The time has come for our annual best vegetarian dishes of the year in the DMV article. This is the fourth year we have run this list and it remains one our most popular pieces. Here are all the drool-worthy, vegetable-centric dishes we got to eat in 2019, with a focus on comfort dishes because, well, we all need some comforting. If you missed any of these epic dishes this year this list should basically serve as your to-do list for 2020.
19. Stellina Pizzeria’s Cacio e Pepe Pizza
There is plenty of good pizza in D.C. but one of the best is undoubtedly newcomer Stellina. Their claim to fame is largely due to their cacio e pepe pizza, a genius twist on the famous Roman cacio e pepe pasta. The pizza version of the traditional pasta dish features dough smothered with three different kinds of cheese, cacio di roma, mozzarella, and pecorino, followed by a healthy dousing of freshly cracked black pepper and then the final step of cooking in a wood-fired oven. The black pepper gives the pizza a woodsy finish, as do the just slightly burnt edges of the crust, and the rest is salty, chewy, cheesy deliciousness. If you’re going to be bad, you might as well be really bad.
18. Delina’s Eritrean Kitchen’s Shiro
For those less familiar with Eritrean food, which is not as common in the D.C. area as Ethiopian food: the flavors are very similar to those found in Ethiopian cuisine, but sharper, more pronounced and with added heat from jalapeños and chili powder. At Delina’s there are so many options, but a must-try is definitely the shiro, a creamy, luscious dish made with pureed roasted chickpeas that are simmered for hours with garlic, tomatoes, red peppers and onions. It’s nutty, smooth and perfect for mopping up with piles of injera.
17. Estuary’s Avocado Toast
If you want to have the best avocado toast of your life, this is it. Chewy, doughy ciabatta bread is topped with an entire half of an avocado and then crowned with a perfectly made golden fried egg. A sprinkling of fresh herbs makes it all the more fragrant and lovely to see.
16. Swizzler’s Babe Froman Veggie Dog
Swizzler’s only operates via food trucks and food stalls at various farmer’s markets around the city, but their veggie dog creations are so awesome that it is worth seeking them out. The veggie version of the babe froman features a veggie Field Roast apple and sage dog coated with yellow mustard, onions and a cool cucumber and herb relish. The simplicity is what does it for me. It’s a mustard topped, onion capped street side hot dog – vegetarianized.
16. Mama Chang’s Pan Fried Vegetable Bao
We really don’t have enough options for bao in the D.C. area, and we certainly don’t have enough good bao. I rarely venture over to Virginia, but when I do it’s because I am going to Mama Chang’s for her veggie bao. These chewy clouds are golden on the bottom, vegetable laden in the center, and perfectly puffy on the top. I would order one serving to eat, and one to take home to eat the next day.
15. Call Your Mother’s Impossible Cheesesteak
Call Your Mother is mostly known for their New York-style bagels. On weekends, people line up for those hot-out-of-the-oven bagels blanketed in luscious cream cheese. But I know of an item on their menu that is even better than one of their bagel and cream cheese concoctions – it’s their vegetarian cheesesteak. Impossible meat is cooked with heaps of peppers, onions, garlic and cheese, then stuffed into a warm, house made challah roll. It is sinfully rich and meaty and cheesy all at once. It may be the best hangover dish I have ever had. I was actually a little hungover when I had it, and I have never been so satiated.
14. Birch and Barley’s Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
I love the new vegetarian-friendly menu at Birch and Barley. From wild mushroom fricassee to grilled broccolini garnished with salty Greek feta and fragrant hazelnuts to sweet sugar snaps peas laden with mint and toasted garlic, the choices are all overwhelmingly tempting. At my table, the favorite item was the shaved Brussels sprouts salad, which comes drizzled in a super creamy and savory green goddess dressing and adorned with penny-sized slices of kumquat for a bright citrus note. I have officially found the best Brussels sprouts dish in the city.
13. Supra’s Khachapuri
Supra features many versions of khachapuri, the quintessential Georgian dish. There is a classic version, with just bread and cheese, as well as one served with a glistening egg yolk on top, one with spinach and cheese, one with mushrooms, and one with white beans. The most popular is the classic which is the one I always gravitate to. It is the ultimate comfort dish, heady and warm and oozing with melted cheese. You really don’t need much else….at Supra or in life in general.
12. Rasika West End’s Beetroot Goat Cheese Tikki
Even after all this time Rasika, both the Penn Quarter and West End locations, serves my favorite Indian food in the city. This year, the West End location introduced a beetroot goat cheese tikki where beets and goat cheese are combined to form a patty. Infused with the flavors of roasted cumin, cinnamon, honey and black pepper, these patties are bursting with a warm, earthy, spicy flavor profile, contrasting with a hint of sweetness from the honey and tartness from the goat cheese. Served on a puddle of a beet-infused sauce, this dish is as stunning as it is delicious.
11. Hazel’s Zhug
The vegetable forward menu at Hazel changes often, with a focus on seasonality, but what you can always find is a series of spreads and dips that are staples. The zhug, a jalapeno-cilantro and roasted garlic creation, is a bright, bold spicy-meets-citrus sauce which you can douse on anything and eat with copious amounts of laffa anytime you visit the Shaw restaurant.
10. Oval Room’s Ratatouille Tart
The Oval Room featured a charming Provencal menu during the summer of 2019 and the stand out dish was a gorgeous ratatouille tart. An elegant, freshly baked fennel-infused tart shell came filled with smoked eggplant embellished with colorful roasted tomatoes, spiralized zucchini and pearl onions. It was elaborate but simple, sweet and savory, light and airy – kind of like the perfect trip to Provence.
8. Modena’s Black Truffle Gnocchi
Chef John Melfi has always known his way around Italian food. This summer, Bibiana transformed into Modena with a him at the helm, showcasing a new Italian food menu. He has all kinds of gems on the menu, but his light-as-a-feather gnocchi are truly scrumptious. The little potato dumplings come dusted in wisps of black truffle and flakes of angelic parmesan cheese. It is as opulent as a dish could possibly be.
7. Hatoba’s Ramen
What I love about the Daikaya Group’s ramen shops is that each one features a different kinds of vegetarian ramen, so you always shave different experience depending on which one you visit. Hatoba, their most recently opened ramen venue, offers a tomato curry ramen that is the most unique of all their vegetarian ramens. The broth is savory and infused with a touch of curry, the noodles of course hail straight from Sapporo, and the dish is crowned with a gorgeous whole tomato sphere, sweet and bright. It is ramen done right.
6. Olivia’s Charred Romanesco Cauliflower
As the world slowly becomes more vegetable forward, more and more restaurants are turning towards vegetable heavy menus. Olivia (formerly Nopa) is one such example. While I love Chef Matt Kuhn’s falafel, roasted eggplant and chickpea ravioli, what was most memorable from my dinner there was his charred Romanesco cauliflower. Hunks of brightly colored Romanesco are served smoky and charred on a bed of creamy, slightly sweet but also earthy house made hummus. Topped with crunchy, acidic pickled carrots, a smattering of jewel-toned pomegranate seeds and garlicky chermoula, this is a dish will entice all your senses.
5. Anju’s Palace Ddukbokgi
Our city has been lacking in Korean options, but Anju is here to save us. The highlight on their menu are the chewy rice cakes, which are kind of like gnocchi but cylinder shaped and made of rice. The texture is chewy but also light and fluffy, hence the similarity to gnocchi. Tossed with earthy wild mushrooms, braised lotus root and a sweet soy sauce, this dish is so comforting and flavorful it will forever represent Korean food for you.
4. Oyster Oyster’s Pumpkin Stew
Technically, Oyster Oyster has not evened opened yet. I was lucky enough to sample some of the restaurant’s upcoming goods at one of their pop-ups recently, and I can tell you everything I tried was heavenly. The venue, with its “vegetable cookery” theme, has been having pop-ups all over town in anticipation of its opening, and if the actual restaurant is half as good as the pop ups it will be a raging success. The winning dish for me was their mushroom pan roast, where meaty oyster mushrooms came swimming in a hazelnut cream infused pumpkin broth, drizzled with more hazelnut cream and chili oil. The broth was sweet and silky, and the mushrooms add just the right amount of texture and heartiness.
- Shouk’s Veggie Hummus Bowl
Shouk shook us with their veggie burger, their falafel and their mushroom shawarma and they are doing it again, this time with their hummus bowls. The hummus bowls feature a bowl of silky, fluffy, nutty hummus with three different topping options. The first is a falafel bowl option, where the hummus is topped with falafel, picked green cabbage and tahina, the second is a mushroom shawarma, and the third is the veggie hummus bowl, which is the best one. Pickled red cabbage, a bevy of fresh ingredients, including cherry tomatoes, chick peas, and radishes, and the creamiest tahini you will ever taste are served on the bed of hummus. Healthy + delectable = the ultimate win.
2. Emilie’s Champon Noodles
I am a noodles for life kind of person. I love noodles from every country, in any kind of preparation. In 2019, the best noodles I had were at Emilie’s. Chef Kevin Tien’s champion noodles are superb; ramen noodles are swirled in a miso butter infused sauce, doused in black pepper and adorned with celery leaves. I know, I had you at miso butter.
1. Piccolina’s Spinach Lasagna
Piccolina, Centrolina’s little sister, has really been giving her sibling a run for her money. With cheesy crepes and buttery egg sandwiches, people are lining up out the door to sample some of this City Center venue’s goods. Everyone loves the breakfast fare, but the best dish is actually on the all day menu: the spinach lasagna. Hunks of spinach are layered between sheets of freshly made pasta, velvety ricotta cheese, and fresh, fragrant tomato sauce. Blanketed in mozzarella cheese, which is a crisp, bubbling golden brown after being cooked in the wood-fired oven, this is the lasagna that will solve all your problems.