With a diet of mostly vegetables, yogurts, meat and rice, any Middle Eastern restaurant is a safe bet for the gluten-sensitive. Agora, in Dupont Circle, is no exception. This Turkish treasure serves up small dishes of the nation’s classics, and is an ethnic goldmine for any gluten-sensitive diner. Their site includes a fully allergen-coded menu, where you’ll see that you’ll be able to consume 90% of the things being pumped out of their kitchen. SCORE. Here are some positives:
Spreads – these are ALL yours for the taking. After all, where is there room for gluten in a spread (dare I ask?) They’re served exactly how you would expect…. with pita bread. But, if you don’t mind the $3 upcharge, you can forego that gluten-bomb of a scoop and request cucumber slices instead. But really, they’re good enough to eat with a spoon. Zero judgment. Can’t decide? Order a sampler, and you get the best of THREE worlds. Their hummus is a must for obvious reasons – rich with tahini and ultra creamy. It pairs well with the tangy labneh, and the htipti full of peppery sweetness.
Salads – straight up produce paradise – no gluten here! Most of these include fruit, and their flavors are accentuated with lemon and herbs. The arugula salad with goat cheese and dates is definitely a favorite.
Cold Mezzes – chilled plates with a variety of flavor. If you’re not down for some lamb brains, head for the vegetables. The dolmades are a Turkish classic that’s hard to pass up.
Hot Mezzes – you know when you walk into a falafel joint only to find out the falafel is bound with flour, and you could just curl up into a ball and weep to no end? Quit your whining – Agora’s aren’t only gluten-free, they’re friggin’ FANTASTIC, and it’s a damn shame if you walk out of there without indulging. Other favorites include the aromatic Ottoman Rice, studded with fruit and nuts, and the Makanek, a lamb sausage that could convert any vegetarian.
Seafood – if you’re a seafood person, don’t be discouraged that some of these are served with bread. You can, and should request them without it. The Garides Tava, sautéed shrimp, is full of spice and fun to share. If you’re looking for something a bit bigger in portion, go for the Branzino. Simply seasoned, and cooked well.
Meats – you can’t go wrong with any of these (unless, of course, you order the Fatteh, which stands atop a mountain of phyllo dough). Like the seafood, some are served on pita bread, but just tell your server you’re only there for the meat and they’ll bring you some of the best chicken and meat dishes around. The yogurt-marinated Shish Tavuk is a solid option for any kabob lover -juicy and full of spices.
Flatbreads – self-explanatory. Womp womp.
Cheese & Cure – there’s never anything bad about cheese, especially in the presence of something sweet. Agora rocks it, serving up fresh sheep and goat cheeses with accompaniments like fig jam, orange marmalade, toasted almonds and honey. They’re good to start, and good to finish (if you’re not too full!)
Do yourself a favor – the next time you’re down for something ethnic and authentic, head to Agora and get your Turkish delights without having to worry.