Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All About Restaurants

When Ella was first diagnosed PA, we didn't go out to eat anywhere for a while. I just couldn't handle the thought of someone else preparing her food, and not being able to read the ingredient lists myself.

But we're getting a little more adventurous, and I've started doing a lot more research. So in case you are in the same boat as us, wondering what's safe and what's not, I'd like to share the fruits of my labour with you.

Remember, this list is just what I've learned so far, as I keep learning every day. But at least it's a starting point if you're new at this whole allergy thing!

Safe Places
Unsafe Places
  • Dairy Queen (peanuts & nuts everywhere!)
  • Tim Hortons (bakery environment: high possibility of cross-contamination)
  • A&W (most burger sauces have "may contain" warning, and they could easily end up on the surfaces where they prepare other foods)
  • Burger King (turns out that many of the foods cooked in the deep fryer "may contain" nuts or peanuts, which makes everything cooked there unsafe)
  • Any bakeries (way too much risk of cross-contamination)
  • Any ice cream places (hardly any ice cream is safe)
"Sit Down" Restaurants
  • Red Robin (no allergen info, but we've talked to them and they're good)
  • Boston Pizza (no allergen info, but we've talked to them and they're good)
Tips for Eating Out
  • I always wipe Ella's hands & face, then the table & chair, with a baby wipe as soon as we sit down
  • Of course, we always always have her emergency kit
  • If I haven't been able to read a full ingredient list online beforehand, I have an in-depth conversation with the waitress, who usually checks with the kitchen staff as well
  • We always stay away from desserts, even if they appear peanut-free, because they are prepared near other desserts which probably have nuts/peanuts in them
  • My biggest tip: do your research!

I hope this has helped! Unfortunately, most of the research I've done has been for fast-food places, but that has more to do with the fact that we're dining out with two toddlers, rather than the peanut allergy.

I just wish more restaurants would publish their allergen information online. It's so much easier than talking to the staff, and I feel much more comfortable if I can read it myself. I have started emailing restaurants to request this info, but it will take a lot more people doing the same thing if we want them to change.

If you know of any other "safe" places, leave a comment!


  1. We just visited Montanas and did the research. All but the desserts are safe. And they even have Bear Paws as an option for the kids meal dessert. It was very refreshing to not have to say no to the kids dessert!

  2. Here's a response I got back from Moxie's, as we had to go there for a lunch for the inlaws. The service was AWESOME, they gave her different dessert choices as she obviously couldn't have the ice cream and they reminded us that they do use pine nuts and almonds on their breads, so when we ordered the pasta, she didn't get the bread with it (just in case). I was very impressed with the wait staff and even the manager came over. Anyways, here's the email I got back from them originally. Hope this helps.

    Dear Christine,
    Thank you for your email and for making us aware of your concerns regardning your daughter's peanut allergy. All Moxie's locations are virtually peanut free. The only peanut product we carry in our restaurants are individually sealed packets of peanut butter for toast during breakfast. Also, due to supplier warnings of cross contamination, she will not be able to eat our ice cream. We do use other tree nuts in our kitchens, but not peanuts. We strongly advise that, regardless of our stringent policies on peanuts, that you still inform your server of your daughter's allergy when you order.
    I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns prior to your visit. Thanks again!

    Cara Crossley
    Moxie's Home Office

  3. LOL I dunno if you're even checking the comments on this one anymore, but I recently had an experience with a White Spot where they approached me with this huge "Allergy Binder" that said that there were traces of nuts in almost all the items on their kids menu!! Lily has eaten there numerous times and never had a problem. So I emailed White Spot directly. Here is the response I got:

    Dear Christine
    I can understand your concerns regarding peanuts at White Spot.
    We do not use peanuts for any of our items and with the exception of peanut butter in individual packages that we do serve we do not have peanuts in our restaurants.
    The information that you saw is generated by an internal system that includes all items that go into making a menu offering. In the case of pirate paks this includes ice cream. As you probably are aware, most ice cream manufacturers do indicate that there “trace amounts of peanuts”. From a liability aspect we do include this information and that is reflected in our “Allergy Aware” booklet.
    However, I can assure you that the burgers, buns, condiments etc are all produced in peanut free facilities. Even the chocolate coin is produced in a peanut free facility, a change we made about 3 years ago now.
    We are currently working on updating our allergy listings and should be able to shortly include this information on our website.
    Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I fully appreciate your concerns as I have a number of severe allergies myself.
    Cathie Hamilton

    Certified Culinary Scientist

    Manager of Menu Development

    White Spot Limited

    I'm also awaiting a response from the Olive Garden, as I've heard they are pretty bad about not letting people know about allergens.
    Hope this helps. ;)