Yesterday I posted about our recent trip to Washington D.C. and how to travel on a plane and find a place to stay when you’re dealing with food allergies. Today, I’ll break down how we found food, what we found and where we ate it.
What & where to eat in D.C.
Each night we ate my kiddo’s favorite spaghetti and meatballs for dinner back at our apartment, which was truly awesome, let me tell you. We were exhausted — you walk a LOT in D.C. — and being able to just bring the kids home, put the baby down and eat on the sofa was HEAVEN!!! And we just ate cereal and fruit each morning for breakfast. I have yet to find a safe, quick breakfast at a restaurant for Jillian. If you ever eat breakfast out with milk, egg and nut allergies, comment and let me know where! She’s always wanted to find a safe breakfast, and I have had no luck.
For lunch, we packed sandwiches most days. This way we didn’t have to hunt down a safe restaurant, speak to a manager & check ingredients, fight crowds and pay a fortune! (Although, we did all of these things on our last day in D.C. — more on that in a minute.)
Here’s a few tips if you’re packing lunches in D.C.:
- Throw your sandwiches and drinks in a backpack (or in our case, a diaper bag in the stroller).
- Use lightweight reusable baggies instead of plastic containers. This way, when they’re empty, your backpack is MUCH lighter!
- If you’re hitting any of the Smithsonian museums, you’ll have to let them inspect your bags. You don’t have to do anything different here, but be aware that there is a bag check to get inside.
- Look for an empty spot to park yourselves whenever you’re ready to eat.
We ate here (above pic) on our first day out and about. It’s in the sculpture garden of the National Mall. There were huge concrete benches surrounding this fountain, so we just grabbed ourselves one and opened our sandwiches. Another bonus about packing lunches is that you can eat anytime you want! No waiting in line, fighting over crowded tables… just plop down and start munching!
We had decided to go out for lunch one of the three days we would be there. My husband and I have an old college buddy that lives in D.C. and works in the restaurant industry. We had several text conversations in the days leading up to the trip about safe, allergy-friendly restaurant options. Turns out, there were lots — but many of them were a lot fancier (read: pricier) than we could swing. He did give me a couple of more casual options, and with the help of some pre-trip googling and checking the Allergy Eats website, we decided to check out Shake Shack for the kids’ favorite: burgers and fries.
Lunch at Shake Shack
Eating out in D.C. was in some ways easier than I had anticipated, and in other ways it was more difficult. I had looked up Shake Shack’s allergen menu on my phone before we headed over there.
Can we just take a moment and appreciate how far we’ve come in the allergy world in the last decade? Ten years ago, the idea of whipping out my phone to see if Jillian could safely eat at a fast food restaurant would have been absurd! It is so, so, so nice that so many restaurants are choosing to put their allergy info online. A HUGE thanks from us allergy folks out here!
It looked like she could safely eat a burger (no cheese) and fries. But I NEVER trust the online menus alone. They are a great guide, but I always double check with a real live person (preferably a manager) when I get to the restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t time it well, and our bus let us off in front of Shake Shack around 1:30… the most crowded time to eat! Side note here: when dealing with special instructions or questions for an allergy order, it’s generally best to go when it’s not super crazy busy. I did not heed my own advice on this one. Here we were, in the huge crowd, with a couple of starving children. We were eating NOW. I waited in line and got to the register. Preparing for another massive eyeroll, I asked about ingredients in their burgers and fries. To my surprise, the girl behind the counter was very polite and patient with me, even printing out their allergen lists right there at the register. Yahoo!!! Success!
A safe (double!) burger, fries and a drink for Miss J. And even though it was way stressful, super crowded, we had to fight for a table and pay a small fortune… she ate safely. And that is priority numero uno, right?
We made sure to bring safe snacks with us everyday, which is the norm for us anyway. You never want to be caught with a starving food allergy kid in a random place with no safe food around. So for little munchies we brought pretzels, fruit strips, craisins, granola bars, gummies and chips. But I was up for trying to find one safe “treat” each day.
There are food trucks EVERYWHERE around the National Mall near the most popular museums (Natural History, Air & Space…). And some of them are ice cream trucks. And some of those ice cream trucks have slushies and snow cones. Even though I’ve never run across an unsafe slushie, I still always ask if they contain milk.
This is where I got my eyeroll.
“No. They’re just ice.” *eyeroll*
“Well, ice and flavoring,” I said. “We have allergies, I have to check.”
Thanks, dude. You’re making this super fun for me. Anywho, one safe blue raspberry slushie later…
This time we plopped right down on the grass in the National Mall. We were SOOOOOOO lucky on our trip. The weather was fantastic! What should have been mid-90s was actually upper 60s and 70s for the full 3 days we were there (thank you, cold front!), and it promptly returned to 96° the day after we left! But those slushies and ice cream cones made my kids SUPER CHILLY in the windy 66-degree weather! #floridapeopleproblems
Day 2 we found safe snow cones at the Smithsonian National Zoo, with a much friendlier worker, too.
And that’s it, folks! Three kids, three days, multiple food allergies and lots of fun in Washington D.C. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Just give me a few years…
Comment below with your tips for eating safely while traveling. I’d love to read them!