Accessible Allergy-Friendly Eats in Toronto
Allergen-Free Eats in Toronto
As any person with food allergies can attest, eating out can be difficult. I bring my lunch to work every day, I always have snacks in my bag, I’m the lone person who buys the fresh bananas at Starbucks, and when I order food somewhere I have to give a laundry list of instructions (no dairy, no nuts, no peanuts, no legumes, please don’t let anything cross-contaminate my meal…etc.). That being said, when I successfully find a place I can eat at I become their most loyal supporter. Here’s a list of my casual/everyday dining spots in Toronto. If you have any other suggestions please let me know in the comments section. *I’d also like to point out that none of the images in this article are my own (except for the ones with me in them)* and that if you have allergies you should always tell your server and make sure to clarify your dietary needs.
What I order: New York striploin with baked potato, olive oil on the side. Wine or beer
When the manager comes out with his/her allergy guide in its supple leather cover, I swoon. Nothing makes me more comfortable than knowing that the server understands my needs and has communicated them to the kitchen and manager. The Keg takes it a step further by having actual processes in place to make sure I don’t leave the restaurant and head straight for the hospital. Their knowledge of dietary needs is extremely reassuring and they always offer me fresh berries for dessert. The servers are never jarred by the fact that 3 out of 4 people in my family have allergies and they handle it smoothly. It’s a great spot to visit with family, friends, on a date, or with colleagues. I also get takeout from time to time.You can peruse their allergy guide through this link
What I order: Quarter white/dark with fries and extra dipping sauce, garden salad with Chalet dressing. Mint tea or iced tea
If you grew up in the GTA you must be familiar with Swiss Chalet. It’s the place you visited after every sports practice, with your family friends, after every major family function, and for some reason after every funeral (maybe because it’s a comforting place?). Their $30 family meal pack is the best takeout deal in town and I order it about once a month or whenever I’m too lazy to cook. It’s also a bit of a haven for families with food allergies because of their allergy guides (see the link below). There are so many options for people with food allergies, it’s a great price, and they are masters of consistency. Having processes in place to deal with food allergies is a common theme in this article.
What I order: Green salad with assorted fruits/veggies based on my mood. Olive oil on the side. Water or soft drink
There’s a Freshii located near my office and I like the idea that you can customize your salad and pay per ingredient. I tend to only eat here before the lunch rush to avoid cross-contamination that I worry about once the lineup is flowing out the door and necessitating service runs at a faster pace. They offer a ton of salad options and I order my salad un-tossed because I like to be able to eat one category of ingredient at a time (I’m extremely particular). Olive oil on the side is my dressing of choice. Pretty much everything at Freshii is customized to your tastes so you can go wild with the flavor combinations. Their website provides this awesome allergen and nutrition guide!
Aroma Espresso Bar
What I order: Aroma Special salad with tuna and boiled egg, no dressing. Or a fruit salad. Black coffee
Aroma is mainly known for their delicious coffee and hearty lunch offerings. But did you know that they tend to be friendly and accommodating towards dietary needs? I’ve found that they’re very helpful and open to altering salads in accordance with my dietary needs. They also have gluten-free options. Their menu can be found here
What I order: Mista or Nizzarda salad. Rapini. Fiorentina pasta with tomato sauce instead of pesto, or pasta with fresh tomato sauce. Wine.
The offerings at Fusaro’s change from time to time and unfortunately they don’t always have my favorite dishes (they make a mean pasta with grilled chicken or the pasta with seafood, cherry tomatoes, and spinach) on the menu. I also find that the options change depending on which location I visit. That being said, I love their food! The portions are large, the quality is fresh, and the price is low. I almost always have to take half of my meal home to finish later and I occasionally order takeout at lunchtime though I do prefer to eat in. The staff is always very friendly and take care to ensure I feel comfortable dining there.
What I order: Duck fat fries. An artisanal beer
The duck fat fries were voted best in the city and it’s for good reason. They are amazing. I used to order the Italian sausage with no bun until one of the employees told me it might have dairy. Now I’m just not sure about it so I avoid them… it would be great if they had an allergen guide! They do have gluten-free and vegetarian options and some very interesting game meat sausages on the menu. Get there early to secure a table and stay til late.
What I order: Salmon don. Green tea and Sapporo or cold sake
This is kind of my secret place… I almost didn’t want to put it down here because the back booths are the most amazing seats in the city and the sashimi is fresh and the environment is just so wonderful and I dread that one day I’ll have to wait in line if it becomes too popular… now I’m blabbering. But seriously this is the coziest restaurant in the city and I love their signed head shots that line the walls and the friendly staff who yell ‘hello’ when you enter. This place is full of charm. Their salmon don and sashimi are awesome. They are very liberal with the tea and they always make note of my allergies.
What I order: 3 eggs with bacon and home fries. Black coffee and orange/grapefruit juice. Sometimes fruit salad
I’m a sucker for inexpensive, fast breakfast and this is one breakfast place that I can actually eat at! They are very accommodating of allergies and the staff is always knowledgeable. My brother and I have an obsession with Sunset Grill. We are not suckers for fancy brunch and the severity of my allergy to dairy and nuts make it difficult to eat anywhere that focuses on waffles or pancakes or anything of the dessert-as-breakfast variety. The Danforth and Adelaide locations are my favorites.
Loblaws or Longo’s
What I order: takeout vegetarian maki, extra soy sauce. Or cold cuts and a pack of Pita Break whole wheat pitas (I keep condiments at work).
I wasn’t sure if I should include these because they’re grocery stores and don’t really count as “eating out” per se. However I do tend to grab my takeout lunches from either of these grocery stores quite often, probably more than I eat at any real restaurant or takeout/fast food place. But really when you think about it, a grocery store is the most accommodating place for a person with allergies – you can find anything you want!
What I buy: fresh fruit salad. Black coffee
I love going to Pusateri’s, always have. It’s a nice atmosphere, always busy, very narrow, not ideal for someone who’s all elbows like myself, but wonderful none the less. I like finding interesting foods to peruse and while I’m there I usually grab a fruit salad or box of freshly cut mango or watermelon to go with my coffee on the patio. Ideal spot for people watching.
I’m eager to hear more suggestions so if you have any please let me know!