Eating out with food allergies in New York City
May 14, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I've got food allergies. Going to NYC for a week. Where do I eat?

Hi all! I've got multiple dietary restrictions (grains, legumes, nuts, dairy, etc), with the worst culprit being gluten, followed by soy, corn, and cow dairy. Eating trace amounts of the wrong thing can make me miserable for days. For obvious reasons, I don't eat out very often.

I'm going to NYC (Manhattan) for a week. Do you have any restaurant recommendations? Pretty please?

Most gluten-free options don't work for me because of their use of other ingredients I can't eat. But I'd love to hear about restaurants that are well trained on cross-contamination issues.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
posted by Neekee to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
I have a lot of food allergies also, some of which overlap with yours. i also eat out very very rarely. the most success I have had finding places to eat out are at Pho restaurants and sushi places.

Pho has a pretty limited set of ingredients that taste good together, and as the food is assembled to order, you can be pretty specific about what you do or do not want.

and as far as sushi goes, if you don't put any soy sauce on the sushi, you're pretty safe. The thing I like particularly about sushi restaurants is that you know exactly what you're getting because you order it specifically.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:11 PM on May 14, 2012

I wonder how you'd do at a raw food restaurant. I ate at one years ago -- maybe Quintessence -- and they had all the ingredients listed on the menu.

Some raw food items use nuts, so you can't just order blindly, but that sort of place is going to be familiar with people with restricted diets and should take your "how is this made, no really, how" questions seriously.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:17 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, I think you should call ahead to any restaurant you go to, because then they will be prepared. Agreeing with TCITL that vegan restaurant are going to be the best-versed in food allergies. I really like Takashi if you need meat (and it's really damn good meat), but definitely call ahead there since they do use soy sauce. But consider just not eating out and going to some of the many shops/delis that NYC has and just buying plain stuff and having a picnic since the weather is pretty nice now. Chelsea Market, for example, is well-stocked with lots of little shops that have nice charcuterie and other goodies. I used to make a lunch out of Dickson's Farmstand Meat sausage + GF desserts from One Lucky Duck.

If you are willing to go to Brooklyn, I have personal experience that the chefs at Juventino and Palo Santo are very aware of food issues and good at accommodating them.
posted by melissam at 5:31 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are not personal endorsements (I don't have allergies), but here are some places to check out:

Lilli and Loo Asian restaurant, gluten free menu includes gluten free soy sauce.

Dig Inn Seasonal Market, a casual spot. Download their allergan PDF and it will show you a list of what you can order there (they track nuts, soy, dairy and gluten).

Bistango is a gluten free Italian place. The pasta seemed like corn pasta and certainly there was cheese on offer, BUT when I was there, the waitress asked us very seriously about food allergies and offered a consult with someone expert if we needed it, so it's possible you could go here for a steak and have it prepared carefully. Call ahead, perhaps?

There's also Pure Food and Wine, which is raw and vegan... that means you'd just have to watch out for nuts on the menu.

There are two gluten-free bakeries that I know of, and they all list their ingredients in terms of nuts, dairy and soy. One is Baby Cakes and the other is Tu-Lu's. I've been to both and think Tu-Lu's is better tasting.
posted by xo at 5:35 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out Souen's menu. Also, there's a large grocery store in Union Square, where you can pick up food a la carte, with many gluten-free and non-[per your allergies]allergenic options.
posted by simulacra at 5:42 PM on May 14, 2012

Let me suggest Sloane Miller's Allergic Girl Recommends as a useful resource.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:04 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't put much stock in calling up individual restaurants and then expecting them to remember you and cater to your needs. New York is just way too huge for that -- these restaurants may get hundreds of random "what is your menu like" or "do you provide this or that service" calls every day.

Also bear in mind that a lot of people answering the phone at casual and/or ethnic restaurants may not A) know the menu and specific ingredients that well, B) be that intent on providing good customer service, especially sight unseen, or C) speak English very well.

I agree with others that a Vegan, Raw-Foods, Macrobiotic, etc. restaurant is a good start. These are places where staff expects questions about ingredients and preparation and is trained to take such things seriously.
posted by Sara C. at 6:16 PM on May 14, 2012

To unpack my suggestion a bit more, Sloane Miller is someone with life-threatening food allergies (and other less serious but still challenging food allergies) whose profession is counseling people, companies, and restaurants about accommodating food allergies. I think she is going to be your best resource by far (I also strongly recommend her recent book, Allergic Girl).
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Risotteria in the West Village has delicious risottos et al that are gluten-free. I imagine they can look after your other restrictions as well.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:40 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Candle Cafe has a gluten-free menu on their site, and there's actually a lot on there. Some people don't like that place, but I do.

+1 for Souen and Pure Food and Wine. A friend of mine has an allergy to most things (including nightshades) and the latter was able to accommodate her without a problem.
posted by gchucky at 8:49 PM on May 14, 2012

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