Food  |  Health

Whole 30-Friendly Restaurants in DC That Aren’t Your Kitchen

No dairy, added sugar, alcohol, beans, or grains? We've got you covered.

Cava has plenty of Whole 30 options. Photograph via Cava.

The fad diet Whole 30 is everywhere right now. If you’re not doing it this month, chances are you know at least three people who are.

A life without dairy, added sugar, alcohol, beans, or grains can seem borderline masochistic, but it doesn’t have to be.

“A good rule of thumb is to focus on protein and vegetables,” says Christine Haas of Washington Nutrition Group. Red sauce on top of meat or seafood is a good option at Italian restaurants, she says, as is a Thai or Indian curry (just make sure there’s no sugar or soy in the sauce and skip the rice).

Locally, there’s a solid list of places to stop in for a Whole 30-compliant meal. That’s right, you no longer have to carry around beef jerky in your backpack.

Pro tip: When ordering, don’t be afraid to ask questions, says Haas. Find out what oils meats and vegetables are cooked in, if sauces contain sugar, and if dishes contain any dairy, soy, or grain additives.

This is a welcome flavor bomb if you’re sick of your options at home. All their salad bases are compliant and can be topped with chicken, spicy lamb meatballs, or their seasonal roasted veggies. Add harissa, cabbage slaw, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, olives, or mint, and ask for either the lemon herb tahini or green harissa dressing.

True Food Kitchen
With locations in both Bethesda and Fairfax, True Food Kitchen’s healthy menu is your friend. They’re open to working with dietary restrictions and will “modify the heck out of the majority of the menu,” says restaurant manager Marian Flaxman. Either of the burgers can be served in lettuce wraps without the cheese and sauce, and their Tuscan kale salad is fair game, as is the seasonal ingredient salad once you remove the white beans. For a snack, order the kale-and-poblano-pepper-dotted guacamole with a side of crudités, charred cauliflower, or the roasted heirloom carrots (sans Greek yogurt).

José Andrés’s vegetable-centric, fast-casual spot has plenty: A salad with cherry tomatoes, kimchi, radishes, scallions, and sprouts can be topped with a poached egg or avocado for some protein. Sesame seeds or sunflower seeds add a nice crunch to the mix. Just be sure to avoid the dressings – stick with trusty olive oil, vinegar, or the cilantro sauce.

Elizabeth’s Gone Raw
This raw vegan restaurant’s upscale tasting menu is only available Fridays, so use it as a Whole 30 treat. After scanning menus and making substitutions, reading the lineup at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw is a breeze: It’s all plant-based and nothing is cooked, so you don’t have to worry about oils.

“Out of all the places to eat, honestly, we’d be the cleanest,” says owner Elizabeth Petty. “The food is really, really clean. There’s nothing in it.” The only ingredients to watch out for are coconut bacon (made with soy) and added sweeteners like agave or maple syrup, but the restaurant is happy to make modifications, Petty says. Plus, they have a bevy of fresh-pressed juices perfect for a mocktail nightcap.

Protein Bar
The healthy menu at Protein Bar has some solid options for breakfast that won’t break the diet. Breakfast scrambles are made with ghee, and if you ask to take out things like the beans, tortilla chips, and cheese that come with them, you’re good to go. Plenty of their smoothies pass the test, too; just be sure to nix any that add protein, peanut butter, yogurt, or sweeteners like honey or agave nectar.

Lebanese Taverna
Restaurant co-owner Grace Abi-Najm Shea did Whole 30 last year and shared some Facebook Live videos letting fellow dieters know what they could eat at Lebanese Taverna. At the six area restaurants, order the roasted beet salad (hold the feta), the lamb kebab, salmon, or camel wings (a nickname for the garlicky-lemon chicken wings). If you’re making a quick pit stop at their cafe locations, the beef and chicken shawarma bowls are the way to go.

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.