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Vegetarian dining in D.C.

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.
photo: Fancy Radish's stuffed avocado

Fancy Radish’s stuffed avocado

Did I miss something? Please post places you’d recommend in the comments, and I’ll update the list down the road.

 

Vegetarian visit to Watkins Glen, NY

I have been wanting to visit the Farm Sanctuary in New York for some time. They rescue and house animals rescued from factory farming. Farm Sanctuary has a few locations, but this is the closest to us, and it happens to be close to Watkins Glen, which is on Seneca Lake, famous for its waterfalls and wineries. Bonus!

Day one

WGlen---9We stayed in the Harbor Hotel, on the water at the southern end of Seneca Lake. It’s a lovely place, beautiful large rooms that look out onto the water, and their restaurant has a vegan menu. We found it a bit overpriced and underspiced, but the service was good, and the convenience was unbeatable. As vegetarians who like to travel, we find ourselves doing a LOT of research before we go anywhere, just to be sure we don’t spend our vacation eating salad and pasta primavera.

After our first dinner in Watkins Glen, we strolled down the main drag, Franklin Street. There wasn’t very far to go before we reached the end of downtown. We enjoyed a stroll by the harbor as well; there’s a quaint pier that looks great in the sunset.

Day two

Harbor Hotel has a vegan breakfast menu, too. We ate lakeside and enjoyed the nice spring weather. (It was June, but in New York state, that’s spring.) Then we drove out to the Farm Sanctuary. It was a lovely drive to get there, over hills and past farms, then down a bit of a dirt road. Definitely use the directions from the sanctuary’s website so you don’t get lost.

There weren’t many other visitors when we went (weekday morning), but there were a few people staying in the cabins on site, and we shared our tour with a couple of families. The guide gave a quick introduction on the sanctuary founding and mission, then shared a video with a history of the sanctuary and some advocacy for animal rights and plant-based diets.

Finally, we were off to visit the animals! First, the cows, then the goats, chickens and turkeys, and finally the pigs. In addition, the sanctuary is home to sheep, a steer, a pair of alpacas, and some barn cats. Our tour guide pointed out the animals most open to interaction and let us know what not to do, and which animals we shouldn’t try to pet. WGlen---110

The whole farm was a delight to visit. Lots of caregivers taking care of the animals and keeping their spaces clean. All the animals are named and have definite personalities. It is clear how dedicated Farm Sanctuary is to giving the animals a comfortable home.

I was particularly moved by a goat whose back legs were weakened by poor nutrition. The team got her a wheel chair of sorts to help support her back legs while she recuperates, and they let her buddy goat stay close.

WGlen---109Sadly we eventually had to leave — I was really eyeing the tiny houses and cabins they have on property where you can stay.

The day was still young after our visit to the farm, so we headed out to see what we could find in the way of wineries. Well, there are wineries, breweries, and distilleries all the way around Seneca Lake, and nearly every one has a great view of the lake from their tasting room. Breweries are more our style, and we found one of those, Grist Iron, which also serves some really good pizza.

We visited another brewery and a couple of wineries, then we headed back to town for Chinese food from House of Hong (they have a separate vegetarian menu), and drinks at the Crooked Rooster.

Day three

We walked down to Glen Mountain Market for breakfast bagels, coffee, and some lunch sandwiches to go. It is on Franklin Street, barely two blocks from our hotel. They offer a number of vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, and they had quite a few gluten free baked goods in their case, too. Great start to the day!WGlen---58

Our mission for the day was to conquer Watkins Glen State Park, a beautiful park full of waterfalls. It’s only a couple of miles but there are something over 600 stairs to get through the glen, so come prepared to move. You will also get very close to the falls, so be prepared to be splashed.

The upper entrance also features a pool, lots of picnic facilities, and a lily pond.

We did some shopping downtown that evening, and after dinner, there was a lighting of the harbor, which included art tents, food tents, and live music lakeside.

WGlen---90

That was the end of our visit, but I do think we’ll go back. There are still dozens of wineries and breweries to visit, and opportunities to travel the lake by boat.

 

Most amazing no-bake bites

I am totally hooked on these sweet balls of goodness. Vegan and gluten free, they are yummy for everyone, and it only takes about 10 minutes to prepare. (Plus some time in the refrigerator.)

  • 1 cup dry oats
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup (vegan) chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Dump it all in a big bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed. Spread out, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Then roll into balls of 1″ diameter or so, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You’ll get 20-25 balls, and they’ll last in the frig for a week (if you don’t tell anyone they’re there).

Thanks to Jill of paintedhouses.net for the recipe!

Returning home

We are back from our 10-day cruise. Our first cruise, our first vegan cruise, and our first trip to the Panama Canal. We were on Holland America Line, ms Zuiderdam, with the Vegan Vacation at Sea. It was overwhelming in many ways, but there were a few things that I learned.VVAS2016 - 1.jpg

  1. Cruising is fun. All-inclusive, with so many options for how to pass your time. There were pub crawls, dance lessons, a salon, even a 5k fundraising walk to beat cancer.
  2. Vegan is good. I don’t eat vegan all the time. I eat vegetarian most of the time, and if I eat any animal products they are fish or eggs. That said, we enjoyed vegan food at all three meals for the whole cruise. We also had four vegan chefs as part of our group, there to give us great recipe demonstrations, and now a vegan diet seems much more attainable (and tasty).
  3. Traveling with a group is nice. Not only did we have the luxury of knowing that all our meals would be provided vegan for us, we also knew that we would be sharing our table with other vegan folks. We all started with something in common, and learned more about each other as the trip went on. The ship held over 1,900 people, but we enjoyed getting to know a more manageable group of around 90 people.
  4. It is good to take a break from the news. We had access to national cable news channels on the ship, but we didn’t watch them. We didn’t spend time on the internet. This separation from the 24-7 news cycle really helped me relax.

I got home from the cruise feeling like I just got home from summer camp. I miss all the friends I made, the stupendous Caribbean weather, and of course the inclusive service.

On top of all that, this break is really helping me accept the results of the presidential election. (It did not go my way.) I was able to shake off some of the stress of daily campaign ads and projections before I had to handle the results of the voting. Ultimately, I’ve always been interested in politics, and I feel it’s my responsibility to continue to let my elected officials know what I want them to work for.

My one vote wasn’t enough to turn the tables, nor is one letter to a senator or governor. But thousands of us together can make a difference. No reason to let up our messaging just because the election is over.

Countdown to the cruise

The cruise is so close I can taste it!

I stumbled upon a mention of the Vegan Cruise Planners on Twitter, casually checking in on #traveltuesday. image-1

My timing couldn’t have been better — they were just in the midst of taking reservations for their 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal.

It’s so nice to know that we are not alone. The idea of a cruise has always sounded like fun to me, but as a couple that eats vegetarian, I knew that we would not enjoy 10 days trapped on a boat with nothing to eat but pasta primavera, cheese pizza and the occasional veggie burger.

THIS cruise, however, will host over 100 vegans, and promises to provide us with gourmet vegan menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add to that, Vegan Cruise Planners have planned excursions with vegans in mind, so we know we won’t be subjected to a pork bbq on the beach.

I’m still nervous, since I’ve never been on a cruise before, but knowing that we are literally going to be in the same boat (HA!) with all these other vegans is of great assurance.