Washington DC has its fair share of vegan & vegan-friendly restaurants – from diners to fine dining. Today I’m sharing a rundown on the vegan Washington DC food scene & every delicious doughnut along the way.
(If you missed it, check out last week’s post on Washington DC travel with visits to a couple of Smithsonian museums, the Capitol Building, Washington monument, and more.)
Sticky Fingers Bakery
My first day in D.C. I knew where I had to go – Vegan Donut Central (also known as Sticky Fingers bakery & cafe). Currently, they only offer donuts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Since my first morning in the country’s capital fell on a Tuesday, I wanted to be sure to get there in case it was my only opportunity.
The adorable space is filled with vintage baking equipment, a display case with pastries aplenty, and a refrigerated case with specialty & to go items.
I’d already scoped out the Sticky Fingers Instagram feed, and so I knew which vegan donuts they were offering that day – vanilla, tiramisu, Snickers, and blueberry. I ordered one of each in a to go box, so that I could share with David when he had a break from his conference.
Of course, I needed to have one first while I was there, and I chose the vanilla, which is like a classic glazed donut. A classic glazed donut doesn’t get a lot of hype, but like vanilla ice cream, there’s a reason it’s the standard. It’s perfect in its simplicity. Before I left, I ordered two more of the vanilla.
We finished off the rest of the doughnuts over the next few days of the trip. The tiramisu was a surprise hit. The filling was like a Boston cream, and it had a nice edge to it. All of the doughnuts were wonderfully fresh and bouncy.
Fare Well is owned by the same people who own Sticky Fingers. (It also has a beautifully inviting bakery display case inside…)
Fare Well is a vegan diner, reminiscent of Chicago Diner in Illinois, Champs in New York, or Spiral Diner in Texas. However, it has more of a feminine vibe. It’s loaded with the color teal, library-style ladders on the wall, and vintage plates & Pyrex hanging as decorations.
If I was going to open a vegan diner, I would want it to look exactly like this one.
Real talk: We visited Fare Well twice in the same day. We went there for lunch on our last full day of the trip, and we hated to leave without sampling more of their menu. So we circled back again that night for dinner.
During our first meal there, we started with the buffalo cauliflower dip. It’s made with roasted & whipped cauliflower and buffalo cashew cream. It’s served with toasted baguette for dipping.
This creamy spread had me making mental notes on how to re-create it at home.
For lunch, I ordered the pierogi. I was trying to decide between two dishes, and so I asked if they make their pierogi fresh, or if they are frozen. (I’m happy to eat pierogi made from frozen, but since I can make them at home and do, it’s not as much of a draw.) The server told me that the pierogi are made fresh in house daily. It was an easy choice.
The potato-filled pierogi were browned and served over a mound of garlicky Swiss chard and sauerkraut. It was finished with a dollop of vegan sour cream. It was like my perfect meal & entirely balanced in flavors. I am sometimes not a fan of Swiss Chard, because it can have too much of a beet/dirt thing going on. However, that wasn’t the case here.
David ordered the fried seitan platter. They make their own seitan in house, and then it’s battered and fried. It was served with crispy roasted potatoes, gravy, and the same Swiss chard that was on my plate. (The chard was the seasonal vegetable that day. It varies.)
When we returned for dinner, the first choice to make was which beverage to order. They have a variety of shakes, and those can have liquor added to them. (On the menu, they make suggestions about which type of liquor would pair well with each of them.) They also have cocktails and wine. David and I both chose to go with wine.
I am crazy about savory breakfasts, and luckily, Fare Well serves breakfast all day. So I had breakfast for dinner in the form of chilaquiles.
These tofu scramble bowls can come with a base of crispy corn tortilla chips or roasted potatoes. I chose the tortilla chips. Added to the mix were black beans, roasted tomato rojo sauce, and a generous drizzling of cilantro crema. The waiter suggested that he always adds their house-made seitan to the dish, and so I added that too.
The dish reminded me of the vegan migas at Modern Times in Minneapolis. Each bite was a mixture of crunchy, creamy, and spicy. I would order it regularly if I lived in Washington, D.C.
David opted for mushroom scampi pasta. It was tossed in a cashew lemon garlic sauce and topped with roasted mushrooms and fresh tomatoes. He also chose to add seitan to the meal. I snagged a couple of bites, and it was wonderfully comforting.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting a couple of pastries for the road. I got a sticky bun, and David chose a Danish. We had them the next morning for breakfast.
By the way, if you’re in D.C. but are unable to get to the restaurant, Fare Well also offers delivery.
Another favorite place from the trip was Shouk. This order-at-the-counter place reminds me of the vibe at Baja Fresh or Sharky’s. However, they serve all-vegan Israeli food! When you travel, it’s clear that there’s a lot of overlap in types of vegan restaurants, but I can safely say I’d never gone to an all-vegan fast casual Israeli place before now.
My first visit there, I decided to go with a roasted cauliflower bowl. It was topped with tomatoes, scallions, and a tahini sauce. Everything tasted really fresh and vegetable packed.
I also added a side of polenta fries, which were dotted with fresh thyme.
Shouk was a stone’s throw from our hotel, and so I had a chance to visit another time.
That time I got the breakfast pita, which was filled with a chickpea flour-pancake, chopped tomatoes and cucumber, and crushed avocado.
I’d never thought about using a chickpea pancake as a filling before, but what a great idea! The pita was super fluffy and made fresh in house. The whole thing was so filling, I could barely finish half of it.
David had the Shouk burger, which was also stuffed in a pita with pickled turnip, charred onion, arugula, and a tahini sauce. (On a different trip he ordered the black bean & sweet potato pita, which he said he preferred. However, both dishes were very tasty.)
HipCityVeg was less than half a mile from our downtown hotel, and so it was super convenient to visit a couple of times.
On our first trip, David and I both ordered the Crispy HipCity Ranch sandwich. You have the option of getting it buffalo-style, and so obviously, that was a yes. It was topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and peppercorn ranch dressing. It was one terrific sandwich.
One of my favorite things on the menu was the kale lemonade. It wasn’t overly sweet, and they add just the right amount of kale juice for bite, without overwhelming the flavor.
On another visit, David ordered the lil’ golden nugs and sweet potato fries. He didn’t realize that these vegan chicken strips are actually just the Gardein chick’n tenders that we make at home often in the air fryer. Obviously we like them and all, but when on vacation, we’d always choose something we can’t easily get at home.
When I saw Jerk Caesar salad on the menu, I was intrigued by the addition of crispy plantains, and that’s what sold me on the dish. I’m a huge plantain fan. However, they actually just use plantain chips in the salad. (Note to self, though, I want to make a salad with fried sweet plantains in it. That sounds like a surefire way to delicious.)
The salad was still really good, though. It was topped with jerk-seasoned Gardein chick’n, romaine, and a creamy dressing. The salad also included jicama, which added something crunchy and slightly sweet that I enjoyed.
One evening after David’s work conference, a co-worker was joining us for dinner. Several people in my Instagram feed had recommended Cedar Restaurant, which is a non-vegan fine dining restaurant with a number of vegan offerings.
David and I both started with salads. I had the Caesar, while he had the house salad. He definitely won out in the salad department, as his colorful salad had mixed greens and a tarragon vinaigrette (shown above).
My iceberg lettuce salad was topped with tempeh bacon, and a cheese that was likely Daiya. The flavors were fine, but I would have preferred romaine and a vegan cheese more worthy of a fine dining experience like something house-made and/or nut-based.
We also ordered a side of Brussels sprouts to start.
For his main course, David was really vibing on his vegan meatloaf, topped with homemade marinara sauce and a side of rosemary purple potatoes.
I chose the house-made ravioli with wild mushrooms, spinach, root vegetables, and a flavorful tomato and fennel ragout. The Daiya was back again with a smattering on top.
I don’t have a problem with a mass produced non-dairy cheddar in something like a vegan 7-layer dip. However, for a fancy night out, they’d be better served by leaving it off entirely, or choosing a higher end vegan cheese. Otherwise, it was very tasty.
Smoke & Barrel
We started with the vegan wings. You have a choice of sauces & seasonings – dry with a rub, wet with barbecue sauce, or muddy with a rub & BBQ sauce combo. David isn’t into barbecue sauce, and so we got the dry version, and I added the sauce on the side.
The name of the dish is “smoked” vegan wings, but they didn’t have any smokiness like you’d get if they were cooked in an actual smoker. They were made with the May Wah vegan chicken legs, like they used to serve at Karyn’s On Green in Chicago before they closed a few years back.
For my main course, I chose the vegan spare ribs. It was very oily and dotted with peppers, onions, and pine nuts. The dish had more of a Chinese stir-fry vibe than I was expecting.
David had the vegan chicken cutlet sandwich and was disappointed that it came with barbecue sauce on top. (It wasn’t mentioned in the menu.) He wasn’t blown away by the sandwich, but he did like the crunchy coleslaw that came with it.
Vegan Washington DC
While in DC, we also ordered delivery from Busboys & Poets, which has a lot of vegan options, and an Ethiopian feast from Dukem. (I recommend the collards at Busboys & Poets and gomen at Dukem.) Even with all of that, there were still more places that we missed and want to try the next time we’re in town – especially Evolve Vegan and NuVegan, which my friend Laura loved when she visited DC.