Idlewild and SoakZone 2014

We got to go to Idlewilde and SoakZone in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. As far as the allergies go, it was good news, bad news, wonderful news.

The good news: When we went to the guest services building and asked about allergy information, they gave us a 28 page guide listing the ingredients in all of the food that they serve at all of their venues. That was stunningly refreshing. It’s amazing in this day and age how may places have no ingredient information, and for them to have all the ingredients for all of their food for 17 food venues just blew us away.

The bad news: Almost all of their food has soy in it, so the pickings are limited. There’s soy in some places that you wouldn’t expect, like the hamburger patties. They use different manufacturers in different venues, so some things that may be OK in one venue, is a no-no in another venue.

The wonderful news: The staff is very sensitive to and helpful with families with allergies. At every venue, every staff member seemed to be happy to get out and check ingredients (before we found the magical ingredient guide). The most helpful person we met was Cecilia, I believe she’s in charge of all of the food venues and we saw her a number of times in the park after 8 o’clock at night. That really surprised us, being able to talk to somebody, in person, that knew exactly what was going on at that time of night.

I hesitate to relay this out for fear that it will get abused, but I feel compelled to share this just to show how allergy-sensitive they are at Idlewild: We were there late to see the fireworks on Independence Day and the only food venues that were still open had no food that our kids could eat. I was pretty much left with the choice of leaving early and skipping the fireworks, or feed the kids cold allergy-safe food out of a can that we had with us. They cheerfully took our food and prepared it for the kids, and the kids had a hot meal of beef stew and macaroni and cheese. On occasion before, I’ve had to ask for help from restaurants that have nothing that the kids could eat, and they’ve flat-out refused. I can even understand where they’re coming from, they’re in the business of selling food, not preparing my food for free. So having experienced that first hand before, It was refreshing to have the help in getting the kids fed. On top of that, they told us that they’d be happy to do it again during our visit.

As far as what the kids could eat, it was slim pickings, but, amazingly, there were things that they could eat that we would have never thought that they would be able to:

  • At “Big Eddie’s” in SoakZone, they could have the Chicken Tenders, as they fry them in a cottonseed / canola oil mixture. That may possibly be the very first time they’ve ever had fried chicken fingers in their lives.
  • At “Duke’s Pretzels & Lemonade”, they could have the
    • Mini Pretzel Dogs
    • the Pizza Pretzels
    • the Jalapeno & Cheese Pretzel (although they passed on that one, “too spicy”)

Aside from that, there were only a few other things that they could eat:

  • At the “BBQ Pit”
    • Corn on the Cob
    • Turkey Leg (but they were out of them the week we were there)
    • Shredded Pork
    • Italian Sausage
  • At “Ricky’s Grill”, they could have the Dole pineapple or orange ice cream

Things to watch out for:

  • They have both Nathan’s hot dogs (OK) and Hebrew National Hot Dogs (contains soy), so you have to check and make sure which hot dog that particular venue is selling.
  • The Chicken Tenders at “Big Eddie’s”, “Ricky’s Grill”, and “Potato Patch” are OK, but the Chicken Strips at “Big Zack’s”, “Boardwalk Pizza” and “Sandwich Factory” contains soy protein concentrate.
  • Some of the hamburger patties have partially hydrogenated soybean oil in them, some don’t. In theory, all of their hamburgers are put in a beef broth to keep them from drying out, and that beef broth has hydrolyzed soy protein in it — you could probably get one of the “no soy” patties before it was soaked in the broth.

Generally, meat and real cheese are almost always safe bets, but unfortunately a lot of their meat has some form of soy in it:

  • The Hebrew National Hot Dogs
  • Most of the hamburger patties
  • The gyro meat at “Gyro’s”
  • The taco meat at “Loco Roberto’s”

I was also impressed that they will actually email you their menu ingredient guide…and put you on a list to receive next years guide. As wonderful as the guide was, it was lacking in some areas:

  • It was BIG. At 28 pages, it was a chore in and of itself to just carry the thing around for 4 days.
  • There were no page numbers, so you always run the risk of messing them up.
  • There was no table of contents, so you’re continually flipping through it, trying to find the venue you’re standing in front of.
  • Due to the classic “Soybean Oil doesn’t contain Soy” controversy, many of their items are not listed as containing soy.

Since they were so kind to forward the guide in an electronic format, I have rectified these shortcomings for our dining leisure! Below are 4 different versions of their cleaned up ingredient guide. (I’m hoping to get them to use one of these as their master, going forward.)

In these versions, I’ve taken the 28 pages down to 24 by tightening up the formatting as much as possible. They had allergy information from “Dippin’ Dots” repeated a number of times, and I eliminated most of those. I put in a table of contents so that you can find the venue quickly. I’ve also made corrections to other minor formatting or typographical errors — which is why I hope they’ll use mine from now on!

I then really went crazy and printed it 4 pages to a sheet to get the whole things to fit on 6 single sided sheets of paper — If you’re eyes can handle that small of text, that’ll save you 18 sheets of excess baggage.

The ultimate collectors edition of their ingredient guide with all occurrences of soy highlighted in red:

Since this is a website about soy, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want the soy highlighted, but just in case you don’t care about soy, here are the cleaned up versions without the soy ingredients highlighted in red:

All in all, we had a lot of fun, and we hope to get the kids back there again. (If you’re going to be there more than one day, just buy the season pass!)

Idlewild & SoakZone
2574 U.S. 30
Ligonier, PA 15658