Finding safe food to eat while traveling is relatively easy – there will always be a market or store where you can find and buy safe food to prepare yourself.
But finding a “safe” restaurant is much more difficult. And when I say safe restaurant I mean all the food offered on the menu is free from my allergens – not just an item or two.
In San Pedro – on Lake Atitlán – I found a safe restaurant.
El Barrio is a cute little cafe looking restaurant run by its very chipper owner and chef, Sean Wall. The restaurant itself has both personal and picnic style tables, and welcomes guests from all over the world. It has a very unique expat vibe and the food is amazing,
I ordered the 4 course breakfast that included an omelet (which to be fair I passed off because eggs unbaked still make my throat itch), pancakes, yogurt, fruit, toast and coffee.
I wish I took photos of the food but alas, my hunger took hold and I only remembered to do so after I hoover vacuumed the meal into my mouth.
It was when I ordered said meal and alerted the waiter to my peanut and nut allergies that I found out El Barrio is a nut-free, safe food establishment.
“There’s a reason for that,” he said. “It’s because of travelers like yourself.”
When I finished my meal, I went over to the bar and asked to speak to Sean directly. He came out of the kitchen and when I asked him why his place is nut free he smiled and said, “Cooking with nuts just seems to make things more complicated.”
“Why set people up to be sick when so many people have allergies anyway? It just makes more sense to eliminate that allergen from my menu. However the granola might have peanuts – so that’s really the only item that I tell people to avoid if they have an allergy.”
“Our neighbor is allergic to tomatoes, so whenever I know he’s coming by I make sure not to make anything that day with tomatoes. We’re a friendly place. It’s my responsibility as a restaurant owner to make sure anyone coming into my restaurant can eat my food.”
“I think it’s really any restaurant owner’s responsibility to make sure their place is safe. So why use nuts when I know a lot of people won’t be safe eating them?”
And that (along with the incredibly delicious food he prepares) is why you should go eat at El Barrio if you head to Lake Atitlán.