Dining out with food allergies can be a daunting – and scary – experience, especially when the wrong ingredients could cause life-threatening reactions in the kids or adults in your family
Luckily, in Seattle there are many eateries dedicated to helping even the most sensitive diners eat out safely. As someone with a gluten allergy, a long-time teacher and a trip leader for kids, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, researching and writing about food allergies. Hopefully these tips and restaurant suggestions will help parents and kids with allergies ditch the social isolation that comes with dietary restrictions and enjoy the pleasures of eating out as a family.
One of the best tips I received about managing food allergies for myself and my students is to reinforce skills, not anxieties.
Four skills to teach your kids and master yourself:
1. Research the menu ahead of time
Fortunately, most restaurant menus can be found online. Some restaurants put helpful statements on their menus or website, such as noting that a facility is peanut-free. Or they may have a separate menu for allergies or mark items on the menu as gluten-free, dairy-free and so on. These labels, along with disclaimers about cross-contact with allergens in the kitchen, can help you decide whether a dining experience will be safe for you and your family.
Even without specific claims, simply looking closely at a restaurant menu can allow you to determine how much of an allergen is present in the kitchen. For example, many restaurants are fish and shellfish free but won’t have that fact specifically listed on the menu. When in doubt, always ask.
2. Dine at less busy times
Arriving in between major mealtimes will allow enough time to ask questions, especially the very first time you visit a given restaurant. It’s also easier for the chef to visit your table and for the kitchen staff to more closely monitor your order for allergen safety.
3. Make and bring a written allergy card
A printed “business card” with the allergen, specific instructions to prepare food safely and a list of ingredients that contain the allergen is a great start! Some allergens, like wheat and gluten, can hide in surprising places, such as soy sauce and other condiments, and you will want the staff to look out for those.
4. Keep emergency medications easily accessible
Even the most experienced food-allergic diners and servers can make mistakes. Always carry epipens, allergy medications and other emergency devices recommended by your pediatrician or doctor for use in case of allergic reaction.
Allergy-friendly, kid-friendly meal spots in Seattle
This allergy-friendly pizza place takes extra precautions for a number of common allergens. They answered all of my questions on the phone and in person! While it’s best known as the safest gluten and dairy-free pizza spot in Seattle, they also take precautions with peanuts, tree nuts and egg. With a separate kitchen space and lots of knowledge and experience (the owner has multiple food allergies), they can accommodate other allergens too. For anyone who is extra sensitive, Razzi’s is known as a celiac-safe dining experience, meaning they know about cross-contact.
In addition to pizza, they serve pasta, calzones, salads and sandwiches. razzispizza.com
Portage Bay Cafe
Feeling relieved to see a timeless Seattle favorite on the list? Me too! Portage Bay Cafe boasts an allergen booklet you can access on their website to make informed choices ahead of time. They’re great with special requests, add wooden “allergy” markers to specially made dishes and have a kids’ menu to boot!
The entire restaurant is peanut-free and the allergen booklet lists which menu items contain any of the top eight allergens. This restaurant is best for brunch and you can make reservations on their website. portagebaycafe.com
Ghostfish Brewing is an entirely wheat- and gluten-free brewery. With lots of kid-friendly menu options, such as mac-and-cheese, grilled cheese and fish and chips, it’s a dining experience that’s fun for the whole family. We especially like the appetizers and sides, including wheat- and gluten-free onion rings, soft pretzel sticks and churros for dessert.
You order through an online interface at your table that walks you through allergy notifications and options for changing each dish to fit your needs.
I recommend dining for lunch when kids are along and avoiding Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. ghostfishbrewing.com
Bok a Bok Fried Chicken
The menu here is free of peanuts and tree nuts (except coconut) and boasts gluten-, dairy- and egg-free fried chicken! Double-frying is to thank for its ultra-crunchy texture. Other allergens are listed on their website for easy ordering. Food is served takeout style. bokabokchicken.com
Allergy-friendly, kid-friendly treat spots in Seattle
Molly Moon’s Ice Cream
Delicious ice cream with a peanut-free menu! Other allergens are also labeled and the staff is always willing to get a clean scoop, change gloves and even grab a fresh tub of ice cream to prevent cross-contamination. Their website lists items that are vegan or contain gluten, egg or nuts. mollymoon.com
Frankie and Jo’s
Have a dairy allergy but crave ice cream? This Capitol Hill ice cream shop is 100% vegan and dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and peanut-free! frankieandjos.com
Askatu Bakery Cafe
Free of the top nine allergens, this Belltown bakery offers a variety of tasty treats. facebook.com/AskatuBakery
Wildflour / Flying April
This 100% dedicated gluten-free and vegan bakery and cafe is located in West Seattle. You can also find their treats at a variety of Seattle coffee shops and grocery stores. flyingapron.com.
Hello Robin Cookies
Hello Robin is a 100% peanut- and nut-free cookie shop in the University Village and Capitol Hill. The website includes a disclaimer that ingredients could be processed on shared equipment, though no nuts are allowed in the facilities. hellorobincookies.com
Located in Capitol Hill, this bakery is free of peanuts and wheat/gluten. They also keep detailed lists of ingredients and clearly label any items that contain the top eight allergens. nuflours.com