Friday, August 15, 2008

Eating out with Food Allergies - Red Robin

Whew!!! We finally made it back from our vacation, and boy am I tired. I enjoyed the family vacation, but now I need a vacation from the family. :) We tried camping for one night in a cabin with just beds in it. It was fun, but I have never been so happy to have brought the great little porta potty with us for use in the middle of the night.

It is called the on the go potty, and although they sell liners, you can use regular old plastic bags. For anyone with little ones potty training, or newly trained, I highly recommend getting one. I used to be driving along when I was potty training the twins and one of them would decide they needed to go just when we got far enough away from everything that there was no going back. Then there was no way I was dragging three little children into some random store to try and find a potty, so the on the go potty became my best friend. We don't use it very often these days, but if you are going camping and happen to be no where near the bathroom, it can be extremely, extremely, extremely helpful. I could make some sort of potty joke here, but I am censoring myself.

The real reason I came here tonight was to post about some of our eating out experiences while on the road. A few other bloggers had mentioned that Red Robin has allergy menu's, and they had good experiences there.

Check out the Food Allergy Buzz's great review here

And the Peanut Allergy Kid's comments here

Armed with this exciting information, we first headed out to the local Red Robin to check it out. When the waitress came over I asked for the Allergy menus, and she quickly went to get the manager, who delivered them personally to our table. Conor is allergic to peanuts and eggs, and these came printed out as two different menus. This was great, but it took me quite a while to cross reference between the two of them to discover what items were ok for both the peanut and egg allergic. Thankfully they supply crayons to the table to color with, so I was able to color code the menu's to determine what items were on both menus.

Michael and Natalie both decided they wanted chocolate shakes, so Mick ordered them before I was able to cross reference the allergy menus only to discover that it was not safe for Conor. This mad Conor very, very, very upset (the taunting from his brother did not help), and we finally compromised on getting him some vanilla ice cream in a cup that looked just like his brother and sisters. Of the other options available to him, he insisted he would only eat the french fries with his cup of plain vanilla ice cream. Yes, not a very nutritious meal, but at least it was safe. The manager delivered the allergy menus to us, asked us if we had any questions, and visited the table later in the meal to check on us. The rest of us enjoyed our food as much as one can at a chain restaurant with a giant red bird as a mascot, and were generally very pleased with the experience.

The Red Robin Mascot

After the good experience up in Northern California, we decided to try another Red Robin down in Southern California where we were visiting the grandparents. When we sat down, I nicely asked our waitress for the allergy menu's for peanuts and eggs. She looked at me like I was completely insane and told me there were no such thing as allergy menus, but if it was really important she could put a note on our order. I still politely informed her that there were allergy menus and suggested she either speak to her manager, or allow me to speak to him for her. She stormed off like a teenager, only to return a few minutes later with her tail between her legs to let me know that she was printing off the allergy menus and they would be at our table in a few minutes. A few minutes turned into alot of minutes, but they finally arrived. Conor wanted his Red Robin usual of ice cream in a cup like a shake, and french fries, and enjoyed every second of his meal. He had no reactions, and the rest of the meal went smoothly even though there were no overly cheerful manager visits to our table.

So all in all, I would say that our visits to Red Robin were a success. I only was looked at once like I was crazy, the allergy menus are very useful, and there were no reactions. The only real problem is Conor wants to go there every day for his Red Robin usual nutritious lunch.


Jennifer B said...

Glad you had a (somewhat) positive experience at Red Robin. I am gathering Conor does not eat hamburgers or "chicken burgers"; no wonder it was hard to find something to eat! Do you think it is easier to use the allergy menus that are like a chart and have all the allergens (big 8) listed together, so you can just follow across and see which allergens are in each meal? I liked Red Robin's b/c it was easier for me to read, but we only have to avoid peanuts/tree nuts. It would be difficult with more than 2 to compare.

Jennifer said...

Yes, Conor does not eat hamburgers or chicken burgers. He is more of a pasta, macaroni and cheese, hot dog kind of guy.

Having multiple allergies I would definitly prefer the chart with the top allergens listed together. It took me at least 10 minutes to figure out what was safe, and we only have 2 allergens. Then I kept worrying I had made a mistake. Color coding them with crayons helped though.

Anonymous said...

We are currently displaced from our home due to a small fire. We are temporarily living in a hotel and with a son with multiple allergies, meal times without the luxury of preparing meals are quite challenging. I never even considered Red Robin as a possible restaurant to eat in. I have researched pratically every fast food restaurant (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell) that the kids like to eat at, but we need to expand our options as these places are okay every once in a while, but not weekly. BTW, my son has allergies to peanuts, milk, eggs and all dairy, and shellfish. I will see what Red Robin has to offer, but I have a feeling that he'll end up like your son - just eating the fries. Thanks for your blog - it's always comforting to be able to relate to other parents with the same challenges.