The website and app Allergy Eats ranked the best destinations for diners with dietary restrictions.
(Photo: Nicolas McComber/Getty Images)
February 24, 2015 By Josh Scherer
Assistant Editor Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angelesmagazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.
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For most people, making a bad menu choice is, at worst, a minor inconvenience. Ordered the tacos al pastor but forgot how much you hate cilantro? You just wasted $8 and 20 minutes of your life—not a big deal.
But for the estimated 15 million Americans who have food allergies, the consequences are much more severe. Ordered the steak frites and the kitchen decided to fry the potatoes in peanut oil without telling you? That’s a hospital trip, thousands of dollars in medical bills, and months of impending litigation for both you and the restaurant. That's a big deal.
Thanks to Allergy Eats—the digital food allergy resource endorsed by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the Gluten Intolerance Group, and allergy awareness advocate Chef Ming Tsai—diners no longer have to rely on overworked and underpaid waiters to get the appropriate health information.
According to the website, “Allergy Eats is a peer-reviewed directory of restaurants—rated by people with food allergies, for people with food allergies.” Every year it scours its database of more than 600,000 ratings to find the most allergy-friendly restaurants of them all. Below are its top-rated restaurant chains based on aggregated user scores; ratings were given according to a five-point scale.
1. Chipotle Mexican Grill (4.41 rating)
2. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (4.39 rating)
3. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (4.39 rating)
4. Outback Steakhouse (4.32 rating)
5. Mellow Mushroom (4.29 rating)
Most of these restaurants got their high ratings from user-friendly features available on their websites: Chipotle has a checklist of potential allergens in its burritos, and Mellow Mushroom has a feature that lets you filter out your order based on specific allergies.
But P.F. Chang's, which has finished as the runner-up among large chains (Allergy Eats also ranks chains with fewer than 50 locations) two years in a row, did the others one better and created an entire 18-item, gluten-free menu.
The Chinese bistro also hired a full-time nutritionist to analyze the amount of allergens in the food and works to disclose the ingredients on the menu—a move that Allergy Eats lauded back in 2011.
As it happens, P.F. Chang's is being hit with a class action lawsuit from a potential 3,000 plaintiffs for charging $1 extra per non-gluten menu item, allegedly in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Like they say, no good, gluten-free deed goes unpunished.