Falls Church residents on special diets don’t have to go far to find a restaurant to cater to their needs. Local restaurant owners and managers have plenty to offer customers who have particular dietary requirements.
“Every single day we serve people with allergies,” said David Tax, co-owner of Clare and Don’s Beach Shack with his sister, Rebecca. “We kind of specialize in it. It’s weird because we’re a seafood restaurant. The hardest part is to determine if someone is on a diet or has severe allergies because we use a lot of procedures for them.”
For those with allergies, Clare and Don’s use different utensils, gloves, pans, tongs and cutting boards. Tax named the “Big Three” food allergies that he and his staff are cognizant of: shellfish, nuts and gluten.
“We want people to get what they want. The last thing we want is to make someone sick.”
The restaurant has definitely seen an increase in customers wanting special foods. Over the past five years they’ve seen this demand blossom exponentially mainly due to gluten-free customers.
“Our main objective is to please the customer.”
Pizzeria Orso manager Sara Barrera has also observed an increase in customers who have allergies.
“We have a made-to-order salad for vegans or those who need gluten-free ingredients,” she said and reeled off some of the choices they serve at the restaurant including its hanger steak salad and grilled trout with corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and olive oil, which can be prepared for persons with allergies.
She has a vegan pizza, an English pea ravioli and new diet-oriented items always available. In general, their menu’s very light and uses high quality ingredients from regular items to daily specials.
For those with gluten allergies, everything in Happy Tart Patisserie is gluten-free.
The Falls Church bakery’s owner Emma Cech has dairy-free items, too. She says she’s seen growth in demands for gluten-free foods with two of the store’s top sellers being coconut frosted French toast and a beef bourguignon crepe.
The number of vegans and vegetarians is increasing, too. A change which has not escaped restaurant leaders.
Vegans eliminate all animal products, including eggs and honey, from their diet. They eat fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes while vegetarians generally eat only vegetables and no meat.
Probably the best known vegan restaurant in the area is the Loving Hut. Started by Anh Ly in 2011, the restaurant owner says business keeps getting better and better.
Ly switched from vegetarianism to vegan about eight years ago. When she gave it up, she says her stomach aches disappeared and now her arthritis is almost gone.
She says vegan food helps combat global warming by emitting fewer greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s healthier, going from meat to vegan. You lose weight and you feel better and are more energized.”
Loving Hut regular Tanika Coates couldn’t agree more. Since she became a vegan six months ago, she’s noticed a definite change in her energy level and a welcome weight loss.
“I don’t feel bloated when I eat now. You can tell a difference when you cut out animal meat,” Coates said. “I will be 40 soon and so many die of heart attacks. I feel like a lot of our health issues come from what we put in our bodies.”
Among the many restaurants at Eden Center is Thanh Van which lists only vegetarian foods on its menu.
Located down a hallway which is filled on both sides with small retailers including restaurant competitors, Thanh Van has bananas, other fruits and vegetables, spring rolls, “bacon” with flour and soybeans, tofu and several different kinds of noodles.
A Vietnamese family, Oanh-Ha, Gai-Ha and Tong Luong have operated the restaurant for eight years in three different locations at Eden Center.
For those requiring gluten-free foods, Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant has a special section on its menu just for them.
Unlike many restaurants, Sunflower manager David Wang says he doesn’t need to change his menu often since 90 percent of his customers are regular, and they like what is offered. His place of business is well known and attracts customers from all over the District, Maryland and Virginia.
For those requiring gluten-free foods, Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant has a special section on its menu just for them, said David Wang, the manager there for eight years.
Unlike many restaurants he said he doesn’t need to change his menu often since “90 percent of my customers are regular, and they like what we have.” His place of business is well known and attracts customers from all over the District, Maryland and Virginia, Wang said.
For Falls Church restaurateurs, the most popular item on their menu is nothing particular, unless you include the special order most customers have to only request once for it to be remembered.