What do you order in restaurants?


Hello I am new to this group. I have an atypical circumstances in that I do not test high for peanut or shrimp allergies)bllod and skin), yet I have anaphylactic reactions to both. I can be around shrimp cooking and have a reaction. (The only items I tested high for were cats and slightly for corn.) The reactions to shrimp began about 20 years ago and the reactions to peanuts and peanut products just began in the last year. I find the shrimp allergy much easier to manage in restarants. I have landed in the hospital once this year (peanuts) and should have gone a few other times with it. The allergist has diagnosed me with Angioedema, and recommended to avoid shrimp and peanuts as well as to always carry an epi-pen.

Now my question: I travel on occasion in my job and must dine out. With PA allergies, what do you order in restaruants? Or do you just take food along to eat, if you do, what do you take? Sorry this is such a long post.

------------------ BRS

On Jul 23, 2006

Hi. I'm highly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts but eat out in restaurants fairly often. Ordering from the menu, even though what I order doesn't say it has nuts or peanut oil, I usually tell the food server: "I'm severely allergic to peanuts, peanut oil, all other nuts and the oils of any nuts, so please check and make sure that none of what I ordered contains any of these things." It's important to always say something like this, because even when you order a dish that never is made with nuts or peanuts, you never can tell when someone in the kitchen will get creative. Recently I ordered vegetarian lasagne at a restaurant I have eaten at often without mishaps and when it came, there were hard little things in it that I thought might be nuts. I hadn't said anything because it didn't occur to me that there might be nuts in lasagne, and I had eaten there safely before. But when I checked with the waiter and he went to talk to the chef, he came back and said: "Those aren't nuts, but we do cook and grill with a mixture of oils including peanut oil." I won't be eating at that restaurant ever again, but it was a wake-up call, because I had not been giving my standard allergy speech at that restaurant at all. I have found that it's often the "avant garde" restaurants that use peanut oil because it gets hotter without smoking and apparently produces crisper food. One last tale about the "always ask" rule--My husband and I were traveling in Ireland and ate at a different restaurant every night for about three weeks. Just about every Irish restaurant starts out serving a plate of freshly baked brown bread. After the first seven nights of asking "are there any nuts in your brown bread" and getting "no" for an answer each time, the next night I didn't ask. I actually wolfed down a piece of the brown bread because I was pretty hungry and then realized I was getting a serious reaction. The owner-chef came out from the kitchen extremely apologetic--he had run out of his usual ingredients and had made the bread with nut flour--it had ground up peanuts and all sorts of tree nuts in it. Thank goodness I had my epi-pen! That got me through the next few hours, but the next day I was in a lot of pain from the residual reaction to the tree nuts--sort of a double whammy! So good luck,and "always ask"!

On Jul 23, 2006

Hello BRS, I'm also an adult with PA - and I travel a lot.

I carry a chef card that I give to the waiter. (I'll cut & paste it at the end of this post.) There's a RESTAURANT forum here on PA.com that might help you when you travel. I try to post safe restaurants here when I have a good experience with one. There's also a thread about 'safe airport restaurants'.

Even if I'm told that the restaurant is 'safe' I'm still careful about what I order. No sauces or salad dressings and no multi-ingredient dishes....unless it's a restaurant that I know well.

When nothing on the menu seems safe, I'll order a basic salad and use my own dressing that I carry with me. (Annie's Natural salad dressings in individual serving packages - I get them at allergygrocer.com).

A baked potato is usually safe - but I've heard of restaurants that brush the skin with peanut oil to make it brown.

If I question the kitchen about the grill, sometimes I feel safe eating salmon (no sauce), scrambled or poached eggs (be careful of the bread!) or a shrimp cocktail.

There's also Burger King and Subway (watch out for peanut butter cookies).

Hope this helps! Adele



To the Chef:

WARNING! I am allergic to peanuts. In order to avoid a life-threatening reaction, I must avoid all foods that might contain peanuts, including:


If any of the above are served in your kitchen, please ensure any utensils and equipment used to prepared my meal, as well as prep surfaces, are thoroughly cleaned prior to use. Thanks for your cooperation.

On Jul 23, 2006

Hey Adele, you know, that's the first time I've read your chef card all the way through, and I have a suggestion for it.

Change it to read "as well as prep surfaces and hands".

Some people out there are just dense enough to wash your utensils, stop to prep someone else's food, then come back and not think to wash up.

To the original poster, I don't really have time to go into which restaurants I pick and why, but there is a lot of info on the restaurants on the restaurant board. And if you're wondering about somewhere specific, it helps to do a search. Just recently a Moe's Southwest Grill opened a couple blocks from me, and a search of the board shows that they're PA safe (very happy, love quesadillas) [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

On Jul 23, 2006

hiya - I travel alot for work too...

I also carry a chef card...can't remember where I got it but if I can find the site I will post it. I made them hot pink and hot green...laminated...

Sometimes, it's inevitable that a group of conference/workshop goers have chosen a restaurant I can't eat it. I either eat at McD's or Wendy's or Subway prior to dinner and just get a drink...or...sneak in Subway. Usually it's turned into a light-hearted joke, and further...they always think it's a grand gesture that I still attend the group dinner (to network of course!)

As far as restaurants in general...

Oh, let me back up...I'm PA, TNA, and shrimp allergic. I've gotten very ill (GI - severe vomiting) from eating chicken that was grilled on the same spot shrimp had been grilled...

So...for restaurants that I can research before eating there, even if only a few hours...I talk to the manager and then ask for the head chef for that evening. I ask about their menu, and I usually try to see it beforehand either online or in person. That's easy for work-travel b/c usually the restaurant is somewhere near the hotel. So anyway...I tell them about my allergy and cross-contamination concerns. I ask what the chef feels I can eat safely...what can be prepared safely...sometimes there is nothing, and they will tell me I really shouldn't eat there. I'm cool with that...better they tell me upfront than get seriously ill later! When I arrive, I introduce myself, talk to the manager, who usually personally oversees the order and takes the chef card with them in the back. I *never* rely on only telling the server! Even if I give them a chef card!

So - that's my method. I try to steer clear of restaurants that have more than 2 dishes with peanuts in them. I'm honestly more concerned with the peanuts than the shrimp...since I haven't gone anaphylactic with shrimp.

I also tell my fellow restaurant goers about my allergy, that I have epipen and benadryl in my purse. It's all usually good, non-embarrassing, etc.

Mind you --- I've been using this method for years (except the chef card, which is a recently new addition) and I haven't had a reaction to peanuts/tree nuts in over 15 years.

If you don't feel comfortable eating somewhere...then don't. Don't mourn it either, just find a safe place like McD's, Wendy's, or a safe pizza place. When I travel I bring (or buy there) a box of cereal, snack bars (like cereal bars, etc.) and Boost protein shakes. If all else fails, go to a grocery store [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] Buy fresh ingredients and make a salad, add in canned chicken, you've got yourself an easy meal [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]


------------------ 30-something survivor of severe peanut/tree nut allergy

On Jul 25, 2006

My DS is ana to peanuts and I am ana to shellfish--adult onset.

He gets to eat a lot more at restaurants than I do--I think that's because where we live it's easier to choose whole restaurants that are typically afer for him--and there's no restaurant where I live that doesn't have shellfish.

We're safe for him ordering many things--veggies, enchiladas (we always question the sauce), fajitas, beans and rice, but we tend to grill the staff and manager about ingredients and possible cross contamination--and look for peanut flour and peanut oil to boot.

With regard to shellfish, I never ever eat anything grilled if the restaurant serves shrimp, even if the shrimp is typically pan cooked. If you poll the manager, he or she iwll undoubtedly tell you that they **will** grill the shrimp upon customer request. My ana reaction occurred when the tongs used to turn my beef (which was cooked in a clean pan) were used to turn shrimp. We eat at a lot of Mexican restaurants (live in Houston) as long as they are safe for DS but if a shrimp version of anything is made (shrimp enchilada, shrimp fajita, shrimp taco), I won't eat that. I'll eat chips and salsa. And a margarita--and be very happy.

The restaurant board here is helpful. We've learned alot about what restaurants folks have found unhelpful/unsafe and safe. For instance, Macaroni Grill now serves a Snickers empanada kind of thing, and they fry all their other things in the same oil. So we know to avoid fried things at Mac Grill (although we never used to have fried things there at all anyway). DS eats pasta there safely. We just don't have desserts at all now--that's the only difference.

Good luck.

On Jul 25, 2006

Thanks to all for the advice. I'll make use of it. I am thankful this board is in existence. I don't know what I'd do without it.

Back to the restaurant issues, the shrimp allergy used to be easy to work around but as mentioned previously it seems more restaurants are serving shrimp these days. That said, with the onset of the peanut allergy, I've had many more problems eating because, as you all know, peanuts are in many things and the danger of cross contamination is everywhere.

I'm on my way to a family reunion and packing up "safe" things to eat because I just don't feel safe eating food from other kitchens. BRS

On Aug 29, 2006

I love hearing all the stories here because it makes me feel "normal". [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img]

I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts...have been all my life (37 years and counting). Only one serious reaction due to doing the same kinds of things you all do. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Subway helped me survive business trips to the UK and Ireland. So did the Marks and Spencer grocery store (great salads, cottage cheese, and lunch meats). Those restaurants, plus Wendy's (baked potatoes and side salad), work all over the US and Canada for me. I have expanding to trusting The Olive Garden and The Outback Steakhouse.

My rule is that I always give the "speech" as one person said. I always ask about ingredients. No matter where I am or how many times I've eaten there. My other rule - which is probably boring to some - is to eat the same thing. Like I always get the Chicken Vino Bianco without the wine sauce at The Olive Garden. The salad is always fine, as are the breadsticks. But I ask every time.

For work dinners (I have at least one every 2-3 months with my immediate group where the restaurant varies), I usually follow the tactic someone else mentioned -- eat before (or after I'm not hungry) and just go for a drink and socializing. Sometimes I get nagged about not eating, but I was vindicated recently when I passed on my boss's birthday cake for dessert. Our secretary insisted that it was "just chocolate", according to the bakery she got it from. She had asked about nuts for me, but I just won't eat baked goods. As the slices were passed around, my boss held up his place to reveal a couple almond slices on his piece. He said it was a good thing I didn't have any cake. Everyone gasped and I enjoyed the proof that I was not being overly-cautious or freakish. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Most people I've found just can't comprehend that a food can kill you, but they are often interested in the topic and usually do sympathize. They often get jealous too when, at buffet or mass meals (like weddings or Christmas parties) the chef will make me a "special meal" that's separate and safe. It's usually fresh and looks much more appetizing than what everyone else gets. So, I remember that there are perks of this too. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Sometimes I do feel sorry for myself and wish to just pick something off the menu, order it, and eat it "like a normal person", but doesn't happen to me much. I just look at food as fuel and that I was to survive, not have some "experience" from it. Society in general is fairly food-obsessed and, once you get past that, it's no big deal. You just eat to live instead of living to eat.


On Sep 5, 2006