Imagine going to a restaurant with a dairy allergy and ordering a burger. When the burger is delivered, it has no bun, no condiments, only lettuce and a patty. What happened? The restaurant wasn’t trained in food allergies or sensitivities, so to be safe it took most of the food away. Anyone who struggles with food allergies and sensitivities understands this scenario all too well.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that in America, as of 2021, 16 million adults and 4 million children have food allergies. When so many Americans deal with food allergies/sensitivities, it can be difficult for families to know how to navigate restaurants safely.

Thankfully, many large chain restaurants provide allergy menus when requested and bring out a manager to discuss safe options. But not all restaurants are created equal in dealing with food allergies. It’s important to find a restaurant that trains its staff, waiters/waitresses and cooks in properly dealing with food and teaching knowledge of whether something would be cross-contaminated or not.

In the Brandon/Valrico/Riverview area, there are a few tasty options to eat at that are fairly allergy-conscious, such as: Vine Vegan, Mellow Mushroom and Cali.

Danielle Stevens opened Vine Vegan five months ago as a labor of love. That is, the love of sharing vegan, plant-based fare. For those who suffer from gluten, dairy or egg sensitivity/allergy, there are many options to choose from on the menu. Vine Vegan has a 3,000-square-foot location and is a fast-casual setting with dine-in and carry-out options, all within a family-friendly environment.

Justine Grossberg, Vine Vegan’s restaurant manager, stated that “the restaurant tries to take every precaution to avoid potential allergens when a customer informs of an allergy.” Employees clean the cooking surface, change gloves and write the allergen on the ticket. Then a binder of every ingredient is reviewed with the customer and a manager comes out to discuss food options.

Vine Vegan is located in the Brandon Crossroads Plaza at 2080 Badlands Dr. in Brandon. It is open Sunday to Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday to Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Friday to Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. For Vine Vegan’s menu, visit

Another allergy-conscious restaurant is Mellow Mushroom. Mellow Mushroom is a sit-down chain restaurant that has been around for the last 40 years. It primarily serves stone-baked pizza, but also sandwiches, calzones and even vegan/vegetarian food. The franchise focuses on nutrition and makes sure to source healthy ingredients into the food it serves. Mellow Mushroom’s menu indicates what is gluten-free or dairy-free for those with gluten or dairy allergies, making it fairly easy to determine what is safe to eat. There is also a whole section of the menu dedicated to gluten-free options. If there are other allergies/sensitivities to food, there is a feature on Mellow Mushroom’s website with which customers can select an allergen and then see their food options.

Mellow Mushroom is located at 10959 Causeway Blvd. in Brandon in the Causeway Shoppes plaza. Its hours are Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. To see Mellow Mushroom’s menu, visit

Cali is also an allergy-friendly option to choose from in the area. In 2005, the first Ciccio-Cali restaurant chain opened in Florida. Cali is a family-owned-and-operated chain with four locations in the Tampa Bay area: Tampa Palms, St. Petersburg, South Tampa and Brandon.

The Cali restaurants aim to provide ingredients that are antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Its menu ranges from rice bowls to wraps and pizza. Cali has a fast-casual setting with dine-in and carry-out options. Finding allergy-friendly foods is easy with this menu. Gluten-free or dairy-free options are indicated on the main menu. But if a customer has a soy, peanut, tree nut or egg allergy, the staff are often able to suggest options to eat.

Cali is located at 11230 Sullivan St. in Riverview, near Winthrop Village. Its hours are Monday to Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Saturday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. To see Cali’s menu, visit

Although these three restaurants are allergy-friendly, each place has indicated that cross-contamination of allergens can occur while cooking, so customers to be aware of that when ordering food.

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Ashley Abene
Ashley Abene has written for the Osprey Observer since 2023. She has a master’s degree in writing and literature and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from the University of South Florida. She has taught college-level writing and literature at USF and Southeastern University for over nine years. She’s a blogger at Peace Filled Family and enjoys writing children’s books. She’s also a mom to three kids, and her husband has been serving in the military for over 20 years.