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Where to Eat Gluten-Free in the Florida Keys



Tracking down gluten-free restaurants is no easy task, especially on vacation. In the Florida Keys, you'll find that you can have your Key lime pie and eat it too. Key West is filled with restaurants hip to the gluten-free diet like the health-food nirvana, Help Yourself, which is packed with creative gluten-free dishes. A cozy restaurant simply named The Café is popular for a variety of gluten-free options, and they score extra points for gluten-free craft beer and homemade sangria. The best happy hour award goes to 2 Cents for their unlimited bacon and eight gluten-free snacks like Quack Quack Nachos. (Although if you have an extreme allergy, note that these are not cooked in a gluten-free dedicated area.) For upscale dining with a sunset view, Hot Tin Roof has a Pan-Latin menu. The chef can prepare most dishes gluten-free with minor adjustments. At Kojin Noodle Bar, don't miss the Pho, a Vietnamese fave made with rice noodles. For the classic Key's dessert, Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe offers slices of Key lime pie on a rice-based crust.

For gluten-free beach picnic fixings, hit up Good Food Conspiracy near Bahia Honda Park on Big Pine Key. In Marathon, Food For Thought has a tiny café packed with gluten-free wraps, soups and tasty muffins. Islamorada's, M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom, offers delicacies like braised Pork Belly and Pan Seared Foie Gras. Just remember: If you need your food prepared in a gluten-free dedicated manner to avoid cross-contamination (due to celiac disease or other extreme allergy), let the restaurants know when making reservations.


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Good Food Conspiracy Big Pine Key
Photo courtesy of Karen Quist


This tiny spot on Big Pine Key has been an oasis for vegetarians for over 30 years, and they have the hippie vibe to prove it. Blink and you might miss it on the Overseas Highway, so watch for the "Juice Bar and Deli" sign. Inside the low-key natural food market, you'll find a deli serving a variety of gluten-free soups, wraps, salads, juices, smoothies and desserts. Pull up a stool at the juice bar, or take your goodies out back to the picnic tables in the colorful herb garden. Try the Freeze--frozen organic fruit transformed into ice cream. Their Avocado Cheese Melt gets rave reviews, and meat-eaters will be happy to find tuna and range-fed turkey. The owner, Marney Brown, has a wealth of knowledge and is on-hand to answer any questions.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Beach Picnic: Located close to Bahia Honda State Park, this old-school hippie joint is stocked with from-scratch gluten-free dishes.

Claudia's expert tip: Blink and you might miss it. Look for the big sign that says "Juice Bar and Deli."

Read more about Good Food Conspiracy Big Pine Key →


Kojin Noodle Bar
Photo courtesy of Kojin Noodle Bar


Key West's only noodle bar is easy to miss. The tiny spot on Southard Street is just a half-block off Duval but doesn't have flashy signage. It has a trendy, yet warm vibe in a New York eatery-style. With only a handful of seats at the bar and upstairs, this places stays packed, mostly with locals. Many of the soups can be made with rice noodles for those on a gluten-free diet. Try the Pho, a popular street food in Vietnam. Made with rice noodles, thin slices of beef, cabbage and herbs in a savory broth, it has a reputation as the perfect hangover cure. Portions are huge, but they offer half orders. The fresh lime-aid is to die for, and they have a wide sake selection. While sake is made from rice, many brands of add barley or wheat, so check with the server before ordering.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Asian: The Pho alone makes Kojin a must-try. This popular Vietnamese street food, made with rice noodles, is the perfect hangover cure.

Claudia's expert tip: For the late night cravings, they're open until midnight. Plus, they deliver and offer take-out.

Read more about Kojin Noodle Bar →




Mixed among the seafood shacks and tiki bars in Islamorada, M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom is a carnivore's dream. The antithesis of the health food cafe, the eateries' gluten-free menu has few veggies in sight. Indulge in Braised Pork Belly, Pan Seared Foie Gras or a Manchego Cheeseburger. The brainchild of Chef George Patti and sommelier Thomas Smith, the restaurant opened in 2012 in a small strip mall at mile marker 88 on U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys. Don't be fooled by their humble facade. Inside, Patti cooks up "gourmet fast food" like homemade sausages and specialty burgers. The cozy interior has the feeling of an ultra-modern pub with faux brick walls and a 20' long bar. The 40 seats are usually bustling with a combination of regulars and visitors in-the-know. Give yourself ample time for Chef Patti to create your gluten-free requests from scratch.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best in Islamorada: Indulge in Braised Pork Belly, Pan Seared Foie Gras or a Manchego Cheeseburger on M.E.A.T.'s gluten-free menu.

Claudia's expert tip: Try the gluten-free adult milkshake with pear cider and mango sorbet.

Read more about MEAT Eatery and Taproom Islamorada →


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Food For Thought Marathon
Photo courtesy of Food For Thought


Hidden in the Gulfside Village Plaza in the Middle Keys, Food For Thought has a cafe tucked away in the back of their health food store. The Marathon spot offers plenty of gluten-free options including wraps (made from brown rice), soups and salads. Faves include the Hummus Wrap made from their homemade organic hummus, organic veggies, sunflower sprouts and balsamic dressing and their Pad Thai Wrap loaded with fresh veggies and tossed in a rich nutty Thai dressing. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with their fresh muffins in flavors like Black Forest (chocolate and black cherry), Lemon-Chia or Banana-Hemp, which are always gluten-free. Those with severe allergies should let them know if they would like their food prepared in a dedicated gluten-free manner. The cafe and juice bar has limited seating, but they do a brisk to-go business. Peruse their collection of gluten-free cookbooks and other health food tomes.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best in Marathon: This gluten-free gem hidden in a shopping plaza serves up wraps, soups, salads and yummy homemade muffins.

Claudia's expert tip: Stock up on gluten-free treats for the road from the market like crackers, pretzels, chips, cookies or their homemade muffins.

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No visit to Key West would be complete without having a slice of refreshing Key lime pie. While who has the best Key lime pie is a hotly debated topic in the Florida Keys, Kermit's always makes the shortlist. Whether you have a classic slice of the tart confection with a dollop of whipped cream or dipped in Belgian chocolate on a stick, you'll quickly see why Florida named it the official state pie in 2006. Gluten-free? No worries, Kermit's makes a pie with a rice-based crust. Kermit's also makes Key lime fudge, candy, sauces and jams--perfect gifts to take back home.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Key Lime Pie: When you're in the Keys, Key lime pie is a must, and Kermit's offers a gluten-free option with a rice-based crust.

Claudia's expert tip: Their gluten-free Key lime pie is only available by the slice in their Key West shops and not by mail order.

Read more about Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe →




Have all those margaritas in paradise left you with a hankering for Mexican food? Check out the small tortilla bar, Amigos, conveniently located caddy corner to the infamous Sloppy Joe's on Duval Street. You'll usually find the tiny place packed, but it's well worth the wait for their homemade square corn tortillas. You can pack more delicious fillings like chorizo, fish and shrimp into the folded square, and it's easier to hold. This equals less food spilling down the front of your shirt. Pile on their mouth-watering guacamole or chipotle corn salsa, which they make from scratch with no preservatives or chemicals. Turn up the heat with a variety of chilli/pepper sauces that range from mild to muy caliente. This open-air spot, which offers breakfast lunch and dinner, has seating right along the road--perfect for people watching.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Get in line for your Mexican fix with their signature square tortillas packed with refreshing slaws and mouth-scorching sauces--most gluten free!

Claudia's expert tip: Vegetarians rejoice! You can order any of their items sans meat. Plus everything on their menu is 95% gluten free.

Read more about Amigos Tortilla Bar →


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Duval Street
Hot Tin Roof
Photo courtesy of Hot Tin Roof


For upscale dining with a stellar view of the sunset, head to Hot Tin Roof at Ocean Key Resort and Spa located just off Mallory Square. The Pan-Latin menu offers small and large plates, and with a few adjustments, most items can be made gluten-free. Make a request when you are booking your reservation, and with notice, the restaurant can accommodate your diet needs. For example, their Scallop Piccata is normally served with seared scallops over pasta. To make this a gluten-free dish, they serve them over risotto. They can customize the sauce for the Caramelized Grouper (no gluten-laden roux), and the Calamari Frito can be done as a saute instead of breaded and fried. Dine alfresco on their patio, and the understated elegance makes this a perfect spot for romantic couples. Note that the requested attire is resort casual.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Sunset: With a few adjustments, the chef can make most dishes on their Pan-Latin menu gluten-free. Enjoy the stellar sunset view while you wait.

Claudia's expert tip: Make reservations well in advance for patio seating, and let them know your gluten-free requests when booking.

Read more about Hot Tin Roof →




Best for Casual Date Night: This cozy restaurant on Southard Street has been redefining vegetarian cuisine for over 10 years. With a warm Bohemian d├ęcor, their menu offers a variety of options (all clearly marked if gluten-free), which means no one has to sacrifice to have a fab meal. Gluten-free craft beer and homemade sangria, usually absent at "health food" restaurants, get the conversation flowing. Omnivores will appreciate the seafood dishes like blackened mahi-mahi and P.E.I. mussels. The falafel served with bean salad, cream of tomato soup and the sweet potato fries all get rave reviews. Finish with vegan Key lime cheesecake. Everything is made from scratch, so be sure to check out the nightly specials. As always, if you have a severe gluten allergy, let the kitchen know, so they can prepare your meal properly. Grab a comfy cushioned seat in front of the window and prepare for a delightful meal.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Casual Date Night: With its warm Bohemian decor and gluten-free libations, this cozy restaurant has menu options sure to please all.

Claudia's expert tip: Check out their nightly specials, which range from chickpea and squash tacos to vegan double chocolate chip cake.

Read more about The Cafe →


Help Yourself Cafe
Photo courtesy of Lacey Marie Scee


Tucked away on a side street in Old Town, Help Yourself is a colorful natural food market and cafe in a re-purposed gas station. Most dishes on their menu are gluten-free, and if you have a severe allergy, they will sterilize work tops and utensils before preparing your order. Items on the menu are clearly labeled--vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free--and the friendly staff can answer any questions. Everything is made from scratch using fresh organic non-processed foods. Try their Ancient Secret salad with quinoa, goji berries, apple, almonds and chickpeas or their energizing Super Food Lasagna with layers of zucchini, Brazil nut meat, pesto, fresh tomato and marinara. A raised outdoor garden with picnic tables offers limited seating, but they have carry-out, grab-and-go items and a juice bar. If you're in Key West for a few days, you'll most likely help yourself more than once.

Recommended for Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus because: Best Variety: You'll feel like you've walked into a gluten-free food festival with a slew of creative dishes.

Claudia's expert tip: Seating is outdoors, so try to avoid the peak heat of the day. Only open until 6:00 p.m.

Read more about Help Yourself Cafe →


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Meet Claudia Miller

Claudia Miller has been writing about South Florida for over 17 years--seven from Key Largo. A budding photographer, she can usually be found stalking a sunset. Despite being a tad...  More About Claudia

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