So you gave up [chocolate, booze, meat, etc.] for Lent. Now what?

February 13, 2013

The hangover of Mardi Gras is over. And now, some Washingtonians are facing down 40 bleak days without the indulgence they've chosen to give up for Lent. It can be especially hard when the vice you've surrendered until Easter is right there in front of your face, every time you go out, as your friends gulp cocktails or offer to share spoonfuls of dessert.  So after a look at Christianity Today's list of the most common Lenten resolutions, we will lead you not into temptation and deliver you from evil, or something like it, with this list of going out ideas to help you avoid that Catholic guilt.


Energy Kitchen: fast food without the guilt. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

So you're giving up...

Twitter/social media
• You can't tweet or Instagram while you're watching live theater. (Unless you're there on a special "tweet-seat" night, but that's a whole different conversation.) Go to a show -- you can check out our recommendations -- and you'll have to turn off your phone before the curtain goes up, ensuring an enjoyable night free of distractions and technology.

Swearing
Definitely avoid the Studio Theatre, where the play "The Mother[expletive] with the Hat" is getting great reviews.
You're less likely to swear around kids and your elders, so frequent places where there are many of each to be found: Perhaps the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air and Space Museum for the former; the Kennedy Center for the latter.

Chocolate/sweets
Yipes. It's really hard to think of a restaurant that doesn't serve some kind of dessert, unless you just want Chinese takeout or Chipotle. The Guru hivemind came up blank on restaurants that don't serve any dessert, not even a brownie. So you'll have to say a few Hail Marys and count on the willpower to just say no when offered the dessert menu, we guess. Leave any dessert-free suggestions in the comments below.

Alcohol
Mocktails are your friend for the next 40 days. Firefly does non-alcoholic takes on classic cocktails, like the gin and tonic or Cosmopolitan. El Chucho and Hank's on the Hill offer housemade sodas from seasonal fruits -- coconut kaffir is among the flavors for the former, blueberry for the latter.

Coffee/tea/soda
Coffee drinkers who still need a warm cup of something to get going in the morning can turn to chai -- Teaism serves a good cup.
Tea and soda drinkers can switch to fresh-squeezed juice. Sweetgreen makes its own juice, as well as the aptly-named Juice Joint Cafe. Infused water is another good option. Chix, with its new Thomas Circle location, offers agua fresca for $1.50. Oyamel has it in a rotating array of flavors, too, as well as fresh-squeezed juices and horchata. El Centro D.F. has hibiscus agua fresca, for an exotic twist.

Fast food
Well, how much are you willing to fudge the definition of fast food? Downtown, there are plenty of options for "healthy" fast food, like the quinoa-happy Protein Bar, or Energy Kitchen, the new fast-casual spot where you can get a burger with less than 500 calories.
If you're eliminating fast food for environmental reasons, too, it's the perfect time to get into the Slow Food Movement. Slow Food is all about sustainability, farm-to-table goodness and fresh ingredients. Slow Food D.C. recommends these restaurants as winners of their 2012 "Snail of Approval" award.
Or, if you always find yourself eating out because you don't have time to pack a lunch in the morning, and are giving it up to save money, just get better at bringing leftovers from the previous night's restaurant dinner, and supplementing it with a piece of fruit.

Sex
Yeah, not sure we can help with this one. You might try killing the mood with these breakup movies.

Meat
Easy. Check our list of the best vegetarian restaurants, which offers everything from Korean at Mandu to mezze at Agora. You can also check out our slideshow of essential vegetarian eats, where dishes like Eatonville's pan-seared tofu and Smoke & Barrel's vegan wings will make those 40 meat-free days go by in a flash.

BONUS: Fish recommendations for your Fridays
Since many people who observe Lent give up meat on Fridays, there are plenty of great seafood options. Here's our list of the best seafood restaurants, but for something a little more casual, go for the fish tacos at Surfside. Salmon burgers are on the menu at Chef Geoff's and The Hamilton, among others, and there's always Luke's Lobster and the Red Hook Lobster Truck for a lobster roll.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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Alex Baldinger | February 13, 2013