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DC Restaurant Week Reviews: Bobby Van’s, BlackSalt, and Zengo

January 25th, 2010 by Brandi

January and August bring a treat to DC foodies on a budget: DC’s famed Restaurant Week. The gluties try to make the rounds to new restaurants each time Restaurant Week comes to town. It’s a great opportunity to truly test a restaurant’s gluten free sensitivity. When limited menus are the rule during Restaurant Week, some joints go out of their way to make sure you’re well fed, even if a few substitutions are required. Others deliver nothing more than a blank stare. That said, here’s what went well and what didn’t during the 16th Washington, DC Restaurant Week.

Bobby Van’s Steakhouse

My first stop during Restaurant Week was to Bobby Van’s Steakhouse on New York Ave. When we sat down, we were pleasantly surprised by the wine specials that accompanied the dinner specials. A limited selection was featured at $25/bottle and $5/glass. Not their top shelf, but it was nice to have a decent price on wine to accompany the prix fixe menu. The waiter seemed well informed about gluten free dining, and was amenable to my requests, but I’m pretty sure it was lip service. Nothing communicated at the table made its way to the kitchen, and every course had to go back. Croutons on the Caesar salad, jous (which I was told was not safe, even though it often is) on the steak, and cookies in my mousse. After all of my dishes were remade without gluten, the end result was yummy … but not enough to warrant a return visit from me. I wouldn’t put it on the top of my list for gluten free dining, either. 

BlackSalt Fish Market

BlackSalt was divine. No questions about it. The happy hour is worth checking out – the bar features great wine and beer (for your gluten loving date) specials, house oysters and other finger foods. The only real option on the happy hour for gluties are the oysters, but for me, that was just right. The menu is quite flexible, and the waitstaff is eager to let you know. I started with the naturally gluten free heirloom beet salad, followed by the Spanish mussels, which the kitchen doctored to accomodate my needs. Even though the restaurant wasn’t participating in Restaurant Week during dinner, it was a great night out and a restaurant I’ll visit again. Two thumbs up for gluten free awareness.


Zengo in Gallery Place was a mixed bag. The restaurant has a loud, fast paced, slinging-hash kind of atmosphere, yet it’s gluten free menu is leather bound and official. The food is yummy, but their approach to dining is based on an “everyone shares” mentality, which doesn’t work well for us gluties. They bring out dishes when they’re ready … not by table. When you’re dining with gluten-loving friends, and can’t share, it means you’re staring at your empty plate. Not quite the best way to spend a night out. When it was our turn for sharing, Brooke and I noshed on duck tacos (wrapped in a pickled radish shell), arepas, chicken tandoori, beef tenderloin palomilla, and dulce de leche pudding. I would recommend the food, but maybe choosing a quieter night to visit.

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