Long a paradise for meat lovers, Washington, D.C., still has its share of steakhouses. But several restaurants, both fast-casual and fine-dining, make produce the star of the plate. That’s welcome news for vegans and vegetarians, of course, but also for omnivores seeking farm-fresh, creative fare.
To pick up on this trend, follow our guide below to restaurants where veggies rule. While some restaurants on this list are not exclusively vegan or vegetarian, we have included dining establishments with excellent vegan and vegetarian food options.
Elizabeth's Gone Raw: The joy of not cooking
In a city where new dining concepts regularly bubble up, Elizabeth’s Gone Raw remains an original. After a breast cancer diagnosis, caterer Elizabeth Petty embraced a vegan, raw-food diet and since 2009, she’s been sharing her enthusiasm for it every Friday night inside an L Street townhouse north of McPherson Square.
But don’t be fooled—this is no earthy, or crunchy affair. The evening begins with organic cocktails and spicy kale chips at the glowing marble bar. Then patrons ascend a staircase to the elegant upstairs dining room for chef Jonathan Seningen’s inventive, six-course menu. No ingredient included in the menu is heated above 115 degrees, to maintain natural enzymes. As sommelier Phillip Heyser advises on natural wine pairings, dishes appear like cantaloupe soup with lemongrass and pickled red onion or a red wine-hemp seed tart with macadamia cheese and carrot raita sauce.
1341 L St. NW, 202.347.8349, elizabethsgoneraw.com
Beefsteak and Equinox: Top chefs going green
“Vegetables are fun and sexy,” says celebrity chef José Andrés. “Why not make them the star of the plate?” That’s exactly what he’s done at his new Foggy Bottom eatery, Beefsteak—playfully named for the tomato, not the meat. Diners choose from a menu of bowls or design their own combos, built assembly-line style beginning with a wide selection of fresh veggies that, depending on the season, might include just-plucked snap peas, cauliflower or asparagus.
The staff gives these a blanch, then adds a grain (rice, bulgur or quinoa), housemade sauces (a favorite combo: garlic yogurt and cilantro) and crispy toppings like radishes and fried onions. There are meatier additions, too—salt-cured salmon, roast chicken, poached egg—but vegetables claim the focus, even in the décor. Produce crates hang from the ceiling, and whimsical veggie characters “roam” the walls. (Yes, that is a tomato on stilts rockin’ out to some tunes.)
800 22nd St. NW, 202.296.1421, beefsteakveggies.com
Another top toque with a penchant for plants, Todd Gray serves up a popular vegan brunch every Sunday at his classy Equinox, just a block from the White House. Highlights of the buffet feast include a tofu-scramble station, watercress salad and granola-crusted French toast. This summer Gray’s going to the mat with his “Vegan Smackdown,” which recreates other star chefs’ signature dishes sans the meat. One of his targets? None other than Andrés, whose paella with chicken (from Jaleo restaurant) becomes one with chicken of the woods mushrooms.
818 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.331.8118, equinoxrestaurant.com
Sticky Fingers: Sweet success
The term “vegan pastry” sends many dessert lovers running to the dairy aisle. But baker Doron Petersan, armed with a degree in food science, has figured out how to make decadent vegan treats, which draw legions of fans to her Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats café in Columbia Heights. Think strawberry lemonade cupcakes, oatmeal sandwich cookies filled with vanilla cream and her signature sticky buns plump with walnuts and coated in frosting.
Did we mention that she’s won Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” not once, but twice? Buoyed by that success, she’s since expanded her menu to include savory dishes like baked ziti with ricotta-style tofu, cashew sauce and marinara plus five types of veggie burgers and a “power” salad marrying kale, quinoa, hummus, avocado and tomatoes. Next up for the tattooed temptress? A new location opening in the H Street NE neighborhood.
1370 Park Rd. NW, 202.299.9700, stickyfingersbakery.com