Category: Travel

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!

Epi-Pen Injection Given to Our Son on Vacation and Thankfully It Turned Out Positively!

I apologize for not posting over the last several weeks.  My computer crashed and my new laptop is finally up and running.  My husband, two boys and myself were on vacation in Florida with family two weeks ago for spring break.  Two days before our last day of vacation the boys and I were in the grocery store reviewing the boxes of the many different flavors of Pop Tarts.  There are a few flavors of Pop Tarts that have been safe in the past for my boys multiple food allergies which are: Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Strawberry, Cherry, and I believe Blueberry.  My boys were excited to try a new flavor and since we were on vacation I was a bit more laid back with them eating a healthy breakfast in the morning.  My youngest handed me a box of Pop Tarts and I read the ingredients and noticed that they contained “milk, eggs, and wheat.”  I then told him the allergens that were in the box and to look for a different “New” flavor.  My oldest then handed me the Cinnamon Swirl box and after reading through the ingredients about 3 times slowly I told him we were safe and they only contained “Wheat” which is not an allergen for my boys.  After that my youngest son chose his box of Pop Tarts, and looking back in hindsight, I believed it was a flavor we had purchased before and I failed to “re-read” the box which was unusual for me but the boys were getting hyper and we needed to get to the check out aisle and complete our shopping trip.

Moving forward, very early the next morning my husband and I were still in bed and both of our boys were on their Ipads just outside of our bedroom on the sofa lounger.  They each knew where the kitchen cupboard was that contained all of their “safe” foods and namely their new and exciting Pop Tart flavors.  We told them they could each grab a Pop Tart.  A few minutes later our youngest son told us his tummy hurt after only eating one third of the Pop Tart.  It was at that moment my husband ran into the kitchen, grabbed the S’Mores Pop Tart box and re-read the label to then shockingly discover they contained not only one but two MAJOR allergens of our boys- “Milk and Eggs!”  I was completely dismayed and shocked this box made it into the grocery cart without me even noticing it!  I had known from past label reading that the S’Mores Pop Tarts contained the lethal allergens for my boys.  Then, our youngest son yelled “Mom! Dad!”  We both rushed upstairs and he had vomited all over the couch and was feeling very lethargic.  At that point we knew something serious was about to ensue and we both kept our calm and comforted our son.  We gave him 2 Benadryl children’s chewable tablets and I grabbed our Emergency Action Plan to review.  I had read it a thousand times before but this time I read it very slowly as if in slow motion paying attention to every single detail.

A few minutes later our little guy ran to the bathroom and had violent diarrhea.  At that point we knew we were headed to the ER because our little guy was not only anaphylactic but an asthmatic which adds another element of fear to this whole process.  About a year earlier he accidentally ingested a Tara chip with milk in it and he described words that made us think his throat was starting to close up.  That said, we knew the Auvi-Q injection was going to be needed.

We loaded into the car and I drove our youngest to the ER which was about 4 miles away in South Naples thankfully.  My husband stayed back with our oldest son.   On the way to the hospital I kept talking and reassuring my little 5 year old that everything was going to be okay.  In the heat of the moment I was surprised that I was able to keep my composure and do what was necessary- get us to the hospital safely.  I kept telling my son that he was such a brave big boy and I would have to give him the Epi-Pen injection when we parked the car.  I reassured him that he didn’t cry this year when he got his flu shot and he Epi-Pen would feel about the same.

I parked the car in the lot adjacent to the ER entrance doors and quickly got out of the driver’s side door.   I walked around to my son’s door, opened the door and told him it was time for the Epi-Pen (Auvi-Q).  I pulled the injector out of it’s housing sleeve like I had done a thousand times before with the trainer and then told my son to squeeze my hand really hard while I injected the Auvi-Q into his right quadricep.  Then we listened to to injector count down from 10 to 1 and then it said “Injection complete.”

I then whisked my brave son up into my arms as I ran into the Emergency Room.  My son then said, “Mom that didn’t even hurt.”   I held back the tears trying to wear my brave hat as well.  Thankfully the waiting room wasn’t very busy and we were admitted back into the initial screening room right away where they took my son’s blood pressure, listened to his breathing and took his weight.  I calmly reiterated to the nurse what had happened and that I was fearful that his breathing may continue to decline like it had during the previous allergic food reaction a year ago.

Long story short, when the ER doc finally came back to take our son’s vitals he reassured me that I did the right thing by giving him the Epi-Pen.  He said that “it was the right move given our son’s past food reaction, asthma and being on vacation in an unfamiliar town.”  The doctor said that he thankfully was NOT going into anaphylactic shock.  Due to new standards across the country for ER patients admitted after being injected with Epinephrine, they would have to monitor him for 6 hours post-shot.  This is because in the past patients have been released too prematurely and have had more serious allergic reactions landing them back in the Emergency Room.

Our son received a pretty large liquid dose of children’s prednisone to continue to help his body fight off the reaction and we began counting down the hours in the ER.

It was a LONG and stressful day in the ER but bottom line is that we took the necessary precautions to get our son to the ER to receive further treatment.

I beat myself up for days post-reaction thinking what I could have done differently to avoid such an allergic reaction?  I kept asking myself, “If I can make a mistake like this and I re-read all labels multiple times and I’m extremely precautious and diligent then it can happen to anyone.”  I finally came to terms with the fact that this was a freak accident and that accidents will happen with our children in the future with regards to allergen exposure.  I kept reassuring myself that both my husband and I acted quickly in the heat of the moment and followed our son’s emergency action plan which I believe ultimately kept the reaction from worsening which could have resulted in a lethal ending.

This was a very emotional situation for both of our sons, my husband and myself.  The lesson learned here is that we can move forth with positivity knowing that we have all trained ourselves how to act promptly during an emergency allergen exposure situation.  Please ALWAYS carry your Epi-Pen auto injectors.