HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


National Mall, on foot, gluten free, cheap

I have about 5 hours before my flight out later this month. I thought I would stop on the Metro Ride from Silver Spring to see the site near the National Mall.

SF Bay Area hound, so looking for anything unique to the DC area, or just plain tasty.

I have done my research on chowhound and yelp, but nothing screams at me yet.

1. Love southeastern Asian, Indian and Latin American food, but the latter two are strong in SF Bay Area.
2. Need relatively cheap eats, say under $10 for lunch. I don't eat a ton, but need decent value.
3. I need vegetables...period. (sorry, living in a house with 3 boys and a husband, they always want to go to meat heavy places). I do eat meat, but am plenty happy with vegetarian and love fish. This removes Good Food eatery.
4. I have Celiac disease - so gluten free. This means no soy sauce. This removes I think Teaism. Also many sandwich only shops.
5. I will be on foot with my backpack luggage. I don't mind walking at all, but only have 4-5 hours to wander around. And I am a California wuss when it comes to cold : ). Happy to eat while walking too.
6. It will be a Saturday.

I see Merzi, the Native American Museum cafe, some food trucks. I like the idea of ShopHouse, but don't think it is worth my time to trek up to Dupont Circle.

Is Protein Bar good? Chop't? (yes, I like rabbit food if it is flavorful) Nando's Peri Peri -they have chicken livers mmmmm....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. seeing as you're from SF, I too would skip the SE Asian and Latin American near the Mall. those foods are better represented elsewhere in town.

    since it's such a short visit, I'd go with what you have found. come back when you have more time and the weather is nicer.

    flying out of National? eating at the start of your wandering, or the end before the flight? Saturday downtown there's more to be found near the Yellow line than the Blue. the museums will ask you to put your backpack in a locker, hope it fits, you may want to call ahead to get the locker dimensions.

    and if you're running late a cab is about $20 or even less.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food

      Yes flying out of National. I am happy eating whenever, and eating in small doses as well. My kids always ask why in the world I have never been to the memorials when I go to DC often. Why not spend my time doing so - as long as I am moving I am happy.

    2. Www.foodtruckfiesta.com has food truck locations.

      1. If you are taking the red line from Silver Spring, Dupont Circle will be on your way (2 stops before your Metro Center, which is you transfer point to the blue line). That being said, I don't think it is worth it to go to ShopHouse. I've been. It's OK. Nothing special. And it is a chain so it will probably be coming to your area soon.

        Ethnic is not a downtown thing. Rent too high. If you want ethnic, you would actually do well to stay in Silver Spring. Lots of Asian, Latin, there is a Nando's right in the center of town. What about Ethiopian? At least 10 Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring.

        If you have five hours between Silver Spring and your flight, subtract one hour for the airport. Subtract at least 30 minutes for the travel time. That means you have 3.5 hours. That is really not a lot of time to "see the sights around the National Mall." It is a large area and in that amount of time, pretty much all you can see is the outside of stuff.

        In late January.

        Ugh. Likely to be cold, gray, windy ....

        5 Replies
        1. re: Just Visiting

          if you are coming from SS, Dupont Circle is 2 stops after Metro Center, not before. Gallery Place is the stop near many restaurants -- it;s also an easy walk to the mall. No need to go to Metro Center, imo.

          1. re: Teddybear

            yes I was vague - Yellow goes through Gallery Place and is a quicker ride to National anyway. Blue goes through Metro Center. the area around Gallery Place is much more set up for weekend foot traffic with more choices.

            1. re: Teddybear

              Sorry! You are right. Brain is trained on Shady Grove stops. And don't ask me what comes after Grosvenor....if I don't use a station, it doesn't exist. I have to look at the map!

            2. re: Just Visiting

              Ha. I actually have to go to DC often for work, but usually just rush to and from Dulles. I rarely really eat out. But this time the kids are up skiing on Saturday so I could fly out a day later. Yes, I do know about January in DC...hoping that hauling it on foot with backpack will warm me up. It works snowshoeing : ).

              I actually don't need to leave downtown until 3:15 on the metro. I will be doing a long swim/spin/run for a couple of hours in the early AM. I really do have 4-5 hours. I am also not much of a tourist. I am much more of a run around and glance at the scenery type person. Food stores are worth stopping, ice cream is worth stopping, but I don't need to see all the sites necessarily. I will bring my kids back for that one one of these days.

              I will probably do Nando's in SS on Friday night, or maybe Ethiopian (if they do 100% teff injera - it can be hard to find).

              1. re: jsaimd

                These places in SS seem to have GF (teff) injera:

                http://www.abolethiopian.com/ (website says they have it
                )http://lucyrestaurantmd.com/ (not noted on website; a Yelp review claims they have it
                )http://www.yelp.com/biz/bete-ethiopia... (yelp review claims they have it
                )http://www.yelp.com/biz/gebeta-ethiop... (yelp review claims they have it
                )http://www.yelp.com/biz/lesaac-ethiop... (yelp review claims they have it)

            3. Maybe Maine Avenue Fish Market? A short walk from the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin, as well as L'Enfant Plaza Metro. There's a raw bar around the corner from Jimmy's Grill that serves tons of veg sides. Cheap compared to what you'd find on the mall. Pretty sure they could steam/grill the fish for you rather than fry.

              1 Reply
              1. re: monkeyrotica

                Saw Maine fish market, but saw the typical fries cole slaw etc. Good simple seafood is always good, especially fish or oysters. Even though SF is on the coast, we actually have a pretty limited set of species in the bay. That combined with my husband having a psychological allergy to fish/seafood - usually means that we don't eat that. This is a decent option if there are real veggies.

              2. There is at least one Peruvian chicken place in downtown Silver Spring - Crisp and Juicy. These places don't normally have great vegetable selections, and C&J is not an exception to this, but Peruvian chicken is not found in many other areas.

                Teaism does note GF items on their menu: https://www.teaism.com/images/restaur...

                ShopHouse is OK, but, if you are short on time, probably not worth the trip.

                I think some of the Ethiopian restaurants in downtown SS have 100% teff injera, but am not sure which ones.

                I don't think I would count on food trucks downtown on a Saturday. The primary audience for many of them are office workers. And you won't find anything but the ones that sell (probably gluten filled) hot dogs in the immediate vicinity of the mall.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lori D

                  Lori - yes, as you point out there are food trucks and then there are food trucks. outside of the foodtruck fiesta crews, what's mostly found along the mall is unspeakably foul.

                2. I have no idea about gluten-free. so you'll have to investigate that for yourself.

                  ShopHouse, avoid. Unless you think McDonalds goes Asian is a good idea. I haven't been to Protien Bar, but I don't like any of the others you mentioned.

                  Nando's is a very good choice, though I haven't had the livers there. I usually go for the quarter-dark at the spiciest level the mushy peas, and the fries with periniasse sauce.

                  The verduras at Jaleo is their strong suit. Go for patatas bravas, spinach with raisins, baby wrinkled potatoes, mushrooms with garlic, beet salad with citrus, cauliflower with dates, apple and fennel salad, tortilla de patatas al moment. The cheapest you can get out of Jaleo is probably $14 for the patatas bravas and the spinach.

                  1. Re-thinking everything you've said, including "California wuss when it comes to cold" - if it is a cold day (like today - 14 degrees!) then my recommendation is use your time wisely. Go to the National Museum of the American Indian. Everything, including the architecture, is absorbing. Then you can eat at their cafeteria which has lots of interesting choices. The key is to go fairly early, when it isn't crowded, so you can walk around to each station and see what looks good. Disclosure - I've been there several times and I don't remember there being superb veggie options that are also GF. Veggies tended to be sides if I recall correctly. Also, like all the mall museums, it is somewhat overpriced. That's what happens when museums don't charge admission fees - they have to rely on the concessionaires and the gift shops. If you have any time left over, you could go to Air &
                    Space or better (in my opinion) - the U.S. Botanic Garden.

                    This way, you are not running up and down the Mall (it is fairly long and most of what you see between the Capitol and the monuments is just the exterior of the museums and federal buildings). If you really are all about the exteriors, it is hard to imagine spending several hours doing just the monuments. In the cold. Except for the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson, there isn't a lot of dwell time.

                    1. I returned from a nice, but yes, cold trip!

                      I took your advice and found an Ethiopian place in SS before I left for downtown. Although, wind chill and take out Ethiopian do not mix well. My veggie combo from Abol was tasty and very filling. A bit more oily than I prefer, but the injera was nicely tangy. Beets were basically just plain roasted, and the tomato salad was less flavorful - wrong season. The yellow lentil stew was my favorite, although I don't have a lot of experience with Ethiopian. They had all teff injera for an extra charge. Filling enough to keep me full through dinner.

                      Had a meal at Copper Canyon (sponsored). I did enjoy the cold smoked salmon, but just had it on a salad. Not amazing, but descent enough.

                      Frozen yogurt at FroZenYo was underwhelming, but convenient. I didn't expect much.

                      Another night my hosts picked Sweetgreen. It was a solid salad with nicely poached shrimp. Since I love veggies. this hit the spot. My teenage cousin was less impressed.