Tennis star Novak Djokovic attributed his amazing winning streak two years ago to his new gluten-free diet. That was about the same time that markets and some restaurants began touting gluten-free in a big way.
The two probably had no connection, but Djokovic continues winning and the gluten-free label has become almost as common as vegetarian and organic, causing many to wonder if this is just one more in a long list of food fads or whether there’s something more to it.
The answer is probably some of each. For the roughly one percent if the population diagnosed with celiac disease — Djokovic reportedly is one of them — and another unknown chunk of the population who may have some form of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, the new abundance of gluten-free alternatives makes it easier to adhere to a diet free all sources of gluten.
That translates, roughly, to a diet free of breads, pastas, beer and whiskey, and any other obvious foods that contain wheat, barley, rye or triticale. Not so obvious are the dressings and sauces — including most soy sauces — made with wheat or thickened with wheat flour. Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity quickly become careful and thorough label readers.
Celiac disease has no cure but symptoms can be managed with a strict gluten-free diet. Symptoms vary but typically include gastrointestinal pain, bloating and diarrhea. The disease damages the inner lining of the small intestine, which blocks absorption of essential nutrients and contributes to a host of other problems, such as arthritis, bone loss, joint pain, and skin problems.
Contributing to the fad idea are those who have turned to gluten-free to lose weight, though its value as a weight loss regimen has yet to be proven beyond the benefits of eliminating bread, pizza and pasta.
Given the popularity of gluten-free, the ever-vigilant food industry has come up with gluten-free alternatives for the items on the forbidden gluten list and a growing number of restaurants now offer a gluten-free menu or designate gluten-free dishes.
Of course you can get gluten-free fare at any restaurant if you ask for your fish, meat or chicken to be grilled or broiled without breading or sauces, use an oil and vinegar dressing on your salad, and skip the croutons and breads. And to be sure you get your pizza and pasta fix, many places now offer gluten-free versions — some much tastier than others.
Listed below (in alphabetical order) are a few of the many area restaurants that now offer gluten-free menus or designate those dishes that are gluten-free.
Assaggi Osteria, 6411 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, 703-918-0080, freshly made gluten-free pastas available.
Bazin’s on Church, 111 Church St., NW, Vienna, 703-255-7212, designates on menu dishes that can be modified to meet gluten-free specifications.
Big Bowl, 11915 Democracy Drive, Reston, 703-787-8852, has a menu including gluten-free options, including a gluten-free beer.
Chef Geoff’s, 8045 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 703-282-6003, offers a gluten-free menu though for lunch choices are limited mostly to appetizers and cobb salad.
Choices by Shawn, 3950 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, 703-385-5433, has a gluten-free menu that includes such dishes as fried chicken, a cheeseburger and bruschetta.
Dogfish Head Alehouse, 6220 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-534-3342, and 13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, Fairfax, 703-961-1140, lists many gluten-free alternatives on the menu.
First Watch, 9600 Main Street #S, Fairfax, 703-978-3421, provides a list of breakfast, lunch and brunch items that either are gluten-free or can be modified so that they are gluten-free.
Four Sisters, 810- Strawberry Lane #1, Falls Church, 703-539-8566, offers a menu that lists more than 40 of its Vietnamese specialties that are gluten-free.
Mon Ami Gabi, 11950 Democracy Drive, Reston, 703-707-0233, identifies gluten-free French specialties on a separate menu that includes French onion soup gratin with gluten-free croutons and chicken paillard.
Open Kitchen, 7115 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-942-8148, identifies (GF) or gluten-free items on the menu, also those that are (v) vegetarian and (DF) dairy free.
Seasons 52, 1961 Chain Bridge Road (Tysons Corner), McLean, 703-288-3852, offers an alternative gluten-free menu, and menus that are vegetarian, vegan, lactose free and low sodium.
Wildfire, 2001 International Drive (Tysons Galleria), McLean, 703-442-9110. This steakhouse has an extensive gluten-free menu and, as requested, will also make modifications to regular menu items.