There were a number of challenges to travelling with This Crazy Illness, but the big one was where on earth we would be able to eat. My food allergies are probably the biggest challenge to roaming too far from home, but with a little planning it all worked out really well.
Here are the highlights!
A lot of background research went into this trip, and thank goodness for the internet. I started out at Find Me Gluten Free, then went to each restaurant's website to check the menu. If they can handle gluten free, they are usually able to accommodate other allergies as well, but it helps to know ahead of time what my options might be.
And while many places have GF menus now, most of the options still involve cheese and I've actually had a really hard time finding any appetizers at all. So checking out menus was a big help to narrow down options.
- Ask Around
I wound up with great suggestions from A Southern Celiac, who recommended Tupelo, and a Lexington local who suggested a couple places to try and more importantly, a couple places to avoid!
- Keep It Simple
People often wonder why I don't eat out more often in Winston -- the answer is that ordering is a painful exercise in 'how to be high maintenance' and as a reward I usually don't get to order anything very interesting. The best way I've found to make sure something will be safe to eat is to make sure it's simple to fix, so nobody has to go searching for sauce ingredients or double checking anything.
For breakfast I usually get eggs, bacon, and tomatoes slices; any other time I usually order a garden salad with grilled chicken and oil and vinegar dressing. Not very interesting, but there's usually a sigh of relief from the server!
1. First Watch
First Watch is a small but growing chain that I'm pretty familiar with because there are a few of them in Orlando. It's a casual sit-down restaurant that's probably in the 'diner' category, but with really good-for-you food.
My 'usual' is a variation on the 'Traditional Breakfast': three eggs, bacon, potatoes, and instead of toast - sliced tomatoes. Yum!
They are awesome with allergies, and train their staff well. I've only had one bad experience at one in Orlando. (Server was having an off-day. Should have been a sign when she kept forgetting other parts of the order...)
Oh Chatham's. What an adventure we had trying to get there! There was construction going on right outside and I swear it took half an hour to get around it and steal a parking spot.
Chatham's gets a ton of points for having a GF menu and more importantly -- a GF dedicated fryer! Which means I was able to order sweet potato fries! They also get a ton of points for suggesting a lettuce wrap for the burger I ordered, which made it feel much more like a burger, even if I ate most of it with a knife and fork.
They were really thrown when I asked them about my dairy allergy, which was surprising because of how well they were prepared to deal with gluten. If you have any other food allergies, make sure to call ahead and preview the menu ahead of time so you know what your options are.
3. Tupelo Honey
Tupelo's was a fantastic suggestion from Southern Celiac, who mentioned the one in Knoxville, and when we wound up looking for breakfast in Asheville (who quits breakfast at 11am?? Looking at you, Corner Kitchen. Kidding. Still love you.) we were so glad to find it there! Delicious breakfast plus high-octane coffee. Win-Win.
They also offered up some absolutely delicious GF-DF toast!
The menu is mostly well-crafted meals. If I was going to stick to specific menu offerings it would have been a pretty good set of hurdles to figure out which sauce contained which ingredients, etc. But they were totally open to my off-menu ordering of eggs, bacon, and tomatoes, which made it (hopefully) easier for all of us.
Edison is probably the biggest standout of the bunch. Okay, maybe a tie with First Watch. Maybe.
Edison is the casual restaurant inside the wonderful, amazing Grove Park Inn. They are incredibly allergy aware, and quick to ask the chef about any suspect ingredients. And! And! They have The Most Amazing GFDF bread. In. Cred. I. Ble.
This was the first time in a very long time that I was able to branch out and get something other than my usual salad-with-chicken or lettuce-wrapped-burger, and ordered an amazing pork BBQ sandwich, with a bbq sauce that involved apples, and I'm wishing now that I'd taken a picture of the menu. It was so so so good, and so good to have something new and different!
Someone seriously needs to start running a train from Winston to Asheville so I can have regular dinners at Grove Park!
The only hiccup was a snafu when we were seated -- I think they forgot to let our server know, and we had to track someone down. But they more than made up for the long wait by offering us an appetizer! There weren't many GFDF options for appetizers and I wasn't that hungry thanks to road-trip snacks, so I deferred to dad, who wound up picking a cheese plate that he says was absolutely terrific.
Also: they don't have a separate GF fryer, so french fries are off the table.
My road trip snacks are basically the same as what I eat at home.
- Apples, Bananas, Potato Chips, Raisins, and Enjoy Life Chocolate Bars.
(Who eats three bananas, an apple, and at least entire bag of potato chips a day in between meals? This girl.)
The Big Rice Elephant In The Room:
This is the deal: I should not have eaten the bread. While gluten and dairy are the worst kind of kryptonite for me, other grains like rice can pack a pretty big punch as well. And the usual go-to ingredient for 'gluten free' foods is -- you guessed it -- rice.
The delicious toast and bread from Tupelo and Edison's, and the snack bars from the road trip snack-bag? Should not have had. And I am paying for it now.
The plus side is that when I eat something like that I get a short-term burst of energy (like drinking a ton of coffee), which makes me seem "better" to the outside world. The payoff, though, is painful. Burning nerve pain is not a fair price to pay for energy. Ouch!
But other than my weakness for pretend bread, the food on the trip worked out really well!
How do you travel with food allergies? Do you have go-to roadtrip snacks?