Red, White and Blue… Allergy-Friendly, Too! AllergyEats’ Guide to D.C.
Washington, D.C. Food Allergy-Friendly Destination Guide
Feeling patriotic, seeking the bloom of cherry blossoms, or sending your food-allergic teen to D.C. on a school trip? We’re here to help! When it comes to the creation of our first Food Allergy-Friendly Destination Guide for Washington, D.C., it couldn’t be more fitting that our motto has always been to provide a food allergy dining guide that is “by the people, for the people”.
As such, we’ve taken the top allergy-friendly restaurants in D.C., utilizing feedback from our amazing AllergyEats’ users, and noted their locations near popular tourist sites.
- Monuments (West Mall) & The White House
- Museums (East Mall)
- Capitol Hill
- National Zoo
Before You Go: Food Allergy Considerations
Those with shellfish allergies should be aware that D.C. is plentiful when it comes to seafood, especially crabs and oysters, given its proximity to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Likewise, anyone with a mustard allergy should look out for Old Bay spice, a blend that originated in Maryland and is customarily used on crabs, but can also be found in other dishes. D.C.’s neighbor, Virginia, is known for producing the “Ballpark” peanut, so don’t be surprised if you see these in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, too.
Along those lines, we know that many food allergy families prefer to do a mix of eating out and putting together simple meals at a local grocery store. D.C. is the perfect place for our community as the National Mall – where the majority of museums and monuments are located – is designed for picnicking! A two-mile long lawn, the “Mall,” is a popular gathering spot for everything from recreational sports to rallies; those with food allergies will certainly not be the only ones choosing to eat lunch outside! Moreover, unless you are comfortable with dining at a museum cafe, food truck or concession stand, it’s advisable to plan a picnic or walk outside of the Mall to one of the restaurants recommended by AllergyEats’ users.
This guide is designed to be used by those who are seeking allergy-friendly eateries that are within a reasonable walking distance from a particular site, knowing that parking (particularly along the Mall) can be a challenge in D.C., as it can be in any city. Given the Mall’s vast size and number of attractions, this guide includes restaurant suggestions near the monument side on the West (West Mall), which starts at the Lincoln Memorial and ends at the Washington Monument, and the museum side on the East (East Mall), which runs from the Washington Monument to the Capitol Building.
Monuments (West Mall) and the White House
Luckily, the monuments are accessible 24 hours a day, so one can easily get an early start on touring with a stop at the Foggy Bottom location of allergy-friendly grocer, Whole Foods, for picnic foods, and then driving a short distance to walk the two mile Tidal Basin Loop. This popular trail goes around the Tidal Basin, a reservoir filled with the famous cherry blossom trees, that is surrounded by the memorials for Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Alternatively, if your plans have you visiting the war memorials along the West Mall, Whole Foods is only a 15-minute walk up 23rd Street from the Lincoln Memorial. Not into picnics? You will find fast casual Mexican-inspired Chipotle and Italian-themed Bertucci’s in Foggy Bottom in a shopping plaza on the outskirts of George Washington University. Both chains are certainly not unique to D.C., but are reliable choices for those who prefer the comfort of familiarity when away from home.
On the other hand, if you want your dining to be just as authentic as the sites you’re seeing, then look no further than Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest saloon-turned-restaurant in the Nation’s Capital. This iconic, family-friendly tavern offers American food and a history of famous political patrons. The restaurant was purchased years ago by Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which includes 12 dining concepts and made AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains List for the first time in early 2019.
Feeling presidential after dining in such a historical place? You are just steps from the White House and can catch a glimpse of the famous home from outside of the fence or schedule a tour a few months before your visit.
Just north of the White House, in Downtown, lies two more top-rated restaurants as unique to D.C. as they come: Logan Tavern, a “fork to table” style restaurant featuring local produce from EatWell DC, a natural farm in Maryland, and Busboys and Poets, a café, bookstore and event space designed to “feed your mind, body and soul” – perhaps inspiring a side of social change along with your gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian-friendly meal.
All of the restaurants mentioned are less than a 20 minute drive from the Tidal Basin, and its said that the monuments are spectacular when illuminated at night, so if you can’t fit them in early in the day, consider a post-dinner drive.
Busboys & Poets, 2021 14th St. NW (4.9 rating)
Old Ebbitt Grill, 675 15th St NW (4.6 rating)
Logan Tavern, 1423 P St NW (4.4 rating)
Chipotle, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue (4.3 chain rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient
Bertucci’s, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue (4.3 chain rating)- AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
Museums (East Mall)
Heading East of the Washington Monument, many visitors choose to begin their day at the Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as The Castle, the main Visitor Center for the Smithsonian. Here, visitors will find a wide variety of art museums, a working carousel, as well as the National Museum of American History, home of the original Star-Spangled Banner, the National Air and Space Museum, featuring IMAX films and flight simulators, and the massive Natural History Museum – whose exhibits cover the equivalent of 18 football fields!
Just south of the Mall, young (and old!) James Bond enthusiasts may want to try their hand at espionage at the International Spy Museum.
With so many museums to explore, you will likely need a few places to eat during your stay. Food-allergic diners seeking an upscale experience might consider these top-rated independent restaurants in nearby Penn Quarter: the District Chop House, a steak house and craft brewery located in a turn-of-the-century bank, and Oyamael, a Michelin restaurant featuring Mexican small plates and festive drink. For a more casual dining option, many AllergyEats’ users also like Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza, which offers vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts, among more traditional pizza offerings. Ella’s is just around the corner from Ford’s Theatre, the site where John Wilkes Booth fatally shot President Lincoln.
Not far from here, fans of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals will be pleased to know that they can walk outside of Capital One Arena and enjoy an allergy-friendly meal at Legal Sea Foods. The Boston-based chain is best known in D.C. for serving its famous New England Clam Chowder at every inauguration since 1981. Many food-allergic diners are happily surprised to learn that the chain also has had a long-standing reputation for its ability to accommodate diners with multiple allergies – even seafood! If you’d prefer a taste of D.C. over a taste of New England, Clyde’s Restaurant Group has a restaurant here, too: Clydes of Gallery Place. For the sports fans (or night owls) in your group, Clyde’s is open until 1 a.m., featuring an American menu suited to a wide variety of palates and allergens.
All of these eateries are about 15 minutes walking distance or a short taxi ride away from the East Mall. Of note, if you are at any of the museums closest to the Washington Monument, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial, you could also easily walk 15 minutes up 14th Street to Old Ebbitt Grill, mentioned earlier.
Legal Sea Foods, 704 7th St. NW (4.7 rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2018 Recipient (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th St. NW (4.5 rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient
District Chop House, 509 7th St. NW (4.5 rating)
Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza, 610 9th St. NW (4.5 rating)
Oyamel, 401 7th St. NW (4.4 rating) (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
School Trip Tip: The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is also in Penn Quarter. This large underground food court is often the designated lunch or dinner stop for school field trips. For a complete list of eateries, check here. We also suggest reaching out for dining advice from other parents whose teens have taken this trip in the Facebook group: Dining Out with Food Allergies.
At the far end of the East side of the Mall is Capitol Hill. The U.S. Capitol building, recognizable by its famous dome, is extremely strict about what is allowed on the premises – even things like water – so consider taking your thirsty historians for a bite before heading in to see where bills become laws. Behind the Capitol Building are the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, and the Supreme Court, which many don’t realize is also open to the public unless there is a scheduled trial.
About a mile south of the Capitol Building, visitors can grab a quick bite at allergy community staple, Chipotle, adjacent to Eastern Market, the only original public market left in D.C. and a fun place to browse handmade crafts and listen to live music on the weekends. For an only-in-D.C. performance, head a few blocks over to the Marine Barracks to watch the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band perform precision drills on a summer Friday night.
If you’re looking for a few more dining options within walking distance of the Capitol Building, or planning to eat before hopping on a bus tour, you can walk 15 minutes up to Union Station, a shopping center and historic transportation hub for tour operators, Greyhound, Amtrak and many more. For those who feel comfortable with the familiarity of Chipotle, there is (yet another) one located here, along with Maryland-born Cava, a Mediterranean style fast casual chain that is similar to Chipotle in its assembly line approach, but goes one step further by offering a menu with allergen icons. There is also a new Legal Sea Bar in the station, which we expect will earn the same high marks for allergy accommodations as other concepts in the Legal Sea Foods group of eateries.
Depending on where you are on Capitol Hill, all of these attractions are just a walk or short cab ride away from Penn Quarter’s Oyamel and District Chop House.
Cava, 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE (4.8 chain rating)
Legal Sea Bar, 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE (4.4 chain rating) – AllergyEats Top Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 recipient (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
Chipotle, 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE (Union Station) or 413 8th St. SE (near Eastern Market) (4.3 chain rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient
Famous for so much more than its university by the same name, Georgetown is a destination unto itself. Take a break from history and enjoy a little retail therapy in this shopping mecca, or, take a stroll to admire the Federal and Victorian architecture of places like the Dumbarton House, Cox’s Row and Prospect Street.
80’s movie buffs will delight in grabbing a bite at The Tombs on the edge of Georgetown University’s campus – the original bar at this basement tavern was the inspiration for St. Elmo’s Fire. This Clyde-owned venue has the benefit of an allergy-friendly restaurant group behind it – and above it – as the upper level of the building is also owned by Clyde’s. A fine dining venue, 1789 Restaurant, serves dinner only in its six elegantly styled rooms, each reflecting the Federal home’s mid 1800’s origins. Looking for a more family-friendly lunch or dinner option? Clyde’s of Georgetown, the original Clyde’s, is just a half-mile away. With a nearly perfect 4.9 allergy-friendly rating from AllergyEats’ users, we can see why Clyde’s has built up such a following from our community over the years.
Not too far from Clyde’s, Dog Tag Bakery pays homage to the veterans whom it employs through the Dog Tag, Inc. fellowship program. Veterans (or their family members), seeking new career opportunities as they transition from military service, learn all aspects of running a business while working at the Georgetown bakery. The menu, which is entirely free-from tree nuts and peanuts, includes a selection of breakfast sandwiches, a few light lunch offerings and a wide variety of baked goods.
Last, but not least, there’s no shortage of fun things to do on Georgetown’s waterfront. Washington Harbor features sightseeing boats on the Potomac River in the summer and an ice skating rink larger than New York City’s Rockefeller Center in the winter. No matter the season, food-allergic diners can indulge themselves at the Harbor’s Sequoia Restaurant, which boasts views of the city’s bridges and Virginia skyline. The menu and the art at Sequoia are contemporary, but the choices are are of varied tastes, lending themselves well to food allergy accommodations.
Sequoia, 3000 K St NW (5.0 rating)
Clyde’s of Georgetown, 3236 M St NW (4.9 rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient
Dog Tag Bakery, 3206 St. NW (4.5 rating)
1789, 1226 36th St. NW (4.2 rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
The Tombs, 1226 36th St. NW (4.2 chain rating) – AllergyEats Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 Recipient (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
Set off in the Woodley Park neighborhood northwest of downtown D.C., The Smithsonian National Zoo is THE main attraction in this area and a must-see for the animal lovers in your group. Political history buffs need not despair – the zoo’s very first giant pandas were a gift from China to President Richard Nixon in 1972. While pandas have continued to be the main attraction, there are about 400 animal species to enjoy at this free Smithsonian-affiliated institute. Picnics are allowed here and there are also a few allergy-friendly eateries in the neighborhood. Just outside of the zoo, patrons will find two AllergyEats’ Top Sweets Shops recipients: Baked by Yael, across from the zoo’s west entrance, and Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats, about a mile from the east entrance.
Owned by a two-time winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars winner, Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats, serves up both savory and sweet vegan foods, from sticky buns (of course!) and cupcakes to soups and sandwiches, between 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The café has not only earned high marks from AllergyEats’ users who are allergic to eggs, dairy, and animal proteins, but also from those who are free-from peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy.
If you’re seeking an option that does not have any peanuts or tree nuts on the premises, Kosher-certified Baked by Yael is free-from both allergens. With similar hours to Sticky Fingers, patrons can pick up bagel sandwiches, gluten free/vegan cookie bars, or one of Yael’s infamous peanut- and tree nut-free cake pops, black and white cookies or rugelach before or after their visit to the zoo. In fact, cranky kids and adults alike, tired from walking the zoo’s 163 acres, can even opt to use the bakery’s convenient curbside service.
While in this part of the city, consider that the Washington Cathedral, reputed for its impressive English gothic architecture featuring “gargoyles” and “grotesques,” is just a few miles north of the zoo. After a tour, food-allergic diners can enjoy a leisurely meal at the Italian-inspired chain, Maggiano’s, in the DC/MD neighborhood of Chevy Chase, home to several hotels and posh shops.
Sticky Fingers, 1370 Park Road NW (5.0 rating) – AllergyEats Top Sweets Shop 2019 recipient
Baked by Yael, 3000 F Connecticut Avenue (4.8 rating) – AllergyEats Top Sweets Shop 2019 recipient
Maggiano’s, 5333 Wisconsin Avenue (4.6 rating) – AllergyEats Top Allergy-Friendly Chains 2019 recipient
Dining Options in the Greater D.C. Metropolitan Area
Many visitors choose to stay just outside of the city in nearby Bethesda, Maryland or Arlington, Virginia, home to the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetary. Should your travels take you to either area, AllergyEats’ users have given the following restaurants great ratings, too.
- Carlyle, 4000 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA (5.0 rating)
- Legal Sea Foods, 2301 Jefferson Highway, Arlington, VA (4.8 rating) (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)
- Joe’s Pizza & Pasta, 5555 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA (4.8 rating)
- Coastal Flats, 78601 Tysons Corner Ctr., McLean, VA (4.8 rating)
- Red Robin, 6331 Seven Corners Ctr, Falls Church, VA (4.6 rating)
- Burtons Grill, 4400 Van Buren St., Riverdale Park, MD (5. 0 rating)
- Not Your Average Joe’s, 10400 Old Georgetown Road, #2, Bethesda, MD (4.8 rating)
School Trip Tip: Large tour groups often receive meal vouchers to use at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. For a list of the food court dining options that may be offered to your food-allergic child, look here.
As we said earlier, this guide was created entirely based on ratings and reviews provided by food-allergic diners like you. To provide more allergy-friendly choices for visitors and locals alike, please consider taking a minute to rate your own dining experiences in D.C. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t thank Suzie Fromer, a New Yorker and food allergy advocate, and Adrienne Kramer, a native Washingtonian and top AllergyEats’ rater, whose research and knowledge of D.C. helped us create this guide. We TRULY are all in this together!