Category Archives: Sandwiches

Let’s Talk Five Guys

Two nut-free Five Guys burgers

First things first: If you have a peanut allergy, Five Guys is not the place for you. There are free peanuts everywhere, and they fry everything in peanut oil. But if tree nuts are your only issue, Five Guys just might be the burger joint for you.

Their burgers aren’t anything to die for, but they’re certainly a few (large) steps above those of the McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s ilk. I actually really like Five Guys—and I’ve never had any sort of allergen-related issues with their food.

For some reason, their allergen chart doesn’t have a column for tree nuts, so I sent an email and received the following reply:

The only nut allergen at our stores would be due to the presence of peanuts. There are no products containing tree nuts in our restaurants, nor are they used in our cooking process in any way. Though please remember that there is always a risk of cross contamination, so definitely use caution. For your convenience the kitchens in all of our restaurants are always kept open so our customers may watch their food be prepared.

I asked for a bit more clarification about the risk of cross-contamination, and this was the reply I received:

It remains correct that we don’t use any tree nut products however we must always assume there is a possibility of cross contamination and advise our customers of this as a precaution. Some of our products may be processed in the same facilities as tree nuts are or as another example, an employee may come into contact with tree nut products during a break, etc. We certainly do our best to stress the importance of food safety with our employees however know there is always a risk.

Not bad, as places that aren’t nut-free go. A lack of intentional nuts and nut products in a restaurant goes a long way toward making me comfortable—and the fact that Five Guys is sensitive enough to acknowledge those risks they can’t quite control is encouraging. For some, though, that isn’t enough—and you should, of course, always decide where to eat based on your own level of comfort. Still, for me, Five Guys works.

Anyway, in case you’ve never been: Five Guys has burgers, fries, hot dogs, a few sandwiches, and (as of a few months ago) shakes. That’s it. They don’t freeze their beef, and they fry only in peanut oil—so already, we’re out of theMcDonald’s territory. (Plus, as I mentioned above, they don’t have any salads or desserts that contain nuts, as most fast food joints tend to.)

Their burgers are definitely decent—I have no complaints there—but I do have a confession to make: I’ve never understood why so many people seem to love their fries. Seriously—Five Guys’ fries have an evangelical following, and I don’t get it. They’re mushy and flavorless—two deal-breakers, in my book—but to each his own, I suppose. (Though to Five Guys’ credit, they do give you a pretty hefty portion. Maybe that’s the appeal.)

My final verdict: If you’re a) comfortable with peanuts and b) a fan of burgers, you should give Five Guys a try. At the very least, it’s nice to have another reliable chain to fall back on when you’re in a bind.

My favorite locations are the one in Greenwich Village (296 Bleecker Street) and the one the one in Brooklyn Heights (138 Montague Street), though that’s probably just because I like the surrounding neighborhoods. There are Five Guys locations all over, and there’s probably no real advantage of one over the other, seeing as part of the appeal of any fast food chain is the fact that they’re all, you know, the same.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

Domino’s Pizza

IMG_2707

I know, I know—Domino’s is just plain bad. But it’s dependable, and it does the trick when I’m feeling extraordinarily lazy or hungry (or reclusive…or masochistic). And the ability to order from basically any device I’ll ever own is a plus, I guess. Nothing like being able to respond to a “hey, pizzas are half-off this week!” ad by whipping out my phone and ordering one of said terrible pizzas—and some wings and, regrettably, some Cinna Stix—all without ever, you know, budging.

But you know what? If eating Domino’s is the worst decision of my week, I’ve probably had a pretty good week.

My real point, though: In my experience, Domino’s is pretty allergy-friendly. According to their website, they only have one item on the menu that contains nuts (the Chicken Apple Pecan Salad) and one that’s made in a facility that also handles nuts (the Chocolate Lava Crunch Cake). Everything else, though—pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, wings, breadsticks, even the weird-ass “marbled cookie brownie”—seems to be safe.

To be sure, I reached out to Domino’s. I received the following reply:

There are no peanuts or peanut oils or tree nuts in our pizza crusts, pizza sauce, pizza cheese, core pizza toppings (beef, green pepper, ham, mushrooms, black olives, onions, pepperoni, pineapple and italian sausage), chicken kickers, chicken wings, bread side items or salads.  Soybean oil is used in all of our dough formulas. There may, however, be special promotional and/or test products present in the store. Therefore, we cannot ensure that all of the products present are completely free of peanuts/tree nuts.

Their response was about what I expected—though there is a salad on their menu that contains pecans, which informational inconsistency doesn’t exactly leave me inclined to trust them blindly. In my experience, though, their food has been safe. (Obviously, they aren’t a nut-free establishment, and you should, as always, look into what you’re eating and use your own discretion.)

Anyway, as if this post isn’t already embarrassing enough, I suppose I should probably reveal the details of my regular order, which is pictured above. I like to get a hand-tossed with white sauce, triple (yes, triple) pineapple, and light ham—because if I’m going to order bad pizza, I might as well get something shameful, right? (I’m kidding; unfortunately, I just like Hawaiian pizza. And white sauce.) I’ve also been known to gorge myself on their bread bowl pastas—though my strategy for those pretty much ends at clicking on whatever random ingredients sound tolerable at that particular inappropriate hour and hoping for the best. It never ends well—but hey, it shows up.

Seriously, though: Don’t get the Cinna Stix. They’re bad, even by Domino’s standards.

Find Domino’s…everywhere. Oh, and by the way, if can be bothered to forego delivery and carry out (or eat in, I guess), do it. Your meal will probably cost a whole lot less—and that’s not just because you won’t have a delivery guy to tip. For some reason, everything just ends up costing more when you order online. (I happen to think that’s by design, but whatever.)

Tagged , , ,

Bagel Town: nut-free bagels (or so they say)

IMG_2510

Another trek—this time, to Long Island. And boy, was it an adventure.

Nut-free bagels are really tough to find. Good nut-free bagels are, as far as I know, impossible to find—that is, unless you’re willing to make your way to West Hempstead, where you’ll find Bagel Town: a nut-free, sesame-free, dairy-free, kosher bakery.

To my surprise, Bagel Town isn’t all that hard to reach from the city. My boyfriend and I took the LIRR to Hempstead, walked for 30 seconds, and got on a bus straight to Bagel Town. 40 minutes on the train, 15 on the bus—not too bad, really. Especially for a good bagel. Right?

I got an everything bagel with lox and dairy-free cream cheese, and it was surprisingly good. It was no Donut Pub bagel—that’s for sure. And it definitely blew the artisan bagels at Trader Joe’s out of the water. No complaints, really. (Actually, one complaint: dairy-free cream cheese. Not my thing.)

As I tend to when I’m eating somewhere so far from home, I ordered way too much: a cake pop, a rainbow cookie (one of those tricolor layer cake whatsits—not sure why they get to be called “cookies”), and two more bagels for the road (one everything, one plain).

I also got what I was told was a chocolate croissant (but which was neither chocolate nor croissant). I didn’t eat much of it, but that was just because each bite felt like a theft from my future self who’d undoubtedly want to reheat the thing at home. (It was an acute feeling. I’m not kidding. I wish I were.) Regardless, it was really tasty—even cold.

The cake pop was decent (honestly, it’s the only one I’ve ever had, so I have nothing to compare it to) and the untoasted bagels (which I couldn’t stop myself from picking at) were good, too. Things were going well, and I found myself wishing Bagel Town were nearby so I could stop by for breakfast—you know, like a normal person.

Now, the first words on their website are “nut-free,” and the same words are printed in big-ass font on their awning. There are signs inside that say the same, too. They seemed confident—and so was I. Until I bit into that rainbow cookie.

I spit it out (not because I knew I was allergic, but because it tasted like cough medicine), and immediately my mouth began to itch. I don’t need to describe the reaction—if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably had a few—but suffice it to say it was wholly unpleasant.

Originally, I thought my reaction was probably to some sort of fruit in the jelly (I’ve had mild reactions to some unknown type of fruit once or twice before), but it didn’t feel like a fruit reaction, nor have I ever ended up with a lip the size of your typical NYC bagel because I’d eaten a goddamn berry.

[Edit: Since writing this, I’ve gone to the allergist, and it would appear that I am not allergic to any fruits. Instead, it seems like I have oral allergy syndrome—but OAS reactions generally aren’t systemic (and this reaction was), so I think I can safely say that whatever it was I reacted to wasn’t a fruit.]

When I got home, I did some Googling, and sure enough, I couldn’t find a single recipe for rainbow cookies that didn’t call for almond paste or extract. Huh. I can’t say for sure that there were almonds in the cookie—perhaps there was some sort of cross-contamination at play, or perhaps it was some sort of almond substitute that caused my reaction—but it certainly seems like there were.

I’ve still gone ahead and categorized Bagel Town as truly nut-free, because that’s how they categorize themselves. I’m not sure I trust them, given the cookie—but they’re still ostensibly a nut-free establishment. One that I don’t quite recommend.

Although there is a pharmacy next door.

…The things I do for bagels.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Big Daddy’s: no nuts, plenty of kitsch

The Mr. French Dip from Big Daddy's

Big Daddy’s is a lovely place. Honestly, it’s a terrible place—but it’s lovely, too. Bright, loud, busy as hell, and absurdly kitschy…if that’s your scene, you’ll be in love.

Alternatively, if you’re like me, and you don’t feel at home under super-bright lighting or with jukebox classics constantly threatening to overwhelm your conversation, but you do have a nut allergy—well, you’ll be grateful to be able to eat at a diner, at the very least.

I’ve heard over and over that Big Daddy’s is nut-free, but they don’t categorize themselves as such on their website, so I wanted to make sure. I’ve spoken to servers and they’re always confident: no nuts on the menu, nor in the kitchen. Still, I wanted to know—are they truly nut-free, in the they-vet-their-vendors-and-I-can-eat-a-slice-of-pie sense, or do they just happen not to have any (intentional) nuts on the menu?

In an attempt to get some real answers, I called Big Daddy’s and spoke with a very understanding representative. She asked me to forward her a list of my questions so she could double-check on the answers, as she didn’t want to risk misleading me. Fair enough. Half an hour later, I had the following reply in my inbox:

Hey! So everything that is made in house in guaranteed to be completely nut free. However, with some of our cakes and breads that we order (of course there are no nuts in the food itself) there is no guarantee that there is no cross contamination. I don’t know exactly which [menu items] are and aren’t [guaranteed nut-free]. Our menu is really big and I would just be guessing on a lot of the things. That’s more of a question for the kitchen and unfortunately there is no way of contacting them. If you had a few specific questions I could find out but theyre too busy to go over the whole menu with me and tell me what is what.

She also forwarded me an email from the director of operations:

Off premise bake goods are not guaranteed but no in house nuts. I wouldn’t eat 7 grain bread or off premise cakes.

Of course, I’m sure you’d be able to speak to a server (or even a member of the kitchen staff) about just what’s made in house and what isn’t, should you ever have a question about a specific dish. In my experience, the employees at Big Daddy’s tend to be pretty understanding—but you may have to push a little harder than usual to get your server to double-check on anything, since they’re so used to telling those with allergies that everything’s 100% nut-free.

Anyway, because their in-house food is guaranteed nut-free (and because servers will readily assure you the restaurant is totally nut-free), I’ve categorized Big Daddy’s as truly nut-free. Despite all of the above, it seems to be a pretty safe place to eat—especially if you avoid the muffins, cakes, and certain breads, which isn’t all that hard to do. (And if your allergies are particularly sensitive, to the point that you’re uncomfortable eating commercial ice cream that’s been run on shared lines, you’d be wise to avoid their shakes, too.)

[Note: Since writing this post, it’s come to my attention that Big Daddy’s is even less nut-free than I’d thought. Their Triple Chocolate Disco Shake (chocolate ice cream, Frangelico, crème de cacao) does explicitly contain a nut product (hazelnut liqueur), which doesn’t bode well for Big Daddy’s. In my eyes, it’s not the liqueur itself that’s the problem, but the ignorance the liqueur betrays. How has it managed to slip under the nut-free radar—as in, why does nobody ever think to mention it—and what else might have done the same?]

As a rule, the food is on par with your average diner’s. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good, but it isn’t terrible, either. I usually order the Mr. French Dip (pictured above) or the Original Big Mac Daddy—both with tater tots. The Mr. French Dip is somehow both too bland and too salty, but what can I say? I have a soft spot for baguettes—including mediocre ones. The Big Mac Daddy is (you guessed it) a burger with Big Mac sauce. Not bad, on a good day. The mozzarella sticks (sorry, the Really Really Good Mozz Styx) are decent, and I’ve been known to order the Monty Hall, What a Deal! (turkey, ham, and swiss on white bread—fried) on occasion, even though I always end up regretting that decision.

And yes, the menu is filled with dish names like those above. Ordering is always embarrassing. But if you can get past the kitschy menu and the even kitschier atmosphere, Big Daddy’s is fair place to eat. On occasion. If you’re really craving diner food.

(One thing I can endorse without disclaimers or reservations, though: the malted milkshakes. I like the vanilla Plain Jane, but if you can get them to malt the Cookie Monster—vanilla with Oreos—well, that’s my official recommendation. I’m sure the ice cream’s made on shared lines, though, so…maybe one reservation.)

There are three locations in NYC: one in Gramercy Park, one on the Upper East Side, and one on the Upper West Side. I’ve been a bit harsh, but I do think they’re worth a try.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Donut Pub

A cannoli cream croissant donut from The Donut Pub

It’s extremely rare that I can eat at a bakery, so when I first heard about The Donut Pub, it seemed too good to be true. A nut-free donut shop? With sandwiches? And bagels?! No way.

Way.

According to the FAQ on The Donut Pub’s website, they are the real goddamn deal:

Q. Are you a Nut Free Establishment?
A. WE ARE NUT AWARE. Our on-site bakery does not use nuts, and we have been assured by our suppliers that they deliver nut-free ingredients as specified by their labels. Although we do not allow customers to bring outside food into the Pub, we cannot assure customers a nut-free environment. Thus we call the Donut Pub “Nut Aware.” Note that we supply donuts to the Food Allergy Initiative luncheon.

So no, they don’t call themselves “nut-free.” But by their definitions, “nut-aware” is probably even better. They are, for all intents and purposes, nut-free; they don’t use nuts and they do vet their suppliers. But they’re so careful and so allergy-conscious that they don’t want to make any outright guarantees, which is, to me, a very good sign. No business can guarantee that a nut will never cross the threshold—The Donut Pub’s just decided to be honest about that. So in my eyes, this place is about as safe as it gets.

A

It’s a cute little place, with one long marble countertop and a bunch of stools. The employees are friendly, and they won’t get annoyed when you, too, inevitably feel the need to ask all the questions they’ve been answering on loop all day: “What’s in that one? Oh, and that one? How about that one over there?”

The donuts are pretty tasty, too. They aren’t absolutely incredible, but if you catch the right donut at the right time of day, The Donut Pub can be really, really good. The stock is pretty inconsistent, but it’s always a good day when I walk in and spot whatever it was I was looking for. My favorites, by a long shot, are the cannoli cream croissant donuts and the French crullers, both pictured in the photos above—although my official recommendation would probably be the (plain) glazed croissant donut.

Unfortunately, their bagels aren’t the ones of my dreams. Still, nut-free bagels are notoriously hard to come by, so I’ll often settle for theirs in a pinch. As long as you don’t have your heart set on a fluffy, chewy New York City bagel, one of theirs will do the trick. Beware, though: Their menu advertises scallion cream cheese, but they’re always, always, always “out” of it.

In any case, The Donut Pub is a lovely place. It’s one of my favorites, and I’d certainly still stop by if I didn’t have a nut allergy. In case you aren’t yet convinced, here’s a bonus photo of a tray of croissant donuts, fresh out of the oven at around midnight on a Saturday night:

A tray of croissant donuts at The Donut Pub

See for yourself: 203 West 14th Street, near the corner of 7th Avenue. Worth a try, at the very least.

Tagged , , , ,
Advertisements