Last week, Post food critic Tom Sietsema and Food section editor (and new vegetarian) Joe Yonan journeyed to some of Washington's most popular restaurants to see just how meat-eschewing diners fare at meat-centric restaurants. When they arrived at Range, Mintwood Place, Estadio, J&G Steakhouse and Marcel's, they, like so many vegetarians and diet-conscious types in the city, simply asked their servers what they could eat.
What the pair found is a fantastic guide to restaurants that can accommodate veggie diners and carnivores alike, even when there's nary a Veganville in the neighborhood.
(For even better meals than these two ate, be sure to call ahead so the chef can have time to craft a perfect meatless meal.)
The restaurant: Estadio
What they ate: The Logan Circle Spanish restaurant offers so many vegetarian options (and, if you inquire, vegan ones, too) that our vegetarian pair had little trouble. The dishes that pleased included two of my favorite dishes at the restaurant: The crispy vegan, currant-studded Brussels sprouts (a seasonal dish that you should try ASAP) and fava bean and almond spread. The crunchy, vinegary and rich “Escalivada” sandwiches were also on their menu, and should definitely be on yours, too.
The highlight: None of the awkwardness of trying to find something to eat here; the menu was full of vegetarian fare.
The restaurant: Range
What they ate: Bryan Voltaggio's well-reviewed Chevy Chase restaurant is known for its size, but despite a sprawling menu of proteins, Sietsema and Yonan found they could only eat a couple of pizzas and some salads. So chef de cuisine Matt Hill whipped up an off-the-menu lasagna with potato and chanterelle mushrooms, and rethought a kimchi linguine with mushroom and kale in place of seafood.
The highlight: The lasagna was vegan. Not bad for a restaurant that one might dismiss as too meat-focused.
The restaurant: J&G Steakhouse
What they ate: Pan-seared tofu on a Malaysian-style sauce of chili and ginger, and a root vegetable dish with parsnip chips and puree. The two off-the-menu vegan dishes were whipped up upon request by chef Philippe Reininger.
The highlight: The server, who kept the diners apprised of exactly what they were eating -- all-important to ingredient-conscious diners.
The restaurant: Marcel's
What they ate: The meatless offerings at Marcel's, one of the city's finest dining establishments, can be counted on a single hand. But chef Robert Wiedmaier sent out a butternut squash bonbon amuse bouche; an Indian-inspired appetizer of lentils and dates; and a timbale of pea puree and pasta with pesto and vegetables.
The highlight: The chef tells our pair that he relished the challenge: "We want to give that diner the experience of a lifetime," Wiedmaier told them. At a restaurant that many reserve for the most cherished of occasions, it's nice to know simply preferring vegetables won't cause a blip in your big night out.
The restaurant: Mintwood Place
What they ate: Five-grain risotto with multiple varieties of squash, and an off-the-menu vegetable napoleon made with an onion tart, Brussels sprouts, eggplant and more.
The highlight: The menu already offers some hearty comfort foods for vegetarians, including the crispy-kale loaded burrata appetizer and addictive lentils du Puy.
(The lowlight? Chef Cedric Maupillier said he found preparing the gorgeous napoleon a major hiccup in his night and that he's unlikely to put it on his menu or make the dish for a walk-in.)