By: Audrey Bounds
As a foodie, I was devastated when I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. These surfaced after being consistently ill for over a year. I was told I had to change my life completely and immediately. In addition to avoiding the foods I am allergic to, I began my first Whole30 in hopes of discovering a new way to live my life in complete harmony with food. Not only eating healthy but eating clean became a mission of mine.
Although my new Whole30 lifestyle sustained me, after two months of meal prepping and declining dinner invitations I watched my social life decline. My foodie heart longed for dinner with friends at restaurants with compliant ingredients for my lifestyle. It has been a challenge since as a southern girl changing her eating habits, I longed to eat fried chicken and waffles, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and pesto pasta. With persistence, I have found many places around Nashville that cater to my specific needs and love the challenge of eating out at all restaurants so I can publicize healthier options. I began my food Instagram (@audreysfoodescapades) to feature restaurants in Nashville (and wherever I travel) compliant to my allergies and a cleaner way of eating.
Whether you’re trying out a new diet or suffer from food sensitivities, use these tips and try the accompanying restaurants below in order to avoid being “that friend.”
Be the organizer
Anytime a group of friends wants to get together, I make sure that I coordinate or offer suggestions. It’s easier to pick a place from the start than have to maneuver your way around a group conversation on Italian food. I have a rolodex in my head (and on a Google doc) of diverse restaurants compliant with my lifestyle. If someone has a craving, I can easily find a cuisine suitable to my needs.
Clyde’s - Church Street: This is my “When-In-Doubt” restaurant. It’s very hard to find a group of friends who won’t agree on Clyde’s. They offer a great atmosphere, wide variety of drinks, and a killer menu with plenty of options.
Photo credit: @clydesonchurch
The best way to find out about the ingredients in your food is to ask. Whether that’s by phone or email. Restaurants want you to have the best experience, even if that means divulging certain ingredients. Call and talk to a manager ahead of time, so they can be prepared when you arrive. Hint: OpenTable has a great feature where you can leave a note when you make a reservation. Note your food allergies here and the restaurant will do their best to accommodate.
Silo - Germantown: This restaurant has always been more than accommodating when I call ahead. They make sure their staff is always ready and aware for your questions.
Photo credit: @silo.nashville
When in doubt - Farm to Table
If you are unable to discover the ingredients for dishes at certain restaurants, the easiest route is to choose a farm to table restaurant. We’re lucky to live in Nashville where one of these restaurants opens every week. They serve fresh, simple ingredient dishes that are prepared in house. The manager and chef should be very helpful in finding a dish that suits you. Husk - SoBro: Not to mention a relaxed atmosphere, the servers are incredibly knowledgeable about each dish and the accompanying ingredients. If they don’t know the ingredients, they are quick to ask the chef!
Photo credit: @husknashville
Inform your server
As a server, I’m sure it gets annoying when someone says they’re “gluten free,” but if this a true allergy/sensitivity I would stress the importance. Also, don’t be afraid to send something back if it’s incorrect. For instance, I used to eat around salads that accidentally came with cheese. It only takes one time of getting sick to apply your assertiveness. Save yourself the stomach pain and let your server know. You’ll be helping out others in the future if you make your server aware.
Bar Taco - 12 South: Their waiters are always willing to help you find the best option for you on their menu. Tip: Order their fresh squeezed juice without agave. They make it fresh on the spot and won’t add the sugar.
Photo credit: @bartacolife & @thehungryleopard
Don't be afraid to order al la carte
Ordering is hands down the worst part about eating out. You immediately become the difficult one. BUT if you don’t want to be “that friend” don’t be afraid to order items al la carte (if the option is available). Usually, al la carte items are made from simple ingredients, creating an easy and reliable meal that saves you some serious side-eye.
Fido - Hillsboro Village: Their al la carte menu is a wonderful and easy way to have a casual meetup with friends. You can also order specific items from their other entrees al la carte.
Little Donkey - Germantown: This restaurant instantly became one of my favorites after I tried it based on a review. Simple menu with simple ingredients. I can easily say I’m a frequent customer due to their ability to create tasty items with simple ingredients.
Photo credit: @fidonashville
Yelp/OpenTable to help others
Yelp and OpenTable are great tools to help other allergen-foodies. When I travel, I always look at reviews online about service. A restaurant with a good service record is more likely to properly take care of your dietary restrictions. Leave tips and tricks behind for new patrons to discover the ease of eating out.
Photo credit: @littledonkeynash
Try using these tips next time you try a new restaurant in Nashville and learn that food allergies and allergic to fun are not synonymous.
Note: Not all of these restaurants apply to a serious food allergy.
Audrey is a born and bred Texan working in the music industry. Along with focusing on her health/fitness, you can catch her listening to musicals, writing sketch comedy, and singing at church.
Instagram: @AudreysFoodEscapades and @AudreyBounds
Interested in writing a blog post for The Nashville Guide? Apply here.