In honor of National Celiac Awareness Day which was September 13, I thought I would share my opinion of Jacksonville Restaurants that Get it and Don’t Get it when it comes to accommodating the diets of those of us with celiac disease. This is completely my opinion based on my dining experiences. The restaurants that Don’t Get it, are not bad restaurants, actually almost all of them are some of my favorite places to eat back before I knew I had celiac disease. I am sad that I can’t get a full belly at these places anymore without getting sick. My hopes are that these establishments will hopefully become aware of the needs of those of us with annoying, I mean, special, diets.
Restaurants that do a great job at accommodating those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease ranked in order favorite, 2nd favorite, etc.:
Restaurants that “GET IT”:
- Bonefish Grill– Bonefish Grill is my all time favorite. They have a special gluten-free menu that mimics their regular menu but has GF next to those that are Gluten Free. At the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, they also offer gluten-free bread which is fantastic and goes so well with their herb olive oil blend (just make sure you get a separate dish from those who have the regular bread). I have heard that the bang-bang shrimp sauce is Gluten-Free and if you get the shrimp grilled with the sauce it is safe. I have yet to try it though.
- Taverna- Taverna is located in San Marco near Square One and the San Marco Theater. It is locally owned and opened about a year ago in 2009. I happened upon this place not long after my diagnosis and was surprised that they could easily accommodate a gluten-free diet. One of the head chefs has either celiac disease or gluten intolerance and was well aware of what I could eat. Most of their dishes are made with fresh ingredients and include meats and veges (except for their pasta dishes of course). They were so knowledgable that they were able to discourage a dessert that is gluten-free, however, the pan was dusted with flour. So nice to go to a restaurant that knows how to accommodate a gluten-free diet. They also have the coolest wine glasses in Jacksonville, in my opinion.
- PF Changs– One of the biggest no no’s of a gluten-free diet, other than pasta and breads is soy sauce. PF Changs, not only has their gluten-free menu been added to every menu in the restaurant on the back, but they also have gluten-free soy sauce as well. PF Changs also has gluten-free desserts and a recent new dessert, a Triple Chocolate Mousse Mini Dessert. I had it this week and it was AMAZING! It includes three sinful layers of Chocolate Ganache, Milk Chocolate Mousse and Flourless Chocolate Cake.
- Outback steakhouse– Much like Bonefish Grill (they are owned by the same people) Outback Steakhouse has a special menu that looks similar to the main menu with items listed as gluten-free with all of the proper substitutions. Another plus, the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under is gluten-free!
- Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza and Mellow Mushroom– TIED! It is hard to pick between these two, because where Tommy’s has been providing gluten-free pizza for a while as well as appetizers, beer, salads and cookies; Mellow Mushroom has just recently hopped on the bandwagon. A lot of my friends like to hang out at Mellow Mushroom so the addition of gluten-free pizza and gluten-free beer in a fun environment helps me feel normal while watching football, socializing and etc.
Now for those that need some work:
Those that “Don’t Get It”
- Bahama Breeze -As much as I love this restaurant and as much fish and vegetables they have on the menu it is impossible to get fish or chicken here that is gluten-free because most of their stuff is already pre mixed and premade.
- Mama Fu’s– recently the organization had a promo for items on their gluten-free menu yet the Jacksonville store (located in Mandarin) does not have a gluten-free menu. They said it is coming soon, but I am still waiting.
- III Forks– I love the ambiance of III Forks, however, I cannot have their steak. It is marinated in broth/aus jus, which means it contains gluten.
- European Street– while they have done a great job at getting gluten-free beers and gluten-free bread; nothing that goes on the gluten-free bread is certified gluten-free and their vegan/gluten free options are very expensive and very small. The Vegan/Gluten Free burrito was terrible and $11. *Since my original post they have begun using new gluten-free wraps that are actually quite tasty. They are trying.
- Burrito Gallery– I love this place. It has done wonders for downtown and the owners are very involved in reviving art downtown, however the cooking staff is not educated enough about needs of those of us with celiac disease.
All of these are debatable and could change at any moment. Please, restaurants, if I am wrong or if things have changed I would love to learn more. I would recommend every restaurant on this list for people without Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but for those with, the bottom five should be explored with caution.