Great Food at Mitsitam

by Valerie on October 30, 2010 · 3 comments

On Labor Day, to enjoy the gorgeous day, husband and I walked from our apartment in Dupont Circle to Mitsitam, the restaurant in the National Museum of the American Indian.

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It is a beautiful museum, but I was a mission to go to this destination:

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I have heard rave reviews about eating gluten-free at Mitsitam and was really curious about it. I had eaten there several times prior to changing my diet last year due to food intolerances, so I knew the food was delicious. The restaurant is like a big cafeteria, with each station divided by region. As soon as I walked in, all I kept seeing were these signs:


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Yes, eating gluten-free at Mitsitam is really wonderful. Here are my thoughts on eating there with multiple food intolerances and/or dietary preferences:

  • If you eat gluten-free and/or vegetarian, this place is amazing.  It really is. 
  • Gluten-free eaters can choose from over half the offerings. It is probably closer to 75% depending on the season.  I am still in awe of that. 
  • Nut-avoiders benefit from clearly labeled signs.
  • Vegans and dairy-intolerants can eat very well at Mitsitam but choices are not quite as abundant, particularly if you avoid honey.
  • If you only eat wild caught fish, this place is pretty fantastic as it has a permanent Wild Alaskan salmon offering and the day I visited, also offered cod (rehydrated in milk, however, so off-limits to me since I cannot tolerate dairy).
  • If you prefer grass-fed meat,  Mitsitam offers several bison options, including a chili which I have had in the past and which is delicious.
  • Most of the staff working there is very knowledgeable regarding ingredients and know who to call when there is a question.
  • The restaurant is clearly aware of cross-contamination, as dishes that contain gluten that are alongside gluten-free offerings are kept very separate (i.e. separate, taller serving bowls versus trays), and stations that offer bread products are on the other end of the cafeteria from the stations that offer predominantly gluten-free offerings. It really is quite amazing to see the care with which they feed gluten-free diners.

That said, the care is not just about gluten-free dining – there is care in all the food.  Based on my experience I would totally eat there again, even though there were definitely not as many vegan dishes as vegetarian dishes.  I generally avoid honey because I eat focus on eating  low-glycemically, but at Mitsitam I had to put this restriction aside as many of the side dishes (which would otherwise be vegan) contain honey.  Several dishes were also flavored with maple syrup, which I do not typically eat, and again I had to put that restriction aside when making my choices.

We specifically went before the lunch rush so I could walk around and get a sense of what I could eat and also ask the manager about my options.  I had been really wanting to try the salmon dish and husband wanted to try the bison steak so we ended up with this enormous platter to share:

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I could not get over how much food that platter contained. You can see heirloom bean salad, beans and rice, wild rice and watercress salad, grilled bison (with a berry sauce) and grilled salmon:

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Here’s my plate, which contains heirloom bean salad, beans and rice, wild rice and watercress salad and grilled salmon:

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I picked those three sides as they were dairy-free, unlike many of the other gluten-free sides. I also got the pineapple salsa and the tomatillo salsas to add a little more interest to the rice and beans.  The tomatillo salsa was fine, but the real stand-out was the pineapple salsa.

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My favorite items were the bean salad and the salmon.  The wild rice salad was good but the honey taste was very prominent to me.  I really enjoyed the beans and rice as a vehicle for the pineapple salsa which kept the rice from being too dry.

This was a really fantastic meal. Despite the cafeteria setting, it tasted like a sit-down restaurant meal. The prices were closer to a sit-down meal but the food was delicious, and this was our view from where we sat, which just added to the loveliness of the lunch and the non-cafeteria feel once we were sitting down and eating:

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Honestly, the only reason the prices felt a bit high was because it was not a sit-down restaurant – otherwise, considering the quality, sheer number of allergenic-friendly choices and total deliciousness of the food, I thought the prices were very fair.  I think the key is to focus on the fact that while it is a cafeteria, the food and setting (especially if you make sure to snag a nice seat like we did) are not cafeteria-like and therefore the prices reflect that. While it has been a couple of months since this splendid meal, I definitely intend to go back. I also want to check out the Mitsitam Cafe cookbook that is coming out soon:

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I know many readers do not live anywhere near Washington, so I think it is awesome the cookbook can bring you a taste of the deliciousness.  And if you live in or visit Washington, DC, do stop by Mitsitam.  I think it is a must-try if you have to eat a gluten-free diet (and even if you do not) and therefore I am submitting this review to The Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten-Free Wednesday.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Debi October 30, 2010 at 2:52 am

That is so awesome! I love finding restaurants where the people are really knowledgeable about gluten and food in general. I love that they have the wild caught and grass-fed options. I don't think I'll be in D.C. anytime soon, but I'll definitely have to check out their cookbook. :)


2 Maggie October 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Looks like a great place Valerie! You're lucky to have it nearby. Next time I'm in Washington, DC (which will be my first time!)I will definitely go there! Maybe we could meet you guys there :)


3 WendyGK November 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for sharing this wonderful place for gluten-free eating. The food looks so fresh and colorful. Heading to DC in May, so any GF restaurants are appreciated.


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