Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Gluten-Free Florida 2 - Eating in The Villages

One of the best things about going on vacation is finding new places to eat. And this vacation was no exception! As you can see by the picture above, my father and the wee one also had fun finding new restaurants.

Being gluten-free can pose some issues when it comes to eating out. There are some restaurants that either can't or won't accommodate our food requests. Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, restaurants that are so careful that they'll only serve us plain chicken with plain rice. In my experience, I've had amazing luck with the middle - those that will work with you on your food needs and serve an amazing meal.

Here is my restaurant rundown for The Villages, Florida:
Lake Sumter Landing
1129 Canal Street

TooJays is a Kosher-style sit down deli. The entire family went there for lunch. I was a bit nervous since they bake gluteny goods on site, but my parents contacted them before my visit and said that they can do gluten-free.

When we arrived there, the line to sit was out the door. Yep. There was a line out the door for a deli. Amazing. When we were seated, I gave my Columbia University Celiac Center Food Card to the waitress to find out what I can eat. She came back after visiting the kitchen and gave me my options: plain salads, bunless burger, and chili. I chose chili.

Chili has been my go-to meal since going gluten-free. I've always been a fan of chili, now, I am a HUGE fan of chili. TooJays chili? Not so good. I prefer Wendy's Chili. A little too bland and not enough beans. Normally, I would have added some hot sauce, but they had a brand I never saw before (ends up to be a generic restaurant brand) and didn't know its gluten-free status.

Not too long after we ate, I knew I was glutened. That's when we ran to Sweetbay for some relief.

Lake Sumter Landing
1015 Lake Shore Drive

RJ Gators is/was a Florida-themed chain. From what I understand, the economy has closed many, if not most of the restaurants. Again, the entire family came to dinner. When the waitress came to our table, I handed her my Columbia Celiac card. A little while later she came back with a huge smile on her face. She said she didn't want to get my sick, so she called one of her co-workers whose husband is gluten-free and eats at the restaurant all the time. Our waitress had the co-worker and the chef on the phone together to plan menu choices for me. In the end, I had cedar-planked salmon with seasoned veggies. It was fantastic and I didn't get sick!

The Cattle Baron Club
Second Floor of Katie Belle's
Spanish Springs Town Square

The Cattle Baron Club is a private restaurant on the second floor of a supper club. It's only open to residents of The Villages and their guests. Ant and I went there with our Guest IDs for a "date night." The place was packed and we had a 40 minute wait. During the 40 minute wait, we were able to enjoy happy hour...I was enjoying my pinot grigio.

When we were seated, I gave my Coumbia Celiac card. The waitress came back and explained that I could have all the salads (minus croutons) and all of the fish/beef/poultry dishes. Going against my husband's better judgement, I ordered mahi-mahi with mango salsa over risotto. Yes, I ordered fish in a steak house. I've learned my lesson.
The mahi-mahi was dry and the risotto was just mixed rice with peas (as you can see by the picture above.) The mango salsa was pretty good, though. Ant's surf and turf looked fantastic. For dessert, I ended up having a crustless, Italian cheesecake:

The cheesecake had a light citrus taste to it. Very refreshing and much better than the meal. Actually, the best part of the meal was the entertainment. Entertaining us throughout the dinner was a team of impersonators. Actually, it was just a man and a woman with a lot of costume changes. My favorite was the Kenny/Dolly "Islands in the Wind"

1018 Canal Street

Yeah. I went to a restaurant that is known for bread. Risky choice. This restaurant happens to be popular in the Villages and from what I understand, the flatbreads are pretty good. Like all the other restaurants, I gave over my Columbia Celiac card. When the waiter came back, he recommended a seasonal chicken dish in a mustard sauce. He said it was both seasonal and inspired by German cuisine. I'm a sucker for German food.
The food wasn't bad. The veggies were fantastic and the mustard sauce was nice, but chicken wasn't the right choice for this dish. I think it should have been pork. I'd like this restaurant more if they had better service. We had to have been there for 1/2 hour before a server came to our table. And let's not talk about the wait time between taking our order, getting our food, and receiving our check.

Lake Sumter Landing

We went to GarVino's one evening for a few post-happy hour drinks. We sat at the bar - Ant had port and I had Riesling. We did peruse their menu - light appetizers that highlight the wine. I was tempted to get the cheese and fruit platter - but we just had dinner. At GarVino's we ended up meeting a nice resident named Bear. Bear and my husband hit it off. They are both fans of the Second Amendment and hate my Twittering. By the time we closed the bar, we made plans to meet up with Bear at the US Open in Long Island. That's how good the wine was.

Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q
1396 West North Blvd.
Leesburg, Florida
My husband (and father) love barbecue. I'm a fan, too, but since going gluten-free I've been nervous. Many barbecue joints can't do gluten-free and I haven't gotten a chance to get to Blue Smoke in Manhattan to test out their gluten-free menu. When I looked at Sonny's website, I noticed that they had an allergen menu. Unlike other restaurants, the allergen menu was a list of what I couldn't have. Everything on it was obvious that it had gluten (chicken tenders, croutons, etc) except for Pulled Pork. I love Pulled Pork. To be exact, outside of bacon, that is the only pig dish I'll eat.
Sonny's is coming this Spring to Lake Sumter Landing, so Ant, my dad, and I went to the closest one (in Leesburg) to try it out after a round of golf. Ant had the Super Combo - BBQ Sliced Pork, slow-smoked beef, BBQ Chicken, and their Sweet-n-Smokey Ribs. My dad had the BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich with fries and BBQ Beans on the side. And, I had the Pulled Chicken platter with BBQ Beans and sweet potato sides. All of us LOVED our meals. Ample portions at a phenomenal price. My dad can't wait for it to come to Lake Sumter Landing. Plus, you can get your soda to go.

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Ricardo said...

some very delicious meals showing in those pictures, hope you had fun eating them ..i know I would

Anonymous said...

I have recently moved permanently to The Villages (Jan. 2012), thanks for your review. When I visited Sonny's a few months ago, I was told by the manager that the only thing I could eat was the chopped steak because all of their steaks and chicken are marinated which contains gluten. He told me the barbecue was not an option either. Very different than what their allergen website says. Also there are several country clubs that now have gluten free menus: Bonifay, Cane Garden and Terra del Sol.