Paul Antico never realized the challenges of eating out with his five children, two of whom have food allergies, until their favorite restaurant was booked when they visited. That set the family on a frustrating, two-hour journey trying to find a restaurant that could accommodate his kids' allergies.
They landed at a place with egg-free pasta.
Determined to make sure this never happened again, Antico started a website, AllergyEats.com, that rates restaurants for their allergy friendliness. The ratings come from other parents of allergic kids who have visited the restaurant and then filled out a short questionnaire about its ability to accommodate people with food allergies.
"The ratings are user-generated; someone with food allergies goes out and then answers three questions to rate it," Antico says. "That means the rating is focused on the food allergies, not on, oh, 'The chicken marsala stunk.'"
AllergyEats.com lists more than 600,000 restaurants nationwide. The site also offers information on restaurants' offerings (including gluten-free menus), allergen lists, nutrition information, certifications, web links and directions.
Because the website is still fairly new, the bulk of the ratings are on the East Coast. But about 30 Chicago-area restaurants are rated, and information on other local restaurants has been loaded to the website, waiting for a family to visit them and rate them.
When you're looking for a restaurant, simply enter your location and a list of restaurants by location and allergy friendliness ratings appears. If you're headed to a restaurant that hasn't been rated, you can fill out the survey when you get home so that other users will have the information.
"This is a peer-based site where we're helping each other and as more people get involved, the ratings will grow," Antico says.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.