Monday, June 9, 2014

Gluten Free in Washington, D.C.

Last Thursday, we arrived in Alexandria, Virginia after spending a week in Charleston and Williamsburg.  We decided to stay in Alexandria and take the Metro into D.C. on the days we wanted to explore the city.  On Thursday, we headed to The Happy Tart, a 100% gluten free bakery in Alexandria, as soon as we got here.  You can read my review of The Happy Tart here.  Thursday night, we met family at Joe Theismann's Restaurant in Alexandria.  They had a large gluten free menu, but sadly, something I ate there made me very sick.  

On Friday, we had lunch at Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.  I was still not feeling well from the previous night, and I was super paranoid about getting glutened again, so I just had a plain hamburger with nothing on it.  They didn't have a dedicated fryer at this location, so I couldn't eat the fries.  After feeling sorry for myself for about 10 minutes, I took a bite of my delicious burger and cheered up a bit.  I rarely get down about having celiac, but I had a brief moment of tears and frustration on this trip, which only happens about once or twice a year.  

After lunch, I spotted a Starbucks, and headed in to see if they had the new gluten free marshmallow dream bars.  You can read my review here.  

Friday night, we had dinner at Lebanese Taverna, a restaurant I found on the Find Me Gluten Free App.  Lebanese Taverna had great reviews, and they are GREAT Kitchens trained.  We enjoyed all of our food, but our favorite dish was the Special Hommus with ground beef/lamb and pine nuts.  I definitely want to recreate this dish at home.  I was brought a large bowl of gluten free crackers to go with my hommus, but I didn't even need them.  Don't get me wrong, I still ate them, but after I was done with my hommus.  :-)

We also ordered lentil soup, ouzi with grape leaves (brasied lamb and lamb filled grape leaves with spice rice and yogurt salad), and chicken kabobs (subbed spice rice for the Lebanese rice to make this dish gluten free).  Lebanese Taverna has a large number of gluten free options, and they are all clearly labeled on their menu.  We dined at their location on Pentagon Row, but they have several restaurants in and around the D.C. area.  You can view their menu and locations here.  

On Saturday, we ate at Oyamel for brunch.  I read about Oyamel Cocina Mexicana online in the Gluten-Free Guide to DC and 18 Restaurants in Washington with Gluten-Free Meals and Menus.  Their special diets menu is huge, and labels dishes that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, shellfish free, nut free, and dairy free.  Our waiter went through all the precautions they take to avoid cross contamination.  

My favorite dish was the huarache de bistec -- local hanger steak with sunny side egg, refried beans and salsa verde deliciosa on a housemade corn tortilla.  

We also enjoyed the ensalada de chayote (Mexican squash salad with crumbled queso fresco and crushed peanuts with a hibiscus dressing), tacos with braised local brisket, tinga poblana con puerco (taco with shredded pork with chorizo, chipotle, lettuce and avocado), and huevo enfrijolada oaxacaqueño (fried egg served with a tortilla, oaxacan-style black bean puree, house-made chorizo and queso fresco).  We love ethnic food, so we were super excited to find a restaurant with authentic Mexican food.  If we lived in D.C., we would definitely be frequent customers at Oyamel.  You can view their location and menu on their website here.  

On Saturday night, we met friends for dinner at Austin Grill in Old Town Alexandria.  Austin Grill, which offers Tex-Mex cuisine, labels gluten free options on their menu.  I ordered the South Padre Jambalaya, described as Cajun gone Mexican spicy Andoullie sausage sauteed with seasoned shrimp, pulled chicken, peppers and onions, served over a bed of cilantro rice.  I really loved this dish.  It was incredibly flavorful and had a little bit of a spicy kick.  You can view Austin Grill's menu and locations here.  

On Sunday, we visited The Happy Tart again, had lunch at a Chipotle in Virginia, and dinner at my cousin's house.  Monday morning, we headed to George Washington's Mount Vernon.  I was impressed that The Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant had gluten free options marked on their menu, but we decided to eat a quick meal in the food court, where I ate a GoPicnic ready-to-eat meal, while my family ate personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut.  

For dinner, we went to ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, which was recommended to me by Gluten-Free Jet Set.  ShopHouse is an Asian-themed spin off of Chipotle, but unlike Chipotle, all of the food is gluten free, so there are no worries about cross contamination.  

First, you have a choice of jasmine rice, brown rice, chilled rice noodles, or salad.  Next up, you choose from grilled chicken satay, pork & chicken meatballs, grilled steak laab, or organic tofu.  You then get to choose a vegetable, garnish, sauce, and topping to finish off your bowl.  

I started with chilled rice noodles, then added both the meatballs and steak, charred corn, green papaya slaw, tamarind vinaigrette, and peanuts.  I enjoyed my bowl, but if we dined here again, I think I would choose warm brown rice instead of the chilled noodles.  I liked the green curry sauce chosen by my husband, and the grilled chicken satay my daughters ordered.  My favorite meat was the pork & chicken meatballs.  They were so tasty!  Like Chipotle, ShopHouse is committed to Food With Integrity.  You can check out their menu, locations, and read more about ShopHouse on their website here.  I really, really hope that ShopHouse will expand beyond California, Maryland, and D.C., and open a restaurant in Orlando soon.  

After dinner, I enjoyed some wildberry frozen yogurt at fro-zen-yo, which was a couple of doors down from ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen on 7th Street. 

In the same block was a Legal Sea Foods.  I had really hoped to eat there on this trip, because I have been reading about how great this restaurant is for gluten free dining for years.  Legal Sea Foods can be found in seven states and the District of Columbia.  You can view their restaurant locations here.

I don't mention any breakfast spots in this blog post because I ate oatmeal and fruit in our hotel room every morning, while my family ate the free breakfast provided at the Residence Inn.  Thankfully, there was a Whole Foods within walking distance, where I bought fruit, and oatmeal when I ran out of the supply of Bakery on Main Blueberry Instant Oatmeal I brought from home.

What are your favorite spots for gluten-free eats in Washington, D.C.?


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