Monday, January 17, 2011

Eating in Maui with a Peanut Allergy

On our recent trip to Maui we were lucky.  For the most part, not much had changed restaurant-wise since we were there in 2007.  Sure, a few places closed, and a few places opened, but for the most part, the restaurants I wrote about then remain the same.

Here's an overview of the places we ate on our trip - no reactions and only ONE close call (phew)!

Aloha Mixed Plate
This place has been around FOREVER.  It's right next door to Old Lahaina Luau, so you get all the same food as the Luau - pulled pork, poi, etc.  We went here at least twice on our visit. The service is slow and surly, but you look out onto the ocean and it's a super casual place to take the kids.  Try the Kalbi ribs - you'll thank me for it.  Note:  They DO have a peanut dish - Pad Thai - on their menu.

Star Noodle
We went here twice.  It's a noodle joint that has all sorts of small plates as well.  Now this place is a little more upscale and in a totally bizarre industrial (but not unsafe) area near the Lahaina Cannery Mall.  Pork Buns, Roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and kimchi, saimin - everything was delicious.  Sure, the rip of David Chang's Momofuku left and right, but the place is awesome.  Note:  They also have peanuts on the menu - in the form of Pad Thai as well as part of a dessert called Malasalada. They were very allergy aware though and the server knew exactly what was in each dish and informed the chef of our allergy.

If you go, go right when it opens so you are guaranteed a table.  Otherwise, you wait!

Sheraton Maui Hotel Restaurants
So what is there to say about hotel restaurants?  They're pretty boring, not to mention expensive, but we ended up eating in one of them at least once a day.  The hotel's Teppan Yaki (think Benihana) style restaurant was closed - not sure if it's reopening after renovation or if they are turning the spot into something else.  The Lagoon bar there was still peanut free (think burgers, hot dogss, nachos, etc) and the main hotel restaurant menu was happily peanut free as well (EXCEPT for the breakfast buffet - which we avoided).

Sheraton Luau
We ended up going to the luau at the Sheraton - mainly because it was about 25 steps from our room.  But it was fun and let's face it, kids love luaus!  All the dancing!  And fire! And costumes!

And peanuts on table!


Yup, we looked at the menu prior to going and figured there would at least be one or two things that were safe for B (rice, roasted meat).  And when we got there, they seated us and what was on the table, right there for the picking?!?  Boiled Peanuts!!  I freaked (internally of course) and ran to find the manager and chef for a chat.  They assured me that there were no peanut ingredients in any of the food (or peanut oil) and that the only case of peanuts were the ones on the table.  They were very concerned and said in the future they would reconsider even having those on the tables, especially since they specifically ensured there weren't peanut products in the food.

Ironically, not one person at our 10 person table ate a peanut before they were removed - we didn't say a word to them but they still didn't eat any - isn't that bizarre?  In any case, crisis averted - whew!

Note:  It seems to me that these types of things are always a disappointment food-wise, with or without an allergy.  I'm not a huge fan of overpriced buffets.  Ok, I said it!  But the entertainment really was fabulous.

Hula Grill
Hula Grill is an interesting place.  They have a fine dining side and then they have a beach bar, where the tables are actually in a sandy area.  Either are fine for kids, but in the sandy area you can sit closer to the music for the evening, which makes dining with vocal 6 year olds better.  I think we ate here 3 times during our trip.  The bar area has burgers, salads, some raw dishes (sashimi, ceviche) and the fine dining area has things like grilled fish, etc.  Note:  There are landmines here, so be very careful when ordering.  The grilled items SHOULD be ok (ask your server),  but peanuts aren't listed on the menu even when they are in dishes.  For example, my husband ordered some kind of fish chowdery thing in coconut broth.  After eating 80% of it, he started finding peanuts in the bottom of the broth!  Boy did he give them an earful! B only had grilled cheese so that was a nice safe route to go. 

Cane and Taro
This is a new place in Whaler's Village, right next door to Hula Grill (it used to be a fish place that wasn't good so it's no surprise there was something new there now).  We went there for breakfast on our last day and I'm sorry we didn't get there sooner.  Great prices on breakfast and HUGE portions.  And when we went, the breakfast menu had no peanut dishes - yay!

Nikki's Pizza
Bottom line:  this is a mediocre pizza place in Whaler's Village.  That being said, it's the mediocre pizza that kids love.  So there you go.

They also have plate lunches - do yourself a favor and drive to Aloha Mixed Plate instead.  You're welcome.

Not much to say about this, but if you want (need?) something familiar to feed your picky child, this is the place.  Don't their fries cure all?

Shave Ice on Main Street Lahaina
There were quite a few shave ice places on the main street in Lahaina that we went to.  Basically shave ice is a big snow cone with syrup on it.  Never did I see any nut flavored syrups (and I looked!) so it was a nice, safe treat for B, who certainly isn't used to just walking up to an 'ice cream' place to get a safe treat.  Use your best judgment, but consider giving one of the stands a shot while you're there.

We hit up the Safeway in Lahaina a few times for snacks, fresh fruit, and yogurt (our hotel had a fridge and microwave) - that was good when we were 'nibbly' but didn't want to sit in the restaurant and pay an 18% service charge :)

So that's it!  Lots of places, no reactions, and only one close call!

The verdict?  Ultimately, Maui is still VERY doable when it comes to peanuts without having to have a condo with a kitchen.  Sure, there's Pad Thai here and there, but it's not overwhelming and the majority of the restaurants that had kid menus that we saw didn't have even PBJ's.

If you have a tree nut allergy, it's STILL doable, but be prepared for Macadamia nuts everywhere.  Seriously, everywhere.  Every menu had macadamia nut 'something' on it.  B didn't eat any of them (although we did pick up some macadamias that weren't  cross-contaminated with peanuts for a future challenge) but since she's not allergic to any other tree nuts (or sesame or coconut) we were ok with eating out at these places.  We also saw a lot of almonds in dishes.  Again, B's not allergic to almonds, but we did avoid eating them just in case. 

To read all of my Maui related posts, click here.

If you have any questions about traveling to Maui with a peanut allergy, feel free to email me.  If I can't help, I'm sure I can point you in the right direction!


ChupieandJ'smama said...

Glad all went well. The tree nuts freak me, and the noodles freak me. Maui will have to wait for us :( And totally agree on the buffet!

Lindsay said...

What airline did you fly, and what was your experience? I'll be flying this year for the first time since developing peanut and tree nut allergies, and I'm dreading it already.

Gab said...

Lindsay, we flew United with absolutely no problem. They dont serve a snack at all - you have tobuy it so unless someone sitting next to you gets the one box with nuts you should be fine. Look a few posts back on the site and youll see an overview of their snack offerings. Good luck on your travels - youll be ok!!

Anonymous said...

I have a 5 yr old that recently we have learned she is allergic to peanuts. I am terrified to fly over open ocean for 5-6 hrs. How do you have confidence to go to Maui? We have a tripped planned (booked before we knew) for this winter and I am considering canceling it.

Gab said...

Anonymous - PLEASE reconsider. I know you're scared, but if you plan properly you'll be great. What airline are you flying? They all seem to be willing to make accommodations for flying with PA. I was nervous too, but I took a bunch of epi pens and benadryl and food for my daughter for the plane ride. Get on the plane early to clean the seats and tray table with wipes. A little planning and you'll be ok, I promise!!

Anonymous said...

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Maui. My daughter is severely allergic to macadamia nuts (and a few other tree nuts), but the restaurants were WONDERFUL! We always called ahead and I don't remember one that didn't accommodate us (MonkeyPod in Wailea was especially awesome). Just watch out for Alaska Airlines -- they serve a macadamia nut snack.