Category Archives: Restuarant Reviews

The Worst Gluten Free Menu You’ll See Today

As I was updating my “DC GFree Eats” page of recommended restaurants in the District, I began thinking of all of the places that I did not and would not include on that list. Number One offender being Ping Pong Dim Sum (locations in Chinatown and Dupont)

pingpong

Look at all the options on the “gluten-friendly” menu!

Ping Pong Dim Sum has what they like to call a “Gluten-Friendly Menu.” When I asked the waitress upon arrival if they have a gluten free menu, she insisted that they do not have a gluten free menu, but a gluten friendly menu. Also note that when you scroll over the words “Gluten-Friendly” on their website, the tool tip magically changes to say “Gluten-Free.” Confusing much?

When I asked what exactly that means, she said that it’s just “pretty much” free of gluten, only they include items that are fried in a shared fryer,  and a “black squid ink PASTRY” that is possibly gluten “friendly” just because it’s not white in color? Couldn’t tell  you.

There are also multiple dumplings that are on the “gluten-friendly” menu, but they couldn’t tell me why. Did they use a different wrapper? Was the sauce different? No one knew.

I wound up having steamed broccoli, bok choy, and rice – because that sounds like an incredibly filling meal, doesn’t it?

Bottom line: If you can’t provide gluten FREE meals to customers, don’t pretend you can.

How I got glutened when I ordered off of a gluten free menu

Once upon a time there was a waitress who glutened me. Here’s how it happened:

This weekend I was really excited to finally try Masa 14 with my dad. I’d tried to get in a few times for brunch, but they book up quickly and the wait is always really long if you don’t have a reservation. Masa 14 is a Richard Sandoval restaurant, which are are known for being gluten free-friendly. All of them have dedicated menus with clear directions on how to modify dishes to make them gluten free.

Being the great dad that he is, we both ordered everything from the gluten free menu so we could share. I love yucca fries, so those were at the top of my list. On the menu it says to order them with “no chimichurri”, but I just made clear that all of the dishes we ordered should have the modifications in place, so I didn’t pay attention to every change they were supposed to make. The waitress knew that I was the gluten free one at the table and my dad did not have to be, so I guess she took some liberties with our order so he could have the gluten-containing items that were left off of the dishes.

yucca fries

So the yucca fries are brought out by a food runner, not the waitress. There are two sauces with them, which I assume are both fine for me to eat, since we asked that all of our food to be made gluten free. I dip a couple of yucca fries in the green sauce (which I wouldn’t have been able to identify as chimichurri anyways). Then about 10 minutes later the waitress comes over and tells me that the green sauce is not gluten free. They usually combine the sauces, but she had them separate them into two dishes so my dad could have the green one.

Well, that’s just swell. Maybe you should have told us that you were bringing out gluten sauces before I had the chance to poison myself.

Sometimes I wish that the signs of a glutening were more visible to the outside world. No one will see me being tired, bloated, and having stomach cramps for the next week. No one can see the damage being done to my intestines or the brain fog that seems to linger for weeks. So when the waitress asked, “Are you okay?” I just said, “I guess so…” Because what was I going to do? I already ate it.

This is exactly what the celiac community has feared would happen since the “gluten free trend” has caught on. Wait staff don’t pay as close of attention and don’t take requests as seriously, and in most cases it won’t cause any consequences since they probably get a ton of orders for gluten free dishes from people who don’t actually need to eat gluten free.

I’m still looking for that perfect line to convey to wait staff that I really, truly need my food to be gluten free. I’ve been thinking about something like, “If you could tell the kitchen to be extra careful with my meal I’d appreciate it. I’m not on one of those fad diets; I’ll actually get really sick if I eat anything with gluten in it.” I just hate coming off as difficult, so I usually go with a softer approach. But after something like this I might have to grow some cajones and let them know I mean business.

What is your typical one-liner for wait staff to convey that you’re serious about your food being free of gluten? 

Recommendations for a Gluten Free Inauguration Weekend

This is my first inauguration in DC, and boy am I excited! There’s a buzz of excitement in the air and as hundreds of thousands of people descend upon the District, I thought I’d compile a few recommendations for gluten free travelers!

1. Eat like the Obamas

On the following list of the Obama’s favorite restaurants,I recommend you try these gluten free options:

#4: Fries at Five Guys

#5: My favorite kale salad from Lincoln

#9: Tacos from Oyamel

#18: Cupcake at Georgetown Cupcakes 

2. Try a specialty inauguration cocktail 

154 bars in DC will be open until 4:30am during inauguration weekend. Way past my bedtime – but here’s a map of where they are!

3. Go to brunch on Monday

If you haven’t experienced a true DC brunch, this is your opportunity! There are quite a few restaurants opening on Monday for brunch, and my recommendation is Firefly in Dupont, since they have a gluten free menu, and are a bit removed from the action on The Mall, but still very accessible. Get yourself some grits, drink some mimosas, and celebrate four more years!

 

Crios loves celiacs

This weekend I had brunch at the recently-opened Crios Modern Mexican in Dupont. Crios is the sister restaurant to one of my other favorite places for hangover brunch: Scion. It’s also conveniently located right next door in case you wanted to do some kind of brunch-crawl.

Our waiter was adorable, and also very knowledgable about what menu items were safe. How much of a relief would it be if you saw this on every menu you opened?

Nearly the entire menu is gluten free, but I went with the huevos rancheros and yucca fries. The waiter said that the chorizo and yucca hash was his favorite, so I think I’ll try that next time, only made with the soyrizo (which he confirmed is also gluten free and made in-house).

Yucca fries are so amazing. Soft, slightly sweet, salty and spicy. We ordered a second round for the table so we could continue to fuel ourselves through the flowing $13 bottomless mimosas. The huevos rancheros were spicy, cheesy, with a perfectly crispy tortilla bed.

If you’re into flan, they have coffee and coconut versions for dessert.

Crios Modern Mexican
2120 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Boston gluten free eats

I was recently in Boston for the weekend, and I was able to find some great gluten free food, especially in the semi-crunchy Cambridge area. In no particular order, my favorite places were:

1. Tavern in the Square

I went here to watch the Michigan football game, since it’s the local alumni bar. They also happen to serve Bard’s and have a gluten free menu (winning!) I got a huge plate of nachos, and it was the perfect way to watch a Michigan victory!

2. Stone Hearth Pizza

This place is right up my alley: local ingredients, unique gluten free beer, and great gluten free pizza. Their menu is marked with what items are gluten free. The beer I tried is called Celia, brewed by The Alchemist Brewery. Not my favorite, as it’s a sorghum beer, and therefore tastes a bit like grass. But it wasn’t horrible.

The pizza was stellar though – chewy with that stone-fired taste. Although the crust was a bit burnt, I kind of liked it better that way. Mine was topped with a butternut squash sauce, fontina, and sage.

4. Veggie Planet

This place served me the best lunch I’ve had in quite awhile. You can take any of their entrees and put it on top of brown rice or coconut rice, giving us celiacs tons of options. I had the weekly special, which was butternut squash, beets, feta cheese, basil, and a fennel apple puree (the real star). It came out piping hot and I scarfed it down.

5. Violette Bakery 

While walking around Harvard’s campus, I happened upon Violette Bakery at a farmer’s market. They had so many sweet and savory options, but I just had to have a gluten free danish with homemade blueberry preserves. I haven’t eaten anything like this in six years: heaven.

How good does this look?

6. Uno Due Go

Move over Panera, there is finally a fast/fresh lunch place that is celiac-safe! Gluten free sandwiches, pizza, and soups are all on the menu. The staff was very knowledgable and took my sandwich to a separate area to make it. I can’t say that it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had (the roll was a bit dry), but it was nice to have so many options.

I also got a Congo Bar, which was superbly buttery and riddled with chewy, chocolatey, coconutty yummies.

And thus concludes the story of how I ate my way through Boston. So much fun to try out new places! Any other recommendations of places to check out in Beantown? 

Pulpo: all you can eat and drink brunch

Last weekend I had an utterly delightful brunch at Pulpo in Cleveland Park. It was delightful for three major reasons:

  1. They have gluten free eggs benedict.
  2. Our waitress knew what was up.
  3. All you can eat. All you can drink.

After getting a mimosa in hand (you can choose unlimited bloody mary’s, mimosas, champagne, and I think mixed drinks or beer as well), I informed the waitress that I can’t have gluten. She didn’t even blink an eye – just assuredly said, “No problem,” and helped me choose a few dishes. It was so extraordinary to have a waitress who was confident in her ability to navigate the menu and answer any questions I had.

Pulpo is a Spanish tapas restaurant, so all of the plates are shareable. I started with patatas bravas with garlic aioli. Perfectly spiced, greasy in a good way, and there was a surprise red sauce in the bottom. Couldn’t stop eating this.

Then I ordered smoked salmon benedict. Really unique in that it’s served on a pile of soft rice, which was almost at a thick risotto-like consistency. Then the egg yolk and hollandaise mix with it and makes it really rich.

To round out the meal we ordered some grilled podran peppers. These were also served at Churchkey when I was there last, so I’m declaring them the new “it” pepper.

I left with a full belly and it was worth way more than the $25 for this brunch. The laid back atmosphere, stellar service, and gluten free-friendly food will definitely bring me back here often!

Pulpo
3407 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC

DC Gluten Free News Round Up

1. Bier Baron now carrying Omission beer

After a glorious Michigan victory over Michigan State this weekend, I headed to Bier Baron in Dupont for a gluten free beer. Watching your friends drink beer all day at a bar while you have mixed drinks can sure make a girl thirsty!

I was psyched to see that Bier Baron now has Omission pale ale on their menu. However, they were out when I went :(

But, our awesome waiter was kind enough to bring me all three of the other gluten free beers they have, on the house! After passing them around the table, my friends confirmed that the New Planet Off Grid is kind of funky. I’ve never been a fan of New Grist, but when you have them side-by-side, it actually tastes quite like the St. Peter’s (both are sorghum based and light beers, so it makes sense).

2. Vace Italian Deli in Cleveland Park has a crap ton of gluten free pasta

Even though I live about a five minute walk from Vace Italian Deli, I only went in once before since I only ever saw people buying pizza there. A reader tipped me off (thanks, Fede!) that they have a bunch of authentic Italian pastas that are gluten free!

They have corn riccioli, rice gigli, and one pasta made with squid ink (plus the naturally gluten free risotto). Pair one of these with a homemade sauce (they carry them fresh and frozen), and you’ve got yourself a meal! One more win for my neighborhood!

3. The Maryland crab soup at Clyde’s is gluten free

I went to the last game in the NLDS series (heartbreaker), and was freezing cold and standing up for about six hours. So when I got to Clyde’s in Chinatown and found out that their Maryland crab soup is gluten free, I was overjoyed. Two bowls later and I was feeling slightly better about the Nats losing, and much warmer.

Just a few things happening around this great city in the gluten free realm!

Nitally’s Thai-Mex Fusion: St. Pete, FL

I was visiting a friend in Florida recently, and had one of the more unique meals I’ve ever eaten: Thai-Mexican fusion from Nitally’s in St. Pete. They mix Thai curry with Mexican mole, use chipotle in stir fried rice, and put cilantro on everything.

They have a dedicated gluten free menu, which was great since I’m always wary of lurking soy sauce or fillers in curries and Asian food.

We started with the tofu appetizer, which came with peanut and sweet and sour sauce for dipping and fresh cilantro.

For an entree I had red curry tofu tacos, which seemed odd, but were crazy good. There was a ton of fresh cilantro on top, which I love. The corn tortilla/rice/curry sauce combination was unexpectedly addictive, and I ended up eating way more of the huge portion than I anticipated.

I think next time I get Thai food take out I’m going to just dump it on a bunch of tortillas. It’s a whole new way to eat it with no chopsticks required!

Nitally’s 
2462 Central – St. Pete (25th St & Central Ave)

Gluten free at the gay bar

Nellie’s Sports Bar is best known around DC for their weekly drag brunch. They also happen to have great happy hour specials and (most importantly) gluten free arepas!

They offer a bunch of things that you can fill the arepa with, I chose scrambled eggs and avocado, with sour cream, pico de gallo, and black beans on the side.

A gay bar may not be the most likely place to find a delicious and affordable gluten free meal, but I will definitely be back to try some other fillings and take advantage of their cheap drinks!

Have you found gluten free food in any unlikely locations?

DC Gluten Free News Round-Up

It seems like when it rains, it pours when it comes to new gluten free finds in this city. Here are a few things to check out!

1. Churchkey and Birch and Barley are getting gluten free flatbreads

They already have the best gluten free (and general) beer selection in DC, and now they’re going to be introducing gluten free flatbreads to their menu.They already had gluten free chickpea crackers, but this is taking it to a whole new level. I always salivated over the regular flatbread options on their menu and now I actually get to try one!

Chefs prepping the gfree dough, via the Churchkey Facebook page:

Just picture this thing becoming gluten free:

Heirloom Tomato Flatbread

2. The Protein Bar will be opening on Wednesday at 7th and D

This place serves healthy, high protein meals, many of which are gluten free! The amount of quinoa on their menu makes my heart do a happy dance. They also have a full allergen guide to refer to.

The Almond Berry Bowl, Black Bean Fiest Bowl, Vegan Quinoa Chili, and Superfood Vegan Salad are on my to-eat list. All of their blended protein drinks are also gluten free, and will make a nice substitute when I get one of those intense frappuccino cravings.

3. Pete’s Apizza makes a solid gluten free pizza. Broccolini continues to be gross.

I don’t know why I keep ordering broccolini – it’s bitter and ruins everything it comes in contact with. I ended up picking it off of my pizza, but loved the rest of it! Pete’s also has delicious gluten free pasta that I sampled at the DC Gluten Free Food Expo.

Anything else going on in the district that I should know about?