Friday, March 29, 2013

Vegan Eats in Washington, DC

I've spent a surprisingly large amount of time in the DC area in the last two months: a total of around 25 days. I hadn't realized just how many days had actually added up until just a few minutes ago. My first visit there in January was my first ever to the area and my introduction to it was both gentle and thrilling. There will be gratuitous tourist shots in blog posts in the coming weeks. Over the next few days, however, I hope to stay more focused and share with you the crazy variety of beautiful and scrumptious food I got to enjoy during my stay in North Virginia (NoVA to many locals) and frequent visits into the towns and cities nearby. Although conservative with my borrowed camera during my first stint there, I hauled it out more often earlier this month to snap photos, sometimes to the quiet sighs of my hungry host, who sat waiting patiently.

Devouring the pizza with his blue peepers.
DC has some pretty vegan-friendly places to eat. One experience which was new to me was having the opportunity presented to eat vegan pizza at a number of different regular pizzerias, where they will happily top your pie with Daiya. (At least one place will apparently sprinkle on Daiya if you bring it in yourself, which is sort of silly, particularly if they charge you the same as they would charge for a pie covered in dairy cheese.) Pete's New Haven Apizza (aka Pete's Apizza) was a spot which Gary had wanted to try out, so after a day spent Smithsonian museum hopping, we drove over to its Columbia Heights location and ordered "The Green" -- artichoke hearts, sauteed spinach, oven-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives on a thin crusted pie with delicious rich and tangy oregano-scented sauce and a generous pile of mozza Daiya. It was a little pricey, but quite yummy and a treat for me, since "cheesy" vegan pizza back home in nowheresville Canada is solely concocted in my own kitchen.
A closer look.
For dessert, we drove over to Sticky Fingers on a quest for Cake-in-a-Cup or cheesecake, but were disappointed to find the display case mostly filled up with cookies and a few cupcakes. We watched a customer order what seemed to be the last sticky bun and then Gary piped up and asked if there were more. Lo and behold, a tray was brought out and we indulged. They were enormous and wonderful. I do really like this spot for sweets (don't get me started on their over-priced and bland "regular food" menu), but it doesn't compare to to the bliss that was visiting Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA, whose cheesecake nearly made me cry from happiness a few years ago. (No surprise that their products are even shipped in from PA to a few vegan-friendly restaurants in DC and NoVA.) Sticky Fingers is a hopping little spot with a lot of character, though; I'd gladly visit it again for a sweet treat.

There are two things that are certain when you're visiting the DC area. One is that it has the highest number of Ethiopian restaurants per capita in North America. The other is that those Ethiopian restaurants will offer up a fair number of vegan-friendly dishes. I visited one spot in NoVA during my first visit -- I can't find the photos and don't remember the name of the place. It was diner-like and Gary claimed that the food was so-so and super, super greasy. It was still sort of neat to me, since I'd never had Ethiopian food before. This last visit, though, we went to Ethiopic, a new-ish place with a relaxed atmosphere, enjoyable music, stellar service and decent prices. It got Gary's nod of approval for its fare, which was truly delicious.

Waiting patiently for the food itself this time.
There were two vegetarian sampler platters on the menu and both were priced reasonably. We chose the one with the most options. In the photo below, from the bottom left going counter-clockwise are dinich wot (a mild curried potato dish), shimbra asa wot (spicy chickpea dumpling stew), tikile gomen (a mild potato, cabbage and carrot dish), miser wot (spicy split lentils), kik aletcha (mild yellow split peas), fosalia (Gary's favourite, caramelized green beans, onions and carrots mixed with jalapeno peppers) and gomen (mild simmered collard greens). In the center was a spicy tomato salad, which provided a nice change in texture. The basket of injera, as is the norm in these places, was bottomless.
Way too much food for two hungry vegans to finish off in one sitting.

I can't write a post about eating vegan in DC without bringing up one of the few actual vegan restaurants I got to check out on my trips. Everlasting Life was my intro to vegan "soul food". During my visit in January, I got to try their "ribs" and fried "chicken" and a variety of their salads. A few weeks ago, we went in looking to indulge in their brunch offerings. It was late in the day and since I'm not generally a fan of pancakes or waffles, I loaded up on their sausages, mac and "cheese", roasted potatoes and garlicky kale. Gary, with obviously much more brunchy inclinations, switched out the kale for tofu scramble. The sausages -- some sort of tasty homemade seitan -- were incredible, as all meat subs I've tried at Everlasting Life have been. The mac and cheese of which I've heard so much really hit the "comfort food" spot, and as an unapologetic kale addict I was left pretty damn happy munching away on my greens.

Good eats.
Everlasting Life's an interesting spot. You walk in and through the dining area and all the way down a small corridor to the back where you pick hot and/or cold dishes available to build up a personalized plate on a tray, sort of cafeteria-style. They have specific main hot entrees each day of the week. It's a small room and when busy, it can get a little clogged and confusing in there -- something I experienced back in January after an afternoon getting jostled at . You then head back out to pay with the option of purchasing a bottled beverage or freshly-made juice. On both my visits, I've gotten the Roots Tonic, a drink made of carrots, beets and ginger that's left me determined to buy a good juicer.

To the food fetching area.
The juice bar.
Slowly-sipped gingery goodness.
I'm missing a few odds and ends and completely omitting a visit to a DC Busboys and Poets location during my January visit. There I had the best vegan nachos I've eaten since my visit to Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, CA last year (which I don't think I ended up reviewing, either). Maybe a post on vegan nachos -- and homage to them! -- is in order in the near future? At the very least, over the next few days, I'll be sharing photos from visits to other restaurants in the area outside DC itself and writing more about the vegan-friendliness of urban area.

1 comment:

Abby Bean said...

I've never been to DC, so I'm eating vicariously through you. I knew there was a "Little Ethiopia" of sorts, but the most Ethiopian restaurants per capita? Must visit. Thanks for the heads' up on Sticky Fingers food.