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Beat the Wheat! Orlando Venues for Gluten-Free Foodies



First rule of gluten-free eating? DEFINITELY TALK ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE EATING. Staffers at the below venues will be happy to discuss their ingredients and kitchen practices with you before you order, which is precisely what you should do before taking a bite. And for those living with gluten allergies – or simply trying to eliminate offending grains from their culinary repertoire – Orlando’s list of options is growing exponentially. At venues such as Dandelion Communitea Café or Infusion Tea, GF diners will find myriad selections rife with fresh crisp, crunchy ingredients, creamy spreads and hearty soups, but let’s face it: not every gluten-free eater is all about organic, sustainably farmed, green foodstuffs. Those with a penchant for the fryer will find sinful solace at either Disney Springs or Universal’s CityWalk. At Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, you can have your cheeseburger in paradise with a gluten-free bun (not to mention Volcano Nachos and a decadent Chocolate Hurricane dessert). Over at the Raglan Road Irish Pub, they keep a whole separate fryer on hand, which means usually-off-limits delights such as fried fish, calamari and onion rings are on tap – along with some excellent GF cider. For those on the go, check out the drive-through at the Green Day Café, where gluten-free quesadillas are an everyday occurrence.


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Lime, tequila and salt are all - mercifully - gluten-free, but one wouldn't think the same about a cheeseburger in paradise. But Jimmy, bless his heart, made sure that GF customers at his Universal CityWalk establishment could enjoy just that. But it doesn't stop there. Volcano Nachos (gobbed down with chili, cheese, guacamole - all the good stuff - may fill you up before you make it to burgertown). Additional selections include an array chicken and seafood options and the Chocolate Hurricane, a dieter's disaster, for sure, which piles a gluten-free brownie sky-high with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and macadamia nuts.




The Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, as the saying goes (sort of). In Orlando, it's one of a handful of independent restaurants amid I-Drive's sea of chain offerings, one serving up authentic Ethiopian fare in traditional style. What does this mean? For starters, no utensils. Getting the food to your face requires the use of injera, a spongy, tasty, vaguely crepe-like bread. Tear a piece off and simply scoop up the lentils, stewed chicken, seasoned beef or whatever other selections intrigued you and enjoy. Bonus? Most Ethopian dishes are naturally gluten-free! Call ahead at least an hour (more to be on the safe side) and let them know you're coming. They'll bake up a load of gluten-free injera that uses only teff flour â€" actually more traditional than the wheat/teff hybrid Nile generally makes! The result, a thoroughly authentic Ethiopian experience that's enjoyable for everyone in your party.




Serving up tasty fast-casual eats from its comfortable Dr. Phillips digs, this cheery "paninery" does up a multitude of classic pressed sandwiches with fresh, locally made bread and house-roasted meats, which makes a big difference when it comes to taste. What's more is that those with a gluten-free diet can have their panini and eat it, too. The soups are GF, as well, and prepared in an outside gluten-free kitchen â€" and so unlike sandwiches, are certified (ie, celiac-safe). Fries are baked to order, so while you should avoid the spicy curlies, you can go for the sweet potato and regular waffle-cut varieties with abandon.


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Pub food is a staple come the midnight hour and beyond. South American "pub food," particularly in the form of piled-high salchipapas or juicy-flavorful Colombian-style burgers, is a level up. Super Rico Colombian Bistro caters to the nighttime crowds with hours 'til 3 a.m. on weekends, but keeps reasonable hours for the working folks, as well. Its delicious hamburgers, those aforementioned salchipapas (a street-food amalgam of sliced hot dogs and fries topped with cheese and flavorful sauces), empanadas, arepicas and more are delish for lunch and dinner, but downright decadent at midnight.


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Disney Springs ®


Cold pints and warm, convivial vibe are always on tap at Raglan Road, which isn't lying when it calls itself a genuine Irish pub. In fact, the whole place was built in Ireland and then shipped to Orlando where it was lovingly reassembled to the delight of locals and visitors alike. Think of it as Disney magic with a little help from the leprechauns. Granted, just about everyone loves the place, but gluten-free diners (especially locals) make many return visits. Why? How about onion rings just for starters? Like many Disney establishments, Raglan Road does its best to accommodate all special dietary needs â€" check with knowledgeable servers and managers for input and suggestions. They offer gluten-free scallops, fish and chips, calamari, pasta dishes and more.


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North Orlando


Super Veggie, Holy Guacamole and the Big Tahuna are just some of the fun salads (make it a wrap, regular or gluten-free, it's your choice!) available at the Green Day Café, a newish healthy fast-food franchise with an outpost in North Orlando. Vegans and carnivores and everyone in between will find selections to suit their idiosyncratic palates and gluten-free diners will delight in a menu stocked with loaded potatoes, rice bowls and even GF quesadillas. What's more â€" you don't even need to get out of your car. The Green Day Cafe boasts a drive-through window for health-conscious eaters on the go.




Infusion Tea is haven for both tea lovers and healthy eaters and boasts a wonderful array of menu items that pay heed to vegans, gluten-forgoers and a host of other quirky foodies. Add eggs or tempeh crumbles to salads for a protein boost. Make just about any offering gluten-free for a $1-2 upsell. Come for the breakfast and lunch and stay long enough to steep some loose-leaf tea and get comfortable.Looking for something a little more posh and fun? Pop in for afternoon tea and enjoy a pot with a delightful array of nibbles (pastries, scones, tea sandwiches, etc.). They've got a GF option for this, as well!




Sensual. Spiritual. Savory: three words that express the emotional enlightenment Dragonfly Robata Grill tries to evoke with its service and cuisine. Dragonfly's interpretation of Japanese pub culture is taken quite seriously, making for quite the delectable experience. In a soothing (but arguably trendy) lounge environment, Dragonfly serves sushi, sashimi and robatayaki (open-fire grill) tapas-style. Sharing is encouraged, allowing diners to sample a number of different dishes. Avid sushi lovers with good timing can take advantage of the daily happy hour specials from 5 to 7 p.m. Tight service and a chic atmosphere make it a good choice whether you're dining for romance, business or another occasion.




The dandelion, an edible flower that we're quick to call a weed, is a mascot of sorts for this quirky organic teahouse. You'll first be reminded of the café's namesake when you view the exterior (bright green with yellow shutters) and then again when reading the menu: vegetarian, sustainable and healthful. Diners with gluten restrictions? Seriously? This is your place. So many tiny GFs next to the menu items, your head may well spin like a wheat-free Linda Blair (sans digestive issues). Every salad. Every side. Most appetizers. All gluten-free. And served in pleasantly crunchy confines that may have you inquiring about the next full moon drum circle.




When the brains behind a longtime favorite panini joint here in town (he's since sold that business) brought his fast-casual prowess to trendy Mills 50, with Too Much Sauce, a clean-lined rice-quinoa-salad bowl joint that's tailor made for quick service, and healthy food with lots of color, celiac sufferers and other GF fans rejoiced. Why? Because virtually everything in the joint is up for consumption! Get creative choosing a base, veggies and a protein - along with one or more of their signature sauces - or let them do the hard stuff and choose from a few pre-designed choices that range from uber healthy (the veggie) to debatable (Sauce of the Border features lots of cheese and sour cream). What's nice is you can customize and keep your calorie counts down if that's something you're interested in - plus the food here is fresh and fun!


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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