Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

McKeever’s Pub July 16, 2013

I can’t believe I just discovered a gem in my own backyard!  We have a local pub here in McLean that impressed me.


McKeever’s is a little place with a great, big response to food allergic patrons.  When my son was ready to order his burger and fries, we asked our usual litany of food allergy questions:

 Can you check the bun’s ingredients for sesame seeds?;  What kind of oil do you use for french fries?;  Is there any concern of cross-contamination in the frier?;  etc…

The waitress waved over the manager and both ladies informed us that not only was everything assuredly safe, but that the restaurant’s owner shared similar food allergies.  At that, my sons perked up!  The owner uses dairy-free butter (begin hallelujah chorus) and fries their food in safe vegetable oil.  In fact, after a customer began frequenting their restaurant with different food allergies, they began keeping a book listing all the ingredients in all their food, including those from each of their suppliers (Cue the choir of angels!).


McKeever’s staff is not only knowledgable and serious about food allergies, but they respond with a smile.  If you go, you’ll likely see us there!



Summer Camp With Food Allergies – Our Experience May 31, 2012

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 11:25 am
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Last year, we enrolled my oldest son in Headfirst Summer Camp.  He was enthralled with the idea of his week at their all-sports program and even more ecstatic to be participating with one of his best buddies.


As excited as we were for him, I was – as always – a little apprehensive of sending him to a camp where lunch was involved.  Before enrolling, I called Headfirst’s administrative office to ask questions.  To my surprise, they couldn’t have been either more professional nor more prepared for handling food allergies.  Campers bring their own lunch – already a good start – and snacks were not served.  Phew!  There is a nurse on site (yay!), nut-free area for dining and the counselors carry each campers emergency medications (for us, EpiPens and Benadryl) in a fanny pack (poor counselors) or backpack with that child everywhere the child goes.  Headfirst was both prepared and thoughtful about food allergies (see the policy in their words) – I was impressed and happily signed him up!


We had one little snag for the whole week:  the camp wound up rewarding the kids with ice pops one afternoon – something that was not communicated to me, as a food allergic parent, in advance.  When my son came home and admitted to having the ice pop because he didn’t have an alternative snack and he was sure he had eaten the same kind before, I was concerned.  First of all, this wasn’t the protocol we taught him and secondly, ice pops occasionally contain dairy.  Thankfully, my son showed no allergic symptoms but I checked with the director before camp the following morning, confirming that the pops were, in fact, something my son had eaten before.  I let her know that food allergic parents should be made aware of this reward as they register on the first day of camp – giving them a chance to okay the product in advance.  She agreed and we both called the main office with this suggestion.


All said, my son had a fantastic week at camp!  The program suited my son (and his friend) soooo well.  They were excited going to camp each day and left wanting more.  And, I could send him off without worry knowing how well thought out the camp’s food allergies plan was.


What has your summer camp experience been like?


Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean Pizza Hut… February 18, 2012

Update:  While it appears that Pizza Hut has updated their allergen information to remove some of their peanut and tree nut designations on their menu, I was still surprised to see what allergens were present in non-obvious menu items.  For example, their sauce still contains egg, dairy, wheat, soy, shellfish and gluten.  The lasagna contains tree nuts.  I stand by my recommendation below to check their allergen list before visiting or ordering from a Pizza Hut if you have food allergies.

Updated Pizza Hut Allergen List


I had heard through the grapevine that Pizza Hut’s sauce is not safe for people with tree nut allergies.   Sure enough, if you check on their website, not only is Pizza Hut’s sauce made on equipment commonly used to manufacture tree nut products, but also egg, milk, wheat, soy and shellfish products.   If you frequent Pizza Hut, it might be worth it to check out their allergen chart as I found many surprise cross-contamination issues.


Crazy About Clyde’s Food Allergy Safety Program November 25, 2011

When it came time to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago, we headed to an oldie-but-goodie restaurant, Clyde’s.  It had been a while since we dined at Clyde’s with our kids, so I asked all my usual food allergy questions right off the bat.  As soon as I mentioned my son had food allergies, the server moved closer to me and began taking serious notes.  She explained that his allergies would be entered into their system and that she would help us navigate the menu to find something safe for him to eat.


Here’s some of the things we picked up:

  • They have nut-free, sesame-free bread, but you’ll need to specify that you need this as they serve two types of bread (if I understood our waitress correctly);
  • The fries were fried in canola oil;
  • Dessert options include Hagen Daaz sorbet (a safe sorbet for my son!);
  • They were more than happy to substitute an unsafe side for something my son could eat;
  • The waitress was knowledgable and willing to ask questions of a manager or chef when she didn’t have the answer off-hand .

It is unusual to find a place where my son can eat dessert.  This was a hugely important find!  Especially on a birthday.  We all sang a loud and enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl, enjoyed our own delicious sundaes and went home extremely happy and eager to return!


I recalled seeing something about Clyde’s and food allergies somewhere.  When I looked it up again, here’s what I found on their own website.  A smart and appreciated piece of information!  (


Helping diners with allergies
It’s a growing trend, Griffith notes, for local health departments to require restaurants to have an allergens program as a condition of certification. Although DC-area eating-places don’t yet face such regulation, Clyde’s decided to take the issue head on.

The Company reasoned that true success in accommodating guests’ allergies could only come as a result of collaboration between server, cook, and manager.

First step: Educate the workforce, with training materials from the National Restaurant Association and the food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a local nonprofit. These included a video, binders, and posters on major allergens. Clyde’s food safety team drilled employees on the potential seriousness of the issue. “ When something comes up, and you’re not 100% confident about it,” they advise servers,” it’s time to involve a manager.”

Still, the servers don’t push the issue- they wait for a cue from a customer and are ready with information. A customer might say she’s allergic to peanuts and be fine with a particular salad. But if she orders an appetizer that includes peanut oil, the server is there to alert her.

“We’re not nutritionist,” says Griffith. “We can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t eat. But we can tell them what’s in the food we serve. We can communicate ingredients, and tell our guests how we might remake a dish to satisfy them.” That level of customization isn’t as costly as you might think, says Griffith- when allergens are involved, the simpler the better.

Clyde’s is also beginning to see more cards from Food Allergy Buddy program (FAB). Members enter their allergy information on a free Web site (, print out a card, and present it at restaurants- simplifying the process and reducing errors. Clyde’s promotes the FAB plan on its own website ( in a section on allergens.

Whenever an allergy issue arises – at the table, on the phone, with a buddy card- Clyde’s point-of-sale system marks the party’s ticket with an allergy alert. As the ticket makes its way through the process, it focuses attention on the food order and the table.


Lost Dog Cafe April 25, 2011

Filed under: Restaurants,Washington DC Metro — malawer @ 8:00 am
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Most foodies might find it insulting that I have lived in the DC-area for almost 12 years now and never tried Lost Dog Cafe or its sister site the Stray Cat in Arlington.  It was nothing personal – just not on my gastronomical radar.  Thankfully, the Lost Dog opened up a second location in McLean and my radar started blipping.

The first time I ate at Lost dog was at lunch.  The ambiance was lively and fun and the location larger than expected.  Perusing their extensive selection of sandwiches and pizza, I almost got lost myself.  Plus, I noticed that they deliver and tucked away that information for future reference.  The second time we went was for dinner with a large crowd, half children.  The waitstaff was patient, pleasant and helpful and, again, our meal was delicious.
Here’s the skinny:

  • Their menu appears customizable since there are a wide variety of sandwiches made with every variation of cold cuts, breads, and toppings.


  • Lost Dog serves both gluten-free pizza and pasta.  Great news for me who just learned I need to try a gluten-free diet (again!) to see if there’s a connection to my migraines.


  • Their fries are fried in peanut oil.  And, they sell Route 66 chips up front that are made with peanut oil as well.  But, the helpful staff up front told me that they use different chips in the kitchen (dine-in vs. take out option?)  and we could ask to see if they were safe.   At a very minimum, the tortilla chips were safe for my peanut, tree nut-allergic child.


  • Their pizzas come in individual, small and large sizes.  Perfect for any sized crowd.  And, their crust is made without sesame seeds – an odd ingredient that gets added to crust every once and a while.


  • The best news of all is not great news if your allergic to dairy:  dessert.  Lost Dog serves milkshakes, malts, creamsicles and floats as well as three different kinds of brownie sundaes and an assortment of cakes, pies and cookies.  None of these options worked for us (as is typical), so we headed home for dessert.


Even without the dessert that I was pining for and a few allergy-unfriendly menu issues, we all left very satisfied and excited to return.


Jason’s Deli – A Healthy Habit I Could Get Into! March 14, 2011

Jason’s Deli, located locally in Tyson’s Corner, Fairfax and ALL over the country, has a simple philosophy.  Keep it healthy and delicious.  We ate lunch at Jason’s for the first time this weekend.  I had heard rave reviews and even so it exceeded my expectations.  And, while the philosophy may be simple their menu is extensive!  Jason’s Deli serves soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as baked potatoes with every kind of topping imaginable, po’boys, and desserts.  Plus there’s FREE ice cream.  That’s right: free.


Many of their ingredients are organic and all are nitrite-, artificial color- and dye-free.  Jason’s Deli long ago eliminated high fructose corn syrup as well as trans-fat from their food — and you’ll never miss it!


The menu appears to be highly customizable – which is how we ordered for my food allergic older son and my picky eater younger one.  And, they offer a gluten-free menu for those avoiding wheat and gluten products.  Jason’s Deli handled our allergy requests with ease and took our concerns seriously from the register to the table service.


NB: their organic lollipops, located at the registers, are dairy, egg, soy, tree nut and peanut-free (  It seems like just a small thing — unless you’re on line with a 3 year old!

Jason’s Deli Menu

Jason’s Deli Gluten-Free Menu

Jason’s Deli Allergen Info


God Bless Bloomingdales! February 28, 2011

I spent the weekend in and around my hometown in New York.  And, as we’ve been known to do, my  mother and I decided to head down to White Plains to check in at Bloomingdale’s.


If there weren’t already enough reasons to love Bloomingdale’s, let me give you one more.  A trip to their cafe, Forty Carrots revealed something else to love about this landmark department store.  They sell Divvies treats!   If you don’t already know, Divvies bakery produces delicious dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free cookies, candy, and popcorn among other things.



Now I’m not sure all of Bloomingdale’s cafes carry Divvies’ products, but it’s worth checking out.   So bring the kids shopping and reward them (or yourself!) and replenish with SAFE treats once you’ve exhausted the sales racks.