Emailing the Restaurant, Food Allergies

Recently I had a staycation booked with three grade school best friends at a hotel here in NYC. As they are non-allergic girls they said, “You pick the restaurant.” As it was for a Saturday night, I picked Craftbar, a place to I’ve been many, many times, I know the menu, the management and the chef and they have even hosted Worry-Free Dinners in the past.

But in looking over the menu two days prior to our “trip” I saw the menu had radically changed; gone were some of my old fave dishes like the hanger steak and now it was a lot of fish, fish and more fish. Not good for this Allergic Girl. The hanger steak still existed though, I discovered, but now it was on the lunch menu. So I gave it a shot: that the restaurant might reserve a lunch dish for my dinner.

Creating a long-term relationship with a restaurant is for just this purpose: as a long-time loyal customer, they may make an extra special exception or in this case set aside a lunch dish for dinner.

I bet you will find yourself in a similar situation at some point (at least something close, so here is the outline of the email I sent:


Dear General Manager of Craftbar,

I hope this finds you very well! I’m coming in on Saturday with three dear friends for our combined birthdays.

The dinner dish of hanger steak with potatoes and onions is gone from the dinner menu but still on the lunch menu. The rest of dinner menu is fish heavy which I can’t do because of severe food allergies. Might it be possible to get that lunch steak dish for dinner? 

Gentle reminder, my food allergies are ________.

Let me know.


And here was the response:

Chef has saved 1 hanger steak for you. These options can also be tailored to your restrictions:

Pancetta-Wrapped Guinea Hen  25.

Berkshire Pork  25.

Roasted Sweetbreads & Braised Veal Breast 23.


General Manager/Wine Director


When I got there, I checked in with the manager who said, "We are all ready for you!" And I double-checked everything with the server. He said, "We have everything all ready!" and he even had a print out of all of my restrictions. I still went over all of my food allergy needs and requested that they use a fresh pan, fresh gloves and tongs. Even if/when a restaurant knows you and your needs; even if you are a weekly or nightly regular, *it is always our responsibility to communicate, repeat, underscore and clarify our needs.*

The server said: “Don’t’ worry. This order will be like DEFCON 2 when it gets back there.”

That’s what we like to hear. The steak was perfect and dinner was lovely.

Have you created a relationship with a local chef or restaurant lately? Do tell!


Unknown said…
OMG! I love this story. You give me such hope that my tweenager will be able to dine out successfully as an adult with food allergies.

The take-away message for me though is that we, his parents, need to model this behavior for him now. How else will he learn? It's easier for us to just make meals at home or do carry-out for the rest of the family and offer him a special homemade meal. But, this isn't really preparing him for successful dining experiences.

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm taking it to heart.
Kristin said…
I've been following your suggestions from your book on eating out and have been successful several times now. I still get a little nervous since I went so long without eating out, but it sure is fun to be able to go out again.

We ate out last Thursday and our server did great. I specifically asked for the manger to let her know how much I appreciate the staff being so willing to make accommodations.
My local noodle bar has "no soy sauce" imprinted on their brains and quite often the waiter has said it before I can.

They also once whipped a meal from out under my nose because Grandma --it's a family restaurant--realised my rice noodles had received some soup used for cooking wheat noodles.

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