Dining Gluten Free at Spondivits Restaurant in Atlanta

This post is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesdays and Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

I just wrapped up a week-long Southern vacation with my friend, Judy. We drove to Fairhope, Alabama to attend a mutual friend’s wedding (and the many events before hand). Fairhope is just north of Mobile. It was quite the drive, but so worth it to be a guest at my friend’s wedding. The first day we drove much more than half way, making it to Atlanta. When we checked into our room and inquired on nearby eateries, the hotel desk clerk recommended Spondivits. Spon what? Spondivits! She described this restaurant as a seafood and steak place where there’s always a line to get in. She added that we should not be intimidated by the line and that the food was definitely worth the wait. Spondivits was only a few blocks away. It’s located on Virginia Avenue less than 3 miles away from the airport. The menu cites Spondivits as your “perfect airport pre-flight party location!” I remembered passing by it on the way to the hotel. I’d noticed it because of its unusual name and its appearance as quite the happening place.

spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

Clearly, Spondivits does not attract your attention because of a grand, traditional appearance. The following info from Spondivits’ website also gives you an indication that it truly is not your typical restaurant:

“At the present, Spondivits in Atlanta opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 4 a.m. They stop serving food at 2:45 a.m.” It was noted that it’s the only place in Atlanta where you can get a full-course seafood dinner at 2:45 am. We didn’t verify that info was correct, as that’s way past my bedtime, but I do have to wonder if there’s a line at that time. At 8:00 pm, there certainly was. And one nice lady I met waiting in line for the restroom told me that there’s always a line. We had a 45-minute wait for our table, but the time went by quickly thanks to lots of interesting conversations with other waiting patrons (and one local who could certainly, uh, “spin a yarn”). Having servers promptly fill your drink order while you wait doesn’t hurt either. Server “Sunshine” certainly added some sunshine to my day!

So what is a Spondivits? I asked several folks, even employees, and not one had an answer. “Nobody knows really,” says the owner on their website. “We’ve even had contests to tell us what our customers think Spondivits is, but we have yet to define it.” Hmmm. I guess if you open a restaurant, you can call it anything you want. Nonsensical or not, Spondivits does sound like fun, doesn’t it? It definitely was!

spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

But back to the important part … the food! Once we were seated and ordered, our food came fairly quickly. Other than some type of sandwich, I absolutely do not remember what my friend ordered. I was really focused on my own order. Hers was not gluten free. First, I ensured that the restaurant’s seafood is not steamed in beer. One must always ask this question when steamed seafood is involved. Second, the menu says the most of the seafood is served with beer butter or garlic butter. I wanted to make sure that I received garlic butter with my order. It turned out that despite what the menu says, one just gets plain old butter. Our server, Stephanie, said it had been that way as long as she’s been there. I have no idea how long that’s been, but I was happy that beer butter was not going to trip me up. Finally, I ordered snow crab legs thinking I was getting a pound, but a short while later I was surprised to be served a bucket of crab legs. Wow, this was a snow crab leg extravaganza! The seafood buckets seem to be their signature selections. The snow crab legs were absolutely delicious. They were cooked to perfection and the crab meat had just the right hint of sweetness.

Spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

Spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

Spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

My pet peeve with the snow crab legs was that they didn’t come with a worthy stainless steel cracker. Instead they were served with a hard plastic Spondivits crab tool. Our server showed me how to crack the legs and the heavy claws using their tool, but I would have much preferred a much heavier tool that did the job more quickly. Stephanie admitted that they’d originally had stainless steel crab claws, but too many had walked out the door. My friend helped me eat a few of the legs, so eventually we made our way through them all. As a result, I was stuffed, but happy and even ate a pretty light breakfast the next morning.

Spondivits, gluten free, seafood, Atlanta, steaks, eating out gluten free

Gluten-free options at Spondivits are going to be the raw or steamed seafood like peel-n-eat shrimp, king crab, snow crab, and oysters; steaks; burgers (sans bun); and salads; but be sure to always do your “due diligence” and inquire about preparation and ingredients. For example, I’d make sure my steaks weren’t marinated in any gluten-full ingredients like soy sauce and ensure my burgers didn’t have added bread crumbs or gluten-full sauce. Plus, I’d ask for either steaks or burgers to be cooked on a clean grill area (aluminum foil can be your best friend in this situation) or in a clean pan (my preference). For salads, I’d inquire about croutons and if the salads did normally contain croutons, I’d be sure to ask for my salad to be made fresh in its own bowl. (Note: It’s pretty common for restaurant staff to make one huge salad in a massive bowl and just “pull” from that all night. You do not want your salad to come from that gluten-full bowl.)  I’d also ensure any toppings like grilled chicken were also gluten free and free of cross contamination.

Spondivits is the kind of place that I’d be unlikely to visit if it were in my hometown. It’s funky, loud, is somewhat overpriced, and you can’t get in a hurry when dining there, but when visiting from out of town and looking for local flavor (with both meanings), it works just fine for me! There’s an open air section with a fair number of tables and an inside main section that houses a bar area, some seating areas that are offset and/or enclosed, and also aquariums. Whether you’re seated outside or inside, this is not the kind of place where you can have a quiet intimate dinner, unless you include your neighbor in that intimacy.  The website states that Spondivits is a place that has created a legendary following in Atlanta based on good food—with a specialty on seafood—two-ounce drinks and a personality. Based on my experience, that sure seems accurate!

Another note … at first, it’s hard to figure out where you are supposed to park. Passing by the restaurant at least once before you figure that out is pretty common for those who are not regulars. You actually enter the small parking lot between the Spondivits building and McDonald’s. The parking is valet parking, with no charge for the parking itself, but tips are expected by the valets. (They tell you that up front.)

If I’m ever in the nearby vicinity again, I’ll go back. I’m certain that Mr. GFE would love Spondivitz for a vacation dining spot!

Not just gf, but gfe!

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13 Responses to “Dining Gluten Free at Spondivits Restaurant in Atlanta”

  1. Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy on May 30th, 2012 2:20 pm

    what a great review! it looks like you had a great meal! thanks for sharing!

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 1:53 pm

      Hi Caralyn–Thanks! It was a lot of fun and VERY tasty! :-)


  2. Melissa @ glutenfreeforgood on May 31st, 2012 12:49 pm

    Spondivitis? Sounds like some sort of inflammatory process. =) BUT, it looks like a fun restaurant nonetheless. And wow, that margarita is in a fish bowl sized glass. Gosh, it has never entered my mind that something might be steamed in beer. Well, it looks like you had an awesome vacation! BTW, my daughter went to school at Spring Hill College for 2 years. Great Jesuit college in Mobile. It looks like a fancy country club. It was gorgeous. I know that coastal area. It’s beautiful. Glad you had a great time. Well deserved!

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 2:04 pm

      Ha Ha, Melissa! It is the oddest name, isn’t it? And there are actually are two locations in Atlanta, and I’ve heard of others now. Not sure if they are all owned by the same guy and/or if he created a franchise of some sort. Okay, now you know how large objects can appear from certain angles … that’s the case with this margarita. ;-) If you look further down in the photos, you’ll see it “straight on” along side a water glass and note that it’s not much wider than the water glass and fairly shallow. Still, it was good and enough! :-) Most restaurants that do steam their seafood in beer will say so on the menu because they use it as a marketing ploy. I’m not sure if beer-steamed seafood really tastes different or not, but of course for us, it would be a very bad thing. A few times I’ve asked when I’ve not seen the indication on the menu and been told that yes, indeed, they do steam their seafood in beer. When I’ve been offered the option to have mine steamed in plain H2O, I’m not too trustworthy and just choose another menu item or another restaurant. The beer butter was a new one to me, so it was funny to find out that the butter was just butter. False advertising that worked in my favor. ;-)

      Wow, I had no idea you had experience with that coastal area. (I mostly think of you in CO and NM.) But, you’re right, it’s beautiful. Will have to check out your daughter’s former college online. Mobile, Fairhope, etc. are all beautiful and “happening”!

      Thanks for all your comments, dear!

      • Melissa @ glutenfreeforgood on June 1st, 2012 2:58 pm


        Just a quick follow-up on this. I don’t have much experience with the area (Alabama), other than Tevis going to school at Spring Hill. Yes, look it up online. It is one amazing school and that area really is beautiful. She ended up graduating from Regis (Denver), which is also a Jesuit university. Not sure why, but she only applied to Jesuit colleges and got an amazing scholarship to Spring Hill, so she thought she’d give it a try. They recruited her. She used to say she got the “girl from the big square state in the west” scholarship (which is probably true). She liked it, but a year and a half was enough. She transferred back here after a semester in London.

        Glad you had a great time. Southern food is certainly interesting! We’re not used to that stuff around here. =) If you come here, I’ll bring you to The Fort where you can get rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain oysters. =)


  3. Edie on May 31st, 2012 1:36 pm

    That’s a great warning about steaming food in beer — it never occurred to me to ask about that. Those crab legs look delicious! Just had lunch, but now I’m hungry again! :)

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 2:07 pm

      Hey Edie–There are a number of independent restaurants in our area that steam their seafood in beer. There may be others, so yes, please remember to ask if your stepson orders steamed seafood. Like I was saying to Melissa, it’s not always noted on the menu. And, of course, if that’s a new concept as you said, you might just totally miss such a notation on the menu. :-( Those crab legs were delicious and abundant! I’m still trying to get out the butter I spilled on my shirt, too. ;-) (I think my secret weapon, Dawn, will come through though.) I need one of those lobster bibs! LOL, but true.


  4. Kim (Cook IT Allergy Free) on May 31st, 2012 2:50 pm

    Oh, how I wish I could go there! That crab looks unbelievable! But, I completely agree that I am all about the hardy crackers…not the wimpy plastic ones!
    So fun to see some pictures from the trip I have already heard so much about!
    What a fun post! :)

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 2:10 pm

      Hey Kim–If you’d been with us, we could have had such fun and you would have loved the crab legs. Yeah, big bummer on the wimpy plastic tools. (Tool in the worst sense of the word in this case! LOL) I should have excused myself and gone to my car to get my Leatherman that I keep in the glove compartment and used the plier feature. No kidding. Wish I’d thought of that then! It was frustrating going there. :-(

      Thanks, dear!

  5. Susan on May 31st, 2012 3:03 pm

    Looks as if you had a wonderful evening and lots of great food to eat. Thanks for the tips/warnings about food preparation. It is always hard to know what goes on back in the kitchen!

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 2:12 pm

      Hi Susan–Oh, don’t you know it on it being hard to know what goes on back in the kitchen? A little mini-cam operation while they prepared OUR food would be nice, don’t you think? ;-) Sounds like a reasonable excuse to “spy” and a medical tax deduction! Anyway, it was a good and delicious time. :-)


  6. Lynne on May 31st, 2012 6:54 pm

    Seafood steamed in beer? Who knew!! Thanks so much for that & glad you had a great time. I have a hankering for crab legs & margaritas now!

    • Shirley on June 1st, 2012 2:19 pm

      Hi Lynne–Yes, I know. The very first time I encountered the beer factor, I was so disappointed. I had to get a salad or something else far less exciting when I was looking forward to yummy steamed seafood. (There were no other restaurants nearby, so walking out was not an option.) Crab legs and margaritas are a really good combo, aren’t they? ;-)


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