The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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May 21, 2024

The Black & White’s top diet-inclusive restaurants in Bethesda

With+its+dim+lights+and+leafy+decorations+along+the+walls%2C+Plantas+welcoming+aesthetic+instantly+captures+the+eyes+of+the+average+passerby.
Dani Widra
With its dim lights and leafy decorations along the walls, Planta’s welcoming aesthetic instantly captures the eyes of the average passerby.

A young woman sits in a restaurant booth, her eyes intently perusing a laminated menu. Briefly noticing small labels beneath certain dishes — GF, DF and V — she continues her search for a meal without giving them any thought. While she finds no meaning in those tiny letters, for a certain crowd, the abbreviation triggers a sigh of relief, having found a meal that will meet their needs.

The U.S. has observed an upward trend in veganism in recent years, with as many as six percent of Americans identifying as vegan — six times the percentage in 2014. The reasons for doing so are widespread; considerations include health benefits, preventing the exploitation of animals and lessening the environmental damages associated with meat production. Additionally, about 30% of Americans avoid gluten. Despite these large percentages, it is still challenging for those with dietary restrictions to find restaurants that accommodate their needs. In Bethesda, a handful of restaurants appeal to individuals looking for a more accessible menu.

 

Planta

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With 10 locations throughout Canada and the U.S., Planta is one of a small minority of 100% vegan restaurants in the U.S. The restaurant first opened in 2016 in Toronto, Canada with a mission to provide accessible menus with plant-based dining. With an Asian version of the restaurant named Planta Queen located in Washington D.C. and New York, Planta has made different cuisines more available to the vegan community. 

Planta’s Bethesda location opened in early 2022, marking the beginning of the company’s expansion into the D.C. area. While some may presume the vegan restaurant gets fewer customers than its non-vegan counterparts, Bethesda Planta worker Sonali Hettipola thinks this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. 

“For the amount of attention and social media presence that we’ve gotten compared to a bunch of other restaurants in Bethesda, it’s doing pretty good,” Hettipola said. “We get about 300 reservations just for the morning time and another 300 just for a night, so I would say we’re pretty busy.”

With its dim lights and leafy decorations along the walls, the restaurant’s welcoming aesthetic instantly captures the eyes of the average passerby. Planta is also very environmentally friendly, utilizing little to no plastic for dining and to-go meals. 

“I think what draws people to [Planta] is that you can get pasta, but it’s vegan style,” Hettipola said. “You get a pizza, but it’s vegan style. You get sushi, and it’s vegan. People find that interesting and take it as, ‘I wonder how they make that … I wonder how it tastes?’”

 

Flower Child 

Well-known for its focus on providing diverse and healthy meals for various dietary restrictions, Flower Child accommodates particular allergy requests and crafts customized meals for every customer. The restaurant is filled with bright and exuberant murals that match the menu’s colorful meals and juices, creating a unique and lively aura. Flower Child’s Bethesda location’s menu options include entrees and appetizers such as the Green Chile Queso, Glass Bowl or the Thai Dye, consisting of spicy tofu, Thai basil and avocado carrot.

The chain opened in 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona with a mission to create “healthy food for a happy world,” according to their tagline. Since then, the restaurant has expanded nationwide, opening over 100 restaurants from California to Maryland. Emory, an employee at Flower Child’s Bethesda location, believes the restaurant is extremely flexible in adapting the recipes to cater to customer’s dietary needs. As a vegan, she appreciates that many of the items are accommodating to begin with or can be altered to fit dietary restrictions, she said. 

“One of the things we really try to do here is give people exactly what they want,” Emory said. “We are open to making as many modifications as someone needs to their meal.” 

The name of the restaurant alludes to its uniqueness. A “flower child” is a young person from the 60s and 70s who rejected the traditional values of society. The restaurant embraces nontraditional meals and invites guests to participate in a distinct culinary experience. Junior Abigail Bogdanovsky has always enjoyed her experience when dining at Flower Child. 

“The food was very fresh and filling,” Bogdanovsky said. “I could feel good while eating it because it was not only very tasty, but also nutritious.”

 

True Food  

One of the staple restaurants in Bethesda for those with dietary restrictions is True Food. The restaurant was founded by Dr. Andrew Weil, an author specializing in integrative medicine and healthy living with a mission to promote well-being. Since opening its first restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, True Food has expanded to 42 locations in 17 different states. The menu has a direct focus on providing anti-inflammatory foods, such as lean proteins and whole grains featured in their cuisine.

The restaurant chain provides solely seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, supporting local farmers in the area. The menu features a variety of nutritious plates such as the O.G. Grass-Fed Burger, Garden Pesto Pizza and Spaghetti Squash Casserole, which can all be modified to a keto or paleo diet. 

Ethan, a worker at the Bethesda location, believes that although True Food is considered a chain restaurant, it has a homely ambiance that can’t be found anywhere else. 

“This is one of the few corporate restaurants, in my opinion, that feels family-oriented even though it’s not family-owned,” Ethan said. “We’re all going towards the same goal, which is making sure that the guest is leaving happy and making sure that we’re all providing that service that makes people want to come back.”

 

Josephine’s GF 

As a certified gluten-free bakery, Josephine’s GF provides a different experience than any other restaurant. French owner Jean-Charles Essame opened the Bethesda bakery in 2022 to fill a hole that the gluten-free community didn’t know was missing: a purely gluten-free bakery. His wife’s intolerance to gluten inspired the idea for the bakery, which he ultimately named after his daughter.

Primarily focusing on gluten-free waffles, the menu features savory waffle sandwiches, dairy-free breakfast waffles and sweet waffles with toppings like marshmallows or chocolate spread. 

According to Essame, customers often go out of their way to Josephine’s GF to purchase a gluten-free treat that fits their dietary needs.

“I’ve had a lot of firstcomers come in from all around the DMV,” he said. “Some even drive an hour to get here just to grab something to go [that’s], gluten-free, easy to eat and tasty too.”



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Zhara Thomas
Zhara Thomas, Feature Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I joined the Black and White so I could use my love of writing to reach out to other people. What is your favorite song? Nights by Frank Ocean

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