Soy allergy friendly

Steelbach - Armature Works

Armature Works is nested in historic Tampa Heights across from the Hillsborough River. The brick and mortar beauty houses an eclectic mix of eateries, Heights Public Market, event spaces and Bay 3 a unique coworking space.

One of the many restaurants inside is Steelbach. The southern rustic decor is warm and inviting. They have a waterfront patio but we chose to dine inside. We were seated immediately and our waitress greeted us within a minute of sitting. Upon looking at their lunch menu, the waitress assured me my soy allergy would be a priority.

Out of all the items — Grouper Tacos, Avocado & Fennel Salad, or Blackened Salmon — just to name a few, on the menu, the burgers stood out the most. Steelbach’s cattle are local and grass-fed. My husband chose the Pimento Cheese Burger and I had a bunless burger. Our waitress and the chef was on top of my soy allergy and planned to cook it away from everything else to eliminate cross-contamination.

The meat is seasoned which sometimes restaurants don’t do well. They rely heavily on the condiments or the add-ons. Even with the Pimento Burger, my husband stated he could taste the seasonings in the meat.

I always take one bite and wait to make sure all is good. Throat closing is not pleasant. It’s happened to me out at eateries before where they tell me there wasn’t cross-contamination, but my soy allergy disagrees. I don’t expect the world to stop because of my food allergy. I don’t expect restaurants to only stock olive or avocado oil, but I do expect them to be honest and tell me my options are zero or limited, that also has happened to me, but I don’t entirely fault that restaurant because it was more pub-like, but I did educate them on soy, and they appreciated that.

I digress.

The burger was juicy and flavorful. My husband was quite pleased with his as well.

The fact that Steelbach was attentive to my soy allergy makes the list of places to visit for those with food allergies. The restaurant also has gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Steelbach serves lunch, dinner, and brunch. Their wine and cocktail menus are extensive. The Infused Duos sound delightful, perhaps next time.

Steelbach takes reservations, and they have gift certificates which my parents would love since they are relocating here from the Midwest soon.

For those visiting the Tampa area or those of you who are local and want to try a new place, you won’t be disappointed.

Per their website:


1902 N. OLA AVE. 
TAMPA, FL 33602 

FRIDAY 11:30AM - 12:00AM
SATURDAY 9:30AM - 12:00AM
SUNDAY 9:30AM - 10:00PM

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

The excitement in Spring Hill/Brooksville Florida area increased as the opening of Cheddar's neared closer. It's new, different, and the perfect location. When it comes to chain restaurants, for good reason, I'm skeptical. However, when Cheddar's opened their doors, a few of my close friends went and assured me I would love it. 
Again, I wasn't thrilled. New restaurants come with hiccups and mistakes. It doesn't instill confidence in someone with a food allergy. On the flip side, how are restaurants going to learn if they aren't put to the test?

Per Cheddar's website: At Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, we’ve been graciously serving made-from-scratch goodness since 1979. Our founders, Aubrey Good and Doug Rogers, believed that when a meal is prepared and cooked fresh just for you, it not only tastes better, it makes you feel good.

We use quality ingredients and take the time to prepare them in our kitchen. It’s the right way, not the easy way, because it tastes better that way. And really, isn’t that the point?

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen serves made-from-scratch goodness in a welcoming place. Enjoy House Smoked Baby Back Ribs, hand-battered Country Fried Chicken, Scratch Burgers, Homemade Onion Rings. 

I do appreciate the nutritional information at the bottom of their website, but even on their menu, there isn't any mention of what oils they use or any food allergy information. 

Upon arriving with five of my dear friends it was a 25-30 minute wait. Understandable. It was six o'clock in the evening and still new to the area. They do not take reservations. We only waited about 15 minutes. The front of the house was pleasant and helpful. Thumbs up. 

The decor is rustic with an edge of modern. Southern vibe. Wood beams. Brick. Stone.  

Our server was prompt though he was quite busy. The dining room was hectic but he never rushed us. Their menu is extensive, especially the cocktail portion. Our server answered all our questions. I informed him of my food allergy and he wrote it on the ticket in the large letters. He asked what I was thinking of ordering and he would have a discussion with the chef. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I was leaning towards the Grilled White Fish (that night it was Grouper) - Lemon pepper or blackened over rice. He went to have a chat with the chef.

I was feeling a bit less skeptical but it was early.

He returned and assured me the chef would use olive oil and prepare it away from the other food to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination. Bonus.

The meal did come with two sides but I was good with one and chose a house salad with oil and vinegar.

My plate was a little awkward because of the lack of side but the Grouper smelled delicious. I went the lemon pepper route. The fish was cooked perfectly. Not dry. Opaque in the center. Took a bite. Waited. Because you never know.

Okay, I can still breathe.

The seasoning was spot on. I didn't need to add any salt. The bite of the pepper was nice. The rice was heavy on the onions -- not a fan -- but I picked around them. Now, the other dinner plates on the table were quite different. If you choose to dine at Cheddar's you better be hungry. 

Our server I was pleasantly surprised by the food and experience. My food allergy fears faded away but that doesn't mean I'd let my guard down next time I dine at Cheddar's or any other place. It's important to emphasize the severity of the food allergy. I always say "I will die if I ingest soy." I don't care if I'm that annoying guest. I've received plenty of eye rolls in the past and I actually had a server once say to me "Oh, is that like the gluten allergy trend?" Oh, yes. That happened. As did a lovely lesson from yours truly in food allergies to the server and the manager.

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen has locations from Arizona to Pennsylvania. You can find yours on their website.    

They offer an EClub sign up, Be the first to know about new menu items and have access to special offers. Not to mention, you’ll receive free Chips & Homemade Queso just for signing up – what a delicious way to seal the deal! Per their website

Cheddar's is a step up from similar chain restaurants. I didn't die -- a good thing -- and another promising option for those with soy allergies. 

Brooksville location:

12280 Cortez Blvd

Brooksville, FL 34613


The Cove - Casual Classy Comfort

When we relocated back to Florida from Illinois last year, our dear friends raved about their favorite restaurant in Hernando Beach. Casual atmosphere. Upscale cuisine. And more than likely, soy-allergy friendly. I hopped on the website to get a feel for their menu. Easy to navigate. Immediately drawn to the seafood and organic salads sections, I felt confident I'd find success there.  

Girls lunch out. Where to go? How about The Cove? 

They have inside and outside dining. The large patio sits on the canal which was fun to watch the alligators and turtles. Our waitress greeted us immediately. Friendly and knowledgeable of the menu. I addressed my soy-allergy concerns. She went through the menu with me, and once we settled on a Cobb salad with salmon, our waitress went to discuss everything with the chef. Upon returning she assured me all would be good. The chef would grill my salmon and use olive oil. No cross contamination would happen. They'd make sure of it. I appreciated their seriousness and wasn't worried at all.   

The ambiance was relaxing. Warm breeze. Palm trees. A hint of salt in the air from The Gulf. The waitresses weren't pushing people out. They were busy, but it wasn't a hectic vibe. The ladies and I enjoyed ourselves while we waited for our food. Which wasn't long at all. Sometimes my dishes take longer because of preparation. But if the kitchen is efficient and properly informed the process isn't a problem.  

Beautiful salmon filet. Oil and vinegar on the side. Fresh veggies. The salmon was crisp on the outside. My first cut into the salmon revealed a perfect shade of pink. Not dry one bit. I was pleased. 

I've learned when I go out to take a bite of my food and wait because if there is a trace of soy, I'll know within seconds. That's my trust level with restaurants. Sad but it's a reality and something I must do because of my experiences. 

However, no issues with The Cove. 

I devoured my plate.

I have eaten there twice and both times were magnificent. Date night with my husband will be next. To know the chef and entire staff care about food allergies is HUGE. I've dealt with restaurants who feel my food allergies are a nuisance. Look, I hate them too. I wish I could eat whatever I wanted under the sun but I can't because I like to live, as do others who have food allergies.     

The Cove's menu ranges from Lobster Bisque -- my dear friend's obsession -- to Hawaiian Style Marinated Pork Chops to Pan Seared Scallops.

Open every day except for Mondays

Tuesday - Thursday Noon - 8 pm

Friday & Saturday Noon - 9 pm

Sunday Noon to 8 pm

Early bird menu 2 pm - 5 pm

If you are visiting the Nature Coast, I highly recommend The Cove. I look forward to dining there again and I am ordering the salmon again.

My tastebuds demand it.