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tree nut friendly restaurant around Wellesley/Needham/Newton

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Hi-

Our daughter was recently diagnosed with a tree nut allergy so eating out has become a much scarier prospect for us. We used to love ethnic restaurants (especially Chinese) and stayed away from chains, but are now doing the exact opposite as the chains tend to post the most comprehensive allergy information on their sites. Unfortunately Chinese restaurants (and most Asian restaurants, except for Japanese) are high risk for people with nut allergies although we have eaten safely at PF Chang's.

Are there some chowhounders with nut allergies who can recommend some good restaurants (that aren't necessarily chain restaurants) around Wellesley/Needham/Newton?

Thanks so much for your help!

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  1. Chef Ming Tsai has a child with a food allergy. His Asian fusion restaurant in Wellesley, Blue Ginger, is set up to be very sensitive and accommodating to diners with food allergies.

    (I have severe food allergies as well, so I understand).

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    Blue Ginger
    583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

    1. My boyfriend is (anaphylactically) allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish and allergic (but not in a deadly way unless in very, very large amounts) to milk and eggs. We live in Waltham, and truthfully, when we first started eating out together (and when I cooked for him the first few times), I was totally paranoid and we only went to places in which nuts weren't part of the *idea* of the cuisine and so on and so forth, but over time we've learned that , basically, as long as you ask and make clear (in a polite, non-I'm-going-to-sue-you kind of way) your allergies, 99% of restaurants will be happy to accommodate you. In particular, Chinese restaurants are not nearly as much as a danger as you may think-- Chinese cooking occasionally uses peanut oil for frying, but not so much tree nuts-- and as long as you ask "are there any nuts in this dish," you'll basically be fine. I would, however, shy away from most Thai places, because they love their pine nuts. Vietnamese should also be fine, since again, it's more peanuts than tree nuts. Indian occasionally uses tree nuts, but they're almost always listed under the description of the dish. Don't go somewhere you know nobody speaks reasonable English. My boyfriend and I have had good luck all around the metro-Boston/Middlesex-county area, and seriously, don't be afraid of walking in, looking at the menu and walking out-- leaving because of a food allergy is not being rude, it's being safe.

      I completely understand how scary it is having someone you love having food allergies (I am expecting that if my boyfriend and I remain together, our children will be allergic), particularly when it's "new." However, it's also very important *not* to make a huge deal out of it for the sake of your daughter-- teach her how to be safe, but not to be paranoid. My previous boyfriend also had a nut allergy (specifically, Brazil nuts-- I went to a college with a high preponderance of allergies; I swear don't have a fetish!), but his parents were ridiculously overprotective (not letting him go out with friends for fear of nuts, not trusting him to pick his own food at restaurants, etc) and so he had a very bad relationship to food and was weirdly cavalier about his allergies (I would often read the ingredient label before him), perhaps as a very dangerous form of rebellion. He was also incredibly touchy about and deeply ashamed of his allergies.

      On the other hand, my current boyfriend is conscientious but neither frightened of nor dismissive of his allergies, because his parents didn't largely alter how they dealt with eating around him as he was growing up. They kept things he was allergic to in the house for those who could eat them, continued to eat out at the same places, and treated his allergies more like asthma or some other inherited, potentially dangerous but not necessarily crippling condition; they taught him to read labels and ask at restaurants, but trusted him to remember his epipen and make good decisions. He is totally unselfconscious about having allergies, will eat basically anything that isn't dangerous to him, loves going out to eat, loves helping me cook, and doesn't care when I decide to order something (or make something) that has ingredients he can't have, because he can fend for himself and knows I'm not stupid enough to say, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then give him a big ol' kiss.

      Basically: you will have to be a little more careful from now on, but don't completely alter your lifestyle. If you turn the allergy into a sticky-panicky situation it's not going to be good for your kid. You need to teach her what she can and cannot have, not how she can and cannot live her life. Heck, as weird as it sounds, it can be kind of fun trying to find great new restaurants that also cater to your daughter's needs: turn it into a culinary adventure (let's see what this place serves!) rather than a chore (oh, we need to eat at a chain now because of your allergies). Furthermore, more and more kids these days are developing allergies (for whatever reason), so more and more restaurants are catering to people with them. Your daughter is also much less likely to be treated as an outsider than in previous generations, but avoiding treating allergies as some kind of stigmata at home is going to make it easier for her not to internalize that at school or with friends.

      As for suggestions, my boyfriend and I's favorites are largely Waltham-y, but there really are SO many options, particularly in this part of the states (lots of vegans/etc., so restaurants are already used to special orders.) You will also still have to mention your daughters' allergies at most of these places, but we've had very good luck with getting orders special-tailored/etc. Let's see...

      Sushi Yasu in Waltham has Japanese, Korean and other Asian food, and they're very good about catering to special concerns
      Dragon Chef in Waltham is very traditional American-Chinese food (read: salty and greasy, really only for takeout/delivery), but is surprisingly good and VERY cheap
      Little India in Waltham is good standard Indian fare
      Kaguya II in Arlington is quite tasty Japanese/Korean/Thai, and my boyfriend actually got to try some Thai food there

      if you're willing to do some trekking, Sakura in Chelmsford was allergy-friendly and also has kitsune udon, which to me is a fairly major selling point (although I don't know if it would be to anyone else...)

      ......Um... I can't think of any more of the top of my head, but my advice is just to ask when you go to restaurants. Look at the menu before sitting down. Figure out if there's anything your daughter likes, ask the waiter if they know if it has tree nuts (or if they can go ask the kitchen staff for you), and if they don't know what a tree nut is, explain it to them. You just have to be proactive! I wish you and your daughter good luck in your food hunting journey!

      -----
      Sushi Yasu
      617 Main St, Waltham, MA 02452

      Dragon Chef Restaurant
      411 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135

      6 Replies
      1. re: HJSoulma

        Thank you for this excellent and thoughtful post! (I wish my parents had read it when I was 3). :)

        1. re: HJSoulma

          Thank you so much for your post. I really appreciate it. Our daughter's only 6 so at this point she's very dependent on us making sure her food environment is safe, especially since she's just learning to read. She completely understands she can't eat tree nuts, but it can be scary because all her little life she could eat whatever she wanted and now she needs to remember to always tell people she has a tree nut allergy, can't just accept food from a well meaning friend or relative, etc. Her sister, who is 4, also understands about her big sis's allergy and does a very good job of reminding people and asking if the food is safe for her sister to eat. The toughest thing we've had to deal with so far has actually been food served by family, particularly by grandparents. Its been easier with our own siblings, maybe because most kids go to school/camp where there's some kind of nut policy so we're more aware of nut allergies. I really like your idea of ooking at finding food allergy friendly restaurants as an adventure/challenge - that's a great way to think about it.

          We still go out to eat, but I get concerned mostly about kitchens understanding what cross contamination is, and how picking nuts off a dish for example, would not be enough for safe food preparation. I try to read menus in advance so I can see at a glance if there are any big warning signs. It can be hard to go out to eat with hungry 4 and 6 year olds, get them settled, and then have to leave if we're unsure about the safety of the place and then have to find a new safe restaurant to eat so we really work on doing the research ahead of time.

          I'm really glad to hear how well things have gone for your boyfriend and his food allergies. He's also very lucky to be with you who know so much about food allergies!

          For anyone interested, there's a good blog called "Please Don't Pass the Nuts." about living with, and eating with food allergies. There's also a restaurant rating site called allergyeats.com for people with food allergies. It's a national rating database of restaurants and is pretty new so if you've eaten at good restaurants for food allergy, please add them to this list. Unfortunately I couldn't find all that many for the area I was looking for but I will keep your list of recs! Thanks so much. :-)

          1. re: foodtogo

            A tree nut allergy is a relatively easy one. I've been allergic to them since I was four, and my parents never made an issue of it, nor did I. Nuts are really easy to avoid. No pesto, of course, and the biggest minefield is desserts, so simply ask if there are nuts in them before ordering sweets.

            When at a new restaurant, I just tell the waiter I'm allergic to nuts, so to please stop me if I order anything containing nuts. That's it. They know it's serious. I've been with people who merely have dietary restrictions who will ask and double and triple check everything throughout the meal, and I wonder why they even bother leaving the safety of their house.

            Sometimes I don't mention it all. Over time, you develop a sense of when you have to ask and when you don't. You quickly learn what types of foods sometimes contain them and which never do. An obvious example would be pizza--no need to ask. I don't think I've ever asked at a Chinese restaurant either. Tree nut oils are not common (the people with peanut allergies have to be careful about oils), and dishes with pine nuts will list them as an ingredient. It may be because nut and peanut allergies are common now that restaurants list them in the ingredients. Again, just be careful with desserts--concealed hazelnut paste is a common culprit, but the chef will know.

            You may be reassured to know that since those of us with nut allergies have never or almost never had a nut in our mouths, when one gets in there, we know it immediately. It feels and tastes alien. A couple of times when I've been careless about asking, I've had a nut fragment in my mouth, immediately realized it, spit it out, rinsed my mouth out (something fizzy works best), taken a prednisone, and gone on with dinner. Sometimes I'd get a couple of hives on my lip or tongue, but as long as there's no swallowing, I've never had to use the Epi-Pen. Of all the health problems I've had, it's by far the least bothersome one, a barely noticeable blip, and I'll bet your daughter will feel the same.

            1. re: pollystyrene

              This post makes me uneasy.

              I don't agree that this "just relax" attitude about allergies is an appropriate one for everyone adopt, since some of us are more sensitive to them than others.

              For some, a quick oral exposure to a stray walnut piece may be no big deal, e.g., the experience salvageable by a quick rinse and prednisone; for others, even a quick exposure can initiate a deadly anaphylactic reaction within seconds.

              My point is, we don't know how sensitive the original poster's daughter is to this allergen, nor should we necessarily make "common sense" assumptions about what has nuts and what doesn't.

              Your "obvious example" of pizza not having nuts? It put me in the hospital for 2 days, after eating a slice from Peace o' Pie in Allston. They (afterwards) told me that they spread a thin layer of pesto on every single pie. And no, this wasn't mentioned anywhere on the menu.

              I can name a dozen other examples where something like this has happened, i.e., "I didn't think xyz would have nuts!". Just last week, I picked up a pre-made canister of soup - the liquid base contained pulverized walnuts. It was listed as "spices".

              For some of us, the cost of assumption can be life threatening.

              1. re: Prav

                Prav, I was so sorry to hear about your horrible experience at the Allston pizza place. That is extremely scary that they didn't disclose what was on every pizza. :-( If you have the time, it would be great to rate and post comments about your experience at Peace o' Pie on allergyeats.com. While it's great to read positive reviews, scary experiences like your's are equally important for us to know about so we can steer clear of restaurants like this and have a safe eating experience. And hopefully those restaurants will eventually understand the importance of full disclosure and its importance re: food allergies.

                I scrutinize all ingredient labels, but it's scary and disheartening to read about your experience with the soup, etc. I try to believe that companies follow FDA rules to label foods that contain, or may have been in contact with allergens. But I've contacted manufacturers about certain food items to double check before giving them to my daughter to eat. My husband and I are doing the best we can to educate our daughter about her allergy while trying to not to scare her and helping her live a fun regular kid life, but we are the ones responsible for her health and well being.

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                Peace o' Pie
                487 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02134

                1. re: Prav

                  Point taken, Prav. I will surely stay away from Peace o' Pie, and appreciate the tip. Unless it was something new they were doing, it's incredible that they were unaware of the problem, and had never caused anyone a problem before.

                  Given my past experiences, though, I'm almost certain that as soon as I began to chew the first bite, my Nut-o-meter would have sounded, and I'd have spit it out, rinsed and taken a prednisone. And as SuzySue recommended, I go nowhere without my Epi-Pen, which must be more difficult for men, who aren't typically purse-carriers.

                  As you mentioned, though, there are people who literally can't be in the same room with nuts without a severe reaction. If you're one of those people, I guess you simply can't eat out, so I was assuming the OP's daughter's allergy isn't quite so severe.

          2. I have a tree nut allergy, probably not as severe as some that children have today, but I certainly do have to be careful, but I am able to eat just about everywhere. Luckily I am able to test things by taking a tiny bite of something and not swallow it and see if it causes a reaction inside of my mouth, and if it does I am able to spit it out and only suffer mild discomfort. It may also be worth your while to have the doctor give her a comprehensive test to find out exactly which nuts she is allergic to and how severe her allergy is. Also, this is an extremely common allergy, restaurants are used to it.

            I have never had a problem at Chinese restaurants as I am able to eat peanuts because they are legumes, not nuts. The only other nut they really use are cashews which are usually mentioned on the menu, but if I am unsure I ask and with the family-style nature of Chinese restaurants you can examine the food for her, they don't tend to grind nuts into anything. Same with Thai, if she can eat peanuts, just avoid dishes with cashews, they don't really use other nuts either. The good thing about ethnic restaurants is they tend to stick to the traditional dishes, so if you familiarize yourself with what they typically consist of that will help you avoid problems.

            I find Indian food the most precarious, especially buffets, because of all the thick sauces that nuts can hide in, but they are accommodating most places I go and ordering off the menu woks fine for me.

            All of that being said I can understand your fear, but your daughter will have to learn to deal with this for the rest of her life and I'm sure she will be fine, just carry that epi-pen. My parents basically thought I was faking it until a mishap in fifth grade caused them to realize I was telling the truth and not being my normal persnickety self and I lived.

            The Elephant Walk would also be a good place to try. They are very accommodating to dietary restrictions in general and her nut allergy will be no biggie and in fact restaurants in general see it every day. However, I have been served nuts by accident many times, but usually manage to recognize them and that is what you can arm your daughter with, her own instinct to protect herself. I can recognize nuts in any form, really well, and I'm sure she will in time too.

            Good luck!

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            Elephant Walk
            2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140