More vegan and vegetarian offerings are turning up on the menu at area restaurants, particularly new ones. And they’re not just salads, but real, serious comfort food, like Boundary Stone’s arancini and vegetarian honey wings, or Smoke and Barrel’s barbecue tofu sandwich. These three vegan sandwiches — two of them brand-new — will definitely hit the spot this fall.
When Blackbyrd Warehouse on 14th Street NW was looking to mix up its menu for the fall, Chef de cuisine Jeffrey Jew pitched the seafood-focused restaurant an unlikely dish: “I’d love it,” he told the managers, “if there was a vegan gyro.”
The star of Jew’s gyro ($12), which debuted last week, is the “vegan lamb” — strips of warm and crispy housemade wheat gluten, a wheat-based protein that’s a meatier-textured alternative to soy-based tofu. (Jew spends two days making the wheat gluten in-house.) The sandwich is then spread with a zippy, vegan take on tzatziki, made with tofu, spices, vinegar and dill; and topped with thin slivers of onion, mint, tomato, lettuce and soy cheese (sorry Daiya fans, it makes a nicer approximation of feta here). Vegetarians can order the sandwich with real feta and yogurt-based tzatziki, but the vegan version is so addictive that I’m not sure why you’d want to.
A vegan sandwich is the last thing you'd expect to find at a barbecue joint, but one of the highlights on the menu at the new Smoke and Barrel is a smoked tofu barbecue sandwich. The Adams Morgan restaurant shares owners with Asylum, known for its vegetarian- and vegan-friendly menu.
At Smoke and Barrel, the handmade tofu gets the same spicy barbecue rub as ribs or brisket, and it’s cold-smoked for a few hours to give it a sweetly smoky flavor. It's served with spicy slaw and a pickle on a soft toasted bun; a couple of shots of the rich house barbecue sauce from a squeeze bottle jazz it up. The sandwich costs $11.95, and for an extra buck you can grab a side: a bowl of fried okra that looks like tater tots or the baked sweet potato.
When you’re in search of a vegan comfort food joint, go to Everlasting Life Cafe on Georgia Avenue NW. Look past the college health-food co-op vibe and order a fried “chicken” sandwich, which, surprisingly, isn’t made from the same old Morningstar Farms patty. It’s a slab of tofu that gets the fried-chicken treatment. It’s dredged in flour, deep-fried, then served on dense bread with a mix of barbecue sauce and yellow mustard ($5.50). Is it terrible for you? Yup. But you can always get a side of the sweet kale salad ($3.50), if that makes you feel better.