Let me start by putting some baseline qualifications out there.
Too many times a restaurant advertises a ‘vegetarian option’ and that ends up being pasta primavera, portobello mushroom steak, a veggie burger, or even worse: garden salad. I enjoy all of these at times, but for that to be the only ‘option’ for a vegetarian is sad.
On the other end of the spectrum, restaurants don’t need to be 100% vegan or vegetarian in order to earn frequent visits from me.
I look for a restaurant with waiters that know what their dishes contain, and if a dish is or can be made vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.
All that said, I provide here a list of restaurants in D.C. where vegetarians can eat comfortably.
- Busboys and Poets: There are a number of locations around town, but all share a range of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options on their menu. I’ve found them good for brunch and for small plates in the evening. Their cozy spaces also include small bookstore areas and coffee bars.
- Eat Fare Well: Located on H Street, this spot is great for brunch and more. All plant-based menu, you can even find nut-free, gluten-free and soy-free items on their menu. It’s a small diner experience with a hipster twist, and they also have a very tempting vegan bakery.
- Equinox: Located downtown near the White House and convenient to Metro, there is also a parking garage right next door. Reservations are a must for the Sunday Vegan Brunch (buffet style). Chef Todd Gray is usually on site, sometimes even running a tofu scramble station himself. On occasion the staff will bring out an amuse-bouche for diners to sample. It’s a true fine dining experience, and it’s all vegan! The rest of the week the menu includes meat, but there are always veg options, and you can select a plant-based tasting menu for dinner.
- Fancy Radish: I visited the owners’ Philadelphia restaurant, Vedge, and was really excited when they came to D.C. Located on H Street, it’s open for dinner and happy hour only at this point. Reservations are recommended, but they do serve food at the bar. Their menu is ‘medium plates’ meant for sharing. We had a table of four people, and each of us chose two dishes. Even our omnivore friends were stuffed by the end. (added Jan. 15, 2018)
- Harmony Cafe: On M Street in Georgetown. This is a traditional Chinese restaurant, but they have a full veg menu, and they have been reliable for eat-in or take-out for me for over 15 years.
- HipCityVeg: One location in D.C., right across from the Capitol One Arena, which makes it a great (and popular) stop for a quick bite right before a concert or game. This is a tiny fast food counter shop with maybe 15 seats in the restaurant, so it’s great for take-out. IMHO, the best item on the menu is the Crispy HipCity Ranch chick’n sandwich, with a side of sweet potato fries.
- NuVegan Cafe: One location in D.C., one in College Park, Maryland. This fast casual restaurant serves all-vegan food and smoothies in a cafeteria/buffet style, or for take-out. Their menu is strong in southern American recipes like grits, fried chick’n, collards, and macaroni and cheese. Sometimes you can find their food truck downtown. I highly recommend the chick’n drummies with jerk sauce.
- Smoke and Barrel: In the heart of Adams Morgan, D.C. you’ll find this joint. Beer, barbecue, bourbon is their motto and they have great selections of each. Surprisingly, they have great vegan proteins to slather in their spicy sauces. At brunch, they offer vegan French toast, tofu scramble and awesome grits.
- Soupergirl: Two locations in D.C., plus appearances at local farmers markets. All plant-based food, mostly soup. That doesn’t mean the menu is only for cold weather, though. There are also cold soups!
- Sticky Rice: Located on H Street near lots of fun bars and clubs. Aligned with locations in Baltimore and Richmond. The highlight here is vegan and vegetarian sushi. They also have giant noodle bowls and buckets of tater tots.
Did I miss something? Please post places you’d recommend in the comments, and I’ll update the list down the road.