We had family visiting recently, and decided to go out for dinner at a restaurant that we frequent regularly ourselves, and sometimes with our food allergic teenaged child. Knowing them well, I didn’t feel as if I needed to call ahead and prep them about the food allergic child. It was a Sunday at 5pm so I thought the restaurant would be fairly slow and quiet for our 7-person party. I was wrong. The restaurant was too loud to speak to one another, and my extended family had about 5 wait staff members rushing around getting them this, that and the other thing. My fourteen-year-old was miserable. She ate her romaine lettuce and plain pulled chicken with her headphones on. The wait staff did everything right, the food for us was amazing. It just wasn’t a great experience for our child.
A long talk later (you know those talks if you have a teenager) about behavior when we’re out, and we listened to her as she told us what she didn’t like about restaurants. Here’s that list:
1. Restaurants are too loud
2. She doesn’t enjoy the food
3. There’s not enough space at the table (for her)
Now we’re determined, after years of allowing her to opt-out of dining experiences, to have her opt-in and make it a good experience. I also wanted her to feel a sense of spontaneity in her life.
We started yesterday with The Strand Bistro at the Strand Hotel (33 W. 37th Street NY NY) . I emailed Nathan Mergen, the food and beverage director, ahead of time to see if our favorite chef, Chef Kelvin Fernandez, would be there (Sloane Miller and I made a video about our first visit to the Strand Bistro which you can view here). I listed the foods that our child enjoys – chicken, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower, along with a spice profile – and also listed her allergens in another email. I always start with what she can eat first, since the list is daunting to even a seasoned Allergic Girl, Sloane Miller, who had cooked for our child a lovely passover dinner last spring- and who I was also meeting for dinner. Chef Kelvin and Nathan assured me that we would be well taken care of, and Chef Kelvin mentioned that Nathan would do a shopping trip especially for us. I felt happy, giddy almost, that we were going to have a great experience.
I didn’t tell our child about the dinner until after her comic book drawing class, which by the way, is taught by a talented man who enjoys teaching teenagers at the Educational Alliance.
After the class, I told her that we were headed uptown to dinner to meet Sloane (Allergic Girl). At first our child declared she would wait to eat until we got home. However, upon arrival she quickly changed her mind. The experience was perfect. It was early enough so that the restaurant was not crowded. Sloane had been there previously and chosen a very comfortable booth where our child sat herself comfortably. There was enough space at the table. The restaurant was quiet. Sharif, our attentive waiter, delivered the excellent specially prepared food arrived instantly, and let us know that it had been made personally by Chef Kelvin. It was not only safe, but incredibly delicious. The cauliflower was roasted, the spices of onion, garlic and cayenne were perfect, and the texture was similar to popcorn, the sweet potato had the perfect amount of sweetness, and the chicken was so amazingly well seasoned and the skin so crispy, well, we were all satisfied and walked away with one more entree for later.
The three reasons to dine at the Strand Bistro New York?
1. Food is amazing! They will work with your food restrictions.
2. Restaurant is quiet with plenty of table space.
3. They will take care of you.
A heartfelt thank you to Nathan Mergen, Chef Kelvin Fernandez, our waiter Sharif, and all the staff at The Strand Bistro for going out of their way to make us feel welcome, comfortable and for creating a wonderful safe meal for us.
at the Strand Hotel
33 W. 37th Street (between 5th and 6th avenues)
New York, NY 10018
* edited 10.22.2013 to add that Nathan Mergen and Chef Kelvin Fernandez have left The Strand Bistro.
Chef Kelvin has opened his own restaurant in Long Island City called “Blend” @blendlic.
Nathan Mergen, Beverage Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chef Kelvin Fernandez, Executive Chef, email@example.com