What’s for dinner?

My husband, Dave, and I enjoy dining with friends, whether in their homes or in area restaurants that we all can enjoy. I’m a high-maintenance gal! I have food challenges. I’m allergic to garlic, salmon, and clams and very sensitive to certain spices, like pepper, that others take for granted to spice up a meal.

Fortunately, our friends know the “rules” for when we eat in their homes, and they constantly have my back when we go out to dinner. When making a reservation, whoever is in charge of the experience will ask the restaurant if there are food items with no garlic on the menu and advise them that one of our group has problems with this. If they can’t accommodate us, we don’t dine there. Anyone with food allergies will understand the importance of taking this step before going out to eat.

There are some very cooperative restaurants in Dane County that will go the extra mile to make sure their guests are well fed without worry. One of these is Bonfyre on the West Beltline at Todd Drive. When they heard that one of our party had a “challenge,” they prepared. When we arrived for our dinner, the manager came to ask which of us needed special attention, and then proceeded to introduce us to our server, who had a menu just for me that highlighted all the different foods I could choose from. The restaurant also promised that the chef would cook my meal in a different “environment” so it could not be contaminated with another diner’s garlic and spices. WOW! Let me tell you how comfortable they made me feel – and the meal was delicious!

Not too long ago, Dave and I also attended a Lobster Fest at Mariner’s Inn, where this family-owned and managed business has had a tradition of taking excellent care of their guests since Betty Lou trained them. Before making our reservation for this fun event, I told the manager that I have “challenges,” and they totally took care of my needs so I could enjoy my dinner. And it was wonderful!


On the other end of the spectrum, we were recently at a restaurant where, even with explicit instructions, including a white stick that was to designate special care, my meal contained traces of garlic. Needless to say, it took very little time for me to find out, and it ruined a good evening, since I quickly had to leave to take care of myself. Also that evening, another member of our group, who is a vegetarian, found meat in her dinner. Needless to say, we won’t return to that restaurant.

I know there are many folks who have similar challenges – who, like me, got tired of avoiding dinners with friends and who may be hesitant to ask for what they need. I think most dining establishments, especially here in Dane County, where there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the country, want to create a good dining experience for everyone, and don’t want to get anyone in trouble. We don’t need to quit enjoying the dining out experience. We just have to make sure we say the words “allergic to …” and bon appetit!

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