SIOUX CITY | Co-owner Mike Orlando opened Gud N Free restaurant to help his family and the community.
His daughters were diagnosed with celiac disease-- a condition that occurs when people can't digest gluten-- and found it extremely difficult to find restaurants that cater to food allergies.
In July, Gud n Free became Sioux City's first allergy-free eatery. The menu has no items containing gluten, nuts or fish and majority of the cuisine also doesn't contain dairy or soy.
It was a venture Orlando found more rewarding than he originally thought.
"When I see the people we are able to help I can't help but think, 'Shouldn’t we be doing this?' It's almost like I feel Gud N Free should be a not for profit—shouldn’t this just be what there is everywhere?" He said. "Why should it be so hard for my daughters to have to go out to eat, I hate that and I don’t want it to be that hard."
The restaurant is located in Shoppes at Northern Valley, a retail center on Sioux City's northside at the intersection of Floyd Boulevard and Outer Drive. Tenants also include Scooter's Coffee, American Family Insurance, Super Cuts and La Fe Nail Spa.
Dick Salem, a local commercial Realtor who represents Northern Valley Associates, said a Cricket Wireless store also will open in the center in the near future. Cricket is a prepaid wireless service provider.
Orlando admits that business isn't as booming as it was when it first opened, but it still attracts people from all over.
"It took off really quick, it slowed down some now. But we have a lot of regulars and have a lot of people that traveled here from far away, especially," he said. "We probably have had people come from 30 to 32 states here already since no one in the area is doing this."
Of the menu items, Orlando is most proud of the house burger, which combines an all-beef patty that is served on a gluten-free bun, and meatballs that use a nutritional yeast in place of cheese. But, "the biggest deal we have on the menu that everybody and their mom seems to get is the cheese balls. People tell us our cheese balls are the best in town," he said.
Orlando said one of the most rewarding perks is watching customers walk in his business.
"I love helping people, I really do, when you see the people come in the door and you just see their eyes light up when they are able to eat food that they never can eat," he said. "It’s the greatest feeling in the world."