Let’s get a few things straight: this isn’t a guide meant for those who decided to go gluten free in the new year because they read Wheat Belly. This is a guide for people who struggle to find gluten free dining options in our fair city, which is burgeoning with such impressive culinary talent that it seems almost criminal to miss out. If you’re like me and you’ve got celiac, or if you’ve got a gluten free sensitivity of any kind, you know how easily a few drops of soy sauce or a reused pizza stone can ruin your night.
This is for us glutards who have to drag our significant others around DC until we find two or three spots that we know we can count on. This is for those significant others who are tired of going to the same two or three spots. Be sure to read all the way through for a restaurant for every time of day, recipes from DC’s finest, and more tips to make gluten free living just a little easier.
A FRIENDLY REMINDER: There’s a whole scale of gluten sensitivity and allergy severeness– some people are just fine with gluten-free food that’s made on the same equipment as its wheat-filled counterparts. Some people aren’t. If you know you’re not, call ahead and find out how your restaurant of choice addresses cross-contamination.
Drinks/ Late Night Snacks
Churchkey offers the most diverse gluten free beer selection in the city. There are usually at least seven selections in their massive beer book– which is quite a shock when you’re not used to having any options more than one cider and one mediocre beer to choose between. In addition to a range of beers, most of Churchkey’s bar menu– including flatbreads and pastas– can be made gluten free.
While the beer selection isn’t as “vast” as Churchkey’s, it’s nice to be able to enjoy basic bar food like wings and tacos without the worry of wheat. The two or three gluten free beers in stock have improved by leaps and bounds since our first visit.
The lack of GF beers (sorry, you’re stuck with cider here) is more than made up for by some of the best gluten free burgers in the city. The recent addition of brioche-style hamburger buns to what can hold its own with no bread at all has really set the bar for, well, bar food in DC. We expect no less from one of DC’s most surprising kitchens.
With sporadic gluten free items in daily and weekly specials, Tryst does a great job with labeling their menu. They’ve got the perfect balance of wheat-free drinks and snacks to make your trip worthwhile.
Any brewery that creates a seasonal gluten-free tester and keeps it on the menu for well over a year is worth your while. In addition to the inoffensively fruity Tweasonale, the Dogfish Head Alehouses surrounding DC have real gluten-free food, meaning heavy entrees and not just wimpy sides.
If you’re looking for safe beverage options outside of beer, Oyamel’s impressive tequila list guarantees you won’t get sick from something that actually tastes good. The fact that most Mexican food is gluten free is definitely a great bonus too. This includes the great tableside guacamole and nearly all the tacos and small plates.
Another selection with smart labeling of menu item allergens, Meridian Pint caters to its gluten free guests around the clock with drinks, brunch, and exceptional bar fare.
This one’s basically a unicorn: Carmine’s has a dedicated gluten-free menu. That’s right: an Italian family restaurant with a gluten-free menu. It’s almost too good to be true, right? You can have your pasta and almost all of your other favorites, and truly enjoy them for the first time in what’s probably been years. Keep in mind that the kitchen at Carmine’s is not allergen-free.
Open City takes the gluten free ambitions of Tryst and Busboys, and fulfills them. With dinner, brunch, and drink options to accommodate difficult diets, there is never a bad time to visit. Between the pizza and all-day brunch, they’ve created a microuniverse in which your allergy is never a problem.
It doesn’t make much sense that a cuisine that revolves around bread can be gluten free, but once you take away the bread, almost all of it is gluten free. Agora’s mediterranean entrees are so good that you’ll forget you ever needed bread.
Chef Geoff’s is one of those rare places that has a dedicated gluten free menu– and when you ask for it, the staff won’t roll your eyes at you, either. They do an excellent job of letting you know if your favorite standard menu items can be modified to be made gluten free, and take cross-contamination very seriously.
Quite an impressive number of Ambar’s small plates are gluten-free. Some of our favorites include the balkan kebab, grilled bacon-wrapped prunes, and sesame crusted salmon.
The beauty of this no-substitutions menu is that it’s already 90% gluten free and 60% vegetarian. Greek food reminds us that you don’t really need much more than meat and veggies.
Firefly’s gluten free menu is an annotated version of their standard one, and we’re tremendously impressed that only 7 items aren’t GF friendly. The cranberry ice cream “sandwich” is always a good move.
We’re not huge fans of chains over at BYT, but you can’t deny that Legal does gluten-free right. Their GF recipes are perfect, so there are no substitutions needed. If you’ve got a GF guest visiting from out of town and need a safe bet, this is it.
With the exception of 6 menu items, El Centro is entirely gluten free (are you catching the Richard Sandoval trend here yet?). If you want hassle-free GF dining, any food tradition that embraces corn flour is almost always the way to go.
MXDC boasts over 20 gluten-free items. Some of our favorites include the duck carnitas tacos, Kabra quesedilla, and the Pollo Rostizado. Are you getting the gist with the authentic corn tacos yet?
It’s hard to find barbecue that isn’t slathered with some sauce or glaze that’s wheat free. Almost every meat entree at Hill Country is gluten-free, and refuses to sacrifice taste in the process.
Maybe dedicated gluten-free menus are more common than we thought, because Rosa has one for lunch, and one for dinner. This is exciting and all, but remember: ceviche is always gluten free, and Rosa has three.
Stick with the mezze plates and skip the bread, and you’ll experience the kind of decadence that you’ve been missing since you went gluten free. The only way Zaytinya could improve their gluten free dining experience is experimenting with some chickpea flour naan. We can dream, right?
The small plates fusion concept is apparently where the gluten free diet lives happily ever after. Do what you do best, and check with your server to make sure you know which sushi rolls are safe. We personally love the teriyaki pork belly gorditas “sliders”.
Indian food– and most southeast Asian food– is inherently gluten free, save for naan bread. Bombay Club is the best possible option for food that doesn’t need to be altered to accommodate your difficult digestive system. (PRO TIP: Keep scrolling for their Chicken Palak recipe!)
With four menus each season, Trummer’s includes a gluten free menu that doesn’t limit itself to modifications of its standard one, but treats gluten free diners to their own special entrees. Locally sourced and stunningly beautiful, you’ll feel too spoiled to believe you can actually believe any of this won’t kill you.
About 90% of the Grill Room’s menu is gluten-free. We highly recommend the Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Suckling Pig– both pair well with the gorgeous room, and the even more immaculate Rye Bar, where we guarantee the bartender will be well versed in gluten-free spirits.
We miss their buckwheat pancakes like crazy, but Busboys has plenty of other grain-free brunch options– including vegetarian and vegan ones, too. It may be a rookie choice for brunch, but it’s one of your best bets for district newbies and out-of-towners. Another option with clearly labelled options and very impressive dessert to boot.
While not as well-labelled as its peers, the vast majority of Founding Farmers’ brunch menu is inherently gluten free if you steer clear of breadlike items. Pan scrambles, cast iron skillets, and farmhouse hashes are your best bets.
Of all the fixed price brunch spots in DC, Masa 14 has the most gluten free food and drink options. In fact, gluten free brunch has its own menu. Almost all the brunch beverages are already gluten free, and the adobo-marinated flank steak is too good to be gluten free.
A polenta-based brunch entree is a smart brunch entree. Maple has a couple, and lots and lots of expertly done eggs that put anyone else’s to shame.
The best brunches are the ones where you have to second guess each bite because your entree quite literally tastes too good to be gluten free. Bistro Bohem offers that kind of brunch in an environment where you’d least expect gluten free food. No clearly labelled menu, but the servers typically know what you should and shouldn’t order.
Boundary Road makes all your gluten-filled comfort food brunch items accessible with incredible ease. It’s easy to avoid waffles and pancakes here if you’re going for something heartier. Not much of a beer selection, but the appropriate brunchtime drinks do quite nicely.
Probably the most fun place to grab gluten free pizza, Comet also has a solid gluten free beer selection. GF pies here are thinner and crisper than most other DC spots, but pull this off without burning or overcooking.
This is a fun place to visit for great pizza that won’t be a hassle for all of your “normal” friends. The best atmosphere of all the spots on this list, District of Pi also matches a quality pizza with a bold price, but if you’re all just going to split the bill, why not? The gluten-free thin crust base can be topped with any of the signature pies on the menu.
Mellow Mushroom is the special occasion pie you’ve been waiting for. The higher price tag is absolutely worth the caution and quality in each pizza. The Adams Morgan shop does a great job accommodating all types of dietary restrictions, and serves up a “too good to be gluten free” pie. Bonus points for vegan options that taste like the real thing.
Custom Fuel is grabbing up the gluten-free market that &pizza is missing. In fact, the “Custom” part of the name is the most important aspect. There are tons of other specialty crusts and toppings to choose from, so all your allergy bases should be covered. Go for a breakfast pizza and thank us later.
The options here are slightly more limited than others, but Pizzeria Paradisio has the most consistent gluten free crust in the area. You can rely on a light and soft crust that reheats well, and pairs well with the New Planet beers they almost always have in stock.
Easily the most wallet-friendly option on the list, Pete’s likes to participate with online coupon programs to make your foray into a new and unknown pizza establishment a little less daunting.
Rustico ventures away from the traditional gluten free flours and starches and opts for a softer chickpea crust that can be applied to any of their pies. This eliminates most of the grittiness that comes with rice flour pizzas. This, or cauliflower crust, might solve our gluten free pizza problems forever.
Good news: you can still enjoy Ella’s fantastic happy hour with a good amount of food to soak everything up. They’ve got 10-inch gluten free crusts available for each pie– that’s almost 20 pizza options in one place. Do you remember the last time you had this many gluten-free options? Yeah, neither do we.
Urbana’s gluten-free pie selections include the Margherita, Quattro Stagioni, and Fungi– but be on the look out for seasonal meat and fish entrees that are already gluten free and require no further modification.
Baked and Wired will always and forever kick Georgetown Cupcakes’ ass. Yes, cupcakes are a competition. B&W offers bigger, better cupcakes for a matching or lower price. These are the kinds of cupcakes that throw off your non-GF friends. Expect a few other GF items when you arrive, like cookies and the best blondie you’ve ever had. Don’t forget to ask about the hippie crack.
Macarons are naturally gluten-free, what with the magical properties of almond flour. Macaroon Bee has a rotating, seasonal flavor menu. You can get these bites in shop, or place a special order online.
This vegan bakery covers all of the dietary restriction bases with the addition of gluten free items.
Leopold has a solid variety of gluten free desserts- macaroons, cookies, and other bite-sized sweets. The same goes for the entrees, though it’s always a good idea to ask your server what’s up. Pair those sweets with a decadent dessert wine so you have something else to blame for the eventual stomach ache.
Cakelove kicked off gluten-free cupcakes in the DC area, and they’ve even got regular-sized cake, too. Do you remember the last time you had a proper birthday cake? Probably not. They can probably fix that.
Bombay Club’s Chicken Palak
2 pounds boneless chicken
10 ounces fresh spinach (preferably cello)
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 tablespoons chopped onions
1 or 2 pieces cinnamon
6 or7 cloves
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon green chilles (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder (deghi mirch)
3 tablespoons tomato (chopped)
salt To raste
1/2 teaspoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves), powdered
1. Blanch the spinach & blend to make the paste.
2. Cut the chicken in pieces & wash.
3. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, saute. Add chopped garlic, fry till golden.
4. Add onions, fry for 15-20 minutes till golden color.
5. Add cinnamon & cloves.
6. Add chopped ginger & chilies, saute for 2 minutes.
7. Add the spices & fry for few seconds.
8. Add tomatoes cook for few minutes till oil comes out. Add salt.
9. Add the chicken & cook till it gets almost cooked.
10. Add spinach & cover the pan for about 2 minutes.
11. Add kasoori methi.
12. Serve hot.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup small diced onions
1/2 cup small diced carrots
1/2 cup small diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups small diced potatoes
1 each bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 gallon fish stock
1 quart chopped clams
1. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat.
2. Add onions, carrots and celery and sweat over medium heat until onions are translucent, 2-3 minutes.
3. Add garlic and potatoes and continue cooking over medium heat for another 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat if garlic begins to brown.
4. Add the bay leaf, dried thyme, sea salt and black pepper to the potato mixture and stir to incorporate seasonings.
5. Add fish stock and clams to the pot and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Best cookbook for baking gluten free and vegan goodies, hands down, is Babycakes Covers The Classics. This covers everything from donuts to pancakes to irish soda bread to ice cream cake, and what is quite possibly the best gluten free chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich you will ever experience. This book also does a great job of explaining the properties of the various gluten-free flours and starches used throughout the entire book. This magical tome comes from Babycakes NYC bakery in Brooklyn. We don’t really care that Zooey Deschanel endorses them (as does the BYT ultimate food crush magazine Cherry Bombe)– we’re just tryna eat some carrot cake.
- Best cookbook for everything else was once/is still a blog— Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes. It’s really interesting to watch this blogger learn from her chef husband, and improve her craft over the years. It pairs really well with the changing techniques and ingredients the gluten-free world comes into contact with. The best part? Improvements to these printed recipes are still being hashed out on the blog all the time.
- Best internet (free) source for recipes, because why on earth would you buy a cookbook when eating and cooking gluten-free is expensive enough as it is? Tastestpotting is a lifesaver. It’s an aggregate of recipes all around the web, and it works for everything. Type “gluten” into the search box. Type “butternut squash.” Type any ingredient or dietary restriction, and you will find hundreds of recipes from all over the world (so open with Chrome to get automatic translations).
- Best resource for newly diagnosed celiacs is, of course, reddit. /r/glutenfree is a great place to start asking questions and find out more about your symptoms. It’s also a great place to find local resources and learn more about all these weird flours that you’re stuck baking with now. It’s going to help for a few weeks, but once you understand your diagnosis, you might find some redundancy there.
- Best real-life local resource is the DC Metro Celiac Organization. Between quarterly meetings, newsletters, online resources and special dinners, DCMCO does a great job of helping you find someone to vent with; someone who will truly understand your frustration about this frustrating diet you didn’t choose. That someone will probably have some recommendations that we missed, too.