By Kathy Franklin
I get occasional requests from out-of-towners worried about visiting New York City with their food allergic children. Here’s the advice I share with the trepidatious travelers.
Most NYC restaurants are good about food allergies. Just mention the specific allergies to your server, and, even if they know the ingredients, request that they double check with the chef. Same as you do in your hometown, right? Having said that, here are some good bets:
Blue Smoke Delicious barbecue fare at 116 East 27th Street. Mention nut allergies and they’ll bring you the special allergy menu! All of the other Danny Meyer restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, are also very allergy-aware, but–be forewarned–they’re expensive. The front room at Gramercy Tavern is more affordable, more casual, and just as delicious. 42 East 20th Street; call first for reservations. The two cafes at the Museum of Modern Art are happy to accommodate allergic diners, too.
Shake Shack Fun, very casual, with milkshakes and great burgers. The kids will like it. There’s one outdoors in Madison Square Park (23rd Street & Madison, across from the Flatiron Building,) another indoors at 366 Columbus Avenue at 77th Street, behind the Museum of Natural History. There are additional Shake Shacks in the Theater District (44th Street & 8th Avenue) and on the Upper East Side (154 East 86th Street.) There’s also a Shake Shack concession stand at the Mets’ new baseball stadium, CitiField, in Queens. Rumor has it that a new Shake Shack will be opening soon in Brooklyn, too, at the Fulton Street Mall. Their website, shakeshack.com, has allergen and gluten-free information, and a contact email for any questions. How’s that for hospitality?
Duke’s Southern & yummy. Hardly any nuts on the menu. 99 East 19th Street, near Park Avenue South; another at 560 3rd Avenue at 37th Street.
T-Bar Steak & Lounge Upper East Side, 1278 Third Avenue. Co-owned by an allergic family. Peanut and tree nut-free, totally allergy aware and allergy trained, and the food is great.
The Donut Pub 14th Street & 7th Avenue. Nut-free. Very good donuts, and their muffins are excellent, too. Open 24 hours. They have a modest menu of sandwiches, but it’s the donuts that make it worth the trip.
Babycakes Lower East Side, 248 Broome Street. Delicious cupcakes, and all sorts of other baked goods that are dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, too!
La Bonne Soupe One of my kids’ favorites, 48 West 55th Street. Delicious fondue, and omelettes, and we’ve never had a problem with nuts or sesame. Nearby, Brooklyn Diner — 212 West 57th Street and Shelly’s — 41 West 57th Street, are good about allergies, too.
My son loves the hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya, at 8th Street & Sixth Avenue, and at 72nd & Broadway. Stand-up place, but colorful.
The B.R. Guest restaurant group has an excellent reputation for allergy safety. You can expect to have your special allergy needs taken very seriously at all their restaurants, including Primehouse New York, 381 Park Avenue South at 37th Street; Isabella’s, 359 Columbus Avenue at 77th Street; Dos Caminos, with 4 different locations all over town; and Wildwood BBQ on Park Avenue South between 18th & 19th Street. For delicious (and pricey) seafood, Blue Fin in Times Square and Blue Water Grill in Union Square garner great reviews. Thank you to a fellow New York allergy mom and her great website, www.foodallergyworks.com, for the B.R. Guest recommendation.
You can call first, to any of these places, to check on the menus and ingredients. Almost all of them have their own websites, too, with menus and contact information. I like to check first and avoid places that serve too many nut dishes, just to be on the safe side. Websites like www.opentable.com feature menus of many local restaurants, for your browsing pleasure. Interesting reading for the food allergy crowd.
I don’t recommend the ubiquitous delis with salad bars and steam tables of prepared foods. Too much potential cross-contamination. Likewise, most Asian restaurants are taboo for us, because they use too many nuts and nut oils, and/or sesame seeds and sesame oil. And Chinatown, while fun for a visit, has too many places where they don’t speak English well enough to understand questions about ingredients.
When you are planning your trip, take a look at the website, www. lonelyplate.org, a wonderful guide to food-allergy-safe dining and traveling. It has recommendations for places where allergic diners have had positive experiences, in New York and all over the world. Great idea, right?
Please let us know if you’ve had noteworthy “dining with food allergy” experiences in New York, good or bad. It will be very helpful to other food allergic visitors.
Have a great trip!