Tag Archives: Amish

Amish on Amish crime.


✂ Hilarious subject matter.  Spot-on commentary.  I encourage you to read this post from That’s Church

I continue to be going to hell

Amish Mug Shots - The Mullet Gang

Amish Mug Shots - The Mullet Gang

Our weekend of dining in PA Dutch country


Well, if you’ve been keeping up, you read about my plan for our trip, what we did on our trip, and maybe even the email from the Amish Village owner.  This one’s all about the food.  We ate a lot while we were out that way, but we didn’t hit the regular buffet/smörgåsbord places like Miller’s or Dienner’s.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my shellfish allergy.  Buffets can be a nightmare for someone like me… not only do I have to worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (like on shared cooking surfaces, utensils, or fryers), but I have to worry about my fellow slovenly patrons carelessly flinging bits of deathfish on to adjacent foods, or better yet inadvertently dropping some off of their plate while at a different table.  No thank you.  No worries though, with the internet I was able to do a lot of research ahead of time on shellfish-free and allergy friendly restaurants.

FOOD

Prince Street Café
Prince Street Cafe on Urbanspoon Prince Street Cafe on Allergy Eats Prince Street Cafe on Facebook Twitter | @PrinceStCafe

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Lancaster was lacking, so we decided to check out the Prince Street Cafe first thing on Saturday morning.  We were quite glad that we did!  I had an email exchange going on before our trip with the manager that put me totally at ease.  I noticed there was no shellfish on their menu, but I emailed them to be sure.  It ends up that they do occasionally have a seafood soup and it would be in-house while we were there, but I wasn’t worried about the cross-contamination there after hearing how it was prepared and seeing that they acknowledged food allergies on their menu by offering gluten-free and nut-free options.  I can’t stress enough what a relief & pleasure this type of email exchange was.

The place was packed and we got there shortly after 9:00am.  The line before us went quickly & there were thankfully menus posted prominently in two places near to where you order.  My wife & I both chose the classic breakfast sandwich on ciabatta, I opted for the addition of bacon.  I also had an iced tea, and added some honey which was available on the counter… which made it absolutely perfect.  The sandwiches were great, the eggs were cooked perfectly (by a microwave of all things, I think), the cheese was beautifully melted & the ciabatta was nice & fresh.  I dug the nice slab ‘o bacon too, it didn’t overpower the sandwich.

All-in-all, this seemed like a great place to hang out.  The employees were friendly, there was a really diverse crowd, it was very relaxing.  We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, perhaps for a lunch or even just some coffee.

Jakey’s Amish BBQ
Jakey's Amish BBQ on Urbanspoon Jakey's Amish BBQ on Allergy Eats Jakey's Amish BBQ on Facebook

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

I hadn’t  seeked-out Jakey’s before our trip.  I did find a business-card sized ad in the giant tourist brochure display wall in our hotel.  I saw the word BBQ, and it was all over.  I mean, I do love BBQ.  I did find a menu online before going in, and again no deathfish, but I did do the usual awkward asking if there is/was every any shellfish prepared there before ordering & after looking over the menu.  After a no from the waitress, a confused look, then a double-check with someone in the back, we were good.  My problem in general with BBQ joints is that I want everything.  Thankfully they usually have sampler or at least combo platters.

Since we were there for lunch though, and doing some touristy running-around, I came to the sad realization that I shouldn’t fill up on BBQ.  I opted for the barbecue turkey sandwich with the mild sauce, and my wife went for the chicken sandwich.  Sadly, you don’t see a lot of turkey BBQ ’round the ‘Burgh… so I was glad to have that as a choice.  I had a side of fries, & Bethany got the macaroni salad.  My sandwich was delicious.  The turkey was nice & juicy, and there wasn’t so much sauce that you couldn’t appreciate the taste of the meat.  I did grab the spicy BBQ sauce that was provided on the table… for the sandwich & for some french fry dipping.  It wasn’t really all that hot for being the “spicy” sauce, but it was really good.  I’d like to try the other meats & the Carolina-style sauce…  Maybe some corn fritters instead of the fries?  We’ll be through again when we’re back that way!

Added bonus, it had a real BBQ joint kind of vibe… it shared space with a T-shirt shop that sold all kinds of stuff, from religious to raunchy.  The tables had that red & white checkered pattern tablecloth, and there were while plastic outdoor type chairs.  The guy behind the counter who I must assume was the owner or at least a manager was very cool to his employees who seemed new, telling them they were doing a good job.  He even sent out extra fries for us, apparently there weren’t enough on my plate when it came out!  Ha ha.  Our waitress did quite well, especially if she was new.  The order was correct, quick, and we had sweet tea refills without even asking.  Add this place to my list of favorite BBQ joints!

Stoltzfus Farm Resaurant
Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Urbanspoon Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Allergy Eats Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Facebook

Family-Style Meal

Family-Style Meal

Now, this place was just incredible.  Again, I checked out the menu online beforehand, and asked the hostess about shellfish when we arrived.  No deathfish in sight (or hidden in the kitchen), so I was good to go.  It looks like a  quaint little farmhouse with a beautiful garden on the outside, and once inside it doesn’t really lose that farmhouse appeal.  We were seated in a room off to the side with smaller tables, as large tables filled the front room (& I believe around back) and were full of mostly families with a bunch of children.  Our waitress could have played Granny in the Tweetie & Sylvester cartoons if they were to be made into a live action film.

On the way in the door, you opt in for (& pay for) the buffet, and then if you make it through that, you can order desserts à la carte.  We didn’t make it to dessert.  Why?  Well, they managed to stuff me full of literally everything on the menu.  I actually had everything too.  It was quite comforting to not have to worry about any cross-contamination or hidden ingredients… and it helped that everything tasted perfect.  first they brought out applesauce, pepper cabbage (a kind of cole slaw with red bell peppers & a vinegar dressing), chow-chow, and apple butter w/ white & wheat bread.  It was my first time trying chow-chow, and I loved it.  It tasted like bread n’ butter pickles, but was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers (pickles), kidney beans, and maybe peppers and onions?  Next, she brought out everything else…  Fried chicken, sausage, hamloaf, green beans, corn, buttered noodles, potato stuffing (I’ve heard it called potato filling), & sweet potatoes.  All their meat comes from Stoltzfus Meats, right next door.  The fried chicken was excellent, the breading was perfect & the chicken itself was delicious & succulent.  I could eat potato stuffing all day… I mean carbs + carbs, covered in carb-filled gravy?  Yes please.

I could go on, but you get the point.  If you catch me on a craving & a free day… I just might drive out there to get a meal & come right home.  It would be worth the drive!  I wish I had room for the tapioca pudding.

Wawa
Wawa on Urbanspoon Wawa on Facebook Twitter | @gottahava

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

It’s odd mentioning it with the other places, but we did eat breakfast there.  I’m from the other side of the state where we have Sheetz & Get·Go… so of course I had to try a Wawa.  I’m a huge Sheetz fan, and had it in my head that I already liked Sheetz better.  I may be wrong.  The girl that made our sandwiches was really friendly, and offered to help us with the touch screen if we needed it.  (We must have appeared to be n00bz while we were blipping through checking out the entire menu.

My sandwich not only ridiculously large, but they eggs were really fluffy.  I think the menu said something about them containing cheese?  Whatever they do with them, it works for me.  I got a steak egg & cheese sandwich and it was delicious.  Wawa has the same problem as Sheetz & Get·Go as far as wrapping sandwiches though.  No matter where I get touch-screen gas station food, there’s always more sauce/ketchup/dressing on the outside of the bun than the inside.  You’d think that someone would have come up with a solution for that by now.  Perhaps it’s a tie.  Maybe Sheetz is still my favorite.  It’s pretty close though.  (Luckily, there was no deathfish on the menu, so it’s a safe place for me if not classy.  Ha ha.)

Strasburg Railroad Trackside Café
Strasburg Rail Road - Trackside Café on Urbanspoon Strasburg Railroad on Facebook Twitter | @StrasburgRR

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries...

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries.

We stopped here to get some lunch after the first train ride of the day at the Strasburg Railroad.  It was an OK cafeteria-style kind of joint, sadly cash only.  I checked out the menu when we got in there, & did ask if they ever cooked shellfish.  I was told they didn’t & felt safe.  I got a turkey sandwich & Bethany got a burger, and we shared some fries.  My sandwich was pretty good… but Bethany wasn’t a big fan of the burger.  The fries seemed a little old for some reason.  I think we both wished we had just went back to Jakey’s.  Ha ha.

Overall though, I guess we got what we paid for, it was a nice cheap quick & convenient lunch.  I did like the fact that they had up signs warning about the use of peanut oil for those with peanut allergies.  For a family attraction & with food allergies on the rise, this is a responsible thing for a business to do.

Splits & Giggles
Splits & Giggles on Urbanspoon Splits & Giggles on Allergy Eats Splits & Giggles on Facebook Twitter | @splitsngiggles
First off, best name ever for an ice cream shop.  Secondly, the guys that own & run the place are very cool.  I also can’t believe I didn’t pause to take a photo of the ice cream.  This was another place that I had scouted-out beforehand, and found through either Urbanspoon or Allergy Eats.  I saw that their menu was devoid of deathfish, so I sent the now standard just-to-be-sure email.  They had a soup containing seafood, but it hasn’t been in-house for a while… so I was safe.  These guys were really cool via email, and even dropped me a line about special hours for that Sunday when they noticed I didn’t stop in on Saturday.

I was hoping to make it there for a lunch or light dinner topped off with some ice cream, but as it happened we were heading home well after lunch & way before dinner, so we decided to ruin dinner & just have some ice cream.  It was a good call.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl, and Bethany went for rocky-road in a pretzel cone.  The ice cream was great, and the place was really cool.  It had a nice neighborhood vibe.  They even took a bowl of water out for some customers who were outside eating some ice cream whit their dog.  Next time we’re in the area, I’d like to get in & try one of their panini sandwiches.  They get bonus points for the line “Please alert us of ANY food allergies or concerns you have before ordering.” on their menu.

FOOD

Well, that was all of our meals while on our road trip.  I won’t include the Hardee’s that we hit on the way home…  it’s probably best for them if I don’t comment.

Ever been to any of these places?  Let me know what you think!

Props to the Amish Village!


OK, so in my blog about our trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country, I mentioned the Amish Village & their “interesting” tour guide.  The more I thought about it, the more a few things struck me as odd, so I slightly altered my original post to include the questions that were asked by the people taking the tour & answers given by the guide… and then I did something goofy.  I decided to contact the Amish Village to tell them about it.  I sent them this using their webform:

> From: Eric <my.email@ddre.ss>
> Subject: Tour. Guide.
>
> Message Body:
> Hello,
>
> My wife & I were in the Lancaster area this past weekend celebrating our anniversary.  You have a beautiful area, and an excellent attraction.  I enjoyed a view of the Amish lifestyle, and the stores & displays on site.  I did learn quite a lot about the use of propane for lighting, refrigeration, and retro-fitting things like electric mixers.
>
> You. might. want. to. audit. your. tour. guides. though.
>
> Confused?  Me too:  http://wp.me/pwqzc-Ap
>
> Just some things that I noticed that were contradictory to some other tours & info that we had heard…
>
> Thanks!
> -Eric
>
> –
> This mail is sent via contact form on Amish Village http://theamishvillage.net/dev

And this was their reply…

From: Shane Ackermann
To: Eric <my.email@ddre.ss>
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 3:07 PM
Subject: Re: Tour. Guide.

Eric-

Thanks for emailing.  I’m glad you and your wife enjoyed Lancaster area.  We work hard to please our customers and have a unique attraction, after all, you are our life-blood.  I saw this blogspot earlier today via google alerts and have already spoken with our team.  Must have been an off day, he is one of our best.

Again, thanks for the feedback and please let me know next time you are through the area.

All the best-
Shane Ackermann
The Amish Village
Owner
704-726-6957

ps- great pictures.  Would you mind posting them to our FB page?  I just started it and it needs some customer pictures.

First of all, Google is awesome for picking up my blog with Google Alerts. Second, and more important… Mr. Ackermann is awesome for having them set up for his business, so he can actively keep up on any sort of press and/or online musings.  It’s great to see someone actively using technology to keep up with their business & help get the word out.  The ridiculously quick reply didn’t hurt either.

Check out their Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Amish-Village/217619698257614  (Maybe check out their Twitter page too!)

Hopefully I’ll be able to upload some photos for them in the next few days.

Again, I’d like to stress that it’s definitely a cool/fun place to visit.  Just read up on the Amish first, & grill the tour guides when you’re there!  Ha ha.

PA Dutch Country Attractions


So, I already blogged bout my plan for Amish country, here’s what we did while we were there…

The Downtown Lancaster Visitor Center, the Heritage Center Museum, & the print shop upstairs by the .918 Club.  – Yeah, all of this was in one building.  The visitor center was my first stop because I had a decent dialog going before our arrival in the area with Henry at the center, and whoever is behind the goLancasterPA Twitter account. I wanted to say hello & give a personal thanks.

I printed this...

I printed this...

After a quick hello, we went on to the Heritage Center Museum for some cool Amish artifacts & hands-on toys, a quick history lesson, and a bunch of other area artifacts like some beautiful paintings, clocks, furniture, & more.

Upstairs in the print shop, we got an all-out printing demonstration from Mike Donnelly.  I’ve always found that kind of stuff interesting from printing & graphic design to the art of fonts & printing.  It was an unexpected surprise & it was right up my alley!  I even got to make a few small prints on some antique presses!

Angry Young & Poor – Yeah, not exactly in with the theme of everything else, but I used to order from this place back when paper ‘zines & catalogs were a thing… so I had to stop since I was in the area.  Dude behind the counter seemed cool, and I picked up a Sloppy Seconds CD.

HAven not Oven

HAven not Oven

The Dutch Haven – This was a store that looks like a windmill. While there, I bought some Amish root beer & tried a sample of shoo-fly pie.  It felt like a toruist-trap boardwalk kind of store, but you’ll have that in tourist areas.  They seemed rather nice.  Also, we learned that you need to go here before Jakey’s Amish BBQ, and you’ll get a %10 off coupon.

yuk yuk yuk
yuk yuk yuk

The Outhouse – It was a like a Cracker Barrel store & a Spencer’s crashed into each other.  It was full of local stuff, goofy stuff, kitch, and a bunch of silly coin-operated jokes.  Fun, but once we saw it, we don’t really ever have a need to go back.

Ed’s Buggy Rides – I had an amusing online exchange with Ed … or someone at Ed’s Buggy Rides.  It went sort of like this…

Ed's Buggy Rides

Ed's Buggy Rides

From: Me
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2011
Subject: Prices?
Hello,
My wife & I are planning to be in the Lancaster/Strasburg area this weekend celebrating our anniversary.
I was wondering what your rates are for buggy rides?
Thanks,
-Eric

Simple enough right? (I mean, a website ought to list that sort of thing, but…)

From: Mrs Brenda Littler <klittler@verizon.net>
To: Me
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Subject: Re: Prices?

Please call 717-687-0360.

Pimpin' Amish Buggy

Pimpin' Amish Buggy

Heh.  Don’t email info@edsbuggyrides.com, just call ‘em I guess.  The tour did prove to be awesome though.  We took the tour with another couple, and our driver/guide was quite knowledgeable about the Amish history & way of life.  He was able to easily answer any questions that we had.  We also stopped at a working Amish farm where I had a glass of homemade Amish root beer, and Bethany bought a Quillow from the craziest salesman ever, a 13 or 14 year old Amish girl.  We weren’t getting out of there without buying something.  She was showing us every quilt, wall hanging, toy, and canned good in the place.  I wish I could have taken her picture.  For having a seemingly communal/communist lifestyle (from each according to his means, to each according to his needs - right?), this girl was a killer capitalist!  (Oh yeah, that was J & B Quilts and Crafts – they’re at 157 N. Star Rd., Ronks, PA 17572)

Stop.  Yell.  Ing.

Stop. Yell. Ing.

The Amish Village – The Amish village was a tourist trap, but it was a cool visit.  The. Kid. Who. Gave. Us. The. Tour. Yelled. Syllables. Instead. Of. Speaking. Normally.  He also wasn’t very good with Amish trivia or history.  He said some stuff that contradicted the heritage museum, and other things that I’ve read.  He also didn’t answer questions very well, or talk about the Amish men’s clothing or the significance of their hats – which our guide on Ed’s Buggy Rides had already told us about.   He talked a lot about the dresses though, and knew a lot about them.  Did you know the outer part of an Amish woman’s dress is pinned on with straight pins?  Dude knew.  He also assured is that the pins don’t jab you, and you get used to it after the first few times.  Yeah.  If I were the owner, I’d make sure dude wasn’t in there trying on the dresses at night.

After the upstairs bedroom tour, a woman asked about the hats… he said there was no significance where our earlier guide told us about the distinction with the rounded vs. flat indicating if the wearer has children.  Then again, downstairs… a man asked about why they use animals in the field… the tour guide went on a tangent about rubber taking them too far away from home… where from what I understand they use horses to ensure that everyone tills a fair amount of land.

It was cool to see a mockup of a typical Amish house, and learn about their extensive use of propane in lieu of electricity for things like lighting, refrigeration, heat, and running things like retrofitted electric mixers.

The Hangover Part II – OK, we were out of town and decided to just relax and catch a goofy movie.  The Garmin found us a local theater, we went, we laughed our behinds off.  I’m guessing the Amish would not appreciate or even understand 99% of this film.

First Class!

First Class!

475

475

The Strasburg Railroad – We took a first class ride on this train and it was just awesome.  It’s the first time that either of us was ever on a train.  (Unless you count the T.)  It was fascinating just to see & feel how it worked.  This history behind the railroad in general is quite interesting.  We sipped drinks & took photos while the train chugged along and we listened to a narrative about the countryside & the railroad itself.  I would say this is a must for anyone going to the area.  Next time we may hit up the railroad museum across the street, or the toy train museum.  Also, next time, we’d like to ditch the Super 8 in favor of the Red Caboose Motel!  This was a relaxing way to spend part of the day, & there was plenty there to entertain us for a while.  Next time, we may do the picnic lunch where they drop you off for a picnic in a great little picnic area, then you ride back on a different train.

Choo-Choo!

Choo-Choo!

The Choo Choo Barn – The other area train attraction that we did go see was the Choo Choo Barn.  This was a model train display with amazing attention to detail, it reminded me of the one here in Penn Hills that they do around Christmas. There was a fire scene were a house “caught fire”, complete with smoke, every 15 minutes… then a little firefighter popped out with a hose and put the fire out with real water.  I mean, it was crazy.  I wish I had better photography skills to catch all the crazy stuff in there with the odd lighting & night scenes.

Attention to detail.

Attention to detail.

One photo I did manage to get though, was a blurry one… but proof of a man taking a pee in the top floor of one of the train stations.  You know the guy laughed for hours after putting that one in.

All in all, we had a wonderful weekend in PA Dutch Country, and it was an excellent way to celebrate our 3rd anniversary.  We liked it so much that we hope to make it a regular trip!  We’ll never run out of things to do over that way.  I could spend all day taking buggy & train rides!

You can check out all the photos from out adventure here… from my Nikon D60, Bethany’s Fuji Finepix Z, and both of our phones:  Grid View / Slideshow View

Bethany in the garden outside the Sotlzfus Farm Restaurant

:D

The next blog will be about the food.  I had to break it down.  This post is already incredibly long!

High-Tech Amish Country Weekend


So, the internet is awesome. We just had a high-tech Amish weekend. I was able to find a bunch of area attractions and restaurants online before our trip. I even went crazy enough to make a spreadsheet beforehand of possible attractions. I had links to their site, other noted sites, and any online coupons that I found.  I even added the latitude & longitude thanks to Google maps, so I could make a custom POI file (complete with a custom icon) to export to the Garmin. We didn’t hit all the attractions that I had discovered beforehand, and we hit a few that I didn’t find ahead of time… but it really helped us plan our time so we weren’t rushed & so we were always moving in the right direction.  It was OCD-level madness, but it helped make an easy time of things once we were there…

..and it was easy to refer to once I popped it up in Google Documents, whenever we were at the hotel or some place with WiFi.  It was lightning quick to check prices, hours, and anything else I needed to know.  If they didn’t have something listed on their site, I emailed them ahead of time… and most were quick & gracious with answers.

Here’s a revised list of the places we did end up visiting:

…and a Google Map of all the attractions is here: Lancaster PA Road Trip

In the next few posts, I’d like to detail what we did & finally where we ate.  (Still waiting for UrbanSpoon & AllergyEats to add one more place where we ate before I do the full food review blog…)

AllergyEats | Defining allergy-friendly restaurant survey results


So, a while ago I posted asking for you to help out Paul from Allergy Eats with defining “allergy-friendly” as it pertains to a restaurant.  I also took the time to post my own thoughts before I sent them on to be tabulated.

Well, now Paul has posted his summary & survey results to the still mysterious government body.  I enjoyed reading the results, so I thought I’d share:

AllergyEats | Blog Logo

AllergyEats Blog

The AllergyEats Blog | How do we define an allergy-friendly restaurant? A look at the survey results

It’s great to see the results, and I can’t wait to see where & how they’re put to use.  It’s also great that all of our comments were passed along with the report, so rest assured that your voice has been heard thanks to Paul.  Hopefully it lays groundwork for more gub’ment organizations to follow by example!  (Although, we need to push from a consumer level too.)

My take on the results… it looks like we’re all looking for everyone in the restaurant from kitchen to wait staff to managers to be trained in food allergies and cross-contamination and possibly even certified… which seems like a no-brainer.  Even if that’s all we get, it’s a great start.

Employee answering phone needs to be knowledgeable: 1

Apparently, I’m the only one who wants the person answering the phone to know what they’re talking about.  Ha ha.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to define shellfish on the phone, or ask if they have any only to get there after being told no… and they totally do.  Perhaps it’s shame on me for not asking to talk to a manager…  but the person answering the phone ought to be knowledgeable enough to hand-off such questions, so I stand by my statement.

Cross contamination: (42 responses)

Understands and avoids cross-contamination:  21

Separate and cleaned prep areas and cookware:  20

Should wash hands:  1

Who said they should wash their hands?  Seriously?  I hope they’re doing that anyway… and that they don’t really need those signs in the restroom as a reminder.

Treats ALL allergies the same, not just the Big 8: 1

Apparently I’m the lone theorist there.  Really?  Well, I’m in the Top 8 category, so I guess… yo hell with the rest of you!  Ha ha.

No nuts strewn about the restaurant: 1

This one agitates me.  If it’s part of the restaurant’s shtick/ambiance/personality… then just give it up.  I like being able to walk into Five Guys and grab a tray of peanuts.  I don’t expect (or want) to dine at Long John Silvers or Red Lobster any time soon.

Specific allergen menus available in-house (not just online): 13

Allergen symbol list on menus: 12

Online food allergy menu: 4

All excellent points.  I’ve blogged about the need for menu symbols before.  Let’s get this done, people!

Ability to print out all ingredients for customer / show labels to customer if necessary: 11

Great idea.  A representative from Bob Evans once emailed me a chart detailing where everything was cooked in the kitchen & what surfaces would be safe with my shellfish allergy while they has a seasonal Shrimp stir-fry dish.  How cool is that?

At any rate, read the Blog at AllergyEats, and leave some feedback whether you participated in the original survey or not… it’s still valuable.  I’d also appreciate any comments here.  I’m sure the peanut thing will get some people riled up.  Ha ha.

 

Defining Allergy-Friendly


AllergyEats.com

AllergyEats.com

So, quite a task has been put to the food allergy community by Allergy Eats:  Define what it means to for a restaurant to be “allergy-friendly”.

You may have seen it in a recent re-posting by me, or on your own.  I urge you to form your own response and send it to contact@allergyeats.com.  I figured that I’d use this blog to sort out my thoughts before I sent them on to Paul at Allergy Eats.  I don’t exactly how I’ve morphed in to a food allergy advocate of sorts, but I feel that it’s important to help out any way that I can, and encourage others to keep up work that moves us all in the right direction.  There are already some great comments on the blog, and I’m sure he’s got an inbox full of suggestions already… but it’s important to keep them coming so this can be looked at from multiple angles.

AllergyEats T-shirtI like bulleted lists for some reason, so that’s how I’ll try to organize my thoughts:

  • The restaurant has to have a policy that reaches to ALL levels. Too many times restaurants claim to have god allergy practices, but it doesn’t trickle down to the wait staff, the cooks, or anyone past management.  Having a policy is great, but it needs to be understood and respected through all levels.  I feel comfort in a place when the waitress has the manager or even the chef come out to discuss allergy & cross-contamination issues with me.  Training, some sort of certification, and re-training annually or semi-annually would be excellent.
  • Changing current thinking. This is a good one…  Today at Boston Market, I noticed a sign on top of the cash register that read something to the effect of “If you have food allergies, please talk to the manager before placing your order.”  It’s great they’re recognizing the fact that there are food allergies out there, but… the cash register is at the end of the counter, and only reached well after you place your order.  Also, I’d hope that someone with food allergies would already have a heightened awareness when going anywhere to eat.  (If not, please read this.) More thought needs to be put into place, not just “CYA” measures.
  • They have to exude reassurance. A poster is great.  An “allergy-friendly” menu is great.  A sign at the cash register or on your table or on the salad bar is great… but not enough.  In with the training on all levels, the sever (or whoever answers the phone) must bee confident with the answers that you want to hear.  No “I don’t think” or “not really” or “I’m not sure so you’d just better not order that” will do.  Have the right answers.  Know why.  Understand the severity.  Knowledge of the kitchen and where everything is cooked should be a must for servers and managers.  Nuts can’t just be “picked off”.  There’s no such thing as “oh a little won’t hurt” with butter.  The fryer doesn’t “get hot enough to kill anything you’re allergic to”.  It’s unsettling fr someone with food allergies to dine out.  Making them feel safe is a must for “friendliness”.
    • On a related note… especially the person answering your phone.  When dining out of town, I try to call ahead (or get my wife to call ahead for me).  My favorite response ever was an Amish place in Ohio where I asked if they had shellfish (“like shrimp or crab or oysters” I said)… the girl went on to say “No, we have oysters, but they’re in soup, and there’s shrimp… but it’s not in a shell.”  Needless to say, we didn’t go there.
  • All allergies are equal. It’s great to see “nut free” options, or “gluten-free” menus, but let’s treat all allergies with the same respect to cross contamination.  The top 8 are; Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  But, there are others too!  I know of people with severe allergies to peppers, and have heard of corn allergies.  These people need to feel safe too!  Current government regulations don’t regulate the labeling of any allergens other than the top 8, so that’s all that people seem to pay attention to.  Special attention needs to be given to all kinds of allergies, not just one allergen or group of singled-out allergens.
  • Know what you’re serving. Are their anchovies in the Italian dressing or Worcester sauce?  Is this fried in peanut oil?  The server shouldn’t necessarily need to know off hand, but this information should be able to be provided upon request. Having it in written form would be tremendous.  (We could go into other special dietary needs here too… not an allergy, but I have an aunt with Diverticulitus who needs to know if there are seeds or nuts that may be ground up and hidden in things like dressing or soups or bread.) Listing all this on a website would be excellent.
  • Separate locations & utensils for allergy-free meal preparation. Cross-contamination is huge.  I don’t worry about a mutant lobster crawling into my mouth by itself… but I do worry (immensely) that some scallop juice might be on the grill where my steak was cooked… or that someone who just made a shrimp cocktail didn’t wash their hands before making my salad.  I’d love to know that the place where I’m dining has a fish or shellfish only fryer, separate grill spaces for different kinds of meat (even a vegetarian/vegan section would be cool), even separate cutting boards, prep areas, knives, and other utensils.
    • Keep the nuts off the salad bar… near their own station.
    • Hey Subway, don’t put the “seafood” sub stuff right next to the other lunchmeat, and don’t cut those subs with the same knife you use for all the other subs!
  • Ability to accommodate the unusual. Say someone has an inhalation allergy to peanuts…  Can you seat them somewhere so that the people at the next table are able to order some peanut-encrusted dessert without throwing them into an anaphylactic fit?  Can you do this without rolling your eyes, sighing, and making it a big deal?
  • Special markers/identifiers. I saw a commenter note this in the comments on the Allergy Eats blog post, and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Something ought to be a literal red flag… in the system, on an order ticket, on the check, on even the plate itself.  Everyone knows that orange-rimmed coffee pots mean decaf.  Why not red for allergies?  Or get crazy & assign a color to each of the top 8 & one for “other” allergies?  Did I read that Legal Sea Foods does double-plating or something to that effect?  It’s genius.  I’d like to extend the symbols idea to the menu too… why not have some sort of system with easily recognized food allergy icons?

That’s my take for now, but there are already many other great suggestions in the comments section over at Allergy EatsPlease, take the time to send yours to contact@allergyeats.com before Feb. 2nd!