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Chain restaurants should stop existing

10:58 AM

I generally avoid chain restaurants (Chilis, Applebees, TGIFridays, Unos, etcetcetc) like the plague.  Their food is gross.  Sorry, it just is.  But yesterday, we decided we wanted to sit down during our date-day lunch and TGIFridays was right there.  

I went in hesitantly and asked for a menu.  It had literally been nearly 15 years since I had been in a TGIFridays.   It didn't look promising... so I told the staff that I was allergic to dairy and was seeing whether I could eat anything.  "OH!  Well, we have an allergy menu!" they say.  Well, sweet!   We took the menu and sat down.  
After she spent about 15 minutes telling us how to sign up for TGIFriday deals-via-email, our waitress tried to interest us in getting some appetizers and mixed drinks. Umm, gross.  no.  So I ordered a diet coke and Mark got a beer.  Then I finally got the chance to look at the "allergy menu".   I was thinking there'd be alternatives for people who were allergic to the top 8 allergens... that there'd be options.  So, I kid you not, this was a copy of the regular menu, with little allergy icons next to each item... and there was a little carton of milk after every. single. item.   With the exception of a rack of ribs for $22 which I DID NOT want for lunch.   Seriously.  seasoned french fries, balsamic vinegrette, salads, sandwiches, anything on a bun. All of it had that little icon.   We should've left then, but we didn't.  This is where my anxiety comes in and my heart starts pounding and I start acting stupid. I don't want to be rude, so  I tell the waitress that there is literally nothing on the menu that I can, or am interested in eating and she just stares at me blankly.  I then ask her if she can modify a reuben sandwich for me... like leave off the cheese and DON'T put it on the grill with butter.

... she asks me if I want fries with that.... I point to the milk sign next to the fries.

Or a salad??   ...  So they make me a salad with iceberg lettuce, slices of flavorless tomato, cucumbers...a little bit of crouton dust on the bottom!!! and oil and vinegar on the side.

And my reuben comes out (i'll mention right now that they sat us by the kitchen and i was WATCHING them back there AND i could hear them talking at the waitress station).  It isn't our waitress that delivers it.  I open it up... specks of cheese that had been REMOVED from the sandwich inside... and covered in butter.

3 minutes later the waitress comes back, and I tell her that the sandwich is covered in butter... at this point I'm so stressed out i don't even want to eat... my voice is almost shaking.

Saying nothing she brings it back.  

Mark eats his food....

still no food for me...
then a new salad comes out...

and finally, the "head of the kitchen comes out"...  "so, we don't have a toaster, how can we make your sandwich without putting it on the grill"....  I think "WTF SERIOUSLY?!".    I say "Um, just don't grill the bread.  Leave it normal... no grill, no toast.  Just regular rye bread."   He says " ok, so what else do you want on the bread... beef...  uuhh...  how about horseradish mayo"   me "Ummm... no.   Beef, sourkraut,  thousand island dressing (which the waitress PROMISED was dairy free... but, full of MSG according to the "allergy menu").   Him "ok"  and gets up and leaves.

15 minutes later the sandwich comes out. 

Done correctly... but absolutely disgusting, of course... dry, flavorless... and by this time I have a headache on top of anxiety from dealing with this crap and I don't want to eat. But I eat the darned thing.

Aaand the check comes eventually...   nothing comped.  of course. 

Seriously.  $33 for lunch... no apps, no sides, no dessert.  1 beer and a crappy burger and even crappier reuben.

Never. Again.  Honestly, chain restaurants like this shouldn't exist!  I have better luck at Burger King :-X

aaaand then we went to Starbucks to get me my crack (tall-soy-no-water-chai) so that I'd feel better about my abysmal lunchtime experience.  They used whole milk instead of soy.  I took 1 sip. 1.  My lips blew up and got all hot and tingly, my throat swelled (luckily, I could still breathe... mostly), my ears turned red and started itching from the inside out... and then came the being-violently-ill for the next 2 hours as my body tried to eject the 1 SIP of whole milk chai that I had ingested.   

Yesterday was a bad day.   I still don't feel 100%.  I write this blog as a foodie, and as a mom, and as an allergy survivor.  Most days are amazing with very few days like yesterday sprinkled in there (Seriously, I haven't been that sick from dairy in many, many years). But it is this reality that the food allergic have to live with each and every day and I'm hoping that even more awareness will be raised as time progresses.  We've come a LONG way in the last 10 years or so as far as food allergy awareness in the USA, but there is still a lot more awareness to be raised and education/mindfulness to be employed.  

and now, back to our regularly scheduled recipes and stories ;-)

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