Over the past 10 years D.C. diners have gravitated more and more towards a plant-based diet. Thankfully, D.C. dining options have been moving in that direction as well. Here’s a list of the ten best vegan dishes I have indulged in this decade. Decadent, international, and wildly creative, these dishes will impress you whether you are a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore.
- Bul’s Soondubu Jjigae
When Bul opened back in 2014 it was D.C.’s first pojangmacha, a spot that serves Korean street snacks. The soondubu jjigae, which is a tofu casserole, has been on the menu since they opened, and has been my favorite dish since my first visit. The soft tofu in the spicy casserole is so delicate and creamy you would think it was mixed with butter or cream. But in fact, this dish is vegan. The tofu comes swimming in a fragrant broth that is bursting with flavor from a fantastic medley of spices and herbs. It is served in a steaming case iron dish with a side of rice. The dish is shareable, but I advise ordering it all for yourself.
- Laos in Town’s Tofu Orm
Once upon a time we had no Laos spots in D.C. and now we have at least three. Laos in Town is relatively new, but a true gem. One of the dishes that was completely new to me when I visited Laos in Town when it first opened was the tofu orm, tofu served in a dill infused stew. The stew is a warm savory broth, laden with herbs like lemongrass, garlic and ginger, fried tofu, hunks of eggplant, and still-slighty-crisp green beans. It’s a Laotion version of comfort dish: you want to eat this when the weather is cold, when you have a cold, or when someone is cold to you and you need a hug.
- Fare Well’s Pierogis
Fare Well is D.C.’s first and only vegan diner; its opening in 2016 was sign of the times: an embracing of plant based foods. There are many dishes to love at this charming diner, but the pierogis will tempt you every time you come to dine. The puffy pillows are made with a chewy pasta that envelopes garlic infused mashed potatoes, and come served on a bed of spinach and sauerkraut, topped with a dollop of vegan sour cream. Super hearty and comforting, you will be thinking of this dish long after you have finished eating it.
- Fancy Radish’s Fondue
It was an exciting moment when the owners of Philadephia’s Vedge opened the Fancy Radish in D.C. Nearly two years later reservations are still hard to get, but when you get in the first item you need to order is their fondue. I will never understand how they are able to turn rutabaga, a simple root vegetable, into a vegan version of cheese fondue. Somehow, the chefs convert the vegetable into a sauce that is so rich and velvety and luscious it is honestly better than any cheese fondue I have ever had. The warm pretzel bread served on the side for dipping is an added bonus.
- Unconventional Diner’s Lebanese Fried Rice
Unconventional it is. This 9th street corridor restaurant serves up fried rice like you have never had it. Infused with spices, the rice is tossed with lentils, raisins, almonds and parsley, then crowned with falafel, hummus and radishes. It is has such a whirlwind of flavors and textures, you will be hard pressed to ever order anything else on the menu.
- Haikan’s Ramen
Throughout this decade, the number of ramen options in D.C. has grown exponentially, beginning with the opening of Daikaya in 2013. My favorite spot is still Daikaya’s sister ramen joint, Haikan, and for good reason. The noodles, flown in from Sapporo, Japan, are irresistible with their springy, chewy texture. The miso-infused broth of the vegetable ramen is silky and super savory, the perfect pool for nestling the noodles and a host unami veggies like mushrooms, corn, bean sprouts, spring onions, and nori. The spice bomb, which is optional (but highly recommended!), is an explosion of heat and flavor. This ramen blows all other ramens out of the water.
- Shouk’s Veggie Burger
Shouk is the fast casual plant based dining venue that shook up D.C. when it opened in 2016. What it did was make plant based dining mainstream. Everyone loves Shouk, and most of all, everyone loves Shouk’s veggie burger. Their burger comes in a pita, instead of a bun, and it is made entirely of plant based ingredients. Super crispy, with whole and mashed chickpeas, it has an awesome texture. The addition of charred onions and tomatoes add a sweet note, while pickled turnips are tart and juicy. The tahini sauce is uber creamy and delicious, so make sure you get a generous heaping. Polenta fries are a great on the side, but honestly, all you really need is this burger.
- Sababa’s Beet Hummus
Sababa is one of D.C.’s few Israeli restaurants, making its opening all the more notable. The menu is full of delicious fare, including a different flavors of hummus which are introduced monthly. The one that stands out in my mind as the most memorable is his beet hummus, where the chickpeas and tahini are blended with pureed roasted beets, then adorned with preserved orange and crushed pistachios. It is so delightfully creamy, with notes of citrusy and a slight crunch from the nuts, you will never want to eat another kind of hummus again.
- Bindaas’ Uttapam
After Rasika, there was Bindaas’, a smaller, more casual Indian street snack themed restaurant. I love the restaurant for many reasons, but most of all because it offers a few South Indian dishes, which are sorely missing in the D.C. dining scene. The uttapam is one of these dishes. Uttapam are kind of like savory Indian pancakes, made of rice and dal (lentils). The ones at Bindaas are topped with sweet corn and peppers, making for a savory-sweet flavor profile. The soft uttapam is the perfect vehicle for the sweet corn, and a dollop of cilantro chutney contributes a bright, fresh element to the dish.
- Brookland Pint’s Kale and Squash Enchiladas
Brookland Pint opened in 2014 with the goal of being an “environmentally friendly gastropub. Hence the number of vegan dishes on their menu. I love their vegan nachos, veggie burger, and falafel pita, but their most exciting dish, and one that I would eat multiple times a week, is their enchiladas. Normally filled with cheese, these enchiladas are stuffed with ‘shrooms, butternut squash, and kale then served on puddle of rich black bean puree. The enchiladas are then blanketed with mole and a vegan cilantro-infused sour cream. The dish is a flavor bomb, with smoky mole, sweet butternut squash, meaty mushrooms and creamy avocado and sour cream.