I know you all have been looking forward to this all year, our round-up of the best vegetarian dishes we were lucky enough to savor this past year. Many of them are still available, so if you missed out in 2017, make it your 2018 goal to get through this list.
17. Calle Cinco’s Pan con Tomate
This charming new tapas spot has several great dishes; my favorite was the pan con tomate. Its just bread with tomatoes but the bread is super crunchy and drenched in fruity olive oil, and the tomato spread is infused with loads of garlic and herbs. The dish makes for a bold, bright, fresh bite; basically, the perfect tapa.
16. Smoke n Barrel’s Smoked Wings
Vegan wings that is. Made of soy proteins these bad boys are Smoke n Barrel’s number one seller on their menu. They taste deceptively like real wings; I seriously took a double take after my first bite. Chewy, tender, and meaty, you can enjoy these wings dry, wet or muddy. Enjoy them with a cold beer and a side of fried pickles.
15. All Purpose’s Garlic Knots
These huge, fried, buttery garlic knots are not for the faint of heart. They are only for someone who loves bread, butter, and a boatload of garlic. And if you do, and you have these, you will think you have died and gone to carb heaven.
14. Doi Moi’s Bird’s Eye Rice Cake Sandwich
Doi Moi is now operating a sandwich shop inside its restaurant on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, at lunchtime only. The Bird’s Eye pop-up sandwich shop is pretty awesome, with soups, salads, and a super delicious vegetarian rice cake sandwich. The sandwich features crispy, savory rice cakes served on a chewy bun, topped with sweet pickles, shredded carrots, delicate enoki mushrooms and mayo. It is uber filling, and the rice cakes are awesome, really crunchy and flavorful. The herbs and carrots add some freshness and a little sweetness. If you are as bored of the typical Portobello mushroom and roasted red pepper vegetarian sandwich as I am, this sandwich is calling your name. Oh and don’t forget a side of curry fries. Because, well, curry fries.
13. Arroz’s Patatas Bravas
I love potatoes. Everyone loves potatoes. But sometimes, I find patatas bravas in tapas restaurants to be greasy and over-cooked, sloppily smothered in a too-garlicky aioli. But at Arroz, they have perfected the art of patatas bravas. Small squares of layered potatoes are cooked to a crisp (but not further!) and then crowned with a dollop of pimento infused housemade aioli. Each one is looks like a delectably popable little gift. Each order comes with six or seven so you can still share with your dining partners (a quintessential aspect of patatas bravas).
12. Etete’s Injera Tacos
What I love about this dish is not only that it is delicious, but it is wildly creative. Injera serves as a taco shell, which is stuffed with lentils and cheese and collards. It’s fun and new; I’ve certainly never had an injera taco before. All the Ethiopian flavors are there, just in a different vehicle.
11. Daikaya’s Grilled Avocado
It’s so simple, you might miss it. But once you have this dish you will forever be trying to create it at home and it just won’t turn out right. A half an avocado comes with fresh grill marks, holding a puddle of housemade ponzu, served alongside a small mound of wasabi and nori salt. Gently sprinkle the salt over the avocado, take a bite, and let the flavors overwhelm you. Creamy. Salty. Spicy. Smoky. Umami.
10. Baba’s Burek
Baba’s, a small basement restaurant below Ambar in Arlington (operated by the same team as Ambar) offers up a series of small bites, none tastier than their mushroom burek. Housemade pastry is wrapped around a blend of mushrooms and cheese, and then baked to a crisp. The result is an irresistible savory pastry, oozing with melted cheese and earthy mushrooms.
9. Lapis’ Aushak
I love dumplings. All dumplings. But none more than the Afghan dumplings at Lapis. These nuggets are filled with garlicky cooked leeks, smothered in a tomato and lentil sauce and drizzled with a thick, creamy yogurt dressing. They are heartier than most dumplings, and have more flavor than most as well. Chewy, onion-y, and earthy, these are dumplings 2.0.
8. Iron Gate’s Spice Roasted Carrots
At Iron Gate, vegetables are given all the love. Currently, I am enamored with the spiced carrots, which are warm and sweet, served on a bed of tangy yogurt. Harissa adds a hint of heat, while cilantro brings freshness and more color. Order two plates, cuz you’re not going to want to share.
7. Kobo’s Yuzu Cone
Kobo, Sushiko’s restaurant within a restaurant, offers an unbelievable vegan tasting menu every week. One of the highlights on this menu is a fried soy yuzu cone, stuffed with basil and cucumber blossom and micro lettuce and crowned with edible flowers. The trifecta of sweet-salty-spicy, all exploding in one single bite, makes this course one of the most memorable of the restaurant. Visually, it is also one of the most stunning.
6. Maketto’s Lo Mein
Erik Bruner-Yang knows I am madly in love with all of his vegetarian dishes (that asparagus yellow curry?!) but his lo mein literally sings to me. The noodles are swirled in this wonderfully sweet and spicy sauce, tossed with mushrooms and greens and sesame seeds. It’s just.so.good I wish I could eat it every day.
5. Maydan’s Beirut Hummus
When I went to Lebanon this year I had the best hummus of my life, and after coming back to the U.S. I was afraid I was never get to eat hummus like that again. And then lo and behold, Maydan opened and is serving up the hummus of my dreams. This hummus is so creamy, so buttery you will want to bathe in it. Mop up every last bite with their fresh basked bread and then go back the next day and order more. You will never get sick of it.
4. Fare Well’s Pierogies
Pierogis are an underrated dish. At Fare Well, the pierogies are puffy pillows with a chewy pasta that envelopes garlic infused mashed potatoes, served on a bed of spinach and sauerkraut, and topped with a dollop of vegan sour cream. When you are sad, eat this dish and you will be happy. End of story.
3. Mola’s Sweet and Sour Eggplant
The key to this masterpiece is the sauce. The eggplant itself is smoky and earthy, grilled to perfection, but it’s the glossy, silky smooth sauce that keeps me coming back to Mola time and time again to order this dish. The balance of sweet to savory notes is impeccable, a compliment to the meaty, slightly bitter eggplant.
2. Bindaas’ Vegetable Curry
The new Bindaas has all kinds of fresh menu items, including a bangin’ vegetable curry made with hunks of paneer and veggies like green beans and peas and cauliflower that come swimming in a savory, spicy gravy, ladled over saffron rice. Its fragrant and luscious; the ultimate comfort food dish.
1. 701 Restaurant’s Celery Root
This Fall, Chef Bryan Moscato came up with a series of vegetarian dishes designed to mimic classic fall game dishes. I was hesitant. After sampling them, I no longer am. My favorite of his creations was his wood-roasted celery root, a vegetarian version of rabbit rossini. A tender hunk of celery root is crowned with a rutabaga sformato, which is a savory Italian custard. The sformato has a golden crust and the most earthy, luscious flavor. The celery root and sformato are embellished with shards of black truffle, and the entire tower is drenched in a velvety madeira sauce, thickened with brioche. It is a new level of decadence, and I think, the most creative vegetarian dish of 2017.