Category: Dining Out

Tips and resources for dining out with food allergies. You don’t have to cook every meal. Every parent needs a night off from cooking!

Allergy Friendly Restaurant List for Northern Michigan this Summer

 

Now that summer in Northern Michigan has kicked into full gear I felt it was important to enhance my local restaurant Allergy Friendly Dining List.  Most restaurants below come highly recommended by myself, my husband and most importantly, our two food allergic boys.   I’ve added a new category this year which includes grocery stores that carry several dairy, nut, and egg free items (gluten free also.)  Please use your own discretion as these reviews are purely based on my opinion and personal experiences.

The reviews below are based on accommodating life-threatening multiple allergies to: dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Please note that most of these restaurants are also more than capable of accommodating gluten, wheat, sesame, soy, and corn allergies.  Please ALWAYS remember to call in advance and ask to speak to the chef or restaurant manager to determine if the particular restaurant can accommodate your special dietary needs.  Additionally, I always provide our server with our 3 x 5 pink restaurant Chef Card that lists all of my boy’s food allergies.  This is an excellent tool to use, as restaurants are very busy during the tourist season/summer months, and verbal allergy communications can get lost in translation between your server and the kitchen staff.

I have tried my best to add these recommendations to the Allergy Eats App, which is not very thorough in Northern Michigan…this is still a work in progress for me however.  Thank you for your patience and Happy Summer!  Whether vacationing in Northern Michigan this summer or if you are a year long resident, I hope this list helps you and your food allergic family enjoy a more pleasurable and safe dining experience.

Here’s the list:

Downtown Petoskey:
1. Chandler’s A Restaurant – The Chef and staff is very knowledgeable and they get it!  Very accommodating!
2. City Park Grill – We dine here all of the time and they are amazing and understand the seriousness!  I commend the staff for always ensuring the food they prep is safe for our boys.  They even bake the chicken fingers for our boys now instead of putting them into the deep fryer.  Steer clear of the delicious biscuits however as they have butter and buttermilk I believe.  My children always ask for a cracker basket with oyster and soda crackers.
3. Twisted Olive Café – Chef Lee is wonderful and has been preparing food for our boys at various restaurants for over 6 yrs!  My boys love the mussels and fish entrees!
4. The Grain Train Natural Food Co-Operative – Lots of Allergen-free options/ready made in food cooler although cross-contam may be present in their prep kitchen

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Petoskey:

1.Mitchell Street Pub – Although this pub has wonderful food, unfortunately they still allow their patrons to throw peanut shells on the floor throughout the entire restaurant.  AVOID at all costs if someone in your family has a PEANUT or TREE NUT ALLERGY.   SCARY!

2. Eagles Club (private club) – We are members at the Eagles club in town.  Many of the chefs have told me over the years that their kitchen suppliers/distributors of food change often to keep food costs low.  They cannot guarantee any safety.  I’m glad they are always honest and they allow us to bring in food for our boys.  Although we rarely go here.  If you’re a member in a different town you can come in as a guest and it’s the best view in town, not to mention, right on the bike path.  Food is marginal at best but cheap drinks and food!

3.Kilwin’s Ice Cream/Fudge Shop– DO NOT EVEN STEP IN if you have a nut allergy!

4. Murdick’s Fudge– Same as above unfortunately

Harbor Springs Area:
1. New York – Chef Matt, and his entire staff are wonderful.  Jerry, a senior server with the New York is amazing.  Nancy too!  Our boys can even eat the bread here safely.  Chef Matt and his staff are extremely knowledgeable about how to safely prepare food-allergy friendly delicious meals!  We love this restaurant and it is a place we frequent with our boys.  The food is always delicious and service goes above and beyond!
2. Crow’s Nest – Chef Bob has been preparing allergen-friendly food for our boys for the last 5 years.  Folks HE GETS IT!  The food is amazing and Chef Bob and his cooks will even use a different flour dusting on his famous pan sautéed perch for our boys.  They cannot have the “Drake’s” batter which contains casein and he will lightly coast the perch in a flour mixture and then sauté it to perfection.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable about food allergies and it is always a pleasant dining experience without worry.
3. Bar Harbor – Although our boys cannot eat the cheese on their burgers the chef and staff understand cross-contamination and always allow me to read ingredient labels.  We bring our own Daiya cheese and my boys LOVE their burgers.  They cannot have the fries due to what goes into the deep fryer but the chips are safe!
4. The Fish – The restaurant owner and staff is very accommodating and have gone out of the way to make delicious healthy food for our kiddos.
5. Country Club of Boyne Seminole Pub – Chef Dean Grill is new to the Country Club of Boyne Team this season.  He is from LA and has quite an outstanding culinary resume!  Both Chef Dean and General Manager Claire are very educated on food allergies and cross-contamination.  There are wonderful!  I have met with Chef several times and he personally ALWAYS cooks my boy’s food.  The fries and homemade potato chips are safe and delicious.  My children have been able to enjoy cheese burgers here that are safe and delicious.  I just bring my own Daiya cheese and buns.  They go the extra mile!
6. Nob’s Nob Cafeteria – We are season pass holders at the Nub’s Nob Ski Resort and every fall the wonderful chef reviews the menu with me.  They are so incredibly accommodating and even take me back into their walk in freezer so I can review ingredients listings.  My children can enjoy the curly and straight French fries there which are popular items, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and fruit.  Please always double check with the line chefs to make sure they change their gloves after touching cheese.  Also, double check the buns they use as I believe some of the buns my not be ok.
7.  We dined here several times over the winter with our boys.  The 1st time we ate here with our boys we showed our server, who has been with Teddy’s for over 15 year, our Restaurant Chef Card, and she assured us Teddy’s could safely accommodate multiple food allergies.  Allergy Eats has ONE bad review for this restaurant and we have NEVER had  a problem.  We know the owners and staff and they always accommodate us safely!

Bay Harbor:
1. Bay Harbor Yacht Club (Private Club) – The level of service and accommodations are incredible.  They exceed my expectations for safety, allergy safe options, quality of food and level of service.  Bravo!
Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Bay Harbor:
2.The Original Pancake House – Unfortunately this restaurant cooks just about everything in PEANUT OIL!  Yes, you heard me- PEANUT OIL.  Perhaps their supplier is the same at Chic-fil-A’s???  I don’t care how refined the oil may be, I’m not testing in with my anaphylactic peanut/tree nut allergic son!  Apparently peanut oil has a higher boiling point and is cheaper than most oils in a restaurant setting.  This restaurant even told me a few years ago that there is possibly peanut oil in the toasters because some of the bread may get brushed with it.  A child went into anaphylactic shock here a few years back before they had the peanut oil allergy statement on their menu.  Now they have allergy statements on every menu I believe.  AVOID AT ALL COSTS IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY

Boyne City:
1. Café Sante – Amazing and the really get cross-contamination and food allergies!  We dine here regularly & one of the restaurant manager’s worked for Disney in which they had several levels of food allergy education that were necessary for all employees.  During our most recent dining experience our server explained to us that the staff had just been trained extensively on food allergies and cross-contamination.  The serving staff here is even required to add food allergies into their computer system upon originally greeting their guests.   Thank you to the new Michigan Restaurant Law!  My youngest son LOVES the mules!  My boys can eat their homemade bread safely also which is amazing, safe and usually not the case in most restaurants.  The owners, managers and chefs here GET IT!  Thank you!

Boyne Falls:
1. Mountain Grand Lodge – Although we did not dine here during our last visit I inquired with the restaurant manager and they suggested they were fully capable of accommodating multiple food allergies to ensure the safety of our children.

Charlevoix (We have not explored too many restaurants here with our boys)
1. Terry’s Place – We attempted to eat here with our boys on the way home from the Traverse City airport during May 2016.  I called and spoke to the gatekeeper who answered the telephone.  I mentioned that our 2 boys have life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts.  She stated that “It would be very difficult to accommodate you here because we use peanut oil to sautee all of our fish in and there is dairy in many of the entrée sauces.”  She did state that their sister restaurant next door (The Villager Pub) could prepare our boy’s food and run it over.  I asked if the chef could simply prepare fish (ie white fish or salmon) for our boys and she said it would not be possible to bake, broil or grill it safely with olive oil as a substitute for the peanut oil.  This is really too bad they cannot accommodate food allergies at all.  Perhaps the person I spoke with was not educated well on how to accommodate all customers with special diets.  Oh, and did I mention this was a Sunday night during April, which is the off season in Charlevoix?  A perfect evening to try a new restaurant because the town was literally dead!  Eat here at your own risk!

Traverse City & Surrounding Area:

1. Siren Hall (Elk Rapids) – We recently had a late lunch here with our boys.  We sat at the bar and requested the bar tender review our Chef Allergy Card with the chef and offer recommendations.  Our boys decided on the grilled chicken with broccolini and muscles in a white wine, garlic and tomato broth.  Both were delicious and our boys were happy.  They have root beer on tap too which made the stop especially worthwhile because our boys love root beer!

2.  Red Ginger (downtown Traverse City) – This is a family favorite in our house.  If we’re in Traverse City with our boys we have to dine here according to them!  When you make a reservation the host will make a note in their computer system of your allergies.  The head chef here has a son who is on a strict gluten-free diet.  He completely understands the concept of safety and avoiding cross-contamination.  My children usually order vegetable sushi rolls and the chef prepares delicious panko crusted chicken fingers for them with a side of steamed green vegetables.  The food is delicious and their sushi is fresh and yummy!  This is definitely one of our favorite Northern Michigan restaurants and I hope you will try it also!  Thanks Red Ginger!

3.Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City– we did a staycation here with our boys last fall and I have to say their main restaurant is very accommodating for food allergies.  The manager and chef both came to our table and assured us they would make a safe amazing meal for our boys.  They completely DELIVERED and the chef brought the food to the table.  It was made separately, delicious and healthy!

4.Poppycocks (downtown Traverse City)- We ate here with our boys during the Film Festival a few summers ago and they did an amazing job accommodating us.  I think my boys had broiled whitefish and grilled chicken.  They each loved their entrees!

Local Grocery Stores with Allergen Friendly Foods:

1.Grain Train Petoskey/Boyne City- Both have many GF, DF & EF items…a little light on the nut free items.  No soynut butter of sunflower see butter options here but you can find these items: Daiya, Daiya pizza, Veganaise, Just Mayo, Earth Balance Cheesy Puffs, Dairy free milks, Follow Your Heart, Everything is also Cert Organic etc.

2.Meijer Lears Rd- They have a HUGE selection of allergen friendly items, they DO carry Soynut butter and Sunflower seed butter.  They also carry NadaMoo Dairy, Nut and Egg free ice cream in multiple flavors!  Additionally, they carry the SoDelicious brand!  They also have the largest selection of non-dairy milks, ie. soy, pea protein (Ripple our fav!), rice, etc.

3.Aldi’s in Petoskey

4. Family Fare in Petoskey- they have the largest selection of non-dairy cheeses, salad dressings, Tofutti cream cheese, etc…located in the cooler by the organic foods.  They also sell Enjoy Life Products (including their chocolate bars which are excellent for making summertime s’mores!), Sunbutter and sunflower seed butter.  Plus, they carry sustainable seafood and organic meats.

5.Walmart- believe it or not, they have a huge selection of Allergen Friendly items in the Gluten Free Aisle…they also carry Enjoy Life

6. Meijer and Oryana Organic Co-Op (both in Traverse City)

Please remember these comments are based solely on our personal experiences and are opinion based.  Feel free to message me if you have additional questions/comments regarding any of the restaurants mentioned above.
~Erika

Northern Michigan Allergy Friendly Restaurant Reviews

petoskey sunset

Now that summer in Northern Michigan has kicked into full gear I felt it was important to enhance my local restaurant Allergy Friendly Dining List.  I have reviewed a total of 21 restaurants.  Most restaurants below come highly recommended by me.  However, I added a new category this season in which I review restaurants that I strongly feel are not safe to dine at with food allergies.  Please use your own discretion as these reviews are purely based on my opinion and personal experiences.

The reviews below are based on accommodating life-threatening multiple allergies to: dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Please note that most of these restaurants are also more than capable of accommodating gluten, wheat, sesame, soy, and corn allergies.  Please ALWAYS remember to call in advance and ask to speak to the chef or restaurant manager to determine if the particular restaurant can accommodate your special dietary needs.  Additionally, I always provide our server with our 3 x 5 pink restaurant Chef Card that lists all of my boy’s food allergies.  This is an excellent tool to use, as restaurants are very busy during the tourist season/summer months, and verbal allergy communications can get lost in translation between your server and the kitchen staff.

I have tried my best to add these recommendations to the Allergy Eats App, which is not very thorough in Northern Michigan…this is still a work in progress for me however.  Thank you for your patience and Happy Summer!  Whether vacationing in Northern Michigan this summer or if you are a year long resident, I hope this list helps you and your food allergic family enjoy a more pleasurable and safe dining experience.

Here’s the list:

Downtown Petoskey:

1. Chandler’s A Restaurant – The Chef and staff is very knowledgeable and they get it!  Very accommodating!

2. City Park Grill – We dine here all of the time and they are amazing and understand the seriousness!  I commend the staff for always ensuring the food they prep is safe for our boys.  They even bake the chicken fingers for our boys now instead of putting them into the deep fryer.  Steer clear of the delicious biscuits however as they have butter and buttermilk I believe.  My children always ask for a cracker basket with oyster and soda crackers.

3. Twisted Olive Café – Chef Lee is wonderful and has been preparing food for our boys at various restaurants for over 6 yrs!  My boys love the mussels and fish entrees!

4. The Grain Train Natural Food Co-Operative – Lots of Allergen-free options/ready made in food cooler.

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Petoskey:

  1. Mitchell Street Pub – Although this pub has wonderful food, unfortunately they still allow their patrons to throw peanut shells on the floor throughout the entire restaurant.  AVOID at all costs if someone in your family has a PEANUT or TREE NUT ALLERGY.   SCARY!
  2. Eagles Club (private club) – We are members at the Eagles club in town.  Many of the chefs have told me over the years that their kitchen suppliers/distributors of food change often to keep food costs low.  They cannot guarantee any safety.  I’m glad they are always honest and they allow us to bring in food for our boys.  Although we rarely go here.  If you’re a member in a different town you can come in as a guest and it’s the best view in town, not to mention, right on the bike path.  Food is marginal at best but cheap drinks and food!

Harbor Springs Area:

1. New York – Chef Matt, and his entire staff are wonderful.  Jerry, a senior server with the New York is amazing.  Nancy too!  Our boys can even eat the bread here safely.  Chef Matt and his staff are extremely knowledgeable about how to safely prepare food-allergy friendly delicious meals!  We love this restaurant and it is a place we frequent with our boys.  The food is always delicious and service goes above and beyond!

2. Crow’s Nest – Chef Bob has been preparing allergen-friendly food for our boys for the last 5 years.  Folks HE GETS IT!  The food is amazing and Chef Bob and his cooks will even use a different flour dusting on his famous pan sautéed perch for our boys.  They cannot have the “Drake’s” batter which contains casein and he will lightly coast the perch in a flour mixture and then sauté it to perfection.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable about food allergies and it is always a pleasant dining experience without worry.

3. Bar Harbor – Although our boys cannot eat the cheese on their burgers the chef and staff understand cross-contamination and always allow me to read ingredient labels.  We bring our own Daiya cheese and my boys LOVE their burgers.  They cannot have the fries due to what goes into the deep fryer but the chips are safe!

4. The Fish – The restaurant owner and staff is very accommodating and have gone out of the way to make delicious healthy food for our kiddos.

5. Country Club of Boyne Seminole Pub – Chef Dean Grill is new to the Country Club of Boyne Team this season.  He is from LA and has quite an outstanding culinary resume!  Both Chef Dean and General Manager Claire are very educated on food allergies and cross-contamination.  There are wonderful!  I have met with Chef several times and he personally ALWAYS cooks my boy’s food.  The fries and homemade potato chips are safe and delicious.  My children have been able to enjoy cheese burgers here that are safe and delicious.  I just bring my own Daiya cheese and buns.  They go the extra mile!

6. Nob’s Nob Cafeteria – We are season pass holders at the Nub’s Nob Ski Resort and every fall the wonderful chef reviews the menu with me.  They are so incredibly accommodating and even take me back into their walk in freezer so I can review ingredients listings.  My children can enjoy the curly and straight French fries there which are popular items, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and fruit.  Please always double check with the line chefs to make sure they change their gloves after touching cheese.  Also, double check the buns they use as I believe some of the buns my not be ok.

7. Teddy Griffin’s Road House – We dine here several times throughout the year sans kiddos!  However, the last time we ate here we showed our server, who has been with Teddy’s for over 15 year, our Restaurant Chef Card, and she assured us Teddy’s could safely accommodate multiple food allergies.  I had been a bit apprehensive about dining here with our boys due to a bad review on Allergy Eats.  Our conversation with our server changed my mind and hopefully we’ll try it soon.  Additionally, Teddy’s is under new ownership which can only mean positive changes on the horizon.  I will update this post once we dine here with our boys.

Bay Harbor:

1. Bay Harbor Yacht Club (Private Club) – The level of service and accommodations are incredible.  They exceed my expectations for safety, allergy safe options, quality of food and level of service.  Bravo!

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Bay Harbor:

  1. The Original Pancake House – Unfortunately this restaurant cooks just about everything in PEANUT OIL!  Yes, you heard me- PEANUT OIL.  Perhaps their supplier is the same at Chic-fil-A’s???  I don’t care how refined the oil may be, I’m not testing in with my anaphylactic peanut/tree nut allergic son!  Apparently peanut oil has a higher boiling point and is cheaper than most oils in a restaurant setting.  This restaurant even told me a few years ago that there is possibly peanut oil in the toasters because some of the bread may get brushed with it.  A child went into anaphylactic shock here a few years back before they had the peanut oil allergy statement on their menu.  Now they have allergy statements on every menu I believe.  AVOID AT ALL COSTS IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY

Boyne City:

1. Café Sante – Amazing and the really get cross-contamination and food allergies!  We dine here regularly & one of the restaurant manager’s worked for Disney in which they had several levels of food allergy education that were necessary for all employees.  During our most recent dining experience our server explained to us that the staff had just been trained extensively on food allergies and cross-contamination.  The serving staff here is even required to add food allergies into their computer system upon originally greeting their guests.   Thank you to the new Michigan Restaurant Law!  My youngest son LOVES the mules!  My boys can eat their homemade bread safely also which is amazing, safe and usually not the case in most restaurants.  The owners, managers and chefs here GET IT!  Thank you!

Boyne Falls:

1. Mountain Grand Lodge – Although we did not dine here during our last visit I inquired with the restaurant manager and they suggested they were fully capable of accommodating multiple food allergies to ensure the safety of our children.

Charlevoix (We have not explored too many restaurants here with our boys)

1. Terry’s Place – We attempted to eat here with our boys on the way home from the Traverse City airport during May 2016.  I called and spoke to the gatekeeper who answered the telephone.  I mentioned that our 2 boys have life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts.  She stated that “It would be very difficult to accommodate you here because we use peanut oil to sautee all of our fish in and there is dairy in many of the entrée sauces.”  She did state that their sister restaurant next door (The Villager Pub) could prepare our boy’s food and run it over.  I asked if the chef could simply prepare fish (ie white fish or salmon) for our boys and she said it would not be possible to bake, broil or grill it safely with olive oil as a substitute for the peanut oil.  This is really too bad they cannot accommodate food allergies at all.  Perhaps the person I spoke with was not educated well on how to accommodate all customers with special diets.  Oh, and did I mention this was a Sunday night during April, which is the off season in Charlevoix?  A perfect evening to try a new restaurant because the town was literally dead!  Eat here at your own risk!

Traverse City & Surrounding Area:

1. Siren Hall (Elk Rapids) – We recently had a late lunch here with our boys.  We sat at the bar and requested the bar tender review our Chef Allergy Card with the chef and offer recommendations.  Our boys decided on the grilled chicken with broccolini and muscles in a white wine, garlic and tomato broth.  Both were delicious and our boys were happy.  They have root beer on tap too which made the stop especially worthwhile because our boys love root beer!

2.  Red Ginger (downtown Traverse City) – This is a family favorite in our house.  If we’re in Traverse City with our boys we have to dine here according to them!  When you make a reservation the host will make a note in their computer system of your allergies.  The head chef here has a son who is on a strict gluten-free diet.  He completely understands the concept of safety and avoiding cross-contamination.  My children usually order vegetable sushi rolls and the chef prepares delicious panko crusted chicken fingers for them with a side of steamed green vegetables.  The food is delicious and their sushi is fresh and yummy!  This is definitely one of our favorite Northern Michigan restaurants and I hope you will try it also!  Thanks Red Ginger!

Subway Restaurants can all be accommodating- My boys can eat the white bread, ham, and turkey as well as veggie toppings.  I always request the sandwich makers use clean knives, new gloves, and put down several pieces of paper over the cutting boards in which to make my boy’s sandwiches…we usually bring our own vegan cheese and my boys can eat their yellow mustard in lieu of mayo (or I bring my own Joy O or Veganaise).

Please remember these comments are based solely on our personal experiences and are opinion based.  Feel free to message me if you have additional questions/comments regarding any of the restaurants mentioned above.

~Erika

BIG TEN FOOTBALL GAME WITH FOOD ALLERGIES: Michigan State vs. Indiana

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 15: General view of Spartan Stadium Stadium during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan State Spartans on September 15, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Thanksgiving holiday in America is a time where many Americans enjoy one of our favorite national past times- FOOTBALL!   People either go to college football games or cheer from the sidelines at home.  I figured this week was a great time to post about our recent experience of taking our boys to their first Michigan State University home football game.  My husband and I have been excited for years to take our boys to a game since we both attended MSU.  This year since our boys were finally old enough to sit through an entire game.

The kickoff time for the football game was at 3:30pm so it was imperative that we fed the boys well before going into the stadium.  We tailgated with family members and the boys munched on Subway sandwiches that I ordered for our tailgate.  When I called to place the Subway order the night before I specified they were for children with multiple food allergies to dairy, nuts, and eggs.  The manager of one of the East Lansing Subway stores (on Saginaw Rd. & Abbott) was amazing and told me that she would personally make our party sub tray first thing in the morning before anything else was made.  She assured me that she would use clean utensils and she was properly trained on cross-contamination.  This really eased my mind.

Back to the football game…there was not a whole lot of pre-game homework I had to do to ensure the boys would be safe during the game.  However, you cannot take in a purse or bag into the stadium, in which case my husband and I each carried 2 Epi-pens each in our coat pockets and my son’s inhaler.  We were all set.

We were fortunate enough to be able to take the boys onto the football field prior to the start of the game.  The boys thought it was so cool to be standing feet away from the huge MSU football players and coaching staff.  Taylor and Christopher were in their glory to say the least!

During various breaks throughout the football game our boys were able to eat Subway sandwiches once again that were safe.  Additionally, there were a few varieties of chips they could have at one of the vendor’s.  During one part of the game, when it down poured for 15 minutes, we took shelter and the boys each had soft pretzels which were a “safe” brand they have eaten in the past.  My husband and I were thrilled and the boys were happy!

The boys were not only able to eat safely during the game but they lasted the entire football game, they sang during every MSU chant and fight song, and HAD A BLAST!  I think it was also most helpful that we were sitting next to my brother and sister-in-law and my nephew who is 10 sat next to the boys as well!  What a great game and Michigan State University beat Indiana!

We’ll definitely take the boys back to Spartan Stadium for future MSU games!  GO GREEN!  GO WHITE!

 

 

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

Eating at Subway with Food Allergies

A close friend of mine who lives across the country and  has a son with multiple Anaphylactic food allergies (dairy, egg, nuts) recently texted me on the fly. She texted me that her son was at a Subway chain restaurant with a friend of his and asked me if I had any experience with my children eating at Subway in the past??? I was tickled to death that my friend reached out to me as she recently told me that I was her new “food allergy expert”…quite a stretch but I’ll run with it. LOL!!

I quickly texted her back & responded that I have extensively researched the online Subway ingredient menu in the past & we have had much success eating there “on the fly.” I recommended she text her son to communicate to the sandwich maker to state:

(1) I have dairy and nut allergies so please put on new gloves before you make my sandwich;

(2) I recommended that he order either an Italian sub bun or Whole wheat;

(3) Ask the sand which artist to please put down a few extra pieces of paper on top of the cutting board to create a “safe” barrier;

(4) Request the sand which artist use a “clean” knife to cut his sandwich.

(5) My boys usually add lettuce, pickles, black olives, etc…sky’s the limit on the veggies as the veggie artist typically does not touch the cheese but please verify!

(5) Usually the safe condiments include mustard & honey mustard but please always check ingredients. If we plan on going to Subway in advance I will bring my own vegan mayo (we prefer Just Mayo) & Daiya vegan cheese!!

Ta Da & there you have it- a healthy subway sandwich that your kiddos can enjoy! I love to suprise my boys with a Subway sandwich at school for lunch! It’s healthy & a nice change!!!!

This is an excellent article by Markham Heid posted on Time’s website about ingredient labeling in the U.S.:

This is an excellent article by Markham Heid posted on Time’s website about ingredient labeling in the U.S.:

Northern Michigan Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Dining List

Petoskey picture

Now that summer in Northern Michigan has kicked into full gear I felt it was important to enhance my local restaurant Allergy Friendly Dining List.  I have reviewed a total of 21 restaurants.  Most restaurants below come highly recommended by me.  However, I added a new category this season in which I review restaurants that I strongly feel are not safe to dine at with food allergies.  Please use your own discretion as these reviews are purely based on my opinion and personal experiences.

The reviews below are based on accommodating life-threatening multiple allergies to: dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Please note that most of these restaurants are also more than capable of accommodating gluten, wheat, sesame, soy, and corn allergies.  Please ALWAYS remember to call in advance and ask to speak to the chef or restaurant manager to determine if the particular restaurant can accommodate your special dietary needs.  Additionally, I always provide our server with our 3 x 5 pink restaurant Chef Card that lists all of my boy’s food allergies.  This is an excellent tool to use, as restaurants are very busy during the tourist season/summer months, and verbal allergy communications can get lost in translation between your server and the kitchen staff.

I have tried my best to add these recommendations to the Allergy Eats App, which is not very thorough in Northern Michigan…this is still a work in progress for me however.  Thank you for your patience and Happy Summer!  Whether vacationing in Northern Michigan this summer or if you are a year long resident, I hope this list helps you and your food allergic family enjoy a more pleasurable and safe dining experience.

Here’s the list:

Downtown Petoskey:

1. Chandler’s A Restaurant – The Chef and staff is very knowledgeable and they get it!  Very accommodating!

2. City Park Grill – We dine here all of the time and they are amazing and understand the seriousness!  I commend the staff for always ensuring the food they prep is safe for our boys.  They even bake the chicken fingers for our boys now instead of putting them into the deep fryer.  Steer clear of the delicious biscuits however as they have butter and buttermilk I believe.  My children always ask for a cracker basket with oyster and soda crackers.

3. Twisted Olive Café – Chef Lee is wonderful and has been preparing food for our boys at various restaurants for over 6 yrs!  My boys love the mussels and fish entrees!

4. The Grain Train Natural Food Co-Operative – Lots of Allergen-free options/ready made in food cooler.

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Petoskey:

  1. Mitchell Street Pub – Although this pub has wonderful food, unfortunately they still allow their patrons to throw peanut shells on the floor throughout the entire restaurant.  AVOID at all costs if someone in your family has a PEANUT or TREE NUT ALLERGY.   SCARY!
  2. Eagles Club (private club) – We are members at the Eagles club in town.  Many of the chefs have told me over the years that their kitchen suppliers/distributors of food change often to keep food costs low.  They cannot guarantee any safety.  I’m glad they are always honest and they allow us to bring in food for our boys.  Although we rarely go here.  If you’re a member in a different town you can come in as a guest and it’s the best view in town, not to mention, right on the bike path.  Food is marginal at best but cheap drinks and food!

Harbor Springs Area:

1. New York – Chef Matt, and his entire staff are wonderful.  Jerry, a senior server with the New York is amazing.  Nancy too!  Our boys can even eat the bread here safely.  Chef Matt and his staff are extremely knowledgeable about how to safely prepare food-allergy friendly delicious meals!  We love this restaurant and it is a place we frequent with our boys.  The food is always delicious and service goes above and beyond!

2. Crow’s Nest – Chef Bob has been preparing allergen-friendly food for our boys for the last 5 years.  Folks HE GETS IT!  The food is amazing and Chef Bob and his cooks will even use a different flour dusting on his famous pan sautéed perch for our boys.  They cannot have the “Drake’s” batter which contains casein and he will lightly coast the perch in a flour mixture and then sauté it to perfection.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable about food allergies and it is always a pleasant dining experience without worry.

3. Bar Harbor – Although our boys cannot eat the cheese on their burgers the chef and staff understand cross-contamination and always allow me to read ingredient labels.  We bring our own Daiya cheese and my boys LOVE their burgers.  They cannot have the fries due to what goes into the deep fryer but the chips are safe!

4. The Fish – The restaurant owner and staff is very accommodating and have gone out of the way to make delicious healthy food for our kiddos.

5. Country Club of Boyne Seminole Pub – Chef Dean Grill is new to the Country Club of Boyne Team this season.  He is from LA and has quite an outstanding culinary resume!  Both Chef Dean and General Manager Claire are very educated on food allergies and cross-contamination.  There are wonderful!  I have met with Chef several times and he personally ALWAYS cooks my boy’s food.  The fries and homemade potato chips are safe and delicious.  My children have been able to enjoy cheese burgers here that are safe and delicious.  I just bring my own Daiya cheese and buns.  They go the extra mile!

6. Nob’s Nob Cafeteria – We are season pass holders at the Nub’s Nob Ski Resort and every fall the wonderful chef reviews the menu with me.  They are so incredibly accommodating and even take me back into their walk in freezer so I can review ingredients listings.  My children can enjoy the curly and straight French fries there which are popular items, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and fruit.  Please always double check with the line chefs to make sure they change their gloves after touching cheese.  Also, double check the buns they use as I believe some of the buns my not be ok.

7. Teddy Griffin’s Road House – We dine here several times throughout the year sans kiddos!  However, the last time we ate here we showed our server, who has been with Teddy’s for over 15 year, our Restaurant Chef Card, and she assured us Teddy’s could safely accommodate multiple food allergies.  I had been a bit apprehensive about dining here with our boys due to a bad review on Allergy Eats.  Our conversation with our server changed my mind and hopefully we’ll try it soon.  Additionally, Teddy’s is under new ownership which can only mean positive changes on the horizon.  I will update this post once we dine here with our boys.

Bay Harbor:

1. Bay Harbor Yacht Club (Private Club) – The level of service and accommodations are incredible.  They exceed my expectations for safety, allergy safe options, quality of food and level of service.  Bravo!

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Bay Harbor:

  1. The Original Pancake House – Unfortunately this restaurant cooks just about everything in PEANUT OIL!  Yes, you heard me- PEANUT OIL.  Perhaps their supplier is the same at Chic-fil-A’s???  I don’t care how refined the oil may be, I’m not testing in with my anaphylactic peanut/tree nut allergic son!  Apparently peanut oil has a higher boiling point and is cheaper than most oils in a restaurant setting.  This restaurant even told me a few years ago that there is possibly peanut oil in the toasters because some of the bread may get brushed with it.  A child went into anaphylactic shock here a few years back before they had the peanut oil allergy statement on their menu.  Now they have allergy statements on every menu I believe.  AVOID AT ALL COSTS IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY

Boyne City:

1. Café Sante – Amazing and the really get cross-contamination and food allergies!  We dine here regularly & one of the restaurant manager’s worked for Disney in which they had several levels of food allergy education that were necessary for all employees.  During our most recent dining experience our server explained to us that the staff had just been trained extensively on food allergies and cross-contamination.  The serving staff here is even required to add food allergies into their computer system upon originally greeting their guests.   Thank you to the new Michigan Restaurant Law!  My youngest son LOVES the mules!  My boys can eat their homemade bread safely also which is amazing, safe and usually not the case in most restaurants.  The owners, managers and chefs here GET IT!  Thank you!

Boyne Falls:

1. Mountain Grand Lodge – Although we did not dine here during our last visit I inquired with the restaurant manager and they suggested they were fully capable of accommodating multiple food allergies to ensure the safety of our children.

Charlevoix (We have not explored too many restaurants here with our boys)

1. Terry’s Place – We attempted to eat here with our boys on the way home from the Traverse City airport during May 2016.  I called and spoke to the gatekeeper who answered the telephone.  I mentioned that our 2 boys have life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts.  She stated that “It would be very difficult to accommodate you here because we use peanut oil to sautee all of our fish in and there is dairy in many of the entrée sauces.”  She did state that their sister restaurant next door (The Villager Pub) could prepare our boy’s food and run it over.  I asked if the chef could simply prepare fish (ie white fish or salmon) for our boys and she said it would not be possible to bake, broil or grill it safely with olive oil as a substitute for the peanut oil.  This is really too bad they cannot accommodate food allergies at all.  Perhaps the person I spoke with was not educated well on how to accommodate all customers with special diets.  Oh, and did I mention this was a Sunday night during April, which is the off season in Charlevoix?  A perfect evening to try a new restaurant because the town was literally dead!  Eat here at your own risk!

Traverse City & Surrounding Area:

1. Siren Hall (Elk Rapids) – We recently had a late lunch here with our boys.  We sat at the bar and requested the bar tender review our Chef Allergy Card with the chef and offer recommendations.  Our boys decided on the grilled chicken with broccolini and muscles in a white wine, garlic and tomato broth.  Both were delicious and our boys were happy.  They have root beer on tap too which made the stop especially worthwhile because our boys love root beer!

2.  Red Ginger (downtown Traverse City) – This is a family favorite in our house.  If we’re in Traverse City with our boys we have to dine here according to them!  When you make a reservation the host will make a note in their computer system of your allergies.  The head chef here has a son who is on a strict gluten-free diet.  He completely understands the concept of safety and avoiding cross-contamination.  My children usually order vegetable sushi rolls and the chef prepares delicious panko crusted chicken fingers for them with a side of steamed green vegetables.  The food is delicious and their sushi is fresh and yummy!  This is definitely one of our favorite Northern Michigan restaurants and I hope you will try it also!  Thanks Red Ginger!

Subway Restaurants can all be accommodating- My boys can eat the white bread, ham, and turkey as well as veggie toppings.  I always request the sandwich makers use clean knives, new gloves, and put down several pieces of paper over the cutting boards in which to make my boy’s sandwiches…we usually bring our own vegan cheese and my boys can eat their yellow mustard in lieu of mayo (or I bring my own Joy O or Veganaise).

Please remember these comments are based solely on our personal experiences and are opinion based.  Feel free to message me if you have additional questions/comments regarding any of the restaurants mentioned above.

~Erika

Restaurant Food Allergy Cards are Essential for Dining Out & Travel

The weather is warming up outside and the last thing I want to do is spend time in the kitchen cooking. I downloaded this template from foodallergy.org about 5 years ago and use the
The weather is warming up outside and the last thing I want to do is spend time in the kitchen cooking. I downloaded this template from foodallergy.org about 5 years ago and use the “Restaurant Allergy Card” every time we dine out with our boys. Restaurant managers, servers and chefs all love it because it’s laminated, bright and concise. Our boys have even started presenting this to restaurant servers upon being seated in a restaurant. It’s great for travel. I highly recommend making a similar 3 x 5 card and keep them in your epi-pen bag that way they are always redily available!