Saturday, November 14, 2015

Birthday Week and Veterans Week with Food Allergies

So birthday week usually falls at the same time as veterans week. Not my fault, of course. But with food allergies, it can be quite challenging. However, the wonderful thing about birthdays is being able to try some restaurants you might not otherwise be able to try. Sign up for their loyalty clubs! You will be treated like royalty. Most of the time. 

For the Birmingham, Alabama area, I have compiled a list of somewhat safe places to eat that have excellent service to boot. Bear in mind that safe is contingent upon what you feel comfortable with and how severe you are.

These are my safe places:

1. Ruby Tuesday. Did you know they now offer gluten free buns? That's right! You can now get a bun for that delicious and juicy burger! It costs $1 extra, but what the hey, it is well worth the cost! I would however like to mention that the servers may need more education about what gluten is and they do need to compile a printed allergy free menu for perusal. I asked if the fries were gluten free and she said she did not know. I substituted a baked potato and she assumed that gluten free meant no butter or sour cream. However, I would say that they are pretty great with food allergies. Especially if you get the chance to speak with a manager.

2. Red Robin. The sad thing is there is only one about an hour away in my area. But they have gluten free buns and gluten free sides. The only thing I am not liking is the new Ziosks because at Red Robin they do not have the allergy free menu on them. Maybe soon.

3. Chick-fil-A. The grilled nuggets. I never get the fries because I am the weird one that is allergic to peanut and peanut oil. So fries are a no go for me.

4. Joe's Italian is my new local favorite here in the 'ham. Why? Let's just say that up until I won that gift card this summer from summer reading, I would have never given them a try because I did not know they had gluten free on the menu. And when I arrived, they had an accordion player, gluten free ravioli (get out of town with that!), and every sauce was gluten free including a creamy pesto. No meatballs here though. They are made with flour. My second time was with some new people working so there was confusion about the sauces, but I did get official confirmation. The sauces are made with corn starch instead of flour. I also had the chance to try this amazing new flourless brownie they have! Had to give my mom the strawberry (allergic) and whipped cream though. Next up for Joe's Italian will most likely be the gluten free pizza. If the prices on the menu are any indication, the gluten free should not be too expensive. 

5. Bonefish Grill. Mom, when are we going back?!? I need that flourless brownie of theirs. Their gluten free options are pretty good, but they are on the pricey end of the scale. 

6. Mellow Mushroom. This place offers a gluten free and dairy free pizza option!!! And they use separate counters. At the table, if two pizzas are ordered and one is regular and the other gluten free, they will put the gluten free on top and there will be separate cutters provided. They minimize the risk.

7. Chipotle Mexican Grill. The bowls mostly. 

8. Moe's Southwest Grill. Pretty much everything except the tortillas here is safe, like with Chipolte, but the bowls are the best choice for that. 

9. Scholtzsky's. Okay. Did you know they use Udi's gluten free sandwich rolls now? Yep! Found that out last year. 

We have a few other places as well that have great service and gluten free options, but these are the ones I will gladly go to again and again.

Some not so safe places: 

1. Chilis - pretty much what threw me here was peanut oil. Apparently my location uses it? 

2. O'Charley's - this place is a disaster if you have food allergies. We thought it would be nice to give them a try. Little did I know what to expect. Never again. Not that the service was bad, but they just did not have very many safe options. 

3. Olive Garden. Anyone else ever have their location run out of gluten free pasta or find a rogue gluten noodle? Typically I will order the steak tuscano or they now have a new chicken entree that is not on the kid's menu. However, our last visit this year was a disaster all around. THREE servers. No cheese offered for the salad. No cheese offered for the entree. No drink refill. Overcharged on both tickets for tip. And overcharged for the meal itself and no discount was applied for the veteran's day promo on my ticket. Yeah. It was pretty bad service overall. They failed to meet the expectations we had of them and mom said never again. 

4. Applebee's - remind me why you have steak on the gluten free options then not have steak in the restaurant? Yikes!!! This was the Ozark, Alabama location. I refuse to go back to one. 

I have a dream though. And I hope it is a good dream. But one day I would love to own a restaurant free of the top 8 and employ individuals with special needs. 

Oh, we also have some movie theaters selling the Go Picnics and some of those are gluten free as well. 

Also, I have to say this here where I know I cannot be attacked by cyber stalking cyber bullies, but Facebook really needs to reign in the bullying. I posted about the negative experience to Olive Garden and immediately got attacked by multiple bullies. I posted a POSITIVE experience on Ruby Tuesday's page and again I was immediately attacked by the same bullies. Then I posted the question to Joe's to confirm about the sauces and got attacked by some of the same bullies. Seriously. To the bullies out there, GROW THE HELL UP. People have the right to post experiences, compliments, feedback, and questions to restaurants without being attacked. Matter of fact, if not for the Facebook posts in many cases, restaurants would not know how they can improve things. I am going to keep posting away so my companies will know why I like them, why I am frustrated with them, and what they can do to improve. And bullies will be blocked and dealt with to the fullest extent the law says they can be dealt with. Creating a fake page after being blocked just to continue stalking and harassing someone is disgusting and mentally sick. 

One more note, the next time I post will hopefully include some pictures from the upcoming vacation. It is a much needed one as it is not only the first one but it may be the last one. Not just due to financial stress caused by my immune deficiency, but my immune system has gotten to the point that I will be having to wear masks soon until and unless infusions get approved. My body is pretty much no longer making the IgGs and my gut is reactive to everything. Constant pain and bloating. The hope is that IVIG might actually help me see some improvements. In the meantime, I will continue to make notes on how the world around is working to help more food allergic people enjoy life in general.