Quick and Easy Guide to Festival Eating

Quick and Easy Guide to Festival Eating

Summer is the perfect time to check out Chicago's wonderful festivals. I'm looking forward to my personal favorite the Evanston Ethnic Arts Fest this weekend. Not only do I love the shopping but I can usually find something good to eat. That is not an easy task when you have multiple food allergies. Here's my quick and easy survival guide for eating allergy free at festivals:

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I love food on a stick, unfortunately its rarely allergy free.

Peanut allergies. Avoid Thai food and most Asian cuisine that uses peanut sauces. If allergies produce anaphylaxis I would avoid eating completely and simply enjoy the non-food experiences like listening to music or shopping. 

Corn allergies. Obviously avoid the classic corn on a cob or corn dogs. Cross contamination is also a risk so if corn is served at a particular booth don't eat there. Also be on the look out for corn salsas, cornbread or tortillas made with corn. 

Gluten/wheat allergies. As many celiacs know gluten is pretty much everywhere at these things. It's coated on chicken wings, beer, in hamburger and hotdog buns, pie crusts, beer, donuts, and in all sorts of batter. If you have serious wheat/gluten allergies you can contact vendor organizers to see what choices you have. It's doubtful that you may have many options. If wheat is only an intolerance and not a serious allergy, I suggest you order your burger like they do in L.A. "protein style" without the bun. You can also get a gyro and just eat the meat. 

Egg allergies. Like wheat and gluten, eggs are in everything such as homemade bakery products, dough batter, or in Thai Noodle dishes. Ordering meat "protein style" would work for you if there are no egg-based sauces on your meat. You might have better luck enjoying a refreshing treat like fresh fruit or a slushie. 

Milk and Dairy. Obviously skip that cheese on your burger or hot dog. When ice cream is out of the question there are usually snow cones, popsicles, sorbets or Lemon Shake-Ups. Some of the more progressive festivals may even have non-dairy ice cream. 

Soy. It's rare to see tofu at one of these things unless it's Veggie Fest. But soy is abundant in sauces from Asian Vendors and watch those condiments.

Some general tips: 
  • Bring your medication (such as an Epi-Pen).
  • Thankfully there are tons of cute Epi-Pen holders to make this task a bit more fashion-forward.
  • If possible make the time to contact vendor organizers to see what your options are. 
  • Develop a relationship with allergy free vendors. If you find a festival or vendor that works for you, keep it in mind for next year so that you know you have a safe place to eat. 
  • If you have serious life threatening allergies I would avoid eating at festivals completely. The risk for cross-contamination is too great. Go for the non-eating activities or if possible bring your own food.
Coming up . . . eating allergy free at Lollapalooza.


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  • Ugh, this is such a bummer for us every single year. We have a town wide fair that comes here and our little E can never touch anything from them. Thankfully we do usually all eat at home first since it keeps him safe and saves a ton of money (the cost is crazy for fair food). We do allow him to buy cotton candy though and he really loves that! Even though his Belly Boost probiotics have helped him with his intolerances, you are right...we would never go near any other food there! The risk is huge.

  • Great article Patricia :D

  • In reply to smilinggreenmom:

    I'm glad you like it! If I feel cheated out of the festival fun I usually give myself an IOU and treat myself to something yummy I can tolerate. But it sounds like you've got it under control with cotton candy!

  • In reply to smilinggreenmom:

    LOL! Yeah - probably not the healthiest choice, but really none of the fair food is! :D Hope you are well!

  • In reply to smilinggreenmom:

    I think little treats like that are okay for the kiddies from time to time. I'm doing well, super busy! How about you?

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