Visit Tampa! Gluten-free style (Living Without’s Gluten Free & More)

By Jill and Jason Shelton original article here.

Photo by Shuterstock/ Jon bilous

Photo by Shuterstock/ Jon bilous

Tampa is more than just a city. It’s a region. Located on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, the Tampa Bay area is a collection of diverse cities, towns and neighborhoods that span Florida’s beautiful Tampa Bay. Each place has characteristics that make it unique and attractive. In addition to having some of the world’s best beaches, the area contains interesting historic spots (like “Cigar City”) and is known as the Strawberry Capital of the World.

Tampa is a sports-lover’s dream, home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Many teams hold spring training in and around the Tampa Bay area, attracting baseball enthusiasts from around the country.

A town of notable events and wacky celebrations, Tampa draws huge crowds to its annual Gasparilla, a pirate invasion held in January where citizens of all ages fill the streets to collect beaded necklaces and golden doubloons from “krewes” of pirates who take over the city.

The diversity of the region allows gluten-free and food-allergic diners to enjoy a range of eateries. From fine-dining establishments to local neighborhood hideaways, friendly and accommodating restaurants ensure that visitors won’t go hungry while enjoying all that Tampa Bay has to offer.

Downtown Tampa

Along with the many corporations located there, Tampa is home to great museums, fine art and other cultural attractions. The Glazer Children’s Museum is a favorite place for kids of all ages. Completely hands-on, this museum gives children opportunities to learn, explore and burn off energy. Right next door is the Tampa Museum of Art. Along with the notable works of art displayed inside, the building’s façade showcases an entertaining light show every evening.

History buffs won’t want to miss the Tampa Bay History Center. Showing the region’s history from its earliest days to present times, this is the perfect place to learn all about Tampa Bay and its surrounding region.

Another favorite spot is the Florida Aquarium, home to over 20,000 aquatic animals and plants. Guests at the aquarium can take part in daily stingray feedings and get up close to the penguins as part of the Penguins: Backstage Pass tour.

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is a state-of-the-art venue that hosts touring Broadway plays and other world-class concerts and shows.

While downtown, be sure to check out the Tampa Riverwalk, a series of linked pedestrian paths and parks that connect some of Tampa’s premier tourist destinations.

Good Eats

Downtown Tampa hosts a number of gluten-free and allergy-friendly establishments. Open daily, First Watch ( serves fresh breakfast, brunch and lunch. Staff is helpful and well-trained in customizing your order to be gluten-free or allergy-friendly. In addition to its downtown restaurant, First Watch has other locations across the bay area.

Taco Bus ( has quickly become one of Tampa’s favorite evening stops. Taco Bus has five locations across the bay area and, as its name suggests, the first location was literally a bus. The bus was so popular and the food so delicious, that Taco Bus opened four other eateries to serve patrons across each of Tampa Bay’s regions. Locally owned, Taco Bus accommodates gluten-free diners. Its butternut squash tostada, which is topped with fresh pico de gallo, is an absolute must for gluten-free vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

Tampa Pizza Co., formerly Pizza Fusion, is a gourmet pizza chain that was founded in Florida. Focusing on great-tasting pizza with organic ingredients, this restaurant offers an amazing gluten-free crust with an endless variety of gluten-free toppings. Try its pear and gorgonzola gluten-free pizza, a family favorite, with Boylan Natural Soda or a gluten-free beer. You can order a gluten-free brownie to top off your meal.

Bamboozle Café ( has a gluten-free menu full of Vietnamese crepes, wraps, curries and salads. Delicious! It’s always a hard choice between the pho short ribs and banh xeo crispy crepes.

Ybor City

Founded in the late 1800s, Ybor City was once known as the Cigar Capital of the World. Remnants of old cigar factories and other historic buildings are strewn across the neighborhood, a short streetcar ride from downtown. You may never find a better cup of Cuban coffee outside of Cuba. Ybor City is home to a number of great shops and restaurants. Tampa’s Ikea superstore is located just outside town.

Good Eats

A well-known institution in Tampa, The Columbia Restaurant ( sits in the heart of Ybor City. It was founded by Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., in 1905 and is now owned and operated by the Gonzmart family, his descendants. The Columbia is famous for menu items like the 1905 Salad, a nod to the year the restaurant opened. Recognized by Florida’s legislature as the state’s oldest restaurant, it was the first air-conditioned dining room in Tampa. Its Spanish-style menu is available gluten-free, offering delicious choices, such as chicken with yellow rice and palomilla steak. If dairy and eggs are tolerated, the homemade flan will not disappoint. Staff is eager to accommodate. Due to its success, the Columbia has expanded to five other locations across Florida but its Ybor City restaurant offers the best atmosphere, as well as historic significance.

South Tampa & Hyde Park

Just west of downtown are South Tampa and Hyde Park. South Tampa is an affluent residential area of stately homes with unique architectural styles on quiet, tree-lined city streets. The region’s southern border is Bayshore Boulevard, a waterfront roadway that’s reportedly the longest continuous sidewalk in the world (about 4½ miles). It’s the ideal place for strolling, people watching and catching stunning views of downtown Tampa. It’s also home to Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Parade, the city’s popular pirate invasion, an all-around great time. Hyde Park offers unique boutiques and great dining options.

Good Eats

Bern’s Steak House ( is Tampa’s most popular steakhouse. The steaks are aged between five and eight weeks and are cooked to perfection. Much of Bern’s amazing food can be customized for gluten-free and food-allergic customers, as the chefs and staff are very knowledgeable and creative. This restaurant features one of the largest wine cellars in the world—over half a million bottles! An added bonus: Wine cellar and kitchen tours are available to all restaurant guests. These tours are not to be missed; inquire in advance about availability. Don’t forget to save room for dessert. Visit the dessert room to cap off your dining experience.

Not in the mood for a formal meal? Try the Gourmet Pizza Company (, which offers gluten-free pizza crust and a range of delicious toppings. Another South Tampa favorite is Datz (, a very popular deli connected to a bakery that’s connected to a gelato shop. This unique combo makes Datz the place to be. Although there’s no gluten-free menu, the staff is well versed in food safety and can accommodate many different dietary requests. Green Lemon ( is a Mexican restaurant that serves brunch, lunch and dinner. The staff is accommodating and the menu denotes gluten-free options. Its Cerdo Perfecto Street Tacos can’t be beat. Daily Eats ( features burgers, bowls, sandwiches and salads, along with breakfast foods that are available all day. The friendly staff is accommodating and menu items are marked gluten-free.

Photo by Jenn Sharkey

Photo by Jenn Sharkey – Daily Eats’ New Mexican Shredder Bowl is gluten-free.

Photo courtesy of Bamboozle Cafe

Photo courtesy of Bamboozle Cafe – The Fresh Rolls and the Grilled Pork Noodle Salad (below) at Bamboozle Café are gluten-free favorites.

Photo courtesy of Bamboozle Cafe

Photo courtesy of Bamboozle Cafe














The Westshore area may be one of Tampa’s busiest neighborhoods. Adjacent to Tampa International Airport, this is likely the first part of town you’ll see if you’re flying into Tampa.

By day, the Westshore Business District is the robust home to diverse companies. In the evenings and on weekends, the neighborhood transforms into Tampa’s premier shopping destination. The cornerstones of this area are two shopping malls—the upscale International Plaza to the north and the more traditional WestShore Plaza to the south.

Westshore is also a notable dining destination. Restaurants of all cuisines can be found there.

Good Eats

Many popular gluten-free and allergy-friendly chain restaurants are located in the malls. WestShore Plaza is home to Maggiano’s Little Italy (, Mitchell’s Fish Market (, PF Chang’s ( and Seasons 52 ( International Plaza features California Pizza Kitchen (, The Capital Grille (, The Cheesecake Factory (, Ocean Prime ( and TooJay’s Gourmet Deli ( Each of these restaurants either has a dedicated gluten-free menu or they will work with you to provide a safe dining experience.

Outside the mall area is Lee Roy Selmon’s (, a sports-themed restaurant founded by Selmon, a Buccaneer great and NFL Hall of Famer. You can take in some football history while enjoying your meal.

The Beaches

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the Tampa Bay region is blessed with some of the world’s finest beaches. The cities of Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach aren’t far from downtown Tampa, with beach towns dotting the coastline in between. Relaxing on the sand and splashing in the warm gulf water is a huge allure for visitors. Along with miles of gorgeous coastline, Clearwater Beach offers Pier 60 Park (a 1,080-foot fishing pier, an enormous playground and the perfect spot to catch a sunset), daily dolphin tours and dinner sightseeing cruises ( You can see a local movie star, Winter the Dolphin, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ( Fort De Soto Park is a favorite stop for families, offering camping, hiking, boating and, of course, a gorgeous beach.

Good Eats

A favorite spot for gluten-free diners on Clearwater Beach is Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill ( Frenchy’s offers open-air beachfront dining like few others, including a dedicated gluten-free menu and a knowledgeable staff. Island Way Grill ( in Clearwater Beach specializes in fresh seafood paired with fantastic wines. Another Clearwater Beach favorite is Crabby Bill’s (, which serves fresh, local seafood in a fun atmosphere. In St. Pete Beach, Café Luna Bistro ( has a gluten-free and vegetarian menu. At Indian Rocks Beach, Guppy’s On The Beach ( offers gluten-free lunch and dinner menus.

Unlike more populated coastal towns, there are many locally owned, small dining spots along the Tampa Bay coast. This makes finding reliable gluten-free, allergy-friendly restaurants less than a sure bet. Call ahead to check for gluten-free menu items and ask about accommodation. More dining places than ever are aware of special dietary needs and will make an effort to serve you safely—but always verify that you can dine safely before you settle on a place.

Jill and Jason Shelton maintain Gluten Free Tampa Bay (, one of the region’s top gluten-free dedicated blogs.





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