A Real Gem–er, Pearl

I dislike oysters. I might even say that I strongly dislike oysters. Accordingly, one might wonder why I was visiting a place named Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. However, my initial misgivings had nothing to do with oysters themselves—I was nervous about peanuts. Peanut oil, specifically. Unfortunately for me, many Southern-inspired restaurants fry with peanut oil or sprinkle crushed peanuts on dishes. Preparing for the worst, I made a point of calling ahead to discuss my allergy.

A manager answered my call, and immediately transferred me to the chef, who was more than willing to answer all of my questions. “I would love to talk to you about your dietary restrictions!” she exclaimed. During this call, the chef was able to assuage all my concerns about peanuts and corn. The restaurant didn’t use peanut oil, and she was adamant that any substitutions would be perfectly fine, and that the waiters would take great care of me. But here’s the real kicker:

Chef: So when are you thinking of coming in?

Me: I was actually planning on coming in tonight with a friend of mine.

Chef: Fantastic! What’s your name, and what time will you arrive? We can have all your information ready, and we’ll be prepared for you when you get here.

Pearl Dive doesn’t take reservations. It’s a first-come-first-served restaurant, but in order to guarantee an exceptional customer experience, the management bypassed their rules in order to make me feel welcome and comfortable in their restaurant. And my goodness that meal was extraordinary!

Fried Grilled Shrimp Platter

The decadent crab cakes I ordered were originally accompanied by a corn sauce, but the waiter easily substituted a carrot sauce that was featured with their special item of the day. From the Pearl Cup (Pimms, Plymouth Gin, Cucumber, Lime, Mint, House Ginger Beer) to the Rustic Apple Black Iron Pie For Two (Apple & Cognac Filling, Cinnamon Gelato), the meal was a rousing success, made all the better by Pearl Dive’s truly exemplary attitude about my dietary needs.

Three weeks later, I celebrated my brother’s birthday at Pearl Dive. Again, I was met with over-the-top service and understanding from the wait-staff. The server suggested grilled shrimp instead of the cornmeal-crusted fried shrimp, and even made a point of giving me my own personal breadbasket that hadn’t been contaminated by the cornbread. Another amazing meal.


Strangely enough, I’m really starting to like oysters…

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace                  1612 14th Street NW                 Washington, DC 20009

Do you ever call ahead to restaurants to discuss your food allergies? Is it necessary to talk to the actual chef?


6 thoughts on “A Real Gem–er, Pearl

  1. WOW. i have never ever come across a restaurant so accomodating of my food allergies! I am going to make a point of paying Pearl Dive Oyster Palace a visit (and i’ve been craving oysters lately anyway, so its perfect!)

  2. Thank you for submitting this to the blog carnival, I think this and your El Uh-Oh post provide two great perspectives on how eating out with food allergies varies!

  3. Pingback: July 2012 Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival « Oh Mah Deehness!

  4. I recently dined at a little gem called the Skeptical Chymist in Scottsdale, Arizona. Upon my arrival, it was clear that between my vegetarianism and my food allergies, there would be literally nothing on the menu I could eat, save for possibly the iceberg lettuce 🙂 My companions discreetly let the waiter know my dilemma, and he went back to talk to the chef. Twenty minutes later I had a made-to-order vegetable sandwich, with a strange-but-delicious combination of everything from shredded carrots to avocado slices to carmelized onions. I’ve also had a lot of luck at a place in Mesa, Arizona called “Mi Amigo’s”, that has both vegan and vegetarian menus. Their servers are very knowledgeable about the food and how it is prepared and I’ve never had a bad experience there, either. Thanks for sharing your “gem” with us, I love going out to eat with friends and it’s nice to know that there are restaurants in the world that take food allergies seriously and can accomodate us. I think calling the restaurant ahead of time is very good advice for all food allergy sufferers.

    • Thanks for sharing, Debra! It’s lovely to hear that both the restaurant and your dining companions were sensitive to your needs! All it takes is a little creative effort and flexibility. And seriously, carmelized onions make anything taste amazing!

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