Vegan Eats in the Nation’s Capital
Restaurant Guide by Erica Meier From August 2006 issue of Satya Magazine
When most people think of Washington, DC they think politics—past and present. Visitors marvel at the Washington monument, stand at the gates of the White House and stroll around the National Mall. You can hardly turn a corner without stumbling upon a famous landmark or historic federal building.
The nation’s capital is indeed rich with politics and history, but it’s also brimming with some of the hottest and tastiest spots for vegan eats. So put down your camera and pick up a fork: the DC-metro area is home to hundreds of restaurants catering to the demand for delicious and innovative, cruelty-free fare. After a long day of sightseeing, hop on the Metro or take a short drive outside the city and discover some amazingly memorable vegan-friendly destinations!
Whether you’re craving breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, we’ve highlighted a few of the best, all-vegetarian eateries in the area.
Java Green Nestled in the center of DC’s bustling business district sits Java Green, an independently owned café that doubles as a haven for DC vegans. Using local and organic produce whenever possible, the nearly all-vegan Korean-inspired menu includes savory mock meat dishes such as “Chicken” Jab Che and Seoul “Chicken” Salad. Wash it all down with one of their specialty drinks that you won’t find anywhere else in town—try a soy XO green tea frappe or the soy strawberry milk shake! As an added bonus, on the third Saturday of each month, Java Green donates 15 percent of all sales to Compassion Over Killing! Saturday also happens to be the day they offer their amazing vegan brunch. 1020 19 Street NW (at K Street), (202) 775-8899, www.javagreen.net.
Nirvana Also located in downtown DC, Nirvana is an enchanting, family-run restaurant with a delectable all-vegetarian menu. Upon first glance, one might write it off as just another place to get samosas and curry dishes, but Nirvana is unique for their lunch buffet. With no routine lineup, options change daily to reflect different regions of India. Affordably priced, it’s no surprise that lunchtime at Nirvana can sometimes get chaotic, but, as evidenced by the swelling crowds, it’s well worth it. 1810 K Street NW (between 18 and 19 Streets), (202) 223-5043, www.dcnirvana.com.
Pedro and Vinny’s Formerly known as “Honest to Goodness Burritos,” Pedro and Vinny’s lunch cart may not look like much at first, but the long line that wraps around the corner during lunch time tells another story. At this all-vegetarian burrito stand, only open on weekdays during lunch hours, you can grab a quick and hearty meal for around $6. Steamed tortillas come in five different types, but the real variety is in the hot sauce—you can top off your burrito with up to 30 different kinds, some of which are even homemade. 1500 K Street NW (south corner at 15 Street), www.pedroandvinnys.com.
Soul Vegetarian Soul Vegetarian, located in a cozy converted row-house near Howard University, is often touted as DC’s oldest vegan restaurant. One forkful of their famous mac ‘n’ “cheese” and you’ll know why everyone sings the praises of this local institution. Other popular dishes include the BBQ twists, steak and cheese sandwich and lasagna. Another crowd pleaser is their Sunday brunch menu—all-vegan and all-delicious. 2606 Georgia Avenue NW (near Euclid Street), (202) 328-7685, www.soulvegetarian.com.
Sticky Fingers Bakery Be prepared to indulge at this award-winning, all-vegan bakery, conveniently located in the heart of Adams Morgan. First famed for its “deliriously delicious” Cowvin Cookies, Little Devils and Sticky Buns, Sticky Fingers’ irresistible allure also includes decadent scones, cakes, muffins, brownies, Boston crème pies and vegan soft serve ice cream! Call it an addiction, but vegans and non-vegans alike flock to this trendy bakery. It’s simply the best place in town to satisfy every sweet tooth. Did I mention the Sticky Buns? 1904 18 Street NW (between T and Florida), (202) 299-9700, www.stickyfingersbakery.com.
Vegetate Despite being the youngest member of DC’s vegetarian restaurant scene, Vegetate is quickly making a name for itself as a stylish vegan destination. The simple yet elegant décor matches their healthy and natural food philosophy. With an emphasis on local ingredients and artful presentation, the nearly all-vegan menu rotates frequently; you’ll always find fresh and unique dishes, many with an international flare. Most items are made from scratch, including the mock “bacon” served during their Sunday-only brunch. 1414 9 Street NW (between O and P Streets), (202) 232-4585, www.vegetatedc.com.
Great Sage Located on Clarksville’s Conscious Corner, Great Sage is an award-winning gourmet vegetarian restaurant with a sumptuous menu that’ll please even the most die-hard carnivore. With a strong emphasis on vegan fare, not-to-be-missed dishes include the vegan Caesar salad, a meatless meatloaf served with mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, and spicy jerk seitan. Make sure to save room for the hot fudge lava cake a lá mode—this alone is worth the 30-minute drive from DC! Nearly everything is made from organic ingredients, including the wine and beer. 5809 Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, MD, (443) 535-9400, www.great-sage.com.
Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant Local favorite Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant serves mouth-watering Japanese-Chinese fusion cuisine made primarily with organic ingredients. Those who haven’t yet dined at this bright and cheerfully decorated restaurant—complete with smiling sunflowers from wall to wall—are missing out on some of the most flavorful mock meat dishes in town. The “fried chicken” appetizer is a must, while popular dinner items include As-You-Wish Garden (pan-fried noodles, mushrooms and mock meat) and Sunflower Satisfaction (sautéed vegetables, mock meat and chick peas in a mildly hot, sweet orange sauce). 2531 Chain Bridge Road (Rte. 123), Vienna, VA, (703) 319-3888, www.crystalsunflower.com.
The Vegetable Garden One of the best-known vegan eateries in the area, the Vegetable Garden has been wowing its many loyal patrons—even devout meat-eaters—for more than a decade with heart-healthy, savory mock meat dishes like pecan beef, veggie duck hot pot and General Tso’s chicken. The dinner portions are satisfying, but if you’re really hungry, take the opportunity to try the crispy black mushrooms or brown rice California roll appetizers. Dozens of animal advocates gather here on the first Thursday of every month to support Compassion Over Killing—for over two years the Vegetable Garden has been hosting these monthly funding events, during which ten percent of all sales are automatically donated to COK! 11618 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD, (301) 468-9301, www.thevegetablegarden.com.
Yuan Fu Vegetarian If a meatless retreat is what you desire, then make sure Yuan Fu Vegetarian is on your list. This all-vegan Chinese eatery serves up flavor-filled dishes such as pineapple “chicken,” “Peking duck,” shredded “pork” and even “tuna steak.” And with so many savory appetizers to choose from, it’s tempting to simply order a few and make that your meal. Plan to come back a few times to really get a taste for everything on the menu. 798 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD, (301) 762-5937.