It’s getting easier and easier to find delicious vegan eats no matter where you are. Back in the day, I suffered through a number of horrible, soggy sandwiches and the sad, limp vegetable platters that passed for vegan fare in restaurants across the country (RIP those tortured souls).
But now, we have entered a fantastic new era of plant-based eating, and it’s easier than ever to eat fantastic vegan meals wherever you go. Washington, DC is no exception – here are 30 vegan eats we highly recommend.
1. Hand pulled noodles with vegetables from Chinatown Express
Any hand-pulled noodles are good, but the ones from Chinatown Express are especially so. For under $7 you get a truly massive portion (seriously, two dinners) of tender, chewy noodles, golden fried tofu and crunchy mixed veggies all floating in a dreamy veggie broth. Feel free to top with the free scallion paste, pickled garlic and chili pepper oil for an even better eating experience.
#SpoonTip: the vegetarian dumplings, filled with tofu and assorted greens, are not to be missed either.
2. Glazed donuts from Sticky Fingers
If it didn’t say “vegan” on the door, you’d never know the pastries you’re eating are vegan. I’m partial to the original glazed because it tastes JUST LIKE a Krispy Kreme, but they’re all good. They also have a decent-sized breakfast and lunch menu, but the desserts are really the star.
3. Dairy-free pops from Pleasant Pops
All the flavors. All the fruits. So many dairy free options. All seasonally inspired. Plus, they’re so pretty! With two separate locations downtown, you never have to be without a sweet treat. You can find the truck tooling around if you check the website and at a few rotating farmers markets. Don’t miss out on the pomegranate hibiscus flavor.
4. Tacos from Chaia
Everything at Chaia is vegetarian, but if you’re a vegan all you have to do is ask for the taco without cheese. The charred green bean taco is especially fantastic, but you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with anything on the menu.
5. Tropical Pitaya bowl from Fruitive
Not only is it a beautiful hot pink, it’s absolutely delicious. Topped with unsweetened coconut, pineapple, banana and their house-made granola (which is sold separately and SO DAMNED GOOD), the tropical pitaya bowl is the perfect antidote to summer in DC. They also have a wide variety of extremely expensive juices and a number of other delicious bowls – PB No J is another stunner.
6. The chickpea pita from Shouk
Shouk is doing it all right – a simple, entirely vegan menu executed exceptionally well. Though you could order anything of the offered pitas or bowls and be deliriously happy, the chickpea pita is a personal favorite. Stuffed with tomato, cucumber, tahini, seaweed (a surprisingly delicious addition), potatoes and preserved lemon, it’s a satisfying meal that won’t leave you feeling schlumpy.
7. Curried red lentil peach soup from Soupergirl!
Made with lentils, local peaches, maple syrup, lime and fresh orange juice among other ingredients, this is one soup you’ll never forget (and honestly, is there anything more forgettable than soup?). One of many delicious vegan options at Soupergirl!, you’ll come back for the Tuscan white bean, another stellar offering.
8. Wild mushroom burger from Woodland’s Vegan Bistro
Too frequently, mushrooms are described as being “meaty,” when really, they’re a force and flavor all unto themselves. Here, the mushroom is allowed to shine without being compared to a beef burger. It’s an umami bomb in the best possible way.
9. Coconut “Crab Cake” from Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar
Khepra’s is a fully-raw vegan spot that also does juices and juice cleanses. While the prices are somewhat steep, it has a loyal following, and the large “crab cake” is certainly filling enough for dinner. Don’t miss out on the hemp and chia cookies – they’re a fan favorite.
10. BBQ tofu from NuVegan Cafe
This BBQ tofu is a great equalizer: those who don’t like tofu will be converts, and those who do will be comforted. Served as an entree with rice, this tofu is nothing like the bland, spongy stuff we’ve all had to suffer through. Slathered with a thick and spicy-sweet BBQ sauce, this is what I want to eat at every cookout forever.
11. Buffalo bella burger from HipCityVeg
Originally started in Philadelphia, everything at HipCityVeg is 100000 percent vegan, from the sauces to the burger buns. The Buffalo “Bella burger” is a fantastic take on the traditional buffalo chicken sandwich, but far more delicious. The portobello is never soggy and the buffalo sauce has just the right amount of zing.
12. Beefsteak tomato burger from Beefsteak Vegetables
People from all across the DMV are trekking to Beefsteak Vegetables in Georgetown for a tomato burger. Why? Because these are the tomatoes you’ve been looking for your whole life. Say goodbye to sad, pale, refrigerated tomatoes and hello to perfectly-seasoned red and juicy slices.
13. Shio ramen from Daikaya
Daikaya has already been named one of the top 50 new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit, so if that doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will. It’s notoriously difficult to find vegan ramen, but the shio version at Daikaya gets umami flavoring from miso paste, not pork.
14. Green mango salad from Doi Moi
The green mango salad from this Southeast Asian spot is filled with herbs, carrots, chili, toasted rice powder, palm sugar and crispy shallot – a perfect representation of the sweet-salty-savory-crunchy-vinegary balance of Thai and Vietnamese cooking. You’ll want to eat an entire meal’s worth of this stuff.
15. Vegan spare ribs from Smoke and Barrel
You’d never guess it, but these ribs are made from soy and seitan. Dressed with peppers, onions and pine nuts, you’ll happily want to brave this meaty menu for another half slab of these.
16. Cauliflower bezule from Rasika
Located in the up-and-coming Penn Quarter, Rasika is a hot new take on traditional Indian food. The grilled cauliflower is not for the faint of heart, combining mustard seeds, green chiles and curry leaves for a well-balanced (but definitely hot) bite.
If there’s one thing you have to eat from Fare Well, it’s the buffalo dip. It’s everything you want from a dip, and it’s not low-calorie in the best way. Creamy, cooling and spicy all at the same time, you’re going to want to bathe in this. Or not. But probably.
18. Sunday vegan brunch from Equinox
This is where you make your parents take you, because Equinox is fancy as all hell. This is especially clutch because trying to eat brunch as a vegan means fruit salad, oatmeal and more fruit salad. Take advantage of the buffet-style sitch and load up on the granola-encrusted French toast with blueberry compote and maple syrup. Insert praise hands emoji here.
19. Coconut tofu bites from Busboys and Poets
Though all of the food at Busboys and Poets is incredibly good, the coconut tofu bites are far and away my favorite thing on the entire menu. I could eat an entire dinner of them. They’re sweet and crunchy and creamy all at the same time, and I ALWAYS ask for some extra dipping sauce, because an ocean of it wouldn’t be enough.
20. Black cat veggie burger from Food for Thought Cafe
The vegan burger at Food for Thought is no joke – the ingredient list about a mile long, but it’s because they’re hand-made with love (seriously, that’s a listed ingredient) and tons of flavor. Melding protein-rich barley, bulgar wheat, black beans, chickpeas, green peas and textured vegetable protein, this spicy sammich will cost you less than $6 – which is basically unheard of in DC.
21. Vegan “cakecup” from Baked and Wired
If you’re still eating cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, then please exit this article and go get a clue. Not only does Baked and Wired produce some of the finest pastries and coffee around, you’d literally never know their giant Oreo “cakecup” is even vegan. Gone are the days of gritty frostings and tough cakes. Vegan baking is BACK.
22. Southern fried chick-un from Evolve Vegan Restaurant
It’s always such a pleasure to go to a restaurant and realize you can order literally anything on the menu without fear. Evolve Vegan Restaurant is definitely slaying the plant-based game, and their southern fried “chick-un” is no exception. Crispy and juicy with a wooden “bone,” you’ll be coming back for more every week.
23. Sassy sunshine juice from Greenheart Juice Shop
Although juice bars are a dime a dozen nowadays, Greenheart is still a standout in the District. Aside from the fact that it’s almost painfully trendy, they have a massive menu full of unbelievably delicious concoctions. The Sassy Sunshine blend is orange, ginger, cayenne and trendy turmeric – sure to get your blood moving.
24. Spinach colata smoothie from Jaco Juice and Taco Bar
Though Jaco doesn’t serve vegan eats besides açaí bowls and smoothies, it’s still worth making the trek to this spot. The Spinach Colata is a refreshing combo of spinach banana, pineapple, spinach, coconut water, shredded coconut, chia and agave. Basically, it’s healthy summer in a glass. Yum.
25. Spicy Sabzi salad from Sweetgreen
Sweetgreen is the greatest fast casual restaurant on the planet, and if you disagree I will fight you. I would drink their carrot-chili vinaigrette, if pressed, and they make it so easy to eat with any number of dietary restrictions or ideologies. The Spicy Sabzi salad is a personal favorite, packing a double whammy of protein from and tofu and quinoa. The spicy broccoli and earthy sprouts round things out with a satisfying crunch until your bowl is empty (approximately eight minutes, give or take time to chew the kale).
26. Elle sushi burrito from Buredo
How could we not mention a sushi burrito on a list of fantastic vegan eats? Buredo is DC’s answer to the sushirito trend, and their “Elle” offering does not disappoint. With organic tofu, arugula, roasted red pepper, jicama, green onion, black sesame seeds, garlic crunch and a passionfruit miso sauce, you’ll forget sashimi ever existed.
27. Tofu rice bowl from Shophouse
Shophouse is another in a chain of fast-casual restaurants that actually puts out good food without giving you E.coli (cough cough, ‘Potle). Their in-house roasted tofu is the perfect foil to any of the curry sauces and their white long-grain rice is the perfect vehicle to soak up any extra sauce.
28. Pita pocket from Amsterdam Falafelshop
Amsterdam Falafelshop is far and away the best falafel in the DMV, and maybe on the eastern seaboard (outside of The Halal Guys). You can either get a regular (five pieces of falafel) or a small (three pieces), but why would you ever do that? With 22 sauces – not a typo – to choose from, and a myriad of crunchy veggies, you’ll think you’re in Israel.
29. Cauliflower steak from Founding Farmers
Founding Farmers is arguably best known for their highly Instagrammable brunch dishes, but their meatless options are not to be overlooked. The cauliflower steak is served with risotto which you’ll have to ditch, but the staff is incredibly accommodating and will happily swap it for a tender green salad or some local veggies straight from a DMV-area farm.
30. Biscuits with mushroom gravy from The Potter’s House
The Potter’s House specializes in making vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free food not only delicious but accessible. And if you’re of the mind that a vegan biscuit can’t be good, then saddle up, because these are mind-blowing. The mushroom gravy is the perfect creamy foil to the biscuit without the disgusting greasy feeling a real gravy gives you. We won’t judge you if you lick the plate (discretely).