Eating out with allergies can be difficult to say the least. It feels like serendipity when I come across a great restaurant that meets my allergen needs. I want to share with you my experience at The Floridian Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.
I have a process when I am going to be eating out to keep safe and fingers crossed have a tasty meal. First, I did a search on the internet for restaurants open for lunch in St. Augustine, Florida. I compiled a list of the top 4 that looked promising. I then read the menus and any allergy information available. My top choice was the Floridian.
The Floridian menu has an allergy note: Gluten-free? We got your back! **Indicates item is–or can readily be made–Gluten-free** Check with your server for celiac, vegan or vegetarian substitutions. We have you covered, too! Please advise your server of an allergy or aversion.
I found it interesting that they chose the word aversion. If they are willing to accommodate aversions then I believed food allergies would not be considered a problem. I made a quick phone call and was assured that they would work with my allergies and keep me safe. I booked a reservation online and listed my allergies to milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, sunflower and coconut in the special notes section. It is always a good idea to have your allergy information in writing whenever possible.
A note here: Personally, if a restaurant explains that they can not accommodate my allergies, I am actually thankful for the honest response. This is a life -threatening issue and I value my life more than a meal. This is why it is important to call the restaurant beforehand to avoid sitting down to meal and finding that nope, they can meet your allergen needs. Not only is not a huge disappointment but if you are with others you are left with a potentially awkward situation. Do you pull out the snacks you hopefully brought with you or all get up and try and find a different restaurant?
I arrived early to speak with the server before our friends joined us for lunch. I was able to explain my allergies and what I would like from the menu. I was reassured in person that they would be able to work with my allergies. Now, I could sit back and relax and actually enjoy my lunch and company!
I often wind up creating a dish by the time I am finished taking away and adding ingredients to a menu item trying to make it safe and tasty. The server had let me know what dressings would be safe for my allergies. I decided I would love to have grilled chicken on ciabatta with the creamy garlic nutritional yeast dressing and arugula with a side salad with balsamic dressing. After we had placed our lunch order, our server returned and explained that the chef would be more comfortable substituting a baguette for the ciabatta bread specifically for my sunflower allergy. The server wanted to make sure I was not disappointed. I was extremely appreciative and grateful. Clearly, the chef was double checking everything and making sure everything met my allergen needs. Lunch arrived and it was delicious! It is a true find when you have great atmosphere, attentive servers, great food and it is SAFE! Woohoo! I will definitely return!