Tour Stop: Tampa,Florida
Second stop for the Guilt Free Foodie tour was Tampa, Florida. Due to the hurricane, my trip was cut a little short but I still got to visit three great places. At each stop I would hear about another “must try” gluten friendly location. The best part of touring around so far is hearing all the stories people have of the reasons about why their restaurant is making the effort to be gluten free and all the positive feedback they’ve had from the gf community.
The first stop on the trip was a place called “Taco-Bus”. They have a few locations around the area but I visited the St. Petersburg location. The Taco-Bus was recommended by a gluten free blogger in Tampa who said that “it’s the best place in town”. It has also been featured on different TV networks, on shows like Man vs. Food. I was greeted by both their wonderful PR rep and the store manager who took us through the menu and let us taste a lot of goodies before ordering our meal. Since it is Mexican food, it is for the most part gluten free with options of corn tortillas for tacos, chips and tostadas. In addition, the beans, all the meats, and even the tempeh is gluten free. The samples first started with some of the homemade beverages. My favorite was the half and half mix of pineapple and watermelon water. Then I tried samples of all the taco fillings from chicken to steak and even tofu, tempeh, mushroom corn mix, and my ultimate favorite – the butternut squash. I love my meat but this squash was different than any taco filling I have ever had, something I will have to replicate. It is spicy and sweet with almost a creamy texture. I tried the guacamole too which was outstanding and super fresh. By the time I ordered food, I was almost full but my squash tacos, rice and beans were really good! The best part about this place is that they are 24 hours four days a week and serve breakfast EVERYDAY. We enjoyed it so much that they we went back the next day for a late night snack. The Taco-Bus is a must try when you are in the Tampa area. Check out their website to find the other locations around Tampa Bay. Website: http://m.taco-bus.com/
The second stop was a gluten free pizza place called Gourmet Pizza. They serve gluten free pizza, bread sticks, dessert and beer. The gluten free pizza is on a thin ten inch crust and can be made into almost any option. I tried the specialties which include Crawfish Cajun, BBQ Chicken, Pineapple Bacon and Veggie. The crust was very crispy and firm enough to hold the toppings without needing a knife and fork which seems to always be an issue with gf crust. My favorite topping was the BBQ chicken for sure but they were all very good. Website: http://www.gourmetpizza-company.com/
The last stop, was like finding a hidden treasure for the GF world. It was Burger21 which is a fun, modern and hip burger and shake spot. Good gluten free options and substitutions are starting to appear more but Burger21 is taken safe gluten free eating to a whole different level. Burger21 has, by far, the safest gluten free procedures I have seen yet. All the staff was outstanding and they allowed me in the kitchen to watch my burger get made. The process they use to avoid cross contamination is amazing. When a gluten free order comes into the kitchen, the staff knows to wipe down the counters, clean hands again, get out the designated gluten free utensils and to only use the designated gluten free grills. Their burgers, buns, most sauces and fries are all gluten free. I had the cheeseburger with sweet potato fries with apple cider sauce and a chocolate frozen yogurt milk shake. The whole meal was very good and the gluten free bun tastes just like a regular one and just as fluffy. This burger was the best gf burger I have ever had and even Jeff (who is not gluten free) was amazed at the quality of the bun. The staff (PR people, managers, waiters, cooks and cooks in training) made the experience even more enjoyable. The best part is that Burger21 is starting to expand beyond their locations in Florida and is planning to open two in NJ in 2013. I can’t wait!!! Website: http://www.burger21.com/
The more that I travel and meet people, the more I realize that the gluten free community is making an impact. It is becoming rare to meet someone that does not know someone who is gluten free. Restaurants are learning that eating gluten free is not a diet fad but rather, an illness. Don’t be scared to travel and try new places. Do some research before you go and you may be surprised at what you find.