I cook and bake, and some of the people I cook and bake for eat nuts. I can use basic and simple measures to protect myself. If I can do it, any kitchen can (again, I cite Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger.)

                                Use seperate cutting boards, or clean them between prep. The Dressing Room in Sherman oaks, CA does this-they have "allergy boards" and "allergy knives" that are cleaned and wrapped after each usage and then brought out when people say they have food allergies. Providence and Spago have no problem doing it-as do Angeli Caffe, Blue Ginger, Il Tiramisu, Asanebo, House of Taka, Rahel and many other high and not so fancy areas in Los Angeles. Heck, even some of the dim sum houses kept me safe! I just had to find a way to say "I am allergic to peanuts" in the right language-thanks fellow hounders!

                                So far, I've learned to say it in spanish and a few chinese dialects. I need to learn it in hindi, urdu, portuguese, korean, vietnamese, french, german, greek, russian and a few more to be safe. I wish chow.com had a resource!

                                But don't tell me I have to live a non-chow life...that's crazy! I deserve dining pleasure like anyone else. If I take measures to be safe, I expect the places I'm handing over my hard earned cash to to try and meet me half way.

                                New laws now will require stringent allergy labelling on packaged foods, and soon will probably have service delis do the same thing. Perhaps that should also go for menus?

                                Any thoughts?

                                1. re: Diana

                                  D

                                  As a person with nut allergies, jfood understands the plight of eating out. But jfood can not agree that everyone in the world needs to protect everyone in the world. The idea that every resto has to manage for every allergy will, as Pika states, cause everyone to eat at home for a different reason, there would be no restaurants. Yes you cite several that have gone to the extreme, and that's what that is, the extreme. But jfood has seen many posters with allergies to specific foods that jfood would never have considered. So although your idea is noble, it is probably unattainable from an pure economic and in-service sense.

                                  Personal responsibility is losing out to "the other guy is responsible" mentality. Merely stating to a resto that a customer has a food allergy does not transfer the full responsibility to the resto. The customer still is at risk and assumes that risk. Should the restaurant turn away everyone who states they have an allergy to nuts, fish, avocado, plums, oilives? Should the restaurant have a big sign stating that you need to sign a release before you can eat there?

                                  Jfood is all for trying to create a safe environment in the restaurant and he does as much as he can to make it a safe dinner for him and his family. But to ask that the restaurants to fully proscribe to "allergy" proof the kitchen is more than half-way in jfood's eyes, sounds like complete surrender. Your telling them about the allergy and them trying to meet that request is half-way in jfood's eyes.

                                  And those of us with allergies understand and take that responsibility when we eat outside the home. If one does not want to take that risk, then eating out is not an option, for those that do, eat out, enjoy and be careful.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Jfood,

                                    Diana is personally responsible for her own allergies. Diana tells dining establishments many times of her allergies: During Reserving, During Confirming, Durin ORdering, and often to manager when arriving and when recieveing dishes. When Diana does not reserve, she tells host/owner/manager on arrival, waiter when he comes over, and server when dishes come.

                                    Diana carries epi pen and Diana carries benedryl.

                                    Diana is ready for accidents, and Diana accepts that they happen.

                                    Jfood could have read that above.

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      D

                                      Jfood is sorry if you took his post as a personal attack. Not intended at all. In fact, if you read his post, he actually stated, "your idea is noble" which is a huge compliment.

                                      But the crux of his post addressed the suggestion that ALL restos do EVERYTHING for allergic people. Separate knives wrapped after sterilization, separate boards (should there be a separate board for each allergy type known to man-kind?) Jfood does not think that is possible. You disagree. Life goes on.

                                      And jfood, always willing to learn did go back an read every one of you posts on this thread. But to be fair the earlier posts state:

                                      - "My husband met me at the door and rushed me off to find benadryl and high caffine soda"
                                      - "When Angeli had the accident, the waiter served me all the free coke I could down (caffine helps) and then ran down to the closest store to get me as much benadryl as he could find"
                                      - "They don't carry antihistamine. My husband himself took me to another store to get some"

                                      It was not until this last one that you mentioned having the Bene and Epi at all times which jfood would agree is a very smart thing to do given the severe reation you have to nuts.

                                      We all learn from situation we, have been placed into. You unfortunately have had some major situations and God bless you for coming through them. But in jfood's opinion asking all restos to have a separate everything for every situation is just not something jfood sees in the near future.

                                      Good luck

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        oh, I agree! SOmetimes, just making the effort to make non nut dishes is enough.

                                        I sort of equate it to trying to keep a kosher kitchen, which is near-impossible in a restaraunt that is not-certified kosher. It is extremely difficult.

                                        But if Ming Tsai can do it (it being super allery aware and safe) as successfully as he has, in a popular place, others can too!

                                  2. re: Diana

                                    I think that one needs to consider what a rational person would do in these circumstances. Peanut and tree nut allergies are very common. They are also very common ingredients in a lot of food. From a historical perspective, these are items that both diners with the allergies and restaurant owners should know about. If I tell my server that I am allergic to nuts and specifically ask what is in a dish, I hope to get enough information to either not order it or order it. If notiifed ahead of time, restaurants should be able to check to see what is in their food. Even if I didn't have an allergy, I should be able to ask what I am paying to eat and receive a reasonable answer. If they tell me they are not sure, and I still order the dish, then yes, I am assuming that risk.

                                    Every one does need to do their due diligence. As a person with allergies, I need to remember to ask and to carry an epipen and benedryl with me when I go out to eat. But a restaurant is also accepting responsibility by being in the business of serving food- do we expect them to be mind readers? No. But if we tell them, they should be able to provide us with a reasonable about of assurance that what we are eating is not going to be dangerous to us.

                                    1. re: PrettyPlaty

                                      Like I said above: if you have a serious allergy to something (as I do - peanuts), you should phone ahead to any restaurant and ask if they can accomodate you. If it's a life or death situation, you own yourself that much, no? I can't even begin to tell you the number of people that I've served in my years as a professional server who've said, long after ordering, "Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you that I'm deathly allergic to _______." I've had people come to a seafood restaurant and tell me that they were deathly allergic to shellfis. No, I'm not making that up! His friends were there for fish, and he was going to have steak. That's just crazy.

                                      1. re: james

                                        what's exactly wrong w eating a steak at a seafood restaurant, they often do a good steak! (and steakhouses often do great seafood-- lots of people who don't eat the specialty of the house need to tag along w the rest of their family or group who adore it.) we had our wedding reception in a seafood restaurant, & my husband is allergic to shellfish, & he is not crazy. he also adores sushi, just can't eat the shrimp & crab, and would never avoid a sushi or japanese restaurant just because they also specialize in shellfish. your attitude seems to be that diners with allergies have no right to eat in a restaurant that serves the food they are allergic to, to me *that* attitude is crazy. it's like saying a vegetarian shouldn't even walk into a place that serves vegetarian food and also serves meat. people need to eat together in groups, and many restaurants will bend over backward to accommodate: recent example: diner 1: vegan, soy allergic; diner 2: diabetic low-sodium; diner 3: vegetarian; diner 4: gluten intolerance; diner 5: soy allergic; diner 6: "normal," but pregnant & very careful, wanting organic/clean food. some restaurants would tell these people to shove off (or would want to), but their table was no problem for me & my staff (yes they called ahead). they were very nice & very relieved to be accommodated.

                                        p.s. to ALL: even if you call ahead & specify your allergy *always* tell your server in person before you order anything, maybe your table was transferred to them at the last minute and they "didn't get the memo" that there is an allergy at the table. once you tell your server in person, these people go above & beyond in the back of the house to protect you from potential problem ingredients & garnishes and double-checking with the cooks to make sure you are safe. a lot of time your server is the one who physically runs around to get a cook a fresh cutting board or uncooked ingredient to make a special portion of food just for you. i am sorry to hear about doofuses like the "pistachio is not a nut" character. sounds like that particular establishment doesn't take allergy training as part of server training very seriously. many establishments, cooks, and servers, do take it seriously, and they deserve your patronage.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          Good advice!

                                          Very few places remember to always tell everyone. My three exceptions:

                                          Spago: Even the busboy knew before I sat down.
                                          Providence: Waiters, manager, chef, server, clearer and somallier all knew
                                          Angeli: well, heck, they all know, now. they know when I make a reso. but I still tell them all every time. Sure, they roll their eyes, but I feel safer.