Yesterday marked the beginning of another DC Meat Week (check out our preview for that HERE, btw-ed). This means that leafy greens won’t get their chance to shine (pesticide free, of course) until next week, but we’re here to prepare you for that. Whether you’re a long time herbivore, a novice in the green eating world, or just trying to adhere to your healthy eating New Year’s resolution, we’ve got you covered. We’ve done vegetarian guides in the past, but nothing as diverse or comprehensive as this. Below you’ll find recommendations from our own staff, picks from your favorite district food writers, and DC’s own chef selections from their own restaurants and elsewhere.
Picks from the BYT staff
Drunken Noodle with Tofu (vegan): Very few places in DC have food that is spicy enough and tasty at the same time. Beau Thai offers a a filling vegan dish that has flavor for days. –Jessica Garson
Vegetarian Combo (vegan): Located off the beaten path in Arlington, the vegetarian combo is simply the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had. –Jessica Garson
Gaeng Juet Pak: Any dining establishment that provides a full-fledged vegetarian menu and not just a smattering of sides gets a gold star in my book. I was a vegetarian for eight years before returning to the world of carnivorous dining, but I still enjoy eating lighter and fresher. Often times in DC, that means sticking to vegetarian menus. But winter in DC means biting wind and startling lows, requiring something heartier to warm you up. Enter Doi Moi’s Gaeng Juet Pak: a soup of autumn vegetables, black fungus and tofu. This vegan soup is savory, filling and much more creative than the vegetarian/vegan alternatives to traditional noodle soups you’ll find elsewhere. –Farrah
I’m not a vegetarian, but I did successfully go vegan for the month of July 2013, a time wherein I learned a great deal about Washington, DC’s plethora of vegetarian options. With the acceptance of plant-based diets as a respectable norm now rapidly ascending to a place of being a next-level notion of cool to adopt, the Nation’s Capital has done well in developing tasty vegetarian delights. However, after one meal at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw in NW DC’s Golden Triangle area, it isn’t so much any of the dishes that were a standout (they are, they’re vegan AND raw, (so there’s an added element of “how did they get THAT to taste like THIS”), but the entire experience was so out-of-left-field and intriguing that it made it entirely worthwhile.
Braised Cauliflower – Cauliflower should really be having a little bit more of a moment right now. Mike Isabella (who learned a thing or two about delicious vegetarian cooking while at Zaytinya) braises it, adds chickpeas for a well balanced heartiness and spices things up with fenugreek. Like all best vegetarian plates-if they really work, there is no need to over-complicate things. –Svetlana
Lentil Barley Burger: I know this isn’t a beer guide but they also have pretty solid food. Their entrees rotate quite a bit as they are mostly pretty seasonally-based. My go-to here is their lentil barley burger. It’s tasty and you must get them with the sweet potato wedges AND a beer. –Sepie Moinipanah
Vegetarian Eggs Benedict: A new addition this past year, Mothership looks to establish Parkview as a contender in the local food scene. I have come here a number of times for brunch and recently paid a visit to catch their dinner offerings. I highly recommend the vegetarian eggs Benedict and a side of bourbon-drenched fluffy pancakes. For dinner, it seems their items are more seasonal and change more frequently. I have only had pleasant dining experiences with each visit. I am very much looking forward to see how these guys evolve. –Sepie Moinipanah
The Beet Salad: there are beet salads everywhere these days, but the Oval Room one is, in my opinion, always the best this city has to offer. Tony Conte works his magic with the root, roasting them, and tossing some otherworldly mix of passion fruit, horseradish and and icewine dressing on it, for a dish that is almost too pretty to eat, but you always end up wanting to order two of – Svetlana
Palak Chaat: A must for Indian food enthusiasts. This cuisine is a real staple for me as a vegetarian and they just simply are the best in the city in my humble opinion. There are so many flavorful vegetarian dishes to choose from and it doesn’t really matter what you get but you MUST get the palak chaat. I am certain that there is a circle of Hell for those who do not order this. Give them all of your business and order lots of naan because that’s what you should do. –Sepie Moinipanah
Dirty Vegan: Vegan and gluten free are often confused for being related or one in the same. Sticky Rice not only understands that this isn’t true, but also takes the time to painstakingly label every menu item to accommodate every kind of diner. The dirty vegan noodle bowl is one of the best non-soup noodle dishes in the city, bringing the savory and robust flavor that most vegan plates lack. Their entire selection of vegetarian and vegan rolls is also pretty comprehensive. –Farrah
Isfahan: I am very excited that I will be moving within spitting distance of this place. This is a nice little sandwich shop that you can totally go with your meat-loving friends as they have something for everyone. I am a HUGE fan of their Isfahan menu item. It’s a spinach, leek and other Persian greens in a soufflé form made into a sandwich with mast-o-khiar yogurt spread. Most importantly all sandwiches can be paired with a side of hummus AND Sprecher’s soda. –Sepie Moinipanah
Any seasonal vegetarian taco: Every month, Taqueria Nacional has a new vegetarian specialty taco. You can absolutely build your own vegetarian taco at any time with the array of toppings they have to offer, but the monthly vegetarian offering means more than just peppers and onions. Acorn squash, fried eggplant and many more are featured in this carefully created taco. Also important: the breakfast tacos can be made vegetarian, too. –Farrah
Htipiti: Greek and Mediterranean places are always great fits for vegetarian options because people in those countries grew up cooking with eggplant and peppers and mushrooms as if they were meat. As far bar snacks go, diving neck deep into a bowl of htipiti, dipping those airy breads into it messily is heaven – feta, roasted red peppers and some magical combination of spices – so simple so perfect. The only problem I have with it – the bowl is never big enough. -Svetlana
Crispy Tofu: The best vegetarian dish in DC is Zengo’s Crispy Tofu. Really? Tofu? Yes, its true. This tofu dish is like no other. Enrobed in a crunchy, savory crusty, laid on a bed of steaming bok choy, drenched in a sweet and spicy chili sauce, drizzled with a creamy lemon aioli, and garnished with cilantro: this is tofu transformed into a whirlwind of flavor and texture that you won’t forget anytime soon. Ginger, garlic, sesame: all of best Asian flavors are there in abundance. Go there and get a plate now; it won’t be your last. And feel free to lick the last few drops of chili sauce and aioli off your plate, its too good to waste!!! –Priya Konings
Picks from DC’s food elite
- Jenna Golden, EatMore DrinkMore
One of my favorite vegetarian dishes in the city is the Assaggio di Primi at Acqua Al 2 in Eastern Market. The restaurant offers a pasta sampler which includes a tasting of five vegetarian pastas to share for the table. The pastas are the chef’s choice, but include possibilities such as penne alla vodka, pasta with a broccoli sauce, and fussili pasta with porcini mushrooms. The sauces in each dish are thoughtful and complex, and each course keeps you guessing as to what is coming next! I also love the avocado toasts with sea salt at Cork Wine Bar, and I think the burrata with crispy kale, hazelnut, apples, and tamarind at Mintwood Place is to die for. For those vegetarians that choose to eat fish, it’s hard to beat the trout amandine at Le Diplomate.
Del Campo: Burnt Vegetable Salad, Burrata, Butternut Squash, Sunchokes, Carrots, Smoked Pine Nuts – Sure this spot’s a virtual meat emporium, but you will kick yourself in the vegetarian gut for not ordering this “salad.” The burrata is as soft as a Four Seasons pillow and the blackened veggies are super smokey.
- Malaka Gharib, Runcible Spoon
- Missy Frederick, Eater
Dal Makhni at Bombay Club – Indian food’s always a natural choice for vegetarian-friendly fare, and one of the dishes I can never seem to avoid ordering is the Dal Makhni at Bombay Club. I have no doubt that these slow-cooked lentils are pretty caloric, but they’re worth the splurge.
- Nevin Martell, Writer EVERYWHERE, Author of The Founding Farmers Cookbook
When I’m in the mood to for a hearty vegetarian sandwich, I always hit up Mike Isabella’s G to get a roasted cauliflower sub. Flavorful, filling and umami-rich, it will make even the most diehard carnivore stop in their tracks and say, “You’re right, that is damn good.” If I’m looking for more formal, composed dishes, either Rasika outpost does the trick nicely. I can never say no to the palak chaat, the gobhi mattar or the dal dhungaree. And in the winter, Takoma Park’s Soupergirl is a, well, super place to get thoughtfully crafted, satisfying vegetarian fare that’s guaranteed to warm you up.
- Russell Warnick, Freelance Writer/Blogger EVERYWHERE
As a meat loving diner it’s hard for me to not think of sides when it comes to vegetarian dishes, and possibly my favorite in the city is Estadio’s roasted sweet corn with manchego, lime, Basque chili and aioli. This dish exemplifies everything I enjoy about Estadio, perfectly executed – charred kernels of corn tossed in a salty manchego, a squeeze of lime that balances out the subtle notes from the chili. This dish isn’t always on the menu at Estadio, so when it is do yourself a favor and order it, one per person, perhaps this can be the start of a campaign to make it a permanent item.
One side dish that deserves a place on the entree menu can be found at Mintwood Place, the braised Puy lentils, or if that never happens make a full meal of it by throwing in the goat cheese and beet mountain pie.
Don’t be fooled by the vegetable ramen at Daikaya, it packs a punch in the broth department, more so than the meat bowls, perhaps to compensate for the lack of pork. It’s a bold soup loaded with vegetables including mushrooms, sprouts and carrots to name a few – you won’t even miss the meat (which is offered as an add-on option, but don’t bother.)
I give a notable mention to Etto’s roasted cauliflower pizza, I say notable as it’s technically a meat pizza – you have to request it without anchovies (which I do anyway as I’m not a fan of those pesky things), the breadcrumbs and pine nuts give this pizza a really interesting and unique texture not often found on a pie.
Picks from DC’s own chefs
- Austin Fausett, Trummer’s On Main
- Doron Petersan, Sticky Fingers
Elsewhere: My favorite veg/vegan dish is the Chapchae at Mandu, extra dubu (tofu) and no egg please. It’s beautiful with it’s colorful bright veggies, always perfectly sliced, but the aromas don’t allow me to look for very long. The cellophane noodles evenly absorb the garlic, smoked sesame oil and sesame sauce flavors so that is sheer heaven in each bite.
- Jeremy Shelton, BLT Steak
- Lonnie Zoeller, Vinoteca
At Vinoteca: We serve many vegetarian options at Vinoteca, but one of my new favorites is this Red Cabbage and Beet Salad we just added to the menu. It is served warm and actually grilled, with fresh radishes and a creamy Green Peppercorn dressing. The salad helps ease diners into healthy eating while still providing that warm “comfort food” feel. I marinate red cabbage in olive oil, herbs and spices and then throw it on the grill. Then I adds pickled beets, served warm, with a pickled beet juice reduction, and top off the salad with fresh radishes and a house-made green peppercorn buttermilk dressing. I love the way all of the ingredients play off each other: the red cabbage is herbaceous and garlicky, beets are sweet, reduction syrup is tart, the dressing adds creamy spiciness, and fresh radishes cut through it all and add a fresh crunch.
- Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Ripple/Roofer’s Union
At Ripple: I just started doing a roasted cauliflower dish for Roofer’s Union that got rave reviews at our pop up last night. It is roasted cauliflower with mint pesto, pickled golden raisons and upland cress. I love it cause it is almost meaty because it is roasted at a high temperature to caramelize it.
Elsewhere: As for my favorite veg dish right now it is kinda a combo of some things at Kapnos. George Pagonis’s spreads are amazing and when you order a sampler of three with the fresh pita bread and get the falafel it is pretty awesome. Makes the best Meatless monday ever.
- Will Artley, Pizzeria Orso