Canada’s got Moxie’s!
(Merrian-Webster Definition of Moxie: 1) Energy, Pep; 2) Courage, Determination; 3) Know-How)
Since AllergyEats is currently a U.S.-based restaurant guide, we generally wouldn’t highlight a restaurant chain north of the border. However, we’ve heard so many good things about Moxie’s, culminating in a proposed AllergyEats Blog post written by Michelle, that we decided to uncover this diamond in the rough for the benefit of both our Canadian readers as well as our American readers who travel, or are planning to travel, to Canada.
Take it away, Michelle!
Our 3 1/2 year old son has very severe food allergies. He is anaphylactic to peanuts, all tree nuts, sesame, gelatine and all pea/lentil legumes. He had his first anaphylactic reaction at just 6 months old – I kissed him after having eaten peanut butter myself. He has had anaphylactic reactions to each of his allergens, and most of his reactions have been to just trace amounts. Our daughter, 12 years old has no allergies/asthma. As you all understand, our entire life has drastically changed over the past 3 years. We don’t eat out, we make most of our food from scratch and having anyone other than myself or my husband feed our son was a terrifying thought – let alone in a kitchen where his known allergens are often prepared.
Yet last summer we felt adventurous and ready for the next step as allergy parents, eating out.
We had one successful dinner out at a local pizza place, they were allergy conscious, prepared our son a safe meal, I had no complaints. Yet what was in store for us at our local Moxie’s, I could never have been prepared for as an allergy mom. If our pizza experience was a 6 [on a scale of 1-10], our Moxie’s experiences have been an exceptional 10+!
Having heard good things about Moxie’s, and knowing their kitchen was run by chefs and not cooks, I felt this was a good restaurant to try out. After an initial phone call I felt comfortable and pleased with the hostesses answers to my questions regarding allergies.
The next day we arrived just before opening in order for me to talk with the head chef in person. As our luck would have it Chef Chris Pearson is not only the head chef of this location but he is also the regional head chef for all Ottawa, Ontario Moxie’s. His understanding of anaphylactic allergies was exceptional. Chef Pearson was warm and attentive, he assured me they could prepare a safe meal for our son. He didn’t rush me and took the time to bring me some ingredient labels to read myself and he went over in detail our son’s allergies.
Due to our son’s age there isn’t a large range of food he eats so after a minute to figure things out Chef Pearson came up with an inventive safe pizza using a naan bread crust he could create for our son.
The floor staff were just as amazing. I overheard our waitress reminding the others to be sure anyone who dealt with our table wash their hands well. Julie, our waitress was AWESEOME and when I say ‘got it’ she ‘got it’. I even overheard the hostess telling others where to seat us so we would feel the most comfortable and where they could directly see our table in case we had any issues.
Chef Pearson assured us he would be the only one dealing with our son’s food and sure enough, wearing gloves, he himself brought out our son’s pizza. Our son ate almost the entire pizza, he was thrilled with this new experience of eating out. We were constantly checked on and all staff including our awesome waitress Julie went out of their way to assure us and let us know what precautions they were taking to make this experience stress free for my husband and myself.
To finish off a great meal (our food was amazing also), the chef had come up with a safe dessert for our son. He had a bowl of fresh whipping cream sitting over a bowl of dry ice creating quite a thrill for our son. What this allergy mom loved more than the dry ice was the fact that every bowl, plate, utensil brought to our son was fresh from the dishwasher and carried to our table with gloved hands.
Our waitress really did have a full concept of cross contamination as our son had a small amount of pizza left. Before I even asked she let me know that take out containers were open in the kitchen. That, she knew, led to potential trace and asked if I would like someone to go to the upstairs office and open a new box to ensure it was safe. To someone not living 24/7 with life threatening allergies, that might not seem like a big deal. To this allergy mom, such an understanding of trace really showed us that the entire front room and kitchen staff absolutely GET IT!
Before we left, Chef Pearson came out again to our table and gave me his personal business card. On it he wrote the alterations and food substitutes he used to make our son his pizza. He assured us that we would be welcomed at any Moxie’s in Ottawa and that all Ottawa Moxie’s are capable to cook a safe meal for our son as he oversees them all.
Our first experience at Moxies was so wonderful that we decided a few months later to have another family meal out. I called the day before to double check if the next morning was a good time (they said we could come anytime with a quick call first but I still feel that I should give a days notice out of consideration for the chefs). I was surprised that the gentleman who answered the phone remembered our son and the exact meal, the little boy with the naan bread pizza. All I had said was that the head chef had created a safe meal for our son and asked if he would be working. I was told Chef Pearson would be off but we could come in at any time regardless who was working and they would happily make a safe meal for our son.
This time I arrived relaxed as I felt confident in their ability to cook for our son. Well we arrived right at opening and happened to get Julie the same waitress. She as well as the entire staff had been told of our coming.
I gave her the card the head chef gave us last time with the directions for how he made our son a special safe pizza. She told me that the floor manager and kitchen manager both were going to the kitchen to ensure our son’s meal was prepared with all precautions. The manager and kitchen manager both brought our son’s meal out, both wearing gloves. Before I even said anything the kitchen manager explained to me all the precautions taken to make our son’s meal. The chef in charge explained that our son’s meal was prepared by himself and that it never left his sight.
Staff asked if there was anything else they could ever do to make our son’s visits safer or easier for us. You know, I couldn’t think of even one thing more they could do to make us feel more at home or safer for our son.
While dining staff was attentive, a second manager came over to say hi. It turns out that after I had called the previous morning the host I talked to had called the general manager who in turn called him as he would be working at the time we were dining. Everyone was thoughtful but not pushy, kind and welcoming, yet still left us to enjoy our family meal.
So to Ottawa Moxie’s, thank you! For two amazing experiences and many more to come, thank you for your wonderful customer service, superb food, creating safe meals for our son and all the stress-free for this allergy mom.
I was told that although they appreciate a phone call with a couple hours notice if someone with allergies is coming to dine, they would always accommodate walk-in’s no matter what time of day or how busy they are. I believe them when they say that they have many customers who eat in their establishment who suffer food intolerances as well as anaphylactic allergies. Not everywhere ‘gets it’, Moxie’s ‘gets it’. I have since discovered that the founding family of Moxie’s has a son who suffers life threatening allergies, and yes, I did pass on huge thank you’s to not just the staff but to Moxie’s Head Offices as well as the founding family, the Gaglardi’s.
Positive experiences truly are a pleasure to share. I passed on our great experiences at Moxie’s not only to my allergy mom (and dad) chat forums, but our Ottawa Anaphylaxis Support Group as well. I am happy to say that a new Moxie’s location is currently being built quite close to our home. Chef Pearson has already emailed me in person to assure me that this new location is 100% capable to handle our son’s allergies. As our luck would have it Chef Pearson himself mentored this new location’s head chef for 4 years! I foresee many more family dinners out.
THANK YOU OTTAWA MOXIE’S!!!
What a great and uplifting story! As I said in the beginning, I’ve heard wonderful things about Moxie’s from other diners, and reading this makes me wish we had one in the U.S.! Moxie’s currently has 59 locations across Canada and their website can be found at www.moxies.ca.
- Have you been to Moxie’s? Do you share Michelle’s extremely positive sentiments? Or have you had disappointments?
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