*The Red Robin information and gift cards have been provided by Red Robin. I was sent a gift card to Red Robin to try out their new Interactive Allergen Friendly Menu Builder portion of their website. I jumped at the chance because Red Robin was one of the first restaurants that I let my food allergic son eat out at because the staff and management ALWAYS went out of their way to ensure his safety. With the creation and launch of this new meal planning feature, making allergen free dining even easier and safer, I wanted to share my experience with you all. All opinions are mine.I LOVE Red Robin. And always have. From their high octane cocktails that I discovered in college (Sand in Your Shorts was always my go-to but I probably haven’t had that in about 10 years!) to their fries (I’m obsessed with their fries!) and on to my current favorite the Whiskey River BBQ wrap, I could eat at Red Robin daily. But I don’t. We really don’t eat out all that much. I prefer to save money and make dinner at home. But it wasn’t always like that. I pretty much unconsciously set out to NOT learn how to cook from my mom growing up. So when I got married, and even after I had my first child, I was getting some homemade meals on the table but they were NOT nutritious, particularly tasty or frequent. All of that changed when I found out my son had tons of food allergies at one year old. He had had continual, severe eczema for 6 months and I was desperate to get to the root of the problem. I will never forget one Monday night, however, when the phone rang and it was his doctor. After months of trying crazy harsh creams and steroids, we finally did a blood test to see if it was food allergies. It was after 5 pm when the call came and she said, “He’s allergic to milk, eggs, soy, peanut, probably shellfish and other tree nuts. You can give him Rice Milk. They sell it at Whole Foods.” And with that, I was left to navigate his food allergies on my own. We changed pediatricians and I got to work trying to figure out what would be safe to feed him. I did my research online and in books and by wandering Sprouts and Whole Foods. I immediately had teach myself to cook and made pretty much all of his food. I didn’t feel confidant with reading labels to know if I was going to give him something that would harm him. And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable taking him out to restaurants and having to rely on someone else’s knowledge, or lack thereof, of food allergies to keep him safe.
I brought all of his food with me wherever we went. If he did come to a restaurant with us I carefully wiped down the table and made sure he wasn’t sitting by anyone that had one of the food’s he couldn’t have. But finally, when he was about 4, I decided that if I wanted to give him more of a normal childhood experience in terms of dining out, that I should take the next step of trying to navigate restaurant menus. One of the first places I went was Red Robin. I did some research on line and felt that there was at least some conversation about allergies on their site. I called a manager and inquired about food allergies and decided to try it out. Even back then they handled food allergies with ease. And it was a place he could eat where I felt he was safe with fries no less! So when I got an email asking if I would like to check out the new Red Robin allergy friendly interactive menu builder, I jumped at the chance. A few Saturdays ago, the family and I headed to Red Robin for lunch.
While it is possible to pull up the website on your own phone (and of course from your home computer), the manager at our Red Robin location brought us out an iPad to view the menu builder on. Of course my son had to try it out first. I think he really just wanted to see if they had Minecraft on the iPad. Red Robin trains all team members on how to deal with dietary restrictions and modifications to their menus. The use special allergy alerts in different type so it is clear on every order. The alert notifies the kitchen that a special allergen kit is required for the order. The kit includes tools that are to be used on allergen orders only and are purple to clearly distinguish them from other kitchen tools. Awesome!
The menu builder is super easy to use. It is broken down by food type and is pretty dang comprehensive. While it is cool that you can utilize this feature at the restaurant, I do love that it is on their site all the time so you can take your time in figuring out what might be safe for your own allergy needs. Their menu is large and it was awesome to see just how much stuff my son could eat off the full menu.
All you have to do is check the boxes of the food you are allergic to and it takes the menu items where those items would be found, off the menu. What you are left with are all the safe items you can eat or items, that with few modifications, fit your needs. We were easily able to look at the kids menu and see what was safe for my son. And when he wanted ranch dressing, we could check that out too. (While he was first diagnosed with tons of food allergies, we have grown out of several and he is able to eat so many new things, like ranch dressing). I also checked my meal since I knew that he would be asking for a bite. There were not any sweets items that he could eat and while that is a bummer, it is not that uncommon. And totally wouldn’t be a reason for us not to eat at the restaurant.
And my husband was happy too. He’s a Budweiser fan. Can you tell? But do you know what else is really cool about Red Robin’s allergen free menu? They are now carrying a Gluten Free Beer! Amen! It is called Omission Pale Ale and is available at participating Red Robins (call ahead to make sure yours has it!). I freaking love this! While I am not gluten free, I think it is the coolest that the restaurant is providing a beer for the adults with special dietary restrictions too.
I’m so grateful that restaurants, and especially Red Robin, realize and embrace that food allergies are a scary part of dining out and have set out to make it that much easier for you to dine happily.
Giveaway is now closed! Congrats to D. Schmidt! I’ll be emailing you!
To celebrate, they are allowing me to give away a $25 to Red Robin to one of my readers. To enter, please leave a comment telling me how food allergies have affected your family or your favorite item from the Red Robin menu if you don’t have experience with food allergies. One winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
*I am so proud to support this company and while this is a sponsored post, I hope you can tell this is truly from the heart. Thank you for supporting the companies that allow me to share a little bit about my life with you. Follow Red Robin on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.