Friday, August 28, 2009

Bringing Outside Food Inside a Restaurant-- Is it a Good Idea?

In 1998 I moved to New York City to attend acting school and live out my dream. To say the least, I was beaming inside and out. However, my mother was a little less excited about this move. Not only was I moving to New York City, alone, I have severe food allergies and she feared I would not eat well. Concerned about how I would deal with my food allergies in college she actually prepared dinners for me and shipped them to my apartment door on dry ice.

I quickly learned my peers lived off of cheap food and local dives around Washington Square Park. Friendships and great ideas were born bonding over quick lunches and late dinners. A few weeks into school I started to get to know a great group of people. After class one day we decided to get a bite to eat together. A friend of mine pointed to a restaurant across the way and I knew just by glancing at the name, which was in a foreign language, it was probably going to be out of the question for me. I learned long ago that if I cannot communicate with the servers or the owner, I can't eat there.

I told the group I would pop over to Wendy's to get a hamburger patty and join them in a few minutes. I decided to get the patty to-go and head over to the restaurant to eat with my friends. By the time I arrived they were being served. I sat down at the end of the table and pulled out my hamburger patty in a Wendy's potato boat. Before I took the first bite, a man came over and demanded I leave his restaurant immediately. He was irate and offended. I was mortified. I ran out of the restaurant as he followed behind me pointing and shouting.

I sat on the curb outside and nibbled on my patty while I shed a few tears.

But I learned an important lesson. It does not matter if I am going to dine at a mom and pop joint or a four star restaurant, I call ahead, around three o'clock in the afternoon, and ask to speak with the manager or chef. I explain my food allergies and politely ask if there is something he or she could make for me from the menu. Some are rude and tell me they don't have time to deal with me, but the majority are very happy to help. And a few have special ordered something for me so that I could dine with my friends and family.

If I prepare for the dining occasion in advance, I find I do not have to bring food with me to a restaurant. It's really a good rule to live by.

Nicolle Avery

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