With food allergies affecting 32 million people in the United States — both adults and children — it’s more important than ever that restaurants and other eateries make an effort to stay informed about common allergens and, ideally, find ways to cater to customers who might have reactions to them. That sadly often isn’t the case — but some places do go above and beyond. And if you’re looking for an allergy-friendly bakery or ice cream shop to satisfy your sweet tooth, good news: AllergyEats has just released its list of the Top Allergy-Friendly Sweets Shops in the United States for 2019. Whether you love ice cream sundaes or consider yourself more of a lemon bar person, the 15 shops on this list will let you scratch that sweetness itch while also keeping you safe from common food allergens. Heck, and yes.
AllergyEats is sort of like Yelp specifically for allergy-friendly eateries. Originally launched in 2010, it allows users to add, rate, and review restaurants solely on how well they handle allergy issues — whether the spots specifically cater towards people with certain allergies or whether they’re simply willing to adapt to and work with customers who alert them to specific allergies they have when they eat there. The database currently has more than 850,000 restaurants covering a wide swathe of the nation, while elsewhere on the site, users can find guides to particular vacation destinations (like Disney World) and loads of resources geared towards helping people navigate the unfortunately tricky proposition of eating out when either you or your dining companions have allergies. It’s no wonder that AllergyEats has become “the dominant guide to finding allergy-friendly restaurants across the United States,” per its About page.
Although the site has been in operation for nearly a decade, 2019 marks the first time it has published its Top Allergy-Friendly Sweets Shops list. As AllergyEats’ blog post about the list notes, bakeries and ice cream shops can be “extremely challenging to navigate” if you’ve got food allergies — not just because the main ingredients of sweet treats are often allergy triggers (hi there, dairy, gluten, and nuts), but also because these treats can also often contain “hidden allergens” that might not be their actual ingredients lists. What’s more, how helpful waitstaff and other restaurant are when it comes to food allergies can be a little unpredictable; as one study published this past April in the journal PLOS One found, there’s frequently a substantial gap between restaurant staff’s confidence in their food allergy knowledge and their actual food allergy knowledge. As such, knowing which spots tend to be better about what can literally be a life-or-death situation is essential for folks with food allergies — particular when it comes to items that can often be high risk in the first place.
Hence the Top Allergy-Friendly Sweets Shops list. Consisting of 15 bakeries and ice cream shops, the list covers a number of different regions in the United States: Four of the shops are in Massachusetts; two are in California; two are in Washington, DC; and there’s one each in Kentucky, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Florida. From doughnut shops to cookie bakeries and from bakery cafes to ice cream shops, tons of allergy-friendly sweet treats can be found at all of these spots.
Taking the top slot is Starry Lane Bakery in San Diego, California. According to the bakery’s about page, all of the baked goods it purveys are made “on-site in a dedicated facility that is free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish”; they’re also all free of artificial food dyes. The best part, though, is that these baked don’t necessarily read as “baked goods for people with allergies” — they’re all designed to be indistinguishable from, say, the full-gluten, full-dairy, or full-whatever versions of the same treats. As Starry Lane puts it, “the utmost care is taken to make sure that the taste, texture, and appearance of each pastry are just what you remember from your own childhood.”
And clearly, they’re doing all that and more. With five stars on AllergyEats, Starry Lane has garnered nothing but glowing praise from every review on the site. Wrote one reviewer, “My son is allergic to dairy, peanuts, shrimp, sesame, and hazelnuts. He can quite literally eat everything this bakery serves.” According to another reviewer with “a severe peanut allergy” that frequently makes it “impossible to find baked goods that are safe to eat,” every breakfast and lunch item they stocked up on were “absolutely delicious”; even their spouse, who doesn’t have any food allergies, said that “the taste was just as good as regular items despite being gluten and dairy free.” Many reviewers praised the staff, as well, highlighting both their food allergy knowledge and friendliness.
Other hits on AllergyEats’ list of Top Allergy-Friendly Sweets Shops include Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, Kentucky; the Holy Donut in Portland, Maine; Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats in Washington, DC; and Yoyo Donuts & Coffee Bar in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Every single spot on the list has a five-star rating, though, so no matter where you go, you’re sure to have a good time.
Even if you do stop by one of these places, though, you’ll still want to make sure you alert the staff to your allergies and ask them to confirm what’s in the items you want to order, just to be on the safe side. When you’ve good food allergies, it never hurts to be extra vigilant.
Check out the full AllergyEats 2019 list of the Top Allergy-Friendly Sweets Shops in the United States here. Happy munching!