A Survival Guide to Being Gluten Free and Dairy Free in the District


Image courtesy of The Washington Center

By Noelia Veras

Having dietary restrictions as a college student in a city filled with decadent food is not always the easiest experience. Although D.C. has great options, they may be hard to find. This summer, I found out that I can no longer eat either gluten or dairy (even though I sometimes eat dairy, despite my doctor’s advice). I’ve realized through talking to friends that I’m not the only person with these kinds of dietary restrictions. Here is the ultimate survival guide to eating gluten-free and dairy-free in Washington D.C. 

Being a student I’m usually on the run and eating more snacks than full meals. Finding good gluten-free and dairy-free snacks was really hard at first, but once I did my research I found a huge set of resources and snacks at grocery stores in the city. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Trader Joe’s Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips: Chili & Lime Flavored

Image courtesy of Mantou Joe

Available at: Trader Joe’s

The Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips are essentially Trader Joe’s healthier gluten-free take on Takis. This snack is definitely addicting and obviously quite spicy, but I find them to be a good movie night go-to snack. If you like tangy and spicy chips with a punch, these are for you.

  1. Nature’s Bakery Gluten Free Fig Bar

Image courtesy of Nature’s Basket

Available at: Walmart, Target, Giant

I survived my first finals week thanks to Fig Newtons, so when I heard I could no longer eat gluten, this was the first snack I really mourned. However, I saw these gluten-free fig bars at the grocery store and was really excited. These fig bars come in different flavors and have a really unique texture. My personal favorite flavor is blueberry, but sometimes I reach for pomegranate as well.

  1. Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzels

Image courtesy of Snyder’s of Hanover

Available at: Target and Giant

Growing up, pretzels were always such a reliable snack for me, but going gluten-free I assumed I could never have them again. These pretzels are airy and light and in my opinion taste much better than regular pretzels.

Washington, D.C. is well known for its restaurants with great food that also offer options for dietary restrictions. I felt like I was missing out on this part of the District; however, there are some incredible restaurant options with a great selection of gluten-free and dairy-free options. Here are five great places to consider: 

  1. &pizza

Image courtesy of Eater DC

Prior to finding out my dietary restrictions, I used to go to &pizza at least once every two weeks, because of its proximity to campus and its excellent food. I love the build-your-own-pizza experience as well as the American Honey pizza. After finding out about my dietary restrictions, I learned that not only does &pizza have a gluten-free crust option, but  also a really great vegan cheese option. &pizza is a D.C. staple, and their options are not only vast but really tasty.

  1. Bibibop Asian Grill

Image courtesy of Bibibop

Bibibop is a chain restaurant that originated in Ohio but is very popular in the District as well. It’s an Asian grill where customers build their own bowl. The rice and japchae are gluten-free and many of the toppings are, too. The build your own layout is really helpful with gluten-free diets and helps avoid the possibility of cross contamination. I usually get a chicken bowl with both japchae and rice, black beans, carrots, potatoes, cucumber, and kale. The closest Bibibop to campus is located in Chinatown.

  1. Hip City Veg

Image courtesy of Hip City Veg

Hip City Veg is another great option. The whole restaurant is actually vegan, so all of the options are dairy-free. The gluten-free menu is really delicious and has great options as well.  Hip City Veg’s website advertises its mission as “embracing healthy bodies, a healthy planet, and compassion for all living things, we bring delicious vegan food to people everywhere.” I like to get the Buffalo Bella from here with a gluten-free bun. There’s a Hip City Veg right next to Bibibop in Chinatown. 

  1. Masala Story

Image courtesy of Masala Story

A Brookland community staple, Masala Story’s menu is mostly gluten-free and dairy-free. The owner of Masala Story is very friendly and willing to explain the menu in person or with a quick call. When I order from here I get the butter chicken, which happens to be the restaurant’s most common order. Masala Story is located in Brookland on 12th Street.

  1. Jaleo 

Image courtesy of Sancal.com

Jaleo is a Spanish restaurant here in D.C. and also in my hometown Orlando, Florida. The restaurant has a comprehensive menu with detailed gluten-free and dairy-free items. There are really interesting items on this menu with distinct Spanish origin and an excellent flair. Although not exactly dairy-free, the cheese selection is vast, so for gluten-free individuals who can eat dairy, this is an excellent option. I like to order something different every time, but one excellent option is the Carne asada con piquillos, which consists of a grilled hanger steak with confit piquillo peppers. This dish is gluten-free, shellfish-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. To get to Jaleo you can take the red line towards Shady Grove and get off on Judiciary Square.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *