Readers are always asking the Going Out Gurus for ideas for vegetarian dining — seems everyone’s got a friend or family member who eschews the bacon and burgers, while everyone else indulges. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life.)
For this week’s Got Plans? chat, we’re bringing in a guest Guru who can offer plenty of suggestions as someone who’s been there: Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing and a vegan advocate. Submit your questions for us, and her, early here. And join us Thursday at 1 p.m.
We caught up with Meier early to talk about her favorite places to find veggie fare.
So, we’ve got our favorite Washington-area places for vegetarian dining. What are some of yours? And what are some of your favorite dishes?
Meier: I’ve always been a fan of Java Green and Café Green as well as Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, especially some their savory meals like the vegan grilled cheese sandwich and chili & cheese dogs. I’m also a frequent visitor of the Vegetable Garden (Kale Infinity, please) and Founding Farmers (I’m always torn over ordering the vegan patty melt, Southern fried “chicken” salad or the tofu fish & chips). Great Sage in Clarksville is also one of my favorite places to eat – they have an amazing vegan brunch menu. And I’m lucky enough to work right down the street from My Little Bistro, which has fantastic hot and cold vegan chicken sandwiches, and Soupergirl, which offers a rotating menu of, you guessed it, freshly-made soups.
What’s so great about D.C. is that new vegetarian options keep popping up on menus all the time – sometimes it’s hard to keep up with them all.
Are local restaurants that don’t necessarily have vegan dishes on the menu accommodating to vegan diets? Compassion Over Killing has worked with restaurants to add vegan dishes, but are there any that go above and beyond?
Meier:The growing interest in healthier and more humane foods has encouraged many restaurants to offer vegetarian or vegan options right on the menu – and those that don’t are usually willing to make meatless dishes upon request. Several restaurants we’ve worked with have found their new vegan menus so successful they continue to add even more options. Java Green is a great example: When we first met with them in 2003, we asked if they’d be interested in adding a few vegan options to their menu. And after seeing how popular this was, a few months later they decided to make everything on their menu meat-free and they’re now an award-winning all-vegetarian restaurant.
What’s the best strategy for dining out at restaurants that aren’t necessarily all-vegan or all-vegetarian? Do you call ahead or wait until you get there? What do you ask for?
Meier:If you’re not already familiar with a particular restaurant, it’s helpful to check out the menu online if you can, or call in advance to ask if they offer any vegetarian or vegan dishes. I was recently invited to dinner at The Source, which has a vegetarian tasting menu that changes daily, and the day I was there the waiter explained that many of these dishes were made with dairy or eggs. When I asked about vegan options, he said the chef enjoys preparing new dishes and they’d be happy to create a vegan tasting menu for us. With each new dish they brought out, they eagerly awaited our feedback – and everything was amazingly delicious.
For folks who want to change their diets this year, maybe as a New Year’s resolution, what a few places to eat that make the transition feel easy?
Meier: Luckily, the D.C. area is home to over two dozen all-veg restaurants and hundreds more that feature extensive meat-free menus – and they’re all listed on VegDC.com. The best places I’d suggest starting are restaurants near your home or work, where you spend much of your time. Chances are good that you’ll find plenty of veg options nearby that you never realized were there. And be sure to ask some of your current favorite restaurants if they offer veg options (if not, ask them if they’d consider it and let us know so we can follow up). For specific ideas, I love taking new vegetarians and vegans to Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, Founding Farmers, Great Sage, Bread & Brew, Soul Vegetarian or Java Green, to name just a few.
And finally, give us a little preview of D.C. Meat-Free Week, which kicks off Feb. 6. Last year we saw food trucks and some great restaurants participating -- what could be on tap this year?
Meier: This year is going to be incredibly fun! Meat-Free Week is packed with special events and menus including a BBQ Kick-Off Party at Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, Food Truck Day, H Street Goes Veg, a free vegan cooking class and a #twEATup. [Editor’s note: You can keep up with the events by following twitter.com/MeatFreeWeek.]