Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Suns provide a good gluten-free experience

I went to my first Jacksonville Suns game of the season last night and I have to say it was a good gluten-free experience, with one glitch.

As I've noted before, you have to go to the Sundowner Lounge, a bar upstairs from the main concourse at the ballpark, to get the gluten-free items. I went before the game to get a hot dog and beer (they are stocking Redbridge).

The hot dog, which was a pretty good sized-hot dog, came with a choice of french fries or chips. That and the beer only cost me $10, which is pretty good for any meal at a ballpark, let alone a gluten-free meal. I never asked the breakdown but I think I was getting a happy hour price on the beer that made it cheaper.

I went back for a second Redbridge later and it only cost $5, which again is a pretty reasonable price to pay at a ballpark.

The glitch was, when I ordered my hot dog, they couldn't find the gluten-free buns. It took a while for them to track them down. The nice thing was the bartender gave me some free potato chips to eat while I was waiting for them to find the buns. So I actually ended up with a big hot dog, french fries and chips. I was pretty full.

This did make me think of a drawback to the Suns gluten-free experience. I'm quite at home sitting at a bar waiting for my food but if you're bringing kids to the ballpark, that might be a problem. I'm sure if your kids have celiac, they're going to want a hot dog and there's only one place to get them.

I should also mention that when I went for my second beer, the bartender asked if I was going to come back for another one, because she would have to go get some more. Between that and the search for buns, I'm pretty sure I was the only gluten-free customer in a crowd of 3,663. I hope that doesn't discourage the Suns from continuing to offer the gluten-free items, but I don't think it will.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Another gluten-free pizza option coming to Jacksonville

Another pizza chain that features a gluten-free option is coming to Jacksonville.

Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint announced this week that Kevin Gartner, who operates Krystal restaurants in the Jacksonville area, has signed on as a franchisee to open five Uncle Maddio's restaurants in Jacksonville and Gainesville. The first one is scheduled to open in Jacksonville in late 2014.

Uncle Maddio's is a create-your-own pizza concept that offers customized pizzas with three crust choices, including gluten free. Its website says it has "over 20 gluten-free options."

The company said in a press release that "most entrees are brought to customers' tables in six minutes for under $7."

The concept sounds similar to Your Pie, which opened its first Northeast Florida restaurants last year in Fleming Island and Tapestry Park. Your Pie has a great program to try and avoid cross contamination on its gluten-free pizzas. Hopefully, Uncle Maddio's has a similar program.

Atlanta-based Uncle Maddio's currently has 19 restaurants in seven states. The press release said it is projecting 35 new restaurants this year and has another 165 locations in development.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An updated gluten-free ballpark guide

Going to a major league baseball park this season? Here's a fantastic and comprehensive guide to gluten-free eating at every ballpark, courtesy of Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly:


As I told you a couple of weeks ago, the Jacksonville Suns have gluten-free beer and hot dogs, among other items this season. It seems that most of baseball is getting on board with serving gluten-free customers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gluten-free friendly Epik Burger celebrating one-year anniversary

Epik Burger, possibly the most gluten-free friendly restaurant in town, is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week. They are offering several specials Thursday through Saturday, including buy one-get one deals on drinks (soda, beer and wine).

The great thing about Epik Burger is it offers a wide variety of burgers and chicken and other sandwiches on gluten-free buns. Also, its french fries are gluten-free and, most significantly as far as I'm concerned, it has gluten-free onion rings. It's the only place I know of in Jacksonville with gluten-free onion rings. I order them every time I go.

The restaurant is located in a strip shopping center on Atlantic Boulevard opposite the intersection with Girvin Road. If you haven't tried it, it's worth the trip for anyone who has to eat gluten free.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yes, the Suns will have gluten-free hot dogs and beer

Okay, I've had some disappointments with gluten-free food and baseball this spring, but it's good to know that the Jacksonville Suns will have their gluten-free program back in place.

For the third year in a row, the Suns will have gluten-free hot dogs, as well as burgers, sausages and chicken sandwiches available. I know just the other day I expressed my disappointment in gluten-free hot dog buns and that isn't likely to change, but there's something about having a hot dog at the ballpark which takes the sting away from stale, crumbly buns.

The Suns will also have gluten-free beer available. Jamie Davis, the Suns' general manager for ballpark foods, told me that they will be carrying a different brand than Redbridge, but he wasn't sure exactly which brand it will be. Besides gluten-free beer, the Suns will also have Woodchuck cider available.

Again, the gluten-free items will only be available at the Sundowner Lounge, a bar inside the ballpark that is open to the public. I used to think limiting gluten-free items to one location was a bad thing but after my awful experience at a Jaguars game last year, I see the benefit of having a single gluten-free location. At least the people serving food there will know the difference between gluten-free and other items.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Still searching for a decent hot dog bun

To celebrate baseball's opening day, I decided to have hot dogs. Unfortunately, it wasn't as enjoyable as I'd hoped.

The hot dog itself isn't a problem. Most hot dogs are naturally gluten free and I bought Nathan's brand, which claims on the label that they are gluten free.

But as always, the bun was, well, mediocre. From my experience, gluten-free hot dog buns range from stale and awful to mediocre, and this was no different.

I found Rudi's gluten-free hot dog buns on sale at Publix about a month ago so I bought them and kept them around in the freezer, anticipating the baseball season. They looked different than other hot dog buns I've tried, so I was somewhat optimistic.

But they weren't very good, and one of the two buns I had crumbled in my hands.

I've been encouraged recently by improvements in gluten-free hamburger buns, so I'm wondering: why is so hard to make a good gluten-free hot dog bun?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Almost everything gluten free at Corner Taco

I finally made it to Corner Taco yesterday. I've been waiting forever to try them, since I first read about their gluten-free tacos on their food truck from glutenfreejacksonville.

The problem is I'm hardly every downtown and the Corner Taco truck was always located somewhere near downtown, and when I was downtown, I didn't know where to find it.

But, Corner Taco recently opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Five Points at 818 Post St. So when I was in the neighborhood yesterday, I knew where to go.

The menu doesn't say anything about gluten free but when I asked what is gluten free, I was told everything but the croutons on the salad are gluten free. The tacos are made with corn tortillas.

I got a couple of chicken tacos. They were good, kind of reminding me of Taco Lu's tacos. My only complaint was that it seemed to take forever to get them. In a place where you go up to the counter and order, I generally expect it to be faster.

But that's okay. There are a lot of other tacos on the menu I'd like to try, so I'll be back.