Monday, December 1, 2008

Gluten free dining in Panama City Beach, FL...quite the challenge

I was thrilled to find out some of my family moved to the beach and we’d be spending Thanksgiving down there this year. However, I had no idea how backwards PCB was when it came to food intolerances. After finding nothing helpful online about dining gluten free there, I remembered Dr. Rudert talking about how some patients from the panhandle drive all the way to Atlanta to see her regarding Celiac. The others apparently go to Shands in Gainesville or Mayo in Jacksonville. As far as I can tell the only doctors that know anything about Celiac in that part of FL are in Pensacola and we were not driving over there for dinner, of course. The usual suspects are there…Outback, Bonefish and Carabba’s but I’m not driving to FL to eat at a place I have around the corner from my house - unless I have no other safe options.

Finally, I found out that there is a Margaritaville in PCB and the Orlando location has a gluten free menu. They even have a dedicated fryer so their fries are safe to eat. The head Chef in Orlando (Daniel) said he’d have the new Chef (Pietro) at PCB take care of our party of ten for the Wed. night before Thanksgiving. Chef Pietro called me to discuss my preferences for dinner and offered to make us gluten free crab cakes. There are three Celiacs in my family (that we’re aware of) so this was quite a treat for us. I did have to drop off gluten free Ener-G crackers ahead of time but I had some that were on clearance and they’d expired the week before – perfect for breadcrumbs.

Before we ordered at Margaritaville, the Chef came out to see if we had any questions and let us know he’d brought in gluten free buns and brownies for us too. But we were set on crab cakes and I don’t like the buns they use anyway – I’m spoiled being able to have the Whole Foods bun at the Roswell Outback.

All the gluten free diners in our party ordered the crab cakes and my husband who is 99% gluten free ordered some Mahi Mahi dish (which was also gluten free). We could have the rice and veggies there but not the roasted potatoes, which contained gluten. I guess because I took so many crackers in the Chef made us three crab cakes which were large so I could only eat half of them. They were very good and didn’t have any odd taste or texture to them. They were actually pretty similar to what I make at home except I put spicey brown mustard in mine and I don’t think these contained any mustard. It would have been nice to have a mustard or remolaude sauce with them but the lemon juice was fine. It was just nice having crab cakes that I didn’t have to make. In Atlanta, the Four Seasons Hotel serves the best I’ve had but they are also $45 so the $18.50 cost at Margarittaville was quite the deal indeed! If you’re in the Panama City Beach area and go to Margaritaville, you might ask if they have a gluten free bun or brownie for you since we didn't order them and no one else would know they're available.

All Margaritaville locations will eventually have a printed gluten free menu and you can find out where they all are by checking their website. I hope they’ll put a gluten free crab bisque on the menu…that’s something I have to make at home these days and it’s so easy to make gluten free. Most restaurants could do it for a few pennies a bowl and serve it to everyone – glutenoids included.

I've got to say we are not really into theme, family oriented restaurants but I was surprised at how much fun this place was. We left shortly after the live music began and I wish we could have stayed a little longer. It's more than a place for a fun bite to eat. It really is an experience..not one I'd want every day but nice to enjoy every so often. The kids in our party loved it too...the smoking plane with descending salt shaker and Jimmy Buffet videos were great. As we say in the was a hoot!


  1. I completely agree with you. When I am traveling I like to go to restaurants that I don't have back at home. I'm glad you found a safe place to eat at.

  2. Before being diganosed with Celiac I always chose vacation spots known for incredible dining options. Once I got the hang of being gluten free I decided I should continue that practice. Though it's tougher in the states, it is doable if you research hard enough.


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