I understand your frustration. I'm ok with dairy, but am deathly allergic to peppers (if there's "pepper" in the name - I'm allergic!). It totally blows me away the things that various restaurants seem to think should have peppers included in (Cream of asparagus soup with peppers? Really?!?)
I rarely go to chain-type restaurants, but really enjoy small local ones. I generally phone ahead, explain my allergies, and ask whether they are able to accommodate me. Sometimes they can't (all of their meats pre-marinated in a sauce with pepper, for example), and so I know not to go there. When they tell me that they can work with me, then I ask for their recommendation on some menu choices that would be easiest for them to change for me. This way, when we go there, I can choose one of the items that they recommended, and remind them again about the allergy. The wait-staff are generally really good about it, especially when I smile and make a point that "I really appreciate the effort in avoiding the allergens, but I guess that it's really not good for business when a patron goes in to anaphylactic shock during dinner"...
We've found that there are a few local restaurants that are willing to go above and beyond to accommodate allergies. There's a little Italian place where the chef comes out to chat with us, and will bring me back in to the kitchen to double-check any items that he's not sure if I'll react to. We were treated so well, that we go often, and now we're able to just order "whatever the chef feels like serving --- just no pepper!".
Try calling around to some of your local restaurants and see what they can do for you. If they seem willing, then ask for their suggestions on what you can order, and make a reservation. When you get there, ask if you can speak with the chef or the manager, and ask again for their specific recommendations on what can best suit your needs. There sometimes are menu changes or shopping issues that can make one of their previous suggestions no longer available. Hopefully you'll end up with a great meal, and you'll have a place that you can go to regularly.
I am lactose intolerant, but am particularly sensitive to cheese. For me, the older the cheese (so aged cheeses like parm are the absolute worst) the more of a problem I have with it. Lately I've noticed a trend of cheese being added to everything but not to ingredient lists. I specifically ask if there is cheese in things, and am often lied to, which is possibly out of ignorance, but they then should admit they don't know and ask someone who does know. The proof is when I have what feels like food poisoning 1-6 hours after I've eaten. When I call to inquire further or refuse to go back somewhere that has lied to me, I'm treated with absolute disdain. A person doesn't go back to a restaurant where they got food poisoning usually, why should I go back to a restaurant where someone explicitly lied to me about the ingredients after I asked specific questions. Or I order something that doesn't have cheese in the description and it arrives absolutely smothered in cheese I'm treated terribly when I send it back. I've watched them carry the plate away, scrap the cheese off and bring back the plate with bits of cheese still stuck to the edges and act like I've done something wrong when I refuse it without even trying it. I've walked out of several places after having someone tell me that I should have expected there to be cheese on grilled chicken and vegetables or whatever it was. I'm not talking about things that I KNOW have cheese or dairy, but things like marinara sauce, or some types of bread, something called a garlic sauce, etc. aren't usually expected to have cheese. I guess I don't understand the new trend of adding cheese to everything because everyone likes cheese. Cheese is a dairy product with more and more people having allergies to dairy and other things, I think people should be more educated. If there is a known allergen in or on something, it isn't something that should be lied about, especially when someone asked pointed questions about it. How do others handle these types of situations? I rarely eat in restaurants anymore, but after these experiences I'm leery of trying somewhere.
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