Planning a trip to New York? Have food allergies? Then read on…
When you have a kid with food allergies, planning a trip can be stressful enough, but the thought of travelling with someone outside of your ‘allergy bubble’ is downright anxiety-provoking.
Travelling with another allergy mama, however, is the best. You never have to feel like an inconvenience, and you totally get it (and are willing to oblige) if the other mom has a request that is outside of your normal. Sure, I love cream in my coffee but if your kid has a life-threatening dairy allergy, I’m going to go without until it’s safe.
That’s why, during a recent trip with another allergy family to NYC, myself and the other mama decided to make the whole thing centre around eating out safely. First of all, it’s New York City — we already know it’s a much (allergy) friendlier city than Toronto. Secondly, we had the super awesome AllergyEats app to guide us while we were there. And third, we didn’t have to feel like we were being judged as “helicopter parents” for wiping down every single seat and surface before we sat down to eat.
And so it was set. We were heading to New York City with our allergy kids, a large collection of EpiPens, and a list of allergy-friendly spots thanks to our new favourite app.
(Coincidentally, I happened to learn that Nadine, another Toronto allergy mama, would be in the city the same weekend we were. Though we never bumped into each other — no surprise there! — we were sure to share our allergy-friendly finds with one another before, during, and even after our trip. And Nadine kindly agreed to share her thoughts with me for the purposes of this blog post.)
“Our family decided to go to NYC for a quick 4-day weekend, as it is one of our favourite places to travel due to its proximity, vibrancy, fantastic shopping, and the variety of restaurants that can accommodate our daughter’s peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergies. To our surprise, Kathleen and her family would be there at the same time as us, and I was more than happy to contribute to this blog post. I hope we are able to give other allergy families some valuable information to help them with their travels.” – Nadine
Want honest reviews on 9 different allergy-friendly restaurants in NYC… from the mouths of allergy moms? Scroll down. 🙂
Sofia’s Pizza Shoppe
Nadine: Our first stop in NYC was our favourite pizza place, Sofia’s. This spot is peanut and tree nut free, and the pizza truly tastes amazing. The shop is mainly for takeout, but there are also a few stools to sit and enjoy a slice (or 3!!). This was followed by a trip to A La Mode Ice Cream Shoppe (which is right around the corner) because pizza and ice cream pair so well together!
A La Mode Ice Cream Shoppe
Kathleen: When I first heard there was an ice cream shop that was free of ALL of my son’s allergens, I couldn’t believe it. Nut-free shops tend to have egg in their ice cream, and I had yet to find one ice cream shop in Toronto where I can take my allergy kid for a good old fashioned cone.
Enter A La Mode Ice Cream Shoppe. Not only is it 100% safe for my kiddo, they also have dairy-free and gluten-free options, and their staff is just wonderful. If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple, reach out in advance and they’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
The best part? They have a pretty great selection AND their ice cream is seriously delicious. (Makes me wonder why egg is a staple ingredient in so many ice creams — I didn’t notice a difference in flavour or texture at A La Mode!)
The second best part? They’re aiming to get their pre-packaged stuff into the Canadian market within the next 6 months. (Watch out, Chapman’s! Maybe it’s time to remove that not-so-necessary egg from your ingredient list?!)
Blue Smoke (Flatiron location)
Nadine: I found out about Blue Smoke through the Allergy Eats app. I was pleasantly surprised at the detailed response I received from the General Manager when I inquired about allergy dining prior to our trip. He suggested specific items that would be safe for my daughter’s allergies, and offered to make a reservation for us and note her allergies for the chef. Although we did not make an advance reservation, when we visited this location for dinner, we were so pleased with the service we received. Maya was able to enjoy some delicious ribs. (They were so good, we forgot to take a photo!)
It’s important to note that they do serve peanuts as a snack at the bar. That said, we were not at all concerned as they are not present in the kitchen and our table was wiped down thoroughly before we were seated.
Dos Caminos (Park Avenue location)
Kathleen: We found this spot on the AllergyEats app plus my little guy ADORES fajitas, so we thought we’d give Mexican food a try. Users with multiple allergies gave it rave reviews that made both allergy mamas feel super comfortable going in with our combined allergies (peanut, dairy, egg, sesame, sunflower, some tree nuts). Unfortunately, our experience didn’t live up to the hype.
Our waitress didn’t seem confident dealing with us (which didn’t make us feel very confident either), and when she came back from her talk with the chef, our kids’ safe options were much more limited than what he had read on the app. In fact, we were told we could order one thing: cheese quesadillas. And some raw veggies (after inquiring further).
I typically would have (nicely) pushed for the experience the app promised me, but my impatient 3-year-old rushed me into ordering what was apparently the “only” safe option on the menu. It was disappointing to say the least. Later, I learned I was to blame. There are 3 Dos Caminos locations listed on the app, and it was the other 2 (not the location we chose) that had the wonderful reviews. Something to keep in mind for next time!
Nadine: The Donut Pub is a West Village neighbourhood donut and sandwich shop that has been in business since 1974. Although we have travelled to NYC several times, this was our first visit to The Donut Pub and it will certainly not be our last. There’s a huge selection of donuts to choose from and there are also classic sandwiches such as tuna, egg, cheese, and BLT served on bagels, croissants, rye bread, or buns (all of which are peanut and tree nut free… and delicious).
The fact that our daughter could sit at the counter and enjoy a sandwich followed by a donut of her choice was huge for her — she was so happy. In fact, we went twice during our short trip!
Kathleen: In Toronto, Italian food (and pizza specifically) tends to be our go-to safe option, so we were happy when we learned this spot was a short walk from The Gazillion Bubble Show we had just attended on Broadway. (Plus, you can’t go wrong with 3-year-olds and pizza!) This time, the server was fabulous when it came to allergies. She didn’t bat an eye when we listed our son’s allergies and certainly did what she could to make us feel like anything but an inconvenience.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed for a different reason this time. See, you might call my husband and I pizza snobs. Back home, we enjoy what I deem “gourmet pizza,” and tend to go to higher quality spots like Pizzeria Defina, Pizzeria Via Mercanti, or Vesuvio’s. When it comes to pizza, we know our stuff. 😉
So when I tell you that our orders were barely edible, I mean it. In fact, I had to watch as my husband cringed through each bite of his meal. And I actually sent mine back. Luckily, my son’s pepperoni pizza was the best of the bunch, so I shared with him and we headed home… disappointed yet again. (We aren’t usually this tough to please, I swear! Just read my other reviews on this site to see what I mean.)
American Girl Cafe
Nadine: This was a very special experience for our daughter, as we celebrated her 10th birthday with brunch at The American Girl Café. We have previously been to the retail store on all of our trips, but I hadn’t considered the possibility of dining there — simply because I had no idea about their allergy awareness.
However, they have recently implemented a food allergy protocol at their cafes and have introduced a doll with food sensitivity to dairy. I learned that all of their cafés are peanut and tree nut free and, according to an interview I read on Spokin, they can accommodate other allergies too.
I felt confident that we would have a safe dining experience, so we decided to surprise Maya with this special birthday treat. I made reservations well in advance, and upon arrival at the café they reconfirmed all of her allergies with us. Our waitress informed us that the only questionable menu item was the English muffins as they were not made in-house and had a “may contain” warning. She assured us that everything else on the brunch menu was a safe choice as they make it all from scratch… even dessert!
Maya started with the appetizer cinnamon buns, followed by pancakes and a flower pot “dirt” (crushed cookies) chocolate mousse. The waitress also brought Maya a homemade raspberry gelato with a birthday candle and we sang “Happy Birthday” to our birthday girl. This experience was truly the highlight of the trip for Maya.
Kathleen: Finally! We found a spot that lived up to all of our expectations — on both the allergy side and on the foodie side. Ranked as one of NYC’s best Italian restaurants, we had high hopes going in. And it did not disappoint.
Consider this: My picky Irish husband said the meatballs were the best he’s eaten in his entire life. And we’ve been to Italy. ‘Nuff said.
My sausage pasta was absolutely delicious too, and my son enjoyed trying something from everyone’s plate. You know why this is exciting? Most Italian restaurants advise us *not* to order pasta due to the noodles containing (or possibly containing) egg — hence having to order him pizza. All. The. Time. But this time, my son could order practically anything off the menu! (Except dessert, but we’re used to it… so we didn’t mind.)
There you have it. If you can eat out there, you’ll eat out anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York…
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for the Top 10 Challenge fundraiser.
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