I hope that, as it grows, Persnickety can become a valuable resource for individuals looking for safe and accommodating dining environments in DC. I’m so pleased, however, that as visibility of dietary restrictions has increased, many others are also prioritizing these issues, and creating valuable tools to improve people’s experiences. You might not have the time or energy to call ahead or engage in a long discussion with the chef, but there other ways of determining the relative safety of a particular restaurant or dish.
I wanted to note a few tools that have circulated recently, but my growing involvement in the community has opened my eyes to countless other efforts, and I urge you to explore the other resources that are out there!
Allergy Assassin. As this LifeHacker article describes, this app allows the user to build a personal profile using different food allergies/intolerances/restrictions. It then combs the web and multiple recipe databases to determine whether a particular dish commonly contains a specific food. Imagine a menu item that includes a “romesco sauce.” Before even talking with the wait-staff, I could use Allergy Assassin to scan the common ingredients in a romesco sauce. (Turns out that most romesco sauces have a tree-nut base – a very useful tidbit for nut allergics). This can be extraordinarily useful, but only as a first step. In a culinary world of chefs reimagining and reconstructing classic dishes (especially in DC!), this app might be a first point of attack, but certainly not a replacement for a frank discussion with the wait-staff or chef.
Allergy Eats. I absolutely love the concept of Allergy Eats, a website devoted to rating restaurants on the basis of food allergies. People can enter star ratings and written reviews of restaurants from all across the country that fostered a safe, flexible dining environment, or failed to do so. As this tool depends on its user contributions, Allergy Eats can only improve over time. I would encourage everyone to post ratings and reviews! Currently, most DC restaurants have few ratings, and it’s unclear whether this tool has enough functionality to be a true resource, at least at this time.
Do you have a tool you use? What kind of circumstances would dictate the use of particular apps or rating systems?