Many people probably don't remember the first time they went out to eat at a restaurant (we certainly don't), but six-year-old Isaac Estes will probably never forget it.
Estes was diagnosed with multiple life-threatening allergies when he was four months old, his mum Holly Garrett wrote in a Facebook post. Until recently, he had never eaten at restaurants because of the threat to his safety — the little boy is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, and eggs.
A few weeks ago, though, Estes and his family were on vacation in Florida when his mum learned of a restaurant in the area that specifically caters to people who have allergies. LuLu's in Destin, Florida has a whole set of "allergy" menus that offer nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free foods.
Not only that, but they also cook food for people who have allergies separately from food for people who do not, Garrett learned when she called the restaurant. " I really needed to be convinced, as an over-protective food allergy mum, that this was going to be safe," she tells Refinery29. Having a separate cooking area is important for people like Estes because even trace amounts of allergens can cause serious reactions.
"If the same spoon is used to dip something with one of his allergens on it and then used for his food, that is enough to kill him," Garrett says.
The 13-person family drove 30 minutes to the restaurant from where they were staying just so Estes could have his first-ever restaurant meal. They "danced, sang, played and literally had a night I, as his mother, will never ever forget," Garrett wrote in her post to the restaurant's Facebook page.
Previously, Garrett had always prepared food at home for her son when they were planning to go out, and says that she has "always hated that we sit and enjoy our delicious food and he is eating the same foods he eats at home."
That's what made his trip to LuLu's so special.
"On the way home from our trip, Isaac said, with certainty, the best part of his week vacation at the beach was eating at LuLu's," she wrote in the Facebook post. "Thank you from the bottom of my worried mother heart for giving him this experience. Your allergy free menu is nothing short of spectacular!"
LuLu's is thrilled by the response, and said in a comment on Garrett's post that it "literally brought tears to our eyes." And the post actually helped parents of other kids with severe allergies, who weren't aware that LuLu's had such a great menu.
"I will second this post! After Isaac was able to eat here my brother told us about it so we also made the 30 minute drive to check it out. Our three year old was diagnosed with the same life threatening allergies at 6 months old," another mum, Katie Johnson Schmolke wrote in a comment. "Kendall was so incredibly excited for us to finally go out to eat somewhere as a family. I've never cried after ordering food until now."