Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Out on the Town - My Favorite Vegetarian Meals in the DC Area

Yes, I love to cook.  But I also love to be fed in a restaurant where people bring me wine and hot crusty bread and then do the dishes after.  Even better is when the waiter or waitress arrives with an amuse bouche, which I translate as "Tasty Two-Bite Food Present of Yumminess."

Now, one would think being a vegetarian might limit your fine (and casual and quick serve) dining options, but rest assured there are plenty of tasty treats to be had in DC.  You  may even enjoy them if you're not veg yourself.  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Dolsot Bibimbap at Mandu.  Mandu is a modern Korean restaurant on 18th & S Streets, in between Dupont and Adams Morgan.  When I was still living in Dupont, my friend Jenn and I, after our regular invigorating vinyasa yoga class, would descend ravenously upon the restaurant and howl until the waitstaff brought us the complimentary pickle tray.  We eventually think there was a picture of us in the kitchen with the words "Do not approach this table without pickles in hand.  We think they may eat you."

But, I digress.  No matter how many times we go and how often we study the menu, we always order the exact same thing, Dolsot Bibimbap.  Bibimbap is a delectable concoction of veggies and rice, with a fried egg.  The Dolsot part refers to a hot stone bowl that said concoction is served in.  When the server brings you this delectable dish, you swirl the egg with the chopsticks in the hot veggies and hot rice and mix together all of the yumminess.  If you eat meat, you can get it with beef or chicken, but the veggie version is mighty tasty on its own.

2. Roasted Baby Beets and Arugula at RedwoodRedwood is a contemporary American restaurant in Downtown Bethesda.  They have a ton of veggie appetizers and sides on the menu, but this one is my favorite, hands down.  First, I love arugula.  I can take out a large clamshell of it in a week.  Then, add roasted beets, and not just beets, but red AND golden beets.  AND, not just red AND golden beets, but red and golden BABY BEETS.  And, just when you think it can't get any more delicious . . . they put GOAT CHEESE on it. 

3.  Kobocha Squash at SEI Restaurant and Lounge.  SEI is a hip, upscale sushi restaurant in Penn Quarter.  When I started this vegetarian journey a year ago, I was still eating fish and a lot of sushi.  When I decided I was ready to give up fish, that was the end of sushi.  But, when out with my sushi loving friends at SEI, I still was able to enjoy a tasty meal of various veggie delights, including the Kobocha Squash, which is sauteed in the most amazing caramel butter.  Kobocha squash is my new celery root - I am now officially stalking it at grocery stores everywhere.

4.  Veggie Burger #1 and Veggie Burger #2 at Elevation Burger.  There are multiple Elevation Burger locations in the area.  The fiance and I are partial to the new one at Park Potomac off of 270.  I normally have to be very careful of veggie burgers due to the likelihood of a high soy content.  But, Elevation Burger's are completely soy free, made with roasted veggies and whole grains.  Veggie Burger #1 has cheese in the mix, and Veggie Burger #2 is vegan.  They both taste great with a side of french fries, which are fried in (healthierish) olive oil.  Okay, fries are not remotely healthy, but man, these are good!

5.  Haloumi Cheese Appetizer at Lebanese Taverna There are multiple Lebanese Tavernas in the DC area.  When I lived in DC, I hit the Woodley Park location, but, as a new Marylander, tend to go to the one in downtown Bethesda.  The entire menu has great vegetarian options, but I am a particular fan of the Haloumi Cheese, which is crispy and salty and chewy and cheesy all in the same bite.

6.  Spring Garden Hoagie at Taylor Gourmet.  Taylor has three locations in the area - I've been to the H Street and Bethesda outposts.  As a native Philadelphian, I am obsessed with hoagies.  DC, as you all may have noticed, is somewhat lacking in this area. However, Taylor's arrival on the scene helped make hoagies possible on a regular basis.  Run by two great guys from Westchester, these guys GET hoagies, and they also bring in Herrs Chips (if you haven't had Herrs, you don't know what you're missing).  Better yet, they have a number of vegetarian options - my favorite, the Spring Garden, pairs broccoli rabe with a sharp provolone with a garlicky dressing on an insanely good, crusty hoagie roll.  I always order the large size so I'll have leftovers and then end up devouring the whole thing.

7.  Pasta Sabrosa Special at Mamma Lucia's.   Mamma Lucia's has umpteen Maryland locations - we tend to hit the one in the Falls Grove shopping center.  Mamma Lucia is a favorite of the fiance's family, so we are there quite a bit.  I got this special once and it was so awesomely good that I asked the servers why it wasn't a regular menu item, and they told me they'd make it for me whenever I came in, and I always take them up on it.  It's orichette (or penne if they're out) with roasted red peppers, artichokes, asparagus, garlic and parmesan.  Tasty!

8.  Sabzi Salad at Sweetgreen.  Sweetgreen is a local chain of salad restaurants.  There are two in Dupont I hit regularly, as well as one in downtown Bethesda.  It's hard to pick just one favorite salad at Sweetgreen, but the Sabzi wins for me for the inclusion of beets, cranberries and quinoa.

9.  Mushroom Loaf at Eatonville.  Eatonville is a Southern restaurant at 14th & V.  I just checked the menu, and sadly, the Mushroom Loaf was nowhere to be found.  However, if they bring it back, order it with a side of Mac and Cheese.   The combination of the two is homey and delectable and some of the best comfort food I've enjoyed in recent memory.

10.  Mediterranean Plate with Falafel at Roti.  Roti has multiple locations in the area, including one a block or so from my office on 18th & Pennsylvania.  Roti has amazing falafel - a ball of mashed and whole chickpeas that, if you're lucky, are available for you to snack on while you're waiting in line.  The place is a smash hit, so the line is often out the door (I promise not to cram anymore cliches into that sentence).  I like the Mediterranean plate, which you can get with falafel and all sorts of veggie sides - tomato & cucumber salad, couscous, eggplant, hummus, etc.

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In other news, I am still making my way through Sunday's lasagna.  Man, this thing makes good leftovers!  Tonight, I paired it with a fresh yellow and red tomato spinach salad with balsamic vinegar:

I've been getting a lot of greenhouse tomatoes lately - they have a nice texture, color and flavor.  Check them out the next time you see them.


  1. You should try Food, Wine & Co. on Wisconsin Ave in Bethesda. That place is super yummy :o) The staff is SO nice, they have a great beer selection, and the food is delicious! Inventive vegetarian options (and fantastic homemade fries, which is a bonus for me)!

  2. Thanks for the tip, Maya. I remember you telling me how much you liked that place. Maybe we can grab a bite there soon!