As with most trips to Washington DC, ours was National Mall-centric we wanted to do all kinds of things that visitors do here. So during our 5 day vacation we had to find restaurants that could meet our gluten-free needs– either walking distance from the Mall or if we were done for the day then we could take the train there — if it was on the way back from the hotel. The restaurants also needed to meet our family/budget criteria, which actually added a whole other level of complexity.
Washington DC Gluten-Free Dining Summary
View or Download the Map of Family/Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants Listed Below (and more!)
My summary includes our take on the gluten-free dining — and a few sight-seeing places. Hopefully you can easily pick out the information you are most interested in reading about.
Day 1: Sight-seeing: we went to the International Spy Museum — it was about $60 for four people. While it was interesting, my 8 year-old daughter had virtually no interest, making it not as worthwhile as we thought it would be for us. Then we went to the Museum of Natural History— which is part of the Smithsonian. If you don’t know, all Smithsonian museums are free admission, which makes it budget friendly too. We liked this museum — in particular the Insect Zoo. The food menu there was not helpful at this museum like it was for the zoo, which I highlighted in an earlier post.
Gluten-Free Food: Lunch: Austin Grill. This is a Tex Mex restaurant — perfect for the kids AND THE CHIPS ARE GLUTEN-FREE! I’m telling you whenever we go somewhere that serves chips at the beginning of a meal or even as an appetizer — they are NEVER gluten-free! Check out the gluten-free menu. But not here. As soon as our waiter came over with the chips I asked if they were gluten-free and he instantly knew– and said yes. No hesitation. I LOVE it! Emma had chicken tacos the two times we were there. They usually do soft corn torillas for gluten-free folks, but, psst…… if you prefer a hard corn shell they quietly have those too. That’s what Emma had. Chicken is not too spicy and she only had cheese with her tacos. She thought they were very good — and filling. The location is primo too — in Penn Quarter just a few blocks off the National Mall.
Dinner: Uno Pizzeria (Uno Chicago Grill). We went to the one in Union Station which has TONS of seating. Emma had the gluten-free pizza with just cheese — no sauce. She liked it as much as she likes any pizza — it was fine. She ordered this despite having the option of a burger or steak at this restaurant. So she’s still warming up to her version of gluten-free pizza. But overall– this was another great experience with well-trained staff! We went back the next night for dinner again! Fabulous!
Day 2: Sight-seeing & Gluten Free Food: We had a pre-arranged tour of the US Capitol (arranged through our Senator’s office — you can do this too with about a month’s notice. Just send an email. All I know is I appreciated not having to wait in a major line). The tour took about an hour. We went to Uno again this night then met up with a friend of mine who lives there. He gave a us a nice driving tour of DC that evening.
Day 3: Sight-seeing & Gluten-Free Food: We did the Air and Space Museum. This is part of the Smithsonian and has free entry. While it’s not nearly as intricate as all the little nooks and crannies that the Natural History Museum had, it has a lot of HUGE stuff– from airplanes to rockets. Lunch was more of a snack at the food court which had a McDonald’s. Hint here — go around toward the back of the food court because the pop/soda in the front was very flat for us. Everybody kept going to it. The stuff in the back was fresher. Also– expensive for McDonalds. $5.04 for two medium sodas. Dinner was again at Austin Grill. Yummy and close by!
That evening we took advantage of a concert at the US Navy Memorial. We had no idea it was happening and just stumbled upon it. The Navy band and singers did a great performance. Lots of fun and very memorable.
Day 4: Sightseeing: National Aquarium in DC. This was not quite as great as I thought it might be. First of all– it’s not a part of the Smithsonian. We paid about $28 for all four of us to see a one level area with about 24 exhibits (some — very small). While Emma liked it, deep down we all thought it would be more than what it really was. When you compare it to the awesomeness that surrounds that aquarium, you sort of expect more. This one didn’t deliver.
Then we went to the National Mall. We saw the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. It was all very cool (even though it was extremely hot and humid– which can get a little distracting).
Gluten-Free Food: My husband and the girls had a light McDonald’s lunch on our way to the Metro on this day. Plus we stopped at a snack bar on a path between the WWII and Vietnam Memorials where I was able to score a Dove Bar for Emma. The Iced Lemonade they sold there appeared gluten-free as well. On this night for dinner we went to Maggiano’s. This visit already has it’s own entire post. I will say though that we had to take the Metro for this restaurant. Our hotel was on the “red line” just short of the Chevy Chase, Maryland stop for Maggiano’s. So on this day we decided to take the extra stops and go to the restaurant before returning to the hotel.
Day 5: Last Day: Sight-seeing: Museum of American History. This is a Smithsonian museum. It has the First Ladies at the Smithsonian exhibit which shows all of their gowns. I don’t believe we quite scratched the surface here because our time was very limited. The war exhibit I thought was pretty cool though.
Gluten-Free Food: the Museum of American History has a pretty big cafeteria. Emma was able to have some hard boiled eggs, a banana and Cheetos. Which she was excited about. I thought it was nice there were many choices. But there wasn’t a list of gluten-free items like the aforementioned zoo menu.
Dinner: We were going to eat at Five Guys Burgers and Fries for dinner at the Reagan National Airport, but it was in a totally different wing that you had to pass through security to get to. Not a great plan. So we tried TGIFriday’s and had a surprisingly good experience. The manager on duty was familiar with gluten-free needs (even though the server was not) and babysat her cheeseburger (no seasoning or bun) and carrots she had for dinner. It worked, the manager was very attentive and we were grateful.
You notice I didn’t mention breakfast? That’s because breakfast is an entirely different post.