Dining Allergen-Free in New York City


Sloane Miller writes and edits the Allergic Girl Blog detailing her adventures in allergen-free eating.  She gives allergic visitors to New York some dining hints.

By Sloane Miller – Foods Matter, March 2007 – I’m a fairly typical New Yorker; I dine out at least five nights a week. What’s unique is that I’m allergic to tree-nuts and fish and I maintain a gluten, dairy, soy and sugar-free diet.

My website www.allergicgirl.blogspot.com chronicles how I’m able to dine allergen-free in Gotham. Below I’ve listed some of my favourite spots, places I have been to time and again that serve well-priced, allergen-free food, in a pleasant atmosphere and in a fun part of the city.

Classic New York-style cuisine reflects the tastes and cultures of our large immigrant populations from China, Italy, Mexico, and Eastern Europe Jewry. To me, Chinese is the trickiest cuisine for special diets.  The wok, whilst a wonderful implement, is often used repeatedly with merely a quick rinse, hence not cross contamination-free. I’ve had one too many claws show up in my steamed vegetable platter to be able to recommend any one restaurant by name. Having said that, I go to Ollie’s from time to time without issue.

There are two places for Italian food that are glutenfree as well as catering to other dietary needs. Slice, on the Upper East Side serves organic, hand crafted pizza as well as vegan/gluten-free pies, topped by rice cheese.  Speak to the manager, Brian, when you go; he’ll take care of you. The pizza I had was rice-crusty, rice cheesy, and allergen-free.

Risotteria, in the West Village, is part of the gluten-free restaurant program. They are well versed in all things GF. They make GF pizza, paninis, and pizzas as well as risotto. Their ingredients are printed on charts and the staff is friendly and helpful about other, non-GF dietary needs.

Mexican food, beloved by New Yorkers, can be trickier for food sensitive diners. Cheaper restaurants are usually safe but you may run the risk of staff not understanding your needs. Two chains, Harry’s Burritos and Blockheads are generally safe with a few modifications (no cheese, no flour tortilla).  Dos Caminos, a more upscale Mexican-inspired restaurant has a consistently attentive staff, a broad menu, tableside-made guacamole, and a great brunch.

For Jewish deli, you may remember Katz’s Deli from the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’. But for my money, Noah’s Ark is the better deli. They don’t serve dairy but will accommodate special diets and their pastrami is worth the trip to the Lower East Side.

For the raw foodists, there is Pure Food and Wine in the Gramercy Park area. But beware – tree-nuts are the basis of this cuisine. If you have nut allergies, don’t go. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out for the innovative cuisine, attentive service, beautiful room, and it’s proximity to Gramercy Park.

For specifically vegetarian restaurants that are sensitive to food intolerances try the Candle Café and Café 79 – sister restaurants, both located on the Upper East Side. Both places have a food intolerance sensitive menu and knowledgeable staff. Café 79 is where you may spot a vegan celeb, whereas Candle Café is for Tony locals who enjoy eating healthily.

Two of the city’s best, highend restaurants are in the Gramercy area and worth the splurge.  Tom Colicchio is a powerhouse of a chef. When Craft opened in 2002, it was a new concept in dining.  The menu is broken down, not by course, but by cooking method.  Food is prepared simply but with attention to detail and using the highest quality ingredients. Call ahead, let them know your needs. I’ve eaten there without incident at least half a dozen times.

Danny Meyer is one of the city’s best chefs who is also known for the high value placed on customer service.  Gramercy Tavern is his flagship restaurant. If you can’t get a reservation in the main room, the unreserved front room is equally delightful.  Blue Smoke is his less expensive ode to BBQ; they have a gluten-free menu and a great spot for jazz.

My final, secret haunt is Brasserie – my standby for excellent steak frites cooked by allergen sensitive Chef Becker.  He cooks classic bistro fare with an American twist and is incredibly sensitive to diners’ special needs. If you are shopping on Fifth Avenue, or just want to sample some of the best steak in town, Brasserie is open from breakfast until 2am.

Restaurant Information:

Blockheads – various locations

Blue Smoke
Barbecue 212-447-7733
Jazz  212-576-2232
116 East 27th Street

100 E 53rd Street

Candle Café
1307 Third Ave at 75th St

Café 79 (same website)
154 East 79th Street

Craft Restaurant
43 East 19th Street

Dos Caminos – various locations

Grammercy Tavern
42 East 20th Street

Harry’s Burrito – various locations

Katz’s Deli
205 East Houston Street

Noah’s Ark
399 Grand Street

Ollie’s – No website, various locations

Risotteria – www.risotteriamelottinyc.com
(646) 755-8939
309 E 5th St

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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