|Maggiano's menu: note the "Chef Requests" Section and the |
notation about menu items that refer to food allergies.
Life-threatening food allergies and restaurants, oh my! Before food allergies, you probably viewed restaurants as a place to relax, have fun with family and friends and enjoy a good meal that you didn't have to cook.
After the diagnosis of a severe food allergy, however, it's another story. Restaurants become something to navigate and the stakes are very high because if the restaurant doesn't fully understand food allergies and we don't have the awareness we need, an emergency can occur. Kind of takes your appetite away, doesn't it?
I know that I am always leery of trying a new restaurant and have pretty strict criteria about where I will take my daughter with severe peanut and tree nut allergies. Our family will only visit restaurants checked out in advance and who we feel understand how to avoid allergy mix-ups in the kitchen. The good news: this can be done, but it does take work. Eventually you can find some go-to restaurants. This is so important to me and I've learned so much about how to do this over the years, that I devote an entire chapter to restaurants in my e-book, "The New Nut-Free Mom" http://tinyurl.com/c57j2fy
Given how much stress an unknown restaurant can cause, it makes it even better when a restaurant doesn't run from food allergies, but decides to take it on and accommodate them. Recently, I experienced some of the best service our family has ever received at Maggiano's Little Italy in Oak Brook, Illinois. (They have other locations, click the link above for more details.)
Maggiano's (see their menu above) impressed me greatly with their proactive and educated approach. Important note: We stated our daughter's allergies (peanuts, tree nuts) over the phone when we made the reservation. Please always do this, wherever you go.
We wanted to take our kids out to dinner following a show during the holidays. In searching for a place near the theater, I knew that Maggiano's was an option, so I did some research (which I talk about in great detail in my book.) I looked at the menu, checked their web site and finally spoke to them on the phone. It looked really good so we decided to try it.
Once we arrived at our table, the chef showed up just a few minutes later to talk about who had the allergies, what menu items we should avoid (not many, but if you go on your own--ask them. Menu items can change at any time) and to ask if we had any questions. This was before we had even spoken to our server, so clearly they have a system for marking their guests allergies while making the reservation.
The chef offered to help us choose a menu item if we needed suggestions for our specific allergy needs. He was very reassuring and it was so appreciated, especially given some of our past experiences at other restaurants and the lack of knowledge and care. In a word, wonderful.
Once I heard from the chef, I'll admit, I felt more relaxed than I ever do in a new restaurant. The server also took note of our daughter's order and said she would clear it with the chef and that in fact, she "had" to do that since it was noted on our reservation that we had a guest with allergies.
Just to be clear: I never told anyone there that I have a blog or would be reviewing their service. This level of service regarding food allergies is what they do for everyone. In fact, I saw the chef go to several tables once we were seated -- I'm guessing -- for the same reason he came to ours. Food allergies are becoming more common as are food intolerances like celiac disease and believe me, you're not the first person who asked about allergies in any given restaurant.
Maggiano's gave me hope that more restaurants will be embracing the challenge of food-allergic diners instead of turning them away.
I know that so many of us dread dining out at times, and for good reason. Not all restaurants are created equal with regard to food allergies. You have to be careful. But take heart, do your research and hopefully you will find some accommodating restaurants in your own neighborhood.
Remember, for any restaurant, be clear about your allergy needs and educate yourself on their menus and food prep. That is the first step, always. Carry your medications at all times -- don't go to a restaurant without those.
We'll definitely be back to Maggiano's. I'm really glad to have discovered their approach to food allergies. And I almost forgot--the food is delicious! A great family-style restaurant. Thank you to the staff, chefs and everyone who welcomed us.
|Learn more about navigating nut allergies,|
including restaurants, in my e-book: http://tinyurl.com/c57j2fy