Gluten Free in Washington DC – The Sightseeing Coeliac

Why Washington DC?

When booking our trip to Florida for Halloween we couldn’t get a direct flight home without it doubling the cost of the flight. As this couldn’t be justified, we turned the stopover into an overnight stay to see the main sights of the City!

The Hotel – The Hay-Adams 

As we were only in Washington for one night we wanted a hotel near all the main tourist sights. I also had a free night on so decided to use this to stay at The Hay-Adams, a five star hotel right near The White House.

The hotel was luxurious with amazing service and the lovely rooms. The bed was so comfortable, it was like sleeping on clouds – so much so that we struggled to go back out and see some of Washington rather than take an extended nap!



We got into Washington ahead of hotel check in and our room wasn’t ready. We therefore decided to head out to take a look at The White House and get some lunch. I had a lot of recommendations thanks to Instagram but most of these weren’t near my hotel, so I used the app ‘Find me gluten free’ and it led me to GCDC. I love this app to help find places nearby although you do need to check if the recommendations are safe for those with coeliac.

GCDC had a note on the app to say it had separate fryers and after I had queued up (it was pretty busy) the server explained their cross contamination controls so I felt confident eating there.

I would recommend this place if you’re missing grilled cheese or want somewhere near The White House as my grilled cheese carbonara sandwich was amazing – chicken, cheese, leeks and goats cheese all oozing out of bread supplied by Rise gluten free bakery – Yum!!


They also had gluten free tater tots so we also had a cheeky side of chilli tots to share!


Legal Seafoods

Legal Seafoods is a US chain that I discovered in Boston in 2010. At this time hardly anywhere catered for gluten free and gluten free menus were a rarity. I was so happy when I found Legal Seafoods as they had an extensive gluten free menu and looked after me so well, it was one of the few occasions at that time where eating out wasn’t stressful!

During that trip to Boston I ate at Legal Seafoods several times, but my favourite dish was the stuffed lobster which is what I always go back to now. It is stuffed with prawns, clams and gluten free breadcrumbs and highly recommended! I ordered it this time but was a bit disappointed as there were definitely less prawns and clams this time, having been replaced by peppers and onions. I’m not sure if that is exclusive to Washington or a cost cutting exercise but it wasn’t quite the same, but still a treat for us!


Having struggled with portion sizes whilst in America we didn’t order starters and shared the lobster. This meant we had some room for dessert as Paul wanted a key lime pie! The dessert menu isn’t the most inspiring for gluten free considering how good they are with everything else but they had a chocolate mousse so I ordered that. It was rich, chocolatey, delicious and far too much for one person!


Wicked Waffle

Wicked waffle was somewhere I had on my list due to my google search for gluten free in Washington. It also showed on the Find Me Gluten Free app as being close to the hotel so we headed there for breakfast.

It was busy and set up like a fast food chain, ordering at the till and queueing at the counter for food. At first I thought despite what I’d read that they would be terrible for gluten free that was also free from cross contamination. It turned out that they had a separate gluten free station with preprepared gluten free waffles wrapped in cling film that were handled by a separate member of staff who was using different toppings to the regular waffles. Fantastic! There were a couple of gluten free orders in front of me too so it sure seems to attract the gluten free crowd.



I had a long list of places for Paul to choose from for lunch and his pick was Mexican! We had seen Oyamel on our way to Legal Seafoods so that may be why he wanted to give it a go. This restaurant was on my list thanks to Alexis who writes the gluten free in Orlando blog who also has lots of other cities in the travel section of the blog.

Oyamel like many places had a disclaimer on their menu that they couldn’t guarantee their food was completely gluten free due to a shared kitchen and noted that they used a shared fryer for all items. When I asked about a gluten free menu the waiter asked me if I was Coeliac and said he would let me know if anything I was trying to order was a no go due to the fryer so they had understanding of cross contamination and I chose to eat here, but you will need to make the decision of what is right for you.

We were asked if we wanted guacamole to start which we agreed to but I was then told that I would need tortilla wraps not chips as the tortilla chips weren’t gluten free. I agreed but it actually meant we were charged extra for the four wraps that wasn’t enough for all the guacamole when all the other tables got a huge amount of tortilla chips. It is already pretty expensive at $15 for guacamole so thought it was pretty cheeky for them to charge us $19. They didn’t even offer Paul the normal chips for the left over guacamole.


However, the mains that we had were all absolutely fantastic and shared them all. Steak tacos, pork tacos, chicken enchiladas, prawns and a grilled cheese dish that had been cooked in tequila and topped off with chorizo that was awesome! (Washington will be fondly remembered as the time we ate lots of grilled cheese!!)

Overall we really enjoyed our meal, I wasn’t sick and the restaurant was popular. We were eating about 3pm due to our night flight yet the restaurant was still pretty full with lots of atmosphere. Next time we would just skip paying $19 for some guacamole!


Rise Bakery

Rise Bakery was recommended by pretty much everyone that gave me Washington recommendations so I figured it couldn’t be missed. It was a bit further out of the centre though and being on such a short trip I ended up just getting an uber there as I didn’t want to miss out.

As usual I went a bit OTT and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich, a donut, a cinnamon bun, a chocolate eclair and some everything bagels all to take away (the bagels – apart from one – I froze as soon as I got home so hopefully they will still be ok!)

The ham and cheese sandwich was totally amazing, with loads of filling although a bit too heavy handed on mustard that I hadn’t actually asked for. All the baked goodies that I ate across a few days were excellent and I loved the bagel that I tried. I have to agree with everyone else’s recommendations to make sure that you don’t miss this bakery on a trip to the city!


The flight

Our flight was with Virgin Atlantic from Washington to Heathrow in Premium Economy. This was brilliant as it stopped Paul moaning about his lack of leg room all the way home! It is always worth checking the price of premium economy as on this flight it was only about £150 to upgrade. For this you get some bubbles when you get on the plane, the extra leg room and wider seats. We were handed hot drinks during the flight and Paul had cutlery and glasses rather than plastic for eating his dinner. I didn’t have anything as my gluten free request hadn’t registered so ate some of my Rise bakery goodies so it wasn’t as much of a problem as it could have been.

I fly a lot and generally I get my gluten free meals but there are occasions when it’s gone wrong so I always travel with food and snacks. I have found that asking at check in if they have the gluten free request noted does make a difference. Twice Emirates have not had my request noted, on one of these they managed to get me a gluten free meal last minute onto the plane and on the other they couldn’t do anything but they added it onto the second leg of my journey as I was connecting in Dubai. On this occasion with Virgin when I asked they said there wasn’t anything they could do as they have to have 24 hours notice but instead they gave me a $20 voucher for food at the airport. As I already had the food from Rise I used the voucher for some drinks and snacks in the newsagent as I found lots of gluten free goodies to try.

Washington Dulles Airport

After a late lunch at Oyamel I really wasn’t hungry whilst at the airport but I bought some gluten free snacks to bring home, including GLUTEN FREE LICORICE!! I can’t explain to you the excitement of this as I love love love Licorice and used to bring so many packets of Twizzlers home from any holiday in the USA!


Other Recommendations

I was only on a 24 hour trip so couldn’t fit in many food places but thanks to everyone who gave me recommendations. Hopefully you will have a longer visit and get to try out some more! In which case it’s thanks to the following Instagram accounts #alexisgfadventures #paleobee #theglutenfreenerd #sweetsnotwheat #theglutenfreesuitcase and some of my other followers that I have these recommendations for you (not tried personally):

*Chaia for vegetarian tacos in Georgetown

* Buredo for sushi burritos

*Beau Thai

*Petes A pizza

*Lost Dog Cafe for another pizza option

*District of Pi

*Arepa Zone for a curbside food truck

*DC Dosa

*Thip Khao for Lao food and the chicken wings have been highly recommended! I really wanted to go here but the opening times didn’t work for us.

*District Taco

*Busboys and Poets for a great breakfast stop, with the kale and sweet potato hash being recommended!

The Sightseeing

As we only had 24 hours we really didn’t have much time and just saw some of the top sights!

The White House

It is possible to book tours of the White House in advance with your embassy. We hadn’t so only saw it from the outside! We also visited The White House Museum briefly which was free to get into (and had a restroom!)


Washington Monument

We headed out late afternoon on our first day and managed to see some of the sights as the sun went down walking along the National Mall by the monument to the World War II memorial and watching the sunset. It turned out to be a great time to visit!


Big Bus

We did the red route of the Big Bus tour to see the main attractions by day. We didn’t get off we just did the loop although we did have to change buses at the Grand Station so had a quick peek inside (oh and I grabbed a gluten free marshmallow bar from Starbucks! I have brought several of these home with me and wish Starbucks in the U.K. would stock them too).


Arlington Cemetry 

Opening at 8am we headed here first thing on our second day which was a great way to beat the crowds and to see a bit more with our time. It is a moving experience and we also timed it to see the changing of the guards ceremony which happened on the hour every hour.

There are a lot of museums to choose from if you’re heading to Washington and have more time, we aren’t massively into museums so didn’t mind skipping them but it is nicer to have longer than 24 hours in a city to get more of a feel for the place. I would have liked to visit Georgetown and maybe in the summer go on the architectural boat trip!

Whatever your reasons for visiting, and however long your trip may be I hope you have a wonderful trip to Washington DC and discover some great gluten free food whilst you’re there!

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