Food allergies are no joke when dining out. Can you trust the kitchen? Is there cross-contamination? Then there's the dreaded "I have food allergies" five-minute conversation with every new server. All this can put a damper on your culinary experience.
But these five restaurants in Los Angeles aim to change all that. They cater to food allergy sufferers and welcome you with open arms. Guests are graciously cared for with special protocols and accommodating chefs. Food allergies don't have to stop you from dining out anymore. At these restaurants, go ahead and indulge safely with an adventurous palate... just like everyone else at the table.
1. The Belvedere at the Peninsula Beverly Hills
Fine dining at its best, this beloved Beverly Hills gem just went through a stunning renovation. Its mouthwatering re-imagined menu created by Executive Chef David Codney has a Mediterranean flair and a focus on local producers and wild-caught seafood. Guests with food allergies regularly dine at The Belvedere because whatever you're dealing with, the kitchen is at-the-ready. Even the menu is created to easily adapt to food allergies. Guests are seated near the kitchen for easy communication. And a chef will come to your table to discuss your needs - even create a unique dish just for you.
Chef Codney says, "Whether it’s dairy, soy, wheat, or meat, we adhere to all dietary restrictions; we even have dedicated pans and blenders to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination." He wants all guests to feel safe and cared for. "At the end of the day," he assures, "I have two main concerns – our guests’ safety and their satisfaction."
In the food allergy world, word gets around where it's safe to enjoy a fine dining experience. The Belvedere is at the top of the list. A few must-try dishes are the arugula with oven roasted eggplant and Ras El Hanout vinaigrette, gluten-free almond flour pappardelle with stewed tomato and basil, and mussels with white wine, parsley, and chili flakes. And don't forget dessert. Executive Pastry Chef Stephanie Boswell's masterpieces receive actual applause. Dining at The Belvedere is as safe as it is delicious. You just make your next reservation while still at the table.
2. True Food Kitchen, Santa Monica and El Segundo
Amie Valpone, food allergy sufferer and author of "Eating Clean" says, "Restaurants are often full of inflammatory foods that make me feel achy and bloated and give me an awful headache." But not at True Food Kitchen! With a few locations throughout Los Angeles, the menu follows Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory diet so you're already ahead of the game. General Manager at its El Segundo location Beth Centlivre, wants guests to feel unabashed about discussing their food allergies. She says, "Most restaurants view modifications or allergies as an inconvenience because it's extra effort or because it ruins the integrity of the dish. Our chefs create a recipe and build a dish with ingredients that can be enjoyed by everyone." And if you're tired of having the same "food allergy" conversation over and over again with new servers, keep a customer file of all your dietary restrictions.
True Food Kitchen's commitment to clean cuisine isn't just because of food allergies. Executive Chef at El Segundo, Chef Jordan Herigstad explains, "Our bodies weren't meant to be fed chemical and pesticide-ridden foods. Processed foods and ingredients that are genetically modified have negative effects on our bodies' natural ability to heal and protect itself."
Try the gluten-free butternut squash pizza, chia seed pudding ( no nuts dairy, wheat, eggs, or soy) and the nutritionally-dense kale salad. Delicious!
3. Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills
Back under James Beard nominee and Barilla Academy Master Chef Executive Chef Mirko Paderno, Culina is a hotspot of traditional Italian fare with an LA twist. A favorite amongst vegans and the clean-eating crowd, Culina is happy to adapt its menu to fit any food allergy or dietary preference. Here, discussing your dietary restrictions (even preferences!) is never an embarrassment. On the contrary, servers encourage it and flag tickets for the kitchen. Depending on the severity of the food allergy, a manager will come to your table and discuss safe dining options. Don't leave without trying Culina's roasted beet and watercress salad, its raw fish menu, and famous "Kitchen Sink" vegan ice cream.
4. Cafe Gratitude, Venice Beach + Downtown
Famed for its affirmation–based menu, Cafe Gratitude prides itself on clean and green eating. Featuring a 100% organic, plant-based, and seasonal menu... this is a solid start for anyone with food allergies. But if doubt, consult the Cafe Gratitude's "Book of Knowledge" (available online and in the restaurant) that provides a detailed ingredient list for every menu item and a multitude of alternative menus based on dietary restrictions. Also, a manager will come to your table to discuss your needs and offer an honest assessment depending upon the severity of the food allergy about what is be safe to order. A few must try dishes are the Whole Macrobiotic Bowl, Elated Mole Abuelita Enchiladas, and any desert. Cafe Gratitude is quite famous for their scrumptious vegan desserts. Just remember to ask about which contain nuts!
5. Matthew Kenney NM at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills
The latest creation of plant-based pioneer Matthew Kenney is a hip lunch spot, where you can nosh on innovative concept dishes that burst with flavor. It's casual but vibrant dining showcasing raw and vegan cuisine. Dedicated to a healthier nutrition-based diet, Matthew Kenney NM also makes it easy for those with food allergies to enjoy dining out again. Transparency is key as servers will go over every ingredient with you to ensure you order just the right meal. Make sure to try the citrus truffle salad, cobb wrap with coconut "bacon" and sesame ginger kelp noodles.
Food Allergy Strategies from the Experts
Be clear."To focus on the quality of the food, we need to know if it’s a serious allergy or a strong dietary preference. Unfortunately, this is not always clear." - Chef Codney
Avoid salad Bars and buffets "People are using the same spoons and tongs to reach into different foods and cross-contamination is likely." - Aime Valpone
Call ahead. "The best thing a guest can do is inform the kitchen of any requirements before they arrive. This ensures that we have more time to come up with something and potentially source alternative ingredients." - Chef Codney
Always ask. "We take pride in how serious we cater to food allergies. I love being able to look at a guest and say that 'it's no problem at all'." - Beth Centlivre
Create your own meal: "Ask the chef to create a meal for you with a lean protein (beans, legumes), gluten-free whole grains (black, brown, wild rice, quinoa), a healthy fat (avocado, olive, coconut oil, nuts and seeds), and lots of veggies." - Aime Valpone
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Images via The Belvedere, Matthew Kenney NM, True Foods, Cafe Gratitude, Culina