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Craigie on Main-Lack of Sensitivity

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Recently two friends of mine celebrated their wedding anniversary at Craigie on Main. They really enjoyed their meal only to have it spoiled by their dessert experience. One friend who is lactose intolerant, noticed that all of the desserts, except the sorbet offering, were dairy based. She told the wait staff of her condition and asked if she could have the fresh strawberries with sorbet instead of the accompanying buttermilk ice cream (the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies). They told her that they would ask the kitchen then came back to say that the chef refused to make the substitution. So much for accommodating people with food allergies. Needless to say they and their friends upon hearing of this experiences, will think twice about going back to Craigie on Main.

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Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

  1. that's an entirely unacceptable response and your friends should tell the manager this. no restaurant, high or low end, should refuse to substitute for a food allergy request. the restaurant owes them an apology and should offer to make it up to them in some way.

    12 Replies
    1. lactose intolerance is common. As Striper Guy has noted, a weakness at Craigie is their lack of sensitivity to customers who want exceptions - even if they offer to pay. Still, the food and service - other than that - is good.

      1. re: teezeetoo

        I completely disagree. The restaurant has every right to refuse substituting ingredients, just as every diner has the right to eat elsewhere ( this is coming from someone with severe stone fruit and nut allergies, btw).

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          Per the OP, "the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies". What's the point of putting this on the menu if simple subs will not be made.

          1. re: three of us

            I'd imagine it's so said food items a customer is allergic to don't make it onto the plate. There's no "....and let us know what you would like to have instead" addendum.

            1. re: LeoLioness

              This. ^

              I also believe it's the law now in MA that said sentence must be posted on all menus.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                Yes, it's the law. But it seems awfully douchey not to send out some plain sorbet. Personally, if I hadn't wanted to make the change, I'd have lied to the server and claimed the sorbet had trace amounts of dairy.

                1. re: almansa

                  Do I think it would've been nice had they substituted? Absolutely.

          2. re: invinotheresverde

            It is not as if the poster asked the chef to create a new item, he simply asked to have sorbet instead of ice cream. I would not go back to that restaurant. My husband, BTW,has a dairy allergy.

            1. re: wincountrygirl

              I'm saying this in the most polite way possible, so please don't take offense. If something like this would upset you (which it has every right to- I can't tell you how to feel), they don't want you back. For example, there's a restaurant in Worcester named Armbsy Abbey. They refuse to alter any ingredient in any way from the menu. I have food allergies, which they make no exception for, so I don't go there. We're not a good match.

              As I mentioned above, it would have been nice had they made the substitution.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                No offense taken at all. I just would not go to that restaurant and I'd tell everyone I know not to go too! The cheff obviously has issues.

                1. re: wincountrygirl

                  Please do tell everyone you know. I love Armsby Abbey, but it's also so frickin' crowded every time I go. If you can manage to convince people to avoid it, maybe that'll help my chances of getting a table.

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                  Armsby Abbey
                  144 Main Street, Worcester, MA

            2. re: invinotheresverde

              from the OP
              "(the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies)."

              I've always felt that advice was meant to prevent cross alergy ingredients that might not be readily identifiable from the menu description. . . chef uses shellfish in the stock, or that dish cannot be prepared gluten free etc. I never interpreted it as a free pass for substitutions but rather a way to delete menu items that could be problematic. IMHO

          3. Allergy issues aside...

            If the dessert menu has "Fresh strawberries with buttermilk ice cream" and "sorbet", what is the consensus of asking: "Do you think I could have the sorbet with some fresh strawberries? Charge me whatever you feel is fair."

            I guess I just don't see the big deal with making up a dessert plate the way the person requested. It's not like they are saying no tomatoes in a marinara sauce (exaggeration), where the removal or substitution fundamentally changes how an item is cooked.

            Guess I see a big difference between cookery and assembly. This was just a request for a different assembly.

            What if the diner had ordered both desserts and worked around the buttermilk or asked for it on the side?

            1. Seems like too many restaurants these days are a bit far up their own backsides to be honest - absolutely convinced that they know best, and damn anyone who might be allergic to an ingredient that makes the dish "right". I get that some people make up stuff to avoid foods they don't like, but genuine food allergies and intolerances are not fun.

              1. "(the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies)"

                You say this as if it is a guarantee of substitutions. It's not. It's so that the wait staff can advise you not to order dishes which contain ingredients you may be allergic to.

                It's too bad your friend couldn't get a dessert she wanted, but she was not entitled to it.

                5 Replies
                1. re: bobot

                  This isn't about entitlements or guaranties. This is about a very well-respected, not inexpensive restaurant that refused to accommodate a very reasonable request from a patron, which leaves a very poor impression in the minds of many diners (me included). See also Sam Sifton's review of Masa a couple of weeks ago: a truly great restaurant necessarily includes warm and welcoming service.

                  Craigie is free to serve whatever they choose, however they choose to prepare it, and the rest of us are free to conclude that the restaurant can tend to have an attitude that makes it a less than pleasant place to go. I don't think they'll notably suffer if I and a dozen other Chowhounders decide to skip them because we don't want to deal with that kind of attitude when we're splurging on a dining experience that we're paying to enjoy; but hearing about it is still helpful to me in deciding where to eat, because I don't like to patronize places that are run by pr!cks.

                  1. re: cjd260

                    Keep in mind though, this is a second-hand reports of this incident. It's quite possible that the exchange happened differently than what is actually being reported.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      Also keep in mind that this is a restaurant with some fairly well established front of the house issues.

                    2. re: cjd260

                      Well, if you don't read entitlement into the original post, then we just have a difference of opinion. I'm lactose intolerant myself, and I just skip dessert or suffer the consequences when I go out and the desserts are mostly dairy-based. Most desserts are. I don't demand that every restaurant in the world accommodate me, or hold it against them when they choose not to.

                      1. re: bobot

                        Entitlement? What if the op'er has asked "Your strawberry dessert sounds lovely, but I can't have lactose - would it be possible to have it with your sorbet, instead?" People make much more absurd requests; I've been asked to make bananas foster (not called ahead, mind you) and I do. I've had people change the risotto accompanying an entree and expecting it to be done. I mean like ordering risotto as if it were pizza. "No we don't want the wild mushroom & chevre risotto; we'll have grilled asparagus & tomato with aged gouda." Hell, it happens so often the servers don't even bother to come to the kitchen to ask anymore. That's entitled.

                  2. A good chef (and waitstaff) would have had the following response to her request:
                    "The chef says that he can't make a substitution on that dish, but he'd be happy to put together a fresh fruit cup or a dairy-free sorbet for you."

                    It's the chef's right to serve their dishes the way they want, but it's also in their best interests to serve food that the patrons of their restaurant can actually eat.