21 Club, Food Allergies


I had the great pleasure of going for a second time (here's my review of the first) to the famed 21 Club last week NYC Restaurant Week . [Full disclosure: 21 Club invited me to lunch on them and we filmed a video for Youtube with me and the Executive Chef John Greeley, which is up now.]

Restaurant Week 2011 has been extended in several spots including 21 Club. 21 Club also runs this special on Saturday (which not everyone does) giving you more chances to try this NYC classic. More information here on NYCgo.com site.

For all restos during this time they run a special price-fixe menu: *Luncheon $24.07 / Dinner $35 (Does not include beverages, tax or gratuity*) Which is why this deal is such a steal; these prices give New Yorkers (and vistors) to chance to try many places they wouldn’t normally try. It’s win-win for everyone.

The concern for those of us with food allergy is that if you are going to a place with a pre-set menu for a pre-set price (and these restos are jammed during resto week), they can’t, or won’t, accommodate your dietary requests. Fear not. As you may have seen in this NY1 spot, quality-, hospitality-, patron-focused restaurants are willing, waiting and able to make the necessary accommodations. "21" is one of those spots.

Chef John says: "We make everything a la minute.” Meaning, everything is made to order. Everything. This allows a kitchen great flexibility: they know every ingredient that’s in every dish because they made it all. As their dishes are not pre-made, if you cannot have a certain component of a dish, they can easily make a substitution. And truly, they are only too happy to make changes to a dish. The chef wants you to be happy and safe whilst dining at “21”. Even during the hectic restaurant week (RW2011 menu).

What does the staff at "21" need from you? Communication. What else do they need? Communication. Did I mention? They need communication, before you dine. Celiac? Food allergy? Food intolerant? A special dietary preference? Let them know that. PS they love chef cards, too.

Remember my protocol outlined here on my blog and more fully in my book, Allergic Girl:

--Understand your diagnosis (e.g. what ingredients you can’t have as well as one you can; what medications you need and carry them with you; what to do in case of an emergency)
--Know how to communicate that diagnosis clearly (e.g. come up with an concise, polite and assertive sentence or two that let’s restaurant staff know what you need)
-Form positive and supportive relationships (make the GM, servers and the chef your new best friends)
--And be patient with yourself and those around you– there will be mistakes but there will be many more successes when you follow this basic outline.

So what did I eat? I decided on the burger. "21" and I are still in the getting-to-know you stage. In that stage, I will have the same dish a few times before I branch out to other items on the menu. It’s part of my personal food allergy protocol. Why? Trust is earned over time so I stick to what’s safe for a few visits as we build trust, a restaurant and I. Once that baseline is built, then I branch out. So on my second visit, you’ll see I had my safe meal, what is my standard fare at most new restaurants: salad, clean protein (here a seriously luscious burger) and plain berries for dessert.

Thank you 21 Club for supporting those of with dietary restrictions. I can’t wait to come back!

21 Club,
21 West 52nd Street, New York, New York 10019
Restaurant Reservations: (212) 582 7200
Private Dining: (212) 582 1400


The view from the Snug seating area in the front room:

Chef John:

The Classic 21 Club Menu:

Beet salad app (nut-free):

The Classic "21" Burger (bunless):

My side of roasted potatoes instead of french fries:

Fresh berries for dessert:

After we've dined, a quick shot with Restaurant Manager, Michael:


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