D.C. Dining

First of all, thank you all for the very sweet response to the last post. M.–who I can assure you is worthy of the excitement you all shared in your comments–actually mentioned last night that the feedback to that post made clear how caring my readers are. As a blogger, I often forget that I’m not only sharing recipes or thoughts about veganism: I’m offering you all the chronicle of a life. It’s something I never set out to do, and yet it’s become one of the most rewarding parts of blogging for me. Thank you for reading, caring, and watching as my life unfolds.

Aw. I think I just got choked up.

Let’s switch topics, then, to food. One of my favorite pastimes in the world is to eat vegan in new cities. I may live in America’s vegan capitol (my PDX and L.A. readers are protesting from afar, and to you all I proffer a loving “whatever!”), but nothing beats the fun of sampling vegan food that you can’t get at home. My favorite dining excursions of the past year have been Karyn’s on Green in Chicago and Millennium in San Fran (I am still drooling over that meal). Now I’m adding a few of D.C.’s green eateries to that elite list!

The fun began on Friday night, when M and I hit Restaurant Nora for a special dinner. This restaurant, as the website will tell you, was the country’s first certified organic eatery. It’s apparently well loved among environmentalists and politicians, and from the looks of the crowded entryway on Friday night, it’s generally popular with local diners. M. and I were seated in a side room, which was nice and quiet (and what both of us wanted). We’d asked for a vegan meal, and weren’t sure whether or not that would mean a prefix or ordering a la carte. In the end, it meant the latter, and our waitress was very patient in running through the vegan options. I was a little heartbroken that the autumn squash soup couldn’t be veganized (I guess the cream topping was partly mixed into the soup), but quickly realized that orange vegetables are the last thing I need more of! Instead, we began by splitting the roast beet salad.

I’d called ahead and asked about bringing my camera to photograph the meal, but the staff at Nora’s had said that food photography was a no-no. M., however, was happy to be a stealth photographer with his iPhone, and caught the photos in this post surreptitiously each time a course was served. It was a covert op triumph–thanks M!

The beets were perfectly cooked, and a great way to start dinner. Next up, we each had a salad. I went with local greens, smoked almonds, roast pears, and an orange vinaigrette. The original dish had cheese on it, which of course I asked them to omit. It was delicious! These smoked almonds were sort of supernaturally tasty.

Pardon the cleavage, kids.

M got the hearts of palm salad with mango and microgreens. I’m sorry to report that he was less impressed with his salad than I was. But it sure was pretty:

For our main course, we both ordered a vegan version of the restaurant’s chanterelle risotto with leeks, fall squash, fennel, and tomato. We loved it, but there was a slight moment of panic when I began eating: I was sure I’d gotten a piece of chicken in the dish. M tasted it and was equally panicked at the thought. We decided it had to be a vegetable, and that we should stop freaking out: the restaurant, after all, is well known for veg*n accommodations, and wouldn’t mark a dish inaccurately.

As it turns out, I’ve never eaten a chanterelle mushroom before. Some Google searching indicates that the texture is indeed dry and a little meaty. Mystery solved, anxiety abated. And here’s the wonderful dish:

Finally, we decided to split a poached pear for dessert. Neither of us is a dessert person, but we loved it.

In all, this was a perfect first meal in D.C. I appreciated the local and seasonal thrust of the Nora’s menu. As always when I eat at fine dining establishments, I wished that more of the menu items could be vegan without modification: why restaurants insist on putting cheese in each and every salad, for example, is a mystery that I’ll truly never understand. Can we not wrest ourselves away from dairy, even as we enjoy our greens? On the whole, though, Nora’s was an easy menu to navigate as vegans, and we both loved the food. Hopefully I’ll come up with a risotto dish to equal Nora’s at some point soon!

The rest of the weekend, as you know, involved pressure cooking. But on Sunday, M took me to Sticky Fingers Bakery for some vegan cookies. I’m spoiled by Babycakes, and was thus prepared to be a tough critic, but I knew I’d met my match as soon as I smelled the Sticky Fingers interior. Sugar, Earth Balance, and chocolate were in the air. Yum. Though we’d intended only on having a treat at the bakery, we were both hungry, so we split two sandwiches. The first was a tofu “eggless” salad on whole grain, which was light and delicious, and the other was a grilled Daiya cheese on whole grain with tomato and tempeh.

Holy yum! This was nearly as good as my mother’s grilled cheese (I said nearly, Mom, don’t worry), but totally cruelty free. We gobbled these down in an instant.

While I caught the sandwiches for you, I didn’t manage to catch the sweet and salty cookies (a chocolate chip cookie spiked with something that tasted a lot like salted caramel). Why? Because we’d eaten them. Quickly. They were insane. This place is immediately on the agenda for my next D.C. visit!

Between home cooked meals, fine dining at Nora’s, and comfort food at Sticky Fingers, I think I had the best of what D.C. had to offer. And I look forward to trying more vegan spots there–a reader yesterday mentioned Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, which sounds pretty intriguing. Till then, I’ve been left with very fond foodie memories.

Any D.C. residents in the audience? What are your favorite spots to eat?


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  1. I’m a bit late in reading this, but I live in Arlington and sticky fingers is always a treat since it’s a bit of a trek from where I live. So when i go i always stock up and then stick them in the freezer so they’ll last a while ๐Ÿ™‚
    I also loooooooove Bus Boys and Poets, Java Green, Cafe Green, and Toscana Grill (in Arlington next to the Courthouse Metro).

  2. I always wanted to try this place when I lived in DC but I never had the money. Thanks for sharing your review!

  3. And thank you for sharing your life chronicle with us. It has been a joy to read ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. ive heard good things about java green..the day i went – a sunday i believe – it was closed ๐Ÿ™
    when we visited DC we hit up busboys and poets which was pretty good as well as a Mediterranean place called neyla (also a winner)

  5. Looks like a perfect meal (with perfect company). If you ever come to Dallas or Austin, let me know and I’ll take you out for a vegan meal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Everlasting Life is LIFE CHANGING! You must, MUST go there. It’s soul food, all vegan, and absolutely incredible. Their mac & cheese is the best i have ever had and I also love their chicken sandwich and they have vegan soft serve, raw salads, smoothies, and soooooo much more.


  7. Those pictures are classic. Almost like trying to catch a person in the act of picking their wedgie.

    This post also makes me want a grilled cheese sandwich with some homemade tomato soup soooo bad

  8. Welcome to DC – I grew up in New York but have lived here quite some time now. I find myself going out to eat and hanging with people with many different eating styles, many of whom just want ‘regular food’. Accommodating everyone is so tricky, but I have found the perfect place – Busboys and Poets. It is my neighborhood (U street/Cardoza), and it is the best! I take my friends there all the time. It has some wonderful vegan choices which are actually marked ‘vegan’, as well as a large diverse menu for everyone. The food is really good; At one time or another I’ve have tried all their vegan/healthy stuff. And to top it off, it is a socially conscious place with lots of stuff going on – and is kinda fun and funky. You would think I own stock there but I don’t, just wanted to share.

  9. Mmmmmmm Sticky Fingers! Next time you’re here, I’d recommend Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan (delicious)! Also, I can’t vouch for these places, but I’ve heard good things about Everlasting Life Cafe and Soul Vegetarian’s Exodus.

    So glad you were in DC, hope you come back soon!!

  10. I live 4 blocks from Sticky Fingers. Their Peanut Butter Fudge cupcake rocks my socks off! So glad you enjoyed DC!

  11. Your meal looked so good. I totally agree about the cheese in salads, it’s really annoying. It’s hard to find a variety of delicious vegan meals at restaurants in San Antonio. Meanwhile I’ll just drool over your pictures…

  12. Looks like a great meal! I’ve never visited DC but I’d love to go.

  13. Wow, everything looked great! I am so happy for you! ๐Ÿ™‚ Is M a vegan?? What a catch! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sending you love! XO

  14. wow i had no idea D.C. had so many vegan options! i love all kinds of fungus :p i wish morels weren’t so expensive. i love rehydrating them even though it smells like gym socks. hope you continue to have the best time with M!

  15. I haven’t been too impressed with finding all vegan eateries in DC. Sticky Fingers is out for obvious glutenous reasons. Java green is OK but the raw menu last time was not available–annoying. Elizabeth’s is not open while I am here. I wish there was something more consistent! I am making do and making meals and it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not NYC.

    Thanks for the review!

  16. Hey There! So excited to seeing you enjoy life, enough to leave nyc even! I am not a dcer, but there is a great bookstore that serves brunch there, it’s my two favorite things in one!

  17. I’m so glad that you enjoyed DC. I just spent my entire summer in DC for an internship and LOVED it. I went to Zaytinya during my last week. It’s a Mediterranean tapas place, and it’s amazing.

    I’m moving back to DC next fall for my full time job after college, so I am anxious to see more posts from this lovely city =)

  18. “I often forget that Iโ€™m not only sharing recipes or thoughts about veganism: Iโ€™m offering you all the chronicle of a life. Itโ€™s something I never set out to do, and yet itโ€™s become one of the most rewarding parts of blogging for me”–

    THAT is why I blog. I started blogging about food and recipes, quickly realized that since I dont whip up a new masterpiece daily (and don’t want to!) that my blog was going to be about my life, too. Not just my recipes. It’s sharing about my life, meeting great friends ๐Ÿ™‚ and finding a sense of community that keep me going. If it was just about food, I would have quit a longgggg time ago!

    Love that things with M are going so well! Cleavage, cell phone photos (what a rebel he is!) and all ๐Ÿ™‚

    And mushrooms that can pass for chicken, I can believe it. They can be pretty hearty. But I am of course loving the sounds of the (unpictured) and gobbled up..cookie!


    Have a great day!

  19. Oh, thanks for reminding me I need to try Millennium soon! ๐Ÿ™‚ And this place looks simply divine.

  20. As if it was an accident your cleavage made it into those photos.

    You are so BUSTed, M.

  21. I go to college in DC, but I don’t dine out nearly as often as I’d like to so I’ll be taking notes on this post! I do enjoy Lebanese Taverna though. Lots of delicious and accidentally vegan dishes there.

  22. Yay! I love it when people visit my city and have a good food time ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m an ex-DC resident as of 3 months ago but it was were I was born and raised. Like most people have already mentioned, Java Green/Cafe Green are must-gos! In all honesty, I prefer Java Green by FAR. Everything there seems to have more flavor and almost everything actually is vegan at this point (and their raw options are delicious too!). If you do want more of a Cafe/sit-down experisnce though, Cafe Green is the way to go. Either way, I don’t think you can really go wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. I’ll third Cafe Green. It’s across the street from my apartment, so I spend a lot of time there. The brunch — tofu scrambles with veggie chili, hearty pancakes, tasty veggie sausage, mouthwatering rice milkshakes — is consistently outstanding. The lunch and dinner entrees are a bit less reliable in my experience, but the vegan mac and cheese blew my mind. I want some right now.

  24. Keep blogging your vegan blog travels because I’m making a list of places to go! (I’ll be in S.F. in January and will refer to your blog posts!)

    Did you know we have a new vegan bistro in NYC? V-Note opened last week; I went last night. Excellent starters and good entrees. I hope they make it!

  25. Glad you had such a nice time in Washington ๐Ÿ™‚

    Elizabeth’s Gone Raw is very very good – I went this past Friday (they only do a monthly or bi-monthly seating while they grow) and was very impressed. I had previously had some of the food at Veg Fest and know Elizabeth because we both go to the same yoga studio, and the thought and care behind each menu is wonderful. She’s lovely as well ๐Ÿ™‚ What is nice about all the menus there is that they are delicious and raw and vegan, but use very familiar flavors (like with the coconut curry raw noodle dish this past Friday) that would appeal to all, whether they are raw, vegan, both or neither.

    Other favorites – I like Cafe Green and Java Green. Cafe Green is vegan, while Java Green is vegetarian (the only thing that keeps it from being vegan is a handful of menu offerings with cheese). I also like Jaleo (lots of vegan options, and veganizable options), Zaytinya and Oyamel. The key at all three is to ask for their No-Dairy and No-Egg allergy menus and cross-check.

    Finally, I love love love Firefly. Their vegetarian entree is always easily veganized, and several of their sides can be made vegan and together make a truly wonderful meal (fennel green onion quinoa, yum). Honestly, I have been happier with my meals at Firefly than the one time I went to Nora. NOra was good, but Firefly seems to be slightly better.

    Glad you had a nice time in DC and with M ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. I’d highly recommend Java Green, Cafe Green or Toscana Grill on your next visit! I’ve also heard good things about the vegan soul food at Soul Veg.

  27. Did you spot any of the D.C. Housewives? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Beautifully presented meals! I haven’t been to D.C. since a 7th grade class trip, and I can’t remember where we ate…

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