I like to eat out. Obviously. If I didn’t, this blog would’ve been a very ill-planned venture. But, perhaps more importantly, I like to eat out at new places. I get stuck in ruts like everyone else, depending on what’s cheap, easy, convenient, safe, etc etc…but I still make a concerted effort to try out new restaurants, venture into unexplored neighborhoods, and sample different cuisines (on that last one – only if I’m feeling brave). That’s why it saddens me to know that many individuals with dietary restrictions rarely eat out, or only dine at their “comfort zone” establishments.
For many people, especially those with complex or multiple restrictions, finding a restaurant that can accommodate their needs is tough, especially if you don’t have the luxury of living in a city with a myriad of dining options. When you do find one, you hold on tight. It becomes a safe haven, where the stress and worry dissipate, and you can simply sit down at a table and enjoy a meal. I get that. But I also want more places to become safe havens for people with dietary restrictions, and that can only happen if individuals continue to try new venues and demand that their needs be met.
I’ve come to embrace my never-ending spiel, “I’m allergic to peanuts, and I am intolerant of soy and corn. Oh, and I don’t really eat legumes. Okay?” I say a variation of it again and again – it’s the leitmotif of my dining experience. It does take effort to ensure that my food is safe, and that the staff truly understand the seriousness of the issue. I could settle for places where I know that everything will be fine. I could order every Persnickety-friendly dish on the menu. That would be far less risky. But I hate the thought that I would be missing out on two things: 1) experiencing new cuisines, dishes and concoctions, and 2) promoting the message that restaurants can and should provide a safe and accommodating environment for patrons with dietary restrictions.
So I’ll keep repeating myself everywhere I go. And I’ll talk to staff and chefs. I’ll get disappointed when my questions result in “maybe you just shouldn’t come here” (this actually happened!), but I’ll also be elated when presented with a personalized menu that caters to my particular restrictions. I hope you all have found some safe havens. I’ll do my best to find more of them.