In 2013, my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease. He had been sick for years, and after two emergency room visits in less than a month, we were both relieved when the diagnosis wasn’t something worse. For those who aren’t familiar with celiac disease, it is an autoimmune disorder where your body cannot process gluten, so you get sick if you eat any wheat, rye or barley.
As we began our journey without bread, beer, or cookies (amongst other things), we started to realize how this change in our diet would affect our family dynamic. Even with two young children, going out to lunch as a family is one of our favorite weekend activities. We are working diligently on teaching our 2 and 3-year-old basic table manners, but we still look for kid friendly locations that don’t mind children attempting to take off their pants at the table or pouring pepper in their hair. Over the years, we have been fortunate to find many great locations around Jacksonville that are both gluten free friendly as well as child-friendly. In honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I wanted to share some of our favorites.
This iconic pizza place offers gluten free pizza, ‘pita’ bread for hummus, and a variety of gluten-free beers. Their staff is well trained in the preparation of gluten-free food, changing their gloves to avoid wheat contamination. Our favorite location is Jax Beach–or as my children lovingly refer to it, ‘the restaurant with the bus.’ But each location has unique kid-friendly features. And you can’t beat the ‘Wikki-Sticks’ that come with the kid’s menu.
This unique brick oven pizza restaurant allows customers to get creative with their pizzas. Their gluten free crust is delicious, and with the exception of their chicken, all other 60 topping options are gluten free. The staff will create your pizza in a separate, wheat free, preparation area. Kids are given a play-doh like ball of dough to entertain them while their pizza cooks, and each kid’s meal comes with a small scoop of gelato. Both locations in Jacksonville, Southside, and Fleming Island, offer Kids Eat Free Night on Mondays from 5 to 9 PM.
This was one of our favorite spots before having kids and going gluten free, and thankfully, it is still a great spot for our family. European Street offers gluten free crackers with appetizers, sandwich buns, and wraps. The kids love looking at the dessert display, and they offer a great selection of items on the kid’s menu.
We recently discovered this delicious Italian restaurant in Mandarin, and it has quickly become one of our favorites. They offer gluten-free pizza, as well as a variety of other gluten free dishes such as BBQ shrimp, chili, and flourless chocolate cake, and their chef is always willing to accommodate gluten free requests with daily specials. I love their approach to kids menu called Create-A-Palette where you can mix and match as many items as you want such as a fruit cup and a chicken finger for $0.95 each. Perfect for picky toddlers who take only one bite of food, but still demand their own meal.
With so many locations around Jacksonville, Larry’s is a great option for a quick lunch. They offer gluten free bread, and all of their sandwich meat is certified gluten free. My kids love the Southside location with the giant gorilla in the middle of the restaurant.
Epik offers one of the best burgers in town, with delicious gluten free buns, and their milkshakes are also a big hit in our house. The dining room is a bit small, but this is a great take-out option.
Jason’s Deli has an extensive gluten free menu, and who doesn’t love free ice cream after a meal?
When we are looking for sweet treats, there are a few great options around town.
They offer a gluten free cupcake option every day, and on Thursdays, they offer seven different flavors available for $2 each. Flavors include a chocolate cheesecake, red velvet, and Plain Jane, among others, and the bright, colorful store is a great place to take the kids.
This unique bakery located in Riverside has some of the best desserts in town, and they offer a wide variety of gluten-free treats. The store itself isn’t a great place to bring small children, but we love to pick-up items, including custom cakes, for family gatherings.
There is so much to love about Sweet Pete’s–my kids think it is the most magical place they have ever been. Their kitchen is gluten free, as well as the majority of their candy, and the Candy Apple Cafe offers a wide selection of gluten-free menu options.
I’m not sure if the awareness of celiac disease has created the wide range of gluten free offerings in Jacksonville, or if it is the trend of Paleo and optional gluten-free diets, but either way, our family is thankful to have all of these choices.
Do you have any favorite, family friendly gluten free locations in town?