This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Pauline Osena. Pauline is a writer, food allergy advocate, self-proclaimed allergy-friendly foodie, mother of 3 young children, and manager of a household that avoids 7 of the top 8 food allergens. She is also the founder of HypeFoodie and editor of Best Allergy Sites, online resources for allergy-friendly living.
Eating out with my entire family can be challenging. My eldest son is allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts, and my youngest is allergic to eggs and fish, so it’s almost impossible to find a full-service restaurant that is completely free from all of their allergens. Instead, I look for allergy-aware eating spots that have policies in place to accommodate customers with food allergies and kitchen procedures to avoid cross-contamination.
The Jack Astor’s chain is one of a handful of restaurants that I trust to prepare food for my children. It’s a family restaurant with a wide selection of food on their menu—from pub fare to Asian inspired dishes. They also have a great kids menu, with a good variety of whole food options. Our kids love the fun, playful atmosphere and enjoy doodling on tables covered with brown craft paper. As an allergy-mom, I also appreciate the paper table coverings, because it helps ensure the surfaces are clean and free from allergen traces, and my kids are busy drawing or playing tic-tac-toe while I speak to the staff about our food allergies. And the many TV screens around the restaurant are usually set to sports, funny video reels and sports bloopers so there’s entertainment for the entire family.
We’ve eaten at the Jack Astor’s restaurants on John Street in downtown Toronto, and in St. Catherine’s Ontario multiple times, and have consistently had delicious, safe and allergen-free meals served to my children. When calling to make a reservation, the restaurant staff immediately show that they are allergy-aware by asking if there’s anyone in our party with food allergies. Both my sons’ allergies were noted on the reservation, and upon arrival, the hostess immediately offered to have a manager visit our table to discuss the allergies further.
Because my eldest son has multiple food allergies, I always carry a chef card listing all of his allergens so that there is no chance of error between the server’s notes and the instructions that the kitchen receives. I still like to speak with the kitchen manager or person responsible for cooking the meal to make sure that they understand that the food cannot contain his allergens as ingredients AND that the equipment the food is cooked on needs to be clean and free from allergens as well.
In our case, we usually order steak fries from the kids menu for our son. I always ensure that the deep fryer is a dedicated fryer for french fries only to reduce cross-contamination risks. Their steak is fresh and unmarinated, and to be extra safe, we request that no spices be added to the steak (we add salt and pepper ourselves at the table). The majority of their steaks are cooked on a grill with some items containing butter or cheese, so the kitchen accommodates for my son’s allergies by cooking his steak on a skillet with vegetable oil. The chef is sometimes apologetic that the steak doesn’t have grill marks, but that’s a small trade-off for a safe meal.
The amazing thing about Jack Astor’s is that they are open to modifications and replacements. On one occasion my son wanted to have rice instead of fries with his steak. The kitchen verified that the rice did not contain any dairy, wheat, eggs or nuts, and to be extra safe, they also shared the fact that the rice may contain tapioca. Even though tapioca was not one of our allergens, I appreciated their transparency and took it as a sign that they take food allergies very seriously.
Another bonus is that Jack Astor’s kids meals come with dessert my kids can actually eat. We are used to skipping dessert, because there usually isn’t anything suitable for my eldest, but to our surprise, they have two very delicious and satisfying options. The first dessert we tried was fresh fruit. After verifying with the server that the fruit was cut in an area that was free from dairy, eggs, wheat and nuts, my son happily consumed the entire bowl. The second option we’ve tried is the Chapman’s orange sorbet, which my son constantly raves about. The sorbet is sealed in individual portions and is gluten-free, peanut-free, nut-free, and does not contain any of the top allergens as ingredients. This is such an amazing option to have, especially for a child that almost never gets to eat “ice cream” outside of our house.
Jack Astor’s is now one of our go-to restaurants for large family gatherings. With advance planning, we’ve never had a problem getting a reservation for a large party. My family has varied preferences and it’s not easy to please us all—we have people with food allergies and intolerances, we’ve got hearty eaters that love pub fare and health conscious eaters that prefer lighter options, and still others who go for traditional Asian food. And, of course, no family is complete without a handful of picky eaters. The Jack Astor’s menu has so many delicious options that everyone is able to find something to satisfy their cravings. For us, it’s a safe place that brings our family together, a place where I don’t need to do the cooking (or the dishes) and we all enjoy an evening out.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.