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By Priya Konings

So last Tuesday, I met my new best friends. They don’t know that yet, but I’m gonna to make it happen. Who am I talking about? Todd and Ellen Gray, owners of Equinox, one of DC’s oldest and most endeared restaurants. Kind, funny, and charming is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Todd and Ellen. Their restaurant Equinox showcases all that is good about fine dining in DC. The restaurant exudes a clean, sophisticated vibe that prioritizes all the features which restaurants that are as old as Equinox know they must prioritize in order to last: impeccable service, a really great wine list, and a profound commitment to the food they are making. (New restaurants take note: No one want a server who doesn’t even know what’s on the menu, a fruity cocktail is never an appropriate substitute for wine, and pretentious food is your ultimate downfall).


But what makes Todd and Ellen really great is that while their restaurant has been here for a long time, their cuisine is modern, and what is modern today? VEGETABLES. Of course, Todd and Ellen have always known that vegetables are where it’s at, but finally the rest of the world is catching up. To celebrate this new movement, this fun-loving couple has devised the coolest cooking challenge ever: Vegan Smackdown!

Basically, each month Todd calls upon his friends to submit a meat dish and he will create a vegan version. In April, that dish is Spike Mendelsohn’s Obama burger. Chef Todd has created a powerful vegan version of the burger, with a meaty tasting black bean quinoa burger, made with smoked walnuts, topped with shiitake bacon and pickled onions served on a multi-grain bun with crunchy housemade potato chips. I ate mine so fast you wouldn’t have believed it was ever on my plate.

In May, the challenge is Jamie Leeds’ BBQ’d oysters, and what Chef Todd has made is truly remarkable. Using seaweed he created a crunchy, edible shell, filled with BBQ’s oyster mushrooms that are drenched in a delectable sriracha cashew cream sauce.

Right now, the Flotus burger is available on the lunch menu for $16. Next month, the oysters will be offered as an appetizer and as a bar snack. If you ever needed an excuse to visit Equinox every month, now you have it! Oh, and save room for their vegan desserts: the banana napoleon is to die for.