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May 27, 2010 02:45 PM

Dining out with food allergies - strategies?

The Chowhound Team split this post from its original home on the Los Angeles board.

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To all who responded:
Will47 has a good point. Restaurants might not want to take a chance. My son informed me that Kacie has some new allergies that can be life threatening. The y carry an epi-pen with them wherever they go just in case. We were thinking of the Smoke House or Ruth's Chris but my son said he would make the calls since he has the complete list of what's forbidden.
Thanks to all

Smoke House Restaurant
4420 W Lakeside Dr, Burbank, CA 91505

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  1. Hi,

    My younger brother had/has horrible deathly food allergies. I remember all of our family dinners as kids were scary and bothersome--my mom would ask the waiters and even go back into the kitchen to the chef to make sure the food was okay but inevitably my brother would have reactions every now and then. Typically it was from sauces, dressings, marinades, and spice rubs. So from his experience, I would say to be the most careful with those. Avoid them if at all possible.

    My brother loooooves to eat and he is a definite foodie (now living in Europe and eating his way through college). If there's one thing I remember him doing to be safe, it was ordering somewhat "plain" dishes (or side dishes) and fixing them up himself. So at Ruth's Chris, Kacie could order a steak or chicken (maybe without a marinade to be safe?) and a plain baked potato. Ask for a salad with no dressing or some steamed veggies and she can season them (or even bring her own dressing/sauces). I don't see anything wrong with this. It's always better safe than sorry.

    You can call ahead too. I think most nicer restaurants are pretty accomodating about this kind of thing. My brother always had better experiences at higher-end restaurants than at hole-in-the wall ethnic food type places. But don't feel bad if something happens... She's bound to have a reaction at some point. My mom always kept epi-pens in all the cars and in her purse and had to use them more than a few times.

    On a positive note--my brother is still deathly allergic to certain very common food ingredients but has found ways to eat around them quite easily. He has outgrown a few of his nut allergies but developed new allergies to more types of shellfish and other nuts.

    Good luck!!!

    4 Replies
    1. re: nothingswrong

      It sounds like the same situation here. You're probably right about steaks or anything grilled, where no oils are used, as opposed to pan-fried. Outback used to be ok for her until new allergies were found. They do have to call ahead and always have a couple of epi-pens; one for the house and one to go.

      1. re: mucho gordo

        many steak/chop houses melt butter/margerine or other fats in the steaks. . .

        1. re: westsidegal

          And many use spice rubs that contain wheat or soy. We found this out when dining at an Outback with a very allergic child. Had to get them to grill salmon with none of the oils or seasoning they usually use.

          1. re: mojoeater

            I have a friend and both of her kids have severe life threatening allergies to a variety of things. We spend a lot of time with them and the easiest thing for her to order for her kids at a restaurant is steak or a hamburger. But since one of the severe allergies is wheat, she always asks the waiter/chef if there is any marinade on the steak (particularly soy sauce since it contains wheat) and no fillers in the hamburgers (breadcrumbs, etc). She orders the steak completely plain.

            Last summer, we were out with them and one of her kids had a hamburger (no bun, of course). Her husband asked if there was any breadcrumbs in the hamburger and there were not. Kid had a severe reaction (911 was called later that evening even after administering epipen) and when she called back the restaurant the next day, they told her there was worcestershire sauce in the burgers. No soy, but anchovies (fish is another allergy for her kids).

            Oh, and french fries...they are often coated with flour before they are fried. Never would have thought about it, but my friend can never, ever let her guard down when it comes to eating in restaurants with her kids.

    2. I wonder if hiring a chef for a good home-cooked meal might work? I don't have a list, but quite a few of the better restaurants were known to offer this service.

      7 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        My D-in-L has learned how to cook many things without unsafe ingredients or finding alternatives that are safe.

        1. re: mucho gordo

          i understand the problem. my husband is allergic to gluten, berries and dairy and is sensitive to soy. oh and did i mention he's a vegan 90% of the time? my toddler has a milk allergy and we don't know if he has a nut allergy b/c we haven't taken a chance yet (he's only 20 months). the toddler also has an egg sensitivity so eating out is super tough. oh, and when you add my mother in the mix who happens to be allergic to soy and shellfish we're an impossible team.

          the only place we've had luck with has been japanese. is she allergic to soy? she can get a chicken teriyaki. japanese is the only food we know that doesn't add butter or use nut oils. they may share utensils with shellfish so that may be a concern. phew. good luck. let us know where you end up going or if you already went out. we need new places to go.

          1. re: trolley

            At last! I found someone else who is allergic to berries, among other things. My wife thinks I'm the only one in the world.
            We won't be going until August. I'll post the results.

            1. re: mucho gordo

              doesn't the berry allergy stink? my husband gets itchy throat and hives when he ingests strawberries and blueberries. He just developed this just recently. did i mention i have a pit fruit allergy that landed me in the emergency room? ugh, life with allergies suck but we've learned to live a rich culinary life without trying to kill ourselves.

            2. re: trolley

              Hey I'm right up there with you too! I'm not sure if they're intolerances or allergies. The allergist would say allergies but in speaking with a nurse at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver about allergies, she said if I didn't have immediate severe symptoms it might be an intolerance. See the recent Wall Street Journal article on this subject.

              Now where to go with my mother tonight. DH is fed and gone, I need to take mom to dinner..somewhere.Geez with my limitations and boring diet, this foodie is ultra frustrated!

              1. re: compucook

                I'm not sure I understand the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. Can you elaborate?

                1. re: mucho gordo

                  allergies are an allergic reaction. so typically they include itching, burning, or tingling in the throat. maybe hives or with foods--can include severe stomach upset. my brother gets the itchiness in the throat, swelling of the tongue, severe vomiting and then anaphylactic shock if he doesn't get the epi pen. he's allergic to dairy.

                  i'm lactose intolerant though and i think this is a good example of the difference. when i eat dairy (accidentally), i typically just get stomach upset, but none of the itching or hives or swelling of the tongue. i've become more intolerant to dairy over the years, to the point that the second milk hits my tongue, i can tell. like accidentally getting milk in coffee instead of non-dairy creamer or soy, or accidentally being served real ice cream vs. soy ice cream. i don't know if i'm just hyper-sensitive to it now, but it's like my mouth knows instantly there's dairy there and i can't even swallow it.

                  allergy tests are pretty conclusive with allergy vs. intolerance testing. i know a lot of people who are soy intolerant but not allergic. they just find that soy products upset their digestive tract in subtle ways. i have a friend who has been vegan for about 15 years and he recently had to give up soy, as he figured out it was what was interfering with his digestive system. it was subtle enough that it wasn't obvious when he'd drink soy milk--more like a constant stomach ache/lower GI problem. he gave up foods one at a time for several weeks until he figured it out. now he subs rice- and nut-based milks and says he feels healthier than ever.