Eating out can be tricky. It's certainly not like you can just pick up a menu and skim the ingredients to know what is safe. Thanks to the internet, it's easier than ever to find out where you can and cannot find dairy free (or other allergen) foods. I usually google the restaurant, look for the "food" or "nutrition" link on the site. Then somewhere on there is usually an allergen list if they are a super awesome place that provides that list. Sometimes a quick email to them will get you an allergen list via email. Sometimes they just won't oblige *cough cough* Texas Roadhouse ahem Margaritas *cough cough*. I just save those places for "girls night out"!
Sometimes you might think it's safe to order a steak or a burger of some sort, but those can be cooked in butter most times. Buns are usually grilled in butter. Some fries can have a coating that contains dairy. Some places, we just don't even bother... like breakfast places. Those are packed with buttered griddles, milk laden pancakes and waffles, and lord knows what else. If you must go, ask for poached eggs, fruit, and see if they bake their bacon in the oven instead of on the griddle, and you will probably be safe. Breakfast places are just something we don't even bother to do.
I've never had any issue with Chinese food. Crab rangoon is for sure filled with cream cheese, and perhaps there are some fancy dishes that might contain some type of dairy at the REALLLY high end restaurants, BUT the basic chinese food according to Jane Zukin is dairy free.
Now, I would like to introduce you to Burton's Grill... we just got one in our mall and I'm itching to get over there. Walked by it yesterday and got a little teary eyed.
Burtons Grill.... If you are in the area of the listed states, then get your bottom over to Burtons! They will adjust all their foods to remove any and all allergens you may need them too. They also have super a strict gluten policy and prepare gluten free food so there is NO cross contamination. They are a little pricey, but when you have a child or yourself with multiple food allergies, you are probably willing to pay more. I know I am!
So I've had some pretty good success with our local chain restaurants. Small, family owned places, not so much. If your child isn't super duper sensitive, you could always chance french fries are safe or ask if there is milk, butter, or cheese in the pizza dough and sauce and just order a cheeseless pizza. A movie theater/restaurant near me now lists their allergens online, but years ago they would just cut out the ingredients from their packages and bring them to me for checking. Asking for assistance doesn't ever hurt, and now more than ever restaurants are aware of food allergies and REALLY willing to work with you. I'm guessing that they don't like law suits.
Here's a list of links that go directly to the allergen guides of the listed restaurants of restaurants near me (New England) and Sonic, which we don't have. This list is current as of September 25, 2011 and assembled for your convenience for locating dairy free options and should all open in a new window:
Burger King scroll past all the grids to the ingredients.
Smoky Bones You have to email them and they will send you the allergen lists.
Chili's changes monthly
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Dunkin Donuts list filtered down to everything without milk.
Krispie Kreme They state that you need to call 1-800-4KRISPY
Texas Roadhouse Now, don't get me wrong, I love the Roadhouse. (Don't even go near the place if you are allergic to peanuts though.) My only gripe is that they refuse to tell me what's in their food. I've included them here so you can perhaps contact your local TR and see what they can do to help you. Corporate told me to check with the individual store managers because ingredients can change from store to store. Good Luck!
Go Dairy Free... is like the mother load of dairy free info. I could never compile all they have, but their site is like information overload for me sometimes. They do keep a pretty comprehensive list of restaurant foods that are dairy free. http://www.godairyfree.org/Table/Dining-Out/
I wish you luck, and if you have any restaurants to add to the list, please let me know. I have also put the list on the Links page.