Downtown Eateries: Vegan to gluten-free experiences

By  Leslie Priddy, DVI Intern

Craving a new food destination? How about someplace where vegans, gluten-free and meat eaters can all live harmoniously without limiting dining options? #DTJax has more than 30 different restaurants that cater to all dietary needs.

In no particular order, here are my top five places friendly to vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and gluten-free eaters Downtown.


Veg #1 wrap. Photo by Chris P. on Yelp
Veg #1 wrap. Photo by Chris P. on Yelp

Vegan heaven: Chamblin’s Uptown Café

Vegans know where to find the best healthy bites, and you’ll discover some at Chamblin’s, which boasts an extensive vegan menu. For breakfast, I recommend the sexy grits. A vegan approach to traditional Southern grits, Chamblin’s take includes nutritional yeast, tempeh, Earth Balance “butter,” salt and pepper, and daiya dairy-free cheese. Another option is a tofu scramble, paired with coffee made creamy with almond or soy milk.

For lunchtime, both meat eaters and vegans are known to love Chamblin’s wraps. My personal favorite wrap is the Veg #1, which contains hummus, cucumbers, red peppers, tomato, sprouts, almonds, pepitas and a vegan house vinaigrette. The jerk tempeh wrap is also equally delicious, and tofurkey can be used to substitute any meat on the menu.

Daily specials always have a vegan option, and soups of the day are vegan-friendly. It’s no wonder why Chamblin’s Uptown Café is a prime choice for vegans. Bonus: for gluten-free needs, any sandwich can be served on Rudi’s bread.


Most versatile menu: Chomp Chomp

When you’re meat-eating buddies rally for lunch or late-night eats at Chomp Chomp, vegetarians won’t be the odd one out. This divey, hole-in-the-wall hangout – open until 2 a.m. on weekends – allows patrons to sub tofu for almost any menu item. So vegetarians can have their delicious panko-crusted chicken sandwich, and eat it, too!


Edameme. Photo by Pho, A Noodle Bar
Edameme. Photo by Pho, A Noodle Bar

Spice for special diets: Indochine and Pho, A Noodle Bar

Sticking to your special diet doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Heat up your normal night out at one of these Thai destinations (with same owners) that will keep your veggie tendencies – and tastebuds – happy. Both spots offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and pescatarian options for spice fiends.

When ordering those spicy noodle or rice dishes, inform the waiter your dish needs to be vegan, and the egg and fish sauce will not be used. Their protein options for rice and noodle dishes include fresh vegetables and tofu. Pho, A Noodle Bar has vegan pho, which consists of broth, vegetables and tofu, all available as Thai hot as you can handle. At both locations, vegans and vegetarians can also enjoy edamame, vegetarian summer rolls and fried tofu.

For the gluten-free, substitute kelp noodles in place of the regular on any of the noodle food choices.

Both locations are also delicious destinations for pescetarians, with pho tum yum (shrimp, spicy and sour broth – ask for the vegetarian broth, rice vermicelli noodles, lemongrass, basil, galanga, cilantro and onion) and seafood soup (calamari, mussels, shrimp and krab meat with egg noodles topped with baby bok choy, ginger, celery, scallion and cilantro).


Gluten-free cupcakes. Photo by Leslie Priddy
Gluten-free cupcakes. Photo by Leslie Priddy

Gluten-free goldmine: Candy Apple Café and Cocktails

This café truly caters to gluten-free eating, serving more than 24 different gluten-free options. Starting with their brunch menu, you can order one of their five delectable omelets, all gluten-free and  – fun fact – also available egg-whites only. The cafe also has rock shrimp and grits made with creamy greenway farm grits, sautéed rock shrimp and tomato relish. For lunch, they have more 10 gluten-free options – it’s hard to pick a favorite. Short rib meatloaf or cornmeal dusted flounder? *Crickets.* See what I mean?

After enjoying your meal, feel free to roam Sweet Pete’s in the same building, offering countless gluten-free and vegan sweet treats.


For pescatarian palates: Chart House

One of the best-known places for seafood city-wide, pescatarians will rejoice at the endless options of fresh fish and shellfish for lunch and dinner at Chart House. From appetizers such as the East Meets West Tuna (plantain chips – need we say more?) to main courses such as Macadamia Crusted Mahi, fish-only foodies will never want to leave this memorable seafood dining sensation. And the #DTJax riverfront view isn’t bad either.


These five Downtown eateries are just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (haha – veggie humor) of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and pescatarian dining destinations any diet will devour. Here are some other delicious honorable mentions that I couldn’t bear to leave out:

  • Zodiac Bar and Grill
    Recommended: Combo 1 (spinach pie, felafel and Greek salad)
  • Burrito Gallery
    Recommended: Terriyaki tofu burrito and tacos
  • Olio
    Recommended: Their famous French fries (OK, not exactly healthy or a full meal – but still veggie-friendly! We won’t mention the bacon cheese fries…. Oops.)

What’s your favorite place to veg-out or go gluten-free Downtown? Tell us in the comment section below. There’s always something delicious for everyone to discover Downtown, no matter their diet restrictions. For a list of all restaurants #DTJax has to offer, check out our dining directory. Bon appétit!