Of all the places we travel to and adventure in, one of the most asked about is our annual trip to the Florida Keys. It’s always peculiar to me when I meet people who have traveled all across Europe, taken Bahamian cruises and made their way to Mexico, yet have never visited the United States’ very own tropical islands. If you’ve ever wondered if you should, the answer is yes if you like a laid-back vibe, relaxed days and an endless options for outdoor activities like fishing, snorkeling, diving and on and on.
Of course, if you live gluten-free like me, you might wonder how easy it is to find the foods you need while visiting the Keys. I thought I’d share a bit of how I navigate my travels there to give you a realistic view of what to expect.
Gluten Free in Key Largo, Florida
We are in a house there, so we have a full kitchen with all the gadgets, pots and pans we need, so I cook a lot, especially when Dreamy brings back lots of fresh fish! (Below, fresh catch hogfish, sweet potato fries nearly burnt because… cocktails, and slaw.)
Local Produce Market
There’s a local produce market at MM 101, which is fantastic for all types of fruits and veggies.
Note: MM stands for Mile Marker and that’s how you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Keys. Key Largo begins at MM 107.2 and the Florida Keys end at MM 0 in Key West. You can check out more on MMs here.
We go to the produce stand almost daily Monday through Thursday when they are open (days the Flea Market that occupies the spot on weekends is closed). The produce market is actually two separate stalls side-by-side and run by different families. I shop them both, to spread the love. :)
For things you can’t get there, the local Publix supermarket is where I shop (there’s a Winn-Dixie, too, at MM 105.5). Publix seems to have the fresher foods. You can find it in the Tradewinds shopping center at MM 101 along with a Radio Shack, K-Mart, and the public library as well as a few other shops like a nail salon, small restaurant and such.
There’s no issue finding the naturally gluten-free foods you’ll find in any supermarket (i.e., lean meats, produce) at Publix, but if you are in total vacay mode and want something a little “extra”, you’ll be delighted to know Publix in KL carries lots of gluten-free products.
I snapped these pics with my iPhone to give you an idea of what’s available.
The All But Gluten brand was located at the entrance to the bakery area on these outpost racks. I guess that’s so all the GF folks don’t get bummed out going into the gluten bakery and realize they can’t have anything there. ;) They head you off at the pass and remind you gluten-freedom is at your fingertips. There was bread…
and a selection of Little D. style snack cakes and cookies. We didn’t try any but if that’s what you like, know that it’s available for you.
If you enjoy an ice cream cone on your holiday (and Lord knows it gets hotter than You-Know-Where in the Keys in summertime), you can grab a box of GF Joy Ice Cream Cups. They are traditional cake cones. Again, we didn’t try these, but just letting you know they are available. (Y’all know I don’t have a sweet tooth, so forgive me for not indulging for you!)
As long as you’re in the cold section picking up that ice cream, check out the breakfast selection. Van’s are a great product if you’re in a pinch and can’t make homemade breakfast. Ma Petite likes the blueberry waffles with some peanut butter or sunbutter spread on top. Power breakfast!
An Extensive Offering of Gluten-Free Products
Of course, in the aisles there are loads of products to make your own homemade waffles if that’s what you’re into on your vacation. (Not me.) There are quite a few gluten-free flours from which to choose, and of course more cookies, crackers and pasta. Enjoy Life Foods has a significant presence in this store, which is great if you’re not only gluten-free but also have multiple food allergies like my household. Ma Petitie is fond of the Choco Loco bars from ELF and I keep their allergen-free chocolate chips on hand at all times. I even bought a bag while we were in KL to amp up the chocolate in a batch of brownies we made for dessert one night, because brownies + more chocolate is the right thing to do.
Here’s a shot of a few more brands available…
And of course, the quinoa…
Dining Out Gluten-Free
But if you’re not up for cooking, don’t worry! Check out the Fish House (MM 102’ish) for some outstanding fresh catch. Order your fresh catch metacumbe style if you don’t try another dish on the menu. It’s a traditional island dish rich with olive oil, lemon, crushed tomatoes and capers over a succulent fish filet. It’s always on my must-eat list, prepared with hogfish, which is virtually unheard of outside of Florida (at least from my experience).
You can also have your fish blackened (pictured below) or baked, and the non-GF folks with you can enjoy pan seared (not GF) or fried (not GF) fish if they like. The menu is clearly marked with GF options and the staff is knowledgeable.
Don’t underestimate the real-deal rice and black beans, which I promptly rearrange from bowl to pour-over, which you want to do, too.
I didn’t catch the episode of Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives, but Guy Fieri was there and gave it the DDD fist-bump of approval.
The draw-back to dining at the Fish House is there’s no water view. Yes, the food makes up for it, but we still love an outdoor breezy, relaxing meal and it would make the ginger pear martini way more enjoyable (although I never turn one down when I’m there – ocean view or not).
But alas, we leave the Fish House for a cabana outdoors at Sundowners. You’ll find it at MM 100.2 on the bay. The coconut filled with potent rum punch is the only way to start the meal. If you don’t want one, order it anyway and I’ll drink it for you. :)
All cocktail kidding aside, Sundowners does an excellent job delivering the gluten-free goods. The staff is knowledgeable, understanding and we were met with, “Oh, I get food allergies and health issues because my nephew has a peanut allergy. This is serious business.”
That makes me feel more at ease. Our server noted all our allergies and GF on our ticket and followed the meals all the way through the preparation to ensure we weren’t cross-contaminated. The fish was fresh, the chef only uses fresh fruit and veg, so the meal was excellent and that atmosphere cannot be beat! (Above, hogfish with steamed veggies; below, steak & shrimp kebabs with steamed veggies and slaw.)
And don’t forget to check out the local atmosphere at the Caribbean Club where the 1948 film, Key Largo, starring Bogie and Bacall was shot (at least part of it). The bar is the oldest in the Upper Keys, dating back to 1938. The atmosphere is straight up local (and colorful!) Keys culture, the drinks are strong and the view is outstanding!
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of options for the gluten-free traveler in Key Largo. Have you been? If you have a great GF resto in the Keys to add please share in comments below.