Gluten-Free Guide to Washington, D.C.
While it’s always been a hotbed for history and culture buffs and politicos and protestors, Washington, D.C. has only recently become a food lover’s destination. D.C. native and @EatGFree author Stephanie Wilkes helps us head straight to the true flavor of the nation’s capital with an insider’s list of where to go, sleep, drink, and, of course, eat gluten-free. Hint: it includes enough GF options to make history. Get ready for gluten free Washington DC!
above photo courtesy of washington.org
Named after John Milton Hay, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state and the descendent of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Henry Brooks Adams, this hotel has the best views of the Commander-in-Chief’s home. It also offers a true, totally contextual luxury experience, which may explain why a number of presidents have stayed here. Take advantage of the hotel’s best view by heading to the rooftop restaurant at sunset. hayadams.com
The Henley Park Hotel
Lushly appointed with lots of colorful textiles and dark wood furnishings, this wonderfully affordable downtown boutique hotel exudes updated historic character. It also affords you easy access to Chinatown, Capital One Arena, and CityCenter. henleypark.com
The Line Hotel
A young, creative vibe is a complimentary perk at the D.C. outpost of the hip hotel chain located in Adams Morgan. Rooms feature one of a kind artwork, textiles, and objects made by local artists. The front of the hotel–a renovated neoclassical church–features three restaurants, a cafe, and a podcasting studio. Bonus: it’s located near all-GF Rise Bakery (see the Eat Here section below). thelinehotel.com
Steps away from Dupont Circle, this hotel gives you easy access to the metro, is walking distance from Georgetown, and is around the corner from the Dupont Circle Farmers Market (held Sundays year-round). Bring your bathing suit and linger by the charming pool during summer months. ihg.com
Ritz Carlton Georgetown
Request a room with a view of the Potomac River at this converted industrial building tucked on a quiet side street in central Georgetown. Perks include nearly instant access to M Street (one of the best shopping areas in the city). ritzcarlton.com
Situated in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, D.C.’s first micro hotel is ideal if you only need a clean, ultracompact, place to crash. Exposed brick, wooden beams, and modern furniture create a cool, urban vibe, and the rooms, which make “efficient” use of space, offer everything you need but not much more. Bonus: the Lincoln Memorial is a short walk away. hotelhive.com
This gourmet food hall is a magnet for local food lovers. For the best gluten-free options, head to DC Dosa for fantastic 100-percent GF (and vegan) Indian dosas (like burritos but better) and Arepa Zone, for arepas (essentially Venezuelan sandwiches on corn-based fluffy tortilla-like bread). Then head to Salt & Sundry to browse the eclectic selection of tableware, gifts, and home furnishings. unionmarketdc.com
Canoe in Georgetown
Canoe rental and various tours are offered just west of the Georgetown Waterfront Park at the Key Bridge Boathouse, your embarkation point for seeing D.C. from the water. Head in one direction for serene nature views, head the other to peruse the Georgetown waterfront and the magnificent Kennedy Center from a vantage point rarely experienced by visitors. boatingindc.com
FreshFarm Dupont Circle Market
Arrive on the early side to this wildly popular farmers market to avoid the crowds and secure a coveted ginger chocolate-chip scone from O Earth Creamery and Bakehouse, which sells 100-percent gluten-free and gluten-free/vegan breads and baked goods. Also, be sure to grab a yogurt drink from Clear Spring Creamery; their flavors change based on what’s in-season. Sundays 8:30am-1:30pm. freshfarm.org
Rock Creek Park
This sprawling 1,754-acre park affords you fresh air, towering trees, and glistening creeks right in the middle of DC. Start at the Rock Creek Nature Center to learn more about the park and get recommendations on a walking path that meets your needs. nps.gov
The Billy Goat Trail
Though it’s a little over a 30 minute drive from D.C., the 4.7-mile Billy Goat Trail within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is well-worth the trip. Here you can climb and jump from rock to rock and get incredible panoramic views of the Potomac River. Bring sturdy shoes and lots of energy: this hike requires both. nps.gov
The National Gallery of Art
D.C. is full of free museum worth exploring, and the National Gallery is one of them. It has one of the best art collections in the country and, unlike some of the other free museums, tends to be less crowded. nga.gov
The National Theatre
If you want to catch a live theater performance while you’re in town, come to this historic yet contemporary spot that has hosted all but our most recent two presidents. Historical tidbit: President Lincoln actually had tickets to a show at this theatre the night he was shot, but decided to see a show at Ford’s Theatre instead. John Wilkes Booth planned for Lincoln’s possible attendance at both theatres, so the night of April 14, 1865, he first headed to the National Theatre where he grabbed some liquid courage at the bar before walking over to Ford’s Theatre. thenationaldc.com
DRINK IT IN
Morris American Bar
The Instagram-worthy backdrop is enough reason to visit, but the hand-cut ice, a menu that rotates monthly, and a dedication to fresh ingredients make this the Mount Vernon Square watering hole the perfect place for those who are serious about their libations. morrisbardc.com
The Dabney Cellar
The people behind The Dabney Cellar know about ambiance. Within the warm and rustic basement tavern you can make wine and charcuterie the main event and you’ll leave feeling like you’ve experienced some of D.C.’s best hospitality. Washingtonians of all ages flock to the trendy Shaw neighborhood for the beautifully curated list of wines (by the glass), cocktails, cider, and beer as well as the fresh, locally sourced bites. The menu is small, but just one nibble of charcuterie will make you realize there is nothing simple about the flavors being offered here. thedabney.com
A very D.C. experience set well away from tourists awaits at this local Columbia Heights hangout. When the weather is nice, the patio is the place to be. Grab a few chairs for your group and enjoy relaxing over some well-made drinks. If you’re looking for a scene where local hipsters hang out, this is it. room11dc.com
Maxwell Park Wine Bar
This Shaw wine bar founded by a sommelier takes pride in not taking itself too seriously. Expect ‘90s hip-hop, approachable staff, and delicious wine. If you get hungry, there’s a menu of small plates and snacks that are perfect for sharing, like cheese boards, olives, and potato chips with caviar (if you’re feeling fancy). maxwellparkdc.com
Not all of the restaurants on this list are one hundred percent gluten-free, but they are all accustomed to accommodating GF diners. Always be sure to alert your server, or better yet the manager, of your gluten-free status.
A Rake’s Progress
Located on the second floor of The Line hotel in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, this is James Beard Award-winning Chef Spike Gjerde’s first D.C. restaurant. Chefs here focus on premium local, seasonal produce, seafood, and meats from the Mid-Atlantic region and happily modify dishes and offer house-made gluten-free biscuits and desserts. Reserve a table or grab seats in the lounge and enjoy the full dinner menu while getting a better look at the church organ pipes that have been repurposed into an architectural chandelier. Must tries: Gluten-free biscuit or burger (ask them to hold the bun), both of which are not listed on the menu. thelinehotel.com
Of all of famed chef José Andrés’s vibrant D.C. restaurants, this one, located in Penn Quarter just down the street from the Capital One Arena, is the one GF diners should not miss. Ask for their allergy menu and sip on a “Salt Air Margarita” while perusing the list of small Mexican plates, also known as antojitos. ihis is a popular spot to grab a bite before or after a concert or sporting event. The crowd changes based on the type of event going on, but the vibe is always casual and vibrant. Must try: quesadilla huitlacoche (corn tortilla with Chihuahua cheese, corn truffle, sweet corn, tomato, onion and Mexican herbs). oyamel.com
This Georgetown institution serving classic American fare is the perfect spot for family dining. Expect beautiful, old-school ambiance, an eclectic mix of diners, and a menu and waitstaff that are prepared to please diners of all ages. Bonus: the menu notes gluten-free selections and gluten-free bread and pasta are options. Must Try: Clyde’s chili. clydes.com
Mt Pleasant is a neighborhood with no shortage of diverse food options, but this longstanding, casual Thai favorite notes GF items on the menu–and there are plenty of them. Echoing the small-neighborhood feel outside, the dining room is filled with local families and couples who aren’t compelled to dress up for a tasty plate of pad Thai. Must try: Larb gai and vegetable pad thai. beauthaidc.com
If you’re Downtown exploring the monuments and hunger hits, come to this tourist-laden fast-food-like spot for savory or sweet GF waffles and waffle sandwiches made on a separate waffle iron (!). Must try: Bacon, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich. wickedwaffle.com
b DC Penn Quarter
The delicious customizable burgers (with optional GF buns) are the main event at this casual Penn Quarter joint located near some of D.C.’s greatest museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Museum of Natural History. But if you miss the luxury of eating onion rings, tater tots, and French fries at restaurants, these sides, available GF and made in a dedicated fryer, are the stars. Must try: Onion rings and parmesan fries. planbburger.com
The second-generation restaurateurs behind this lively, fast-casual Navy Yard hotspot make Indian food fun and accessible. Wait in line, then direct the staff on how to build your meal, starting with a base and adding more delicious flavors as you make your way to the cashier. Close proximity to Nationals Park means a baseball crowd is often here grabbing a bite before a game. Must try: spiked lassi (mango lassi with white rum from local distillery Cotton + Reed). rasagrill.com
Sfoglina Pasta House
Handmade pasta is the draw at both locations (in Van Ness or Downtown) of this upscale Italian restaurant, and all of the pasta dishes offered here can be made GF upon request, using GF pasta or fussili. More cozy, formal environs dining mean higher prices and more mature clientele, perfect for date night or a family occasion. Must tries: Mafalde telefono (ask for gluten free pasta) and seasonal soft serve gelato. sfoglinadc.com
This “globally-inspired American craft barbecue” in Adams Morgan is the best barbecue in the city. When ordering at the counter, tell them you’re gluten-free so they don’t give you bread, grab your tray when your name is called, and head to the cutlery station to choose your barbecue sauce(s). Seating options range from indoor stool to sidewalk picnic table, but you’re likely to be focused on the barbecue’s fall-apart, smokey perfection, perhaps paired with a cider. Must-tries: Pork shoulder and chipotle garlic green beans. federalistpig.com
GLUTEN-FREE SAFE HAVENS
Both the Chinatown and Georgetown locations of this casual vegetarian taco joint are completely gluten-free, so no need to dance around the menu. Order a sampling of their tacos from at the counter, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, go for a seasonally-flavored shrub (if you like kombucha, you’ll probably love it). Then join the heavily millennial, health-conscious crowd for a deliciously relaxed meal. Must tries: Creamy kale and potato taco; green rice, and the cheese quesadilla. chaiatacos.com
Rise Gluten-Free Bakery
For one of the better gluten-free bagels in existence, head to D.C.’s only gluten-free bakery, located in Adams Morgan. Make sure you get the bagel toasted, ask for extra cream cheese, and plan to take the goods to go; the space is small and only has two tables. Though most of what you’ll see in the pastry case is dessert and breakfast-focused, they do have a delicious selection of fresh sandwiches and toasty paninis. Must tries: Bagel, cinnamon roll ( ask for it to be heated), chocolate eclair. riseglutenfree.com
Watch out for cross contamination in many of these, if you are sensitive. Chaia and Rise are good, they are dedicated Gluten Free facilities.
The only other two I’ve been to, Oyamel and Beau Thai have glutened me terribly with their “Gluten Free” options. (I got lucky at Oyamel once and the other two times I got very sick so I don’t go anymore.) I haven’t checked out any of the others, but considering these two made it on this list, I’ll take my time finding out.
Little Beet, The Happy Tart, and Seoul Spice are other dedicated gluten free spots. They are fast/casual, which leaves a lot to be desired of the DC gluten free scene. Baltimore has more (truly) gluten free options.
If you like the options on this list, try La Tena in Columbia Heights. It is closer to being completely gluten free than some of these, it is Ethiopian and they have gluten free injera as an option. Just watch out for chickpeas if those get you. (Chickpea crops are often cross rotated with wheat crops so some gluten sensitive folks are affected by Chickpeas as well.)
O’earth now has a stall at union market 🙂
Fantastic rundown! Rappahannock Oysters (at Union Market and with a new Wharf location) also is very GF-friendly and has a gluten free crab cake that is to die for!
Thank you for this important feedback! Indeed sometimes restaurants that serve gluten can be safe and then unsafe, depending on the day/chef/circumstances. I’m thrilled that you shared this information so those who want to eliminate any risk can are armed with additional information.
Tips for anyone planning to hike the Billy Goat Trial at Great Falls Park in Potomac MD (this is an important distinction because there a Great Falls Park of the VA side of the river too):
– Look for blue blazes (blue rectangular paint) on trees and rocks. A single blaze means you continue on a fairly straight path and two blazes means there’s a turn and keep an eye out for the next blaze to ensure your heading in the right direction.
– If you’re afraid of heights you may want to think twice about tackling this hike or be prepared to turn back. There are a few places where your climb up or down steep rocks.
FYI – The two mile hike begins and ends with level wooded terrain and progresses to big rocks terrain along with a small beachy area with tiny shells in between.
My family started hiking it since I was 6. My mother suddenly developed a fear of heights and froze on the steepest section the last time she did it.
Maybe you should list the publishing date for this post or update it considering half of these businesses don’t exist anymore.