Ranking sixth among the U.S. cities that boast the greatest number of vegetarian restaurants, my summer home of Washington D.C. proves a bit overwhelming (in the best way possible) when one attempts to navigate through the plethora of veg eateries located within its limits. Indeed, before arriving in D.C. I had created a list of 20+ veg-friendly restaurants to possibly visit during my 12 weeks in the city, but that list has easily doubled after my modest explorations of the nation’s capital. Though doing so caused me and my gastronomic enthusiasm much sorrow, I managed to narrow down my expansive restaurant list to a mere 12—one for each week of my stay in D.C.
As it currently stands, I intend to patronize the following 12 establishments while in Washington:
While I’ll say no more of the last ten restaurants on my list, I’d love to regale to you my experiences at the first two, both of which coincidentally appear quite proud of their…stickiness? Regardless of the eateries’ viscosities, both of their fare proved fresh, thoughtfully prepared, and quite tasty.
Considering Sticky Fingers’ titles of Best Bakery in D.C. 2013 and Silver Medalist for Favorite Vegan Bakery in VegNews’ 2012 Veggie Awards, its two victories on the Food Network’s hit show Cupcake Wars, its successful cookbook, and its band of 11-year-long devoted patrons, it seems only fitting that I visit the acclaimed, 100% vegan bakery and café on my first D.C. dining excursion. Just two days after moving into my D.C. apartment and one day before beginning my internship with Compassion Over Killing, I met Erica Meier—director of COK and my boss for the summer—at Sticky Fingers for a get-to-know-you/welcome-to-the-city lunch. Erica chose our brunch destination quite wisely, for immediately upon entering the 1950’s-style interior of the café and unexpectedly spotting the familiar vegan, fair-trade chocolate bars from the New Paltz-based Lagusta’s Luscious, I felt snugly at home.
Though the various cupcakes, muffins, and Sticky Buns featured in the store’s glass display case looked quite mouthwatering, Erica and I agreed that neither of our bodies would respond well to their high succulence levels at the early hour in the day. Instead, we both chose to partake in much more savory menu options; I ordered the Hummus Wrap and a side salad with creamy ranch dressing while Erica opted for the Breakfast Burrito. Bursting with perfectly fresh baby spinach, shredded carrots, dilly cucumbers, avocado slices, garlicky hummus, and olive tapenade, the Hummus Wrap expertly married bold, unctuous flavors with refreshing, crisp veggies inside a pleasantly chewy gluten-free tortilla. While the rather wilted lettuce beneath the veggies on my side salad disappointed me, the silky-smooth herbed ranch dressing served alongside the salad provided sufficient atonement. Unfortunately, I failed to snap a photo of Erica’s Breakfast Burrito, but I can attest that the whole-grain tortilla fat with Daiya-cheesy tofu scramble, black beans, tomato, and spinach looked absolutely scrumptious—so much so that I may just have to pay a second visit to Sticky Fingers to partake in the burrito party myself.
Before returning to Sticky Fingers, however, I had to sample the next restaurant on my 12-week tour of D.C.’s (hopefully) finest veg-friendly eating establishments—Sticky Rice. Though not a vegan restaurant by any means, the modern Asian fusion joint offers a plethora of specially marked vegan menu options, including creative sushi rolls and noodle bowls overflowing with veggies and plant-based proteins. I ventured to Sticky Rice for dinner with my fellow COK intern and vegan Katie, happily greeted by a hip, edgy restaurant interior and a top-notch musical selection (can you say 80’s pop hits from the Eurythmics and Depeche Mode?).
Opting to split a sushi roll as an appetizer before enjoying our respective entrees, Katie and I began our meal with the Garden Balls—spicy rice stuffed into an inari pocket, tempura fried, and drizzled with “eel” sauce (eel refers only to the name of the sauce, not the contents of it). While the menu advertised the Garden Balls as containing shiitake mushrooms, red pepper, and cilantro along with the rice, Katie and I could find no such veggies of which to speak, much to our disappointment. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the roll’s textural contrast of chewy rice and crispy coating, as well as the sauce’s succulent tanginess. After the small Garden Ball let-down, however, I do wish that Katie and I had ordered the Veggie Tempura Plate—complete with asparagus, sweet potato, onion, broccoli, pineapple, and ponzu dipping sauce—as our appetizer instead of the roll.
While our appetizer left me less than enthused about Sticky Rice, our entrees certainly redeemed my opinion of the restaurant. Katie and I both ordered soba noodle bowls; I opted for the “Dirty Vegan” while Katie partook in the Mock Chicken Teriyaki. A mouthwatering mess of soba noodles, tender broccoli, succulent red bell pepper, caramelized onion, chewy edamame, and juicy fried tofu chunks slathered in peanut-coconut sauce and topped with mung bean sprouts, the Dirty Vegan provided a spicy, wonderfully filling, and surprisingly fun-to-eat meal that I fully intend to recreate in my own kitchen. Katie responded just as enthusiastically to her Mock Chicken Teriyaki noodle bowl, which contained the same blend of veggies as my entrée, but instead featured a tangy teriyaki sauce and crispy seitan strips.
Despite the disappointing mislabeling of the Garden Balls and the rather slow service, our Sticky Rice experience proved quite enjoyable, reasonably priced, and inarguably delicious. I would happily return to the eatery to partake in their Veggie Tempura and other vegan sushi roll offerings…if I hadn’t already committed to visiting ten other veg-friendly restaurants in the D.C. area during my stay in the city. Next on the list: Busboys and Poets!
Until next time, Ali.