O Canada! Are You an Allergy-Friendly Land?
Over the years, we’ve been asked time and time again to consider expanding AllergyEats into Canada. As of today, there is no AllergyEats Canada (though it certainly does make sense, doesn’t it?). In the meantime, however, we’re happy to have a great relationship with Toronto-based food allergy blogger, Kathleen O’Hagan, who has a son with multiple food allergies and is the founder of Allergybites, a restaurant review website featuring accommodating restaurants in Toronto and more. Kathleen was gracious enough to write the following AllergyEats blog post for those living in, or traveling to, Toronto or Ottawa with food allergies.
Your neighbours to the north may be super duper friendly… but are we allergy-friendly? Read on to find out…
The truth is, there are A LOT of allergy-friendly options in major cities like Toronto and Ottawa these days, but it can be challenging (and stressful!) trying to figure out which ones are free from your family’s allergens, what allergy protocols they have in place, and how well trained their staff is — especially when you’re doing your research from afar.
The good news is, if you’re planning a trip to Canada’s largest city (Toronto) or our nation’s capital (Ottawa), I’m here to help. Ever since my son was diagnosed with multiple allergies almost three years ago, I’ve made it my mission to seek out allergy-friendly restaurants in Toronto (and beyond) and share my findings with the food allergy community. And this includes food-allergic tourists, of course! (We all know how important it is to have your allergy-friendly spots mapped out before you embark on a trip.)
So without further ado, here are the friendliest of the friendly. The most accommodating. The ones free of top allergens and more…
Allergy-Friendly Dining in Toronto
Free of the top 10 allergens, Sorelle and Co. has been providing food allergy families with a safe place to grab a sweet treat or a savoury meal for close to 3 years. And since first launching in 2016, this lovely spot has expanded to 4 locations across the city — so no matter where your hotel happens to be, there’s no excuse not to experience what is truly an elegant dining experience. (They even serve high tea at two of their locations, but you must book your seating in advance.) You can find Sorelle and Co. in Vaughn (north), downtown (central), Yorkville (central), and most recently, in Etobicoke (west). Okay, okay… If you’re in the east end, you may have a problem. But scroll down to #2 for a solution that is pretty wonderful too.
A recent (and much-loved) addition to Toronto’s allergy-friendly scene is fast-casual restaurant & bakery, Hype Food Co. If your travels take you to Toronto’s east end — the Leslieville/Riverdale area specifically — you won’t want to miss this fabulous place. Heck, if your travels don’t take you east, I say: “Go there anyway!” Hype Food Co. is seriously that good. It’s also free of the top 10 allergens, but owner and allergy mama, Pauline Osena, will go one step further to accommodate allergies outside of the top 10 when possible. This adorable spot also has an interactive play area for the little ones, so you can rest your weary (well-travelled) bones while your kiddos play nearby.
Yet another bakery and fast casual spot that can accommodate multiple allergies (and other dietary restrictions) is La Vida Cocoa. This north-Toronto eating spot uses ingredients that are not only top allergen-free, but organic AND low in sugar — making their sweet and savoury options a great choice for diabetics too. And their fabulous selection of frozen items make it easy to stock up on allergen-free foods if you’re staying at an Airbnb. La Vida Cocoa also has an interactive play area for the kids. You know, so they can have their fun… and eat it too.
Calling all pizza lovers! It doesn’t matter what allergies you or your loved ones have, Famoso Pizzeria is always happy to accommodate. While this particular pizzeria isn’t allergen-free, the staff at this lovely Annex location goes above and beyond to accommodate patrons with food allergies. The servers are knowledgeable, patient and really good at making food allergy families feel safe and welcome. And — get this — even if you’re dealing with allergies in the double digits, you can safely eat at Famoso Pizzeria. Just be sure to communicate your allergies with the server before you order!
“Their processes and policies make it the only place that could accommodate my son’s 12+ allergies. The first time we ate there, I cried I was so happy.” – Allison Venditti, Food Allergy Mom
If you’re feeling homesick, give The Bread Essentials in Etobicoke a visit. Josée, the owner and head baker of this nut-free bakery, is so warm and so accommodating that you’ll want to pop by more than once during your stay. And not to worry, if you have multiple allergies, Josée also offers a wide variety of vegan options and doesn’t use soy in any of her recipes. Plus she bakes everything free of wheat on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Josée will go above and beyond to customize her recipes and bake what you need — just be sure to call in advance if you want her to make you something special. P.S. If you want to try some authentic Canadian cuisine, grab one of her delicious tourtieres (meat pies) while you’re there.
Allergy-Friendly Dining in Ottawa
If you’re heading to Canada’s capital city, keep your eyes peeled for this lovely teal spot, tucked away on a residential street in Wellington West. Free of dairy, egg, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, Strawberry Blonde is a little bakery with a huge selection of sweet and savoury items to devour. If you have allergies outside of the 5 listed above, be sure to call in advance to see if they can accommodate you. The owner and baker will be sure to let you know if safe options do exist, and is always transparent with regards to risk of cross contamination. This is another great option for Airbnb-ers looking to stock up on frozen meals and desserts that are allergy-friendly.
This quaint little bakery is located in the outskirts of Ottawa, in the small town of North Gower. But no matter where you are staying, Dolly Doll Cupcake Co. is worth the drive! Not only is this spot free of peanuts, dairy, soy, egg, sesame, mustard, shellfish, sulphites, preservatives and casein, the owner and allergy mom only uses 10 ingredients in her recipes — so there’s a pretty good chance it’s free of your allergens even if they happen to fall in the “less common” category. Dolly Doll will also customize orders upon request and can provide baked goods that are free of sugar, oil, seeds, gluten, and can even cater to those following a FODMAP diet. This spot is super safe, delicious and the owner is as friendly as can be!
While Toronto and Ottawa both have a wide selection of other allergy-friendly options, the eating spots included in this review are either top allergen-free or unbelievably accommodating. If you like to base your travels around your dining experiences, be sure to include some (or all!) of these 7 spots into your Toronto/Ottawa itinerary. Just be sure to contact them in advance if you have any special requests. Most will be more than willing to help you out if they can.
Safe travels to Canada and… safe appétit!