Screw making a meal out of sides and stealing the celery sticks off your buddy’s wing order. Vegetarians are people, too (really!), and they deserve better. Surprisingly, some of the most meat-centric restaurants in the city also crush it when it comes to from-the-garden goodies. Because these spots showcase the best of both worlds, groups of friends with herbivores and carnivores can happily coexist, like inThe Land Before Time.
The 12 most surprising places a vegetarian can eat at in DC
Known for: Fresh pasta and hand-carved steaks
Number of vegetarian dishes: 31+
Highlights: Fresh ricotta and spinach balls baked in tomato sauce with cheese (pictured); risotto with Gorgonzola and dry vermouth; fusilli with a vegetarian ragu
The majority of pastas at this cozy Florentine restaurant are vegetarian, making multiple trips necessary to sample through them all. If you can wrangle a companion, opt for the tasting of five vegetarian pastas for $15 per person. Two or more people must participate. The sampler is an RX for leaving fat and happy.
Known for: Sushi, donburi, and Japanese small plates
Number of vegetarian dishes: 24+
Highlights: Vegetable tempura; hot udon noodles with sansei mountain vegetables; shigi yaki eggplant; oboro tofu
Too often vegetarians aren’t privy to a table-side show — like a dramatic filleting of Dover sole. At Perry’s, vegetarians can get in on the action by ordering oboro tofu. The warm, silken tofu is prepared right in front of you, and is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food.
Known for: Wood-roasted goat, lamb, and suckling pig
Number of vegetarian dishes: 22+
Highlights: Greek fries; Winter squash phyllo pie with kale, chestnut, and cranberry; falafel; dips and spreads
Go ahead and order the winter squash phyllo pies for an appetizer and dessert — you won’t be the first, or the last. Those parcels of love are worth it. As are the nine different garden mezze that make seasonal vegetables the star.
Known for: Tacos, mole, tequila
Number of vegetarian dishes: 20+
Highlights: Plantain and butternut squash fritters; fries coated in mole poblano topped with Mexican cream and queso fresco; wild mushroom tacos
Look WAY past those famed grasshopper tacos to find a myriad of veggie treats utilizing cool ingredients like grilled cactus paddles, Roy Burns Farm Mexican corn truffles, and wintery fruits & nuts. Oh yeah, then’s there guac for days.
Known for: BBQ and burnt ends
Number of vegetarian dishes: 16+
Highlights: Fried green tomatoes; tofu lettuce wrap tacos; smoked tofu satay
Real talk — this restaurant is as brisket-y as it gets, but bear with us. They manage to capture smoky flavor in their tofu dishes, which is no small feat. And, this is the one time that you WANT to make a meal out of sides, because they’re that good: goat cheese and smoked poblano hushpuppies; candied yams topped with mini marshmallows; Hondo’s Mom’s secret recipe potato salad; and tangy collard greens.
Known for: Dumplings for days
Number of vegetarian dishes: 16+
Highlights: Spicy basil dumpling; edamame and truffle dumpling, vegetable bun; mixed vegetable sticky rice
They make it real easy for vegetarians to make a killing (sorry!) at this dumpling authority. There are almost too many choices, so to narrow it down, just order fluffy vegetable bun after fluffy vegetable bun until you have to tap out.
Known for: Farm-to-table dining, oysters, and their porchetta-studded OMFG Dip
Number of vegetarian dishes: 14+
Highlights: Anson Mills gold rice with winter squash puree, Morning Frost Camembert, Vincotto, and green apples; beets with cashew "cheese"; fried green tomatoes
Usually taxidermy isn’t a good sign for vegetarians, but look past the beasts and keep walking. You’ll be in for a treat. The entire Markert’s Market section is enticing, from fried green tomatoes to sautéed spaghetti squash with local honey, feta & pine nuts. Bolster your meal with snacks and a cheese board.
Mt Vernon Square & Adams Morgan
Known for: Sizzling hot bowls of bulgogi, dolsot bibimbap
Number of vegetarian dishes: 13+
Highlights: Egg-dipped tofu and eggplant; tofu dolsot bibimbap; Vegetable mandu dumplings
Give the Mandu menu a close look, because many of the dishes that contain meat or seafood in the ingredient list can be made vegetarian -- like the chap-chae noodles or rice cakes simmered in gochujang. But let’s be honest, you’re getting the tofu dolsot bibimbap, because you don’t have to be a meat-eater to love sizzle.
Known for: Burgers and BBQ
Number of vegetarian dishes: 13+
Highlights: Veg & Egg; butternut squash dip served with warm pita & sweet potato chips; falafel platter with two sides
KBC’s elevated bar food includes great options for veg-heads, but the clear winner is the "Veg and Egg." The dish combines a local duck egg, bok choy, quinoa, a seasonal vegetable stir-fry, and a red wine reduction. If you want something fried, there are falafel bites and big bowls of... fries.
Known for: Hooking DC up with legit Jewish deli classics like towering, melty Reubens
Number of vegetarian dishes: 12+
Highlights: Potato Latkes with apple preserves & sour cream; falafel platter with hummus, cucumber salad, pickled cauliflower, quinoa tabbouleh & warm pita; mushroom pierogies with French onion dip
Okay, maybe your Jewish grandmother doesn’t understand your vegetarian ways, but fortunately, when she comes to visit you can take her to DGS. She can load up on lox while you take down latke after latke.
Known for: Charcuterie and creative cuts of meat
Number of Vegetarian Dishes: 10+
Highlights: Baked fermented paccheri with kabocha squash, walnuts, sage brown butter, and ricotta salata (pictured)
Pass that charcuterie checklist along and head right for the page of the main menu marked with a cute little vegetable. This is your WHEELHOUSE of deliciousness: Brussels sprouts slaw; pickled celery root with shaved matsutake and tamari butter with shiso and scallion; roasted mushroom + kale salad with salsify, shallots, goat cheese & Pedro Ximenez vinaigrette.
Known for: Tacos, ceviche, and tequila
Number of vegetarian dishes: 9+
Highlights: Crispy Manchego cheese with spicy pomegranate-honey sauce; crunchy edamame tacos with tomatillo salsa and spiced yogurt (pictured); roasted cauliflower with chipotle, crunchy favas, and Cotija cheese
Celeb Chef Michael Schlow gives his vegetarian-friendly dishes a lot of TLC. Sometimes, when diners overlook the cauliflower, waiters will send it over anyway just to create cauliflower converts. It’s that good. So are the Manchego cheese fritters that you’ll be talking about the next day.
Editor’s Note: Dish numbers are based off the dinner menu and discussions with the restaurants. The plus is there because menus always change and chefs can get creative and make additional vegetarian dishes.
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1. Acqua Al 2 DC212 7th St SE, Washington
2. Perry’s1811 Columbia Road NW, Washington
3. Kapnos2201 14th St NW, Washington
4. Oyamel Cocina Mexicana401 7th St NW, Washington DC
5. Fat Pete's Barbecue3407 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
6. Ping Pong Dim Sum900 7th NW, Washington
7. Beuchert's Saloon623 Pennsylvania Ave SE , Washington, DC
8. Mandu453 K Street, NW, Washington
9. Kangaroo Boxing Club3410 11th St NW, Washington
10. DGS Delicatessen1317 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
11. The Partisan709 D St NW, Washington
12. Tico1926 14th St NW, Washington
This cozy Florentine restaurant has delicious pastas (many of them vegetarian-friendly!). If you can wrangle a companion, opt for the tasting of five vegetarian pastas for $15 per person.
Perry’s offers traditional Japanese cuisine in Adams Morgan, and exceptionally good service. Their Sunday Drag Brunch buffet is not to be missed!
Chef Mike Isabella's 14th Street Corridor restaurant is a go-to for upscale but reasonably priced Greek food. Open for dinner nightly and brunch on the weekends, Kapnos serves a small-plates menu of spreads, mezze, phyllo pies, and whole roasted meats like lamb, goat, duck, chicken, and suckling pig. There's plenty of seafood as well, given that wood-fire grilled octopus is the house signature. The wine list is stacked with red and whites from Greece and kegged lemonades.
Drawing on various aspects of Mexican culture, this DC destination serves up traditional Mexican small plates, ceviches, and tacos accompanied by creative margaritas and cocktails, plus serious tequila tastings.
Fat Pete's brings 10 types of delicious 'cue to DC (two kinds of pulled pork! Two kinds of ribs!), delivering fantastic wood-smoked flavors by the pound. 16 drafts, small-batch bourbon, and killer sides -- like stuffed hush puppies and mini marshmallow-topped candied yams -- shore up the massive meat menu.
Pong covers 7000sqft of dark wood tables, low-hanging lamps, and lattice-work accented bars, and is serving up delicious dim sum alongisde Eastern-inspired cocktails.
A reborn western saloon with the upscale hipness of Eastern Market, Beuchert’s takes “farm-to-table” fare to the next level. Everything on the market-driven menu is sourced from local coops and farms, resulting in an abundance of fresh flavors. We suggest you sip on a specialty cocktail and order the roasted bone marrow -- a verdant combination of pickled pistachios and mustard seed, served with a parsley salad -- to fit in with the local herd, providing the taxidermy Buffalo (mounted above the cherry wood bar with lifelike expressions) haven’t done so already.
This is the larger, Downtown location of Dupont's Korean diner -- rocking decorative wooden ducks and bamboo flooring that creeps up to the ceiling, the spot's serving latenight eats like Korean Tacos.
As its name suggests, this Columba Heights restaurant and bar errs on the side of quirky. KBC does great things for barbecue, and its dinner menu is packed with smoked meat platters, BBQ sandwiches, and burgers, plus a few vegetarian options for the meat-averse. At weekend brunch, the signature smoked brisket and pulled pork get topped and scrambled with eggs. Though you'd certainly be missing out if you didn't order any food, KBC is the kind of cool and laid-back place to grab a drink, especially when the sidewalk patio is in full swing.
DGS Delicatessen takes the idea from your old Jewish grandmother's kitchen and elevates it with a modern and creative spin that gives this authentic deli-bar new flavor and energy with a homestyle base. Styled after the turn-of-the-century grocery stores, DGS Delicatessen house cures and smokes their all meats and fish as well as crafts their own duck fat matzo balls.
With 30+ charcuterie options, medium plates like sausages and corned beef belly, and feasts like a whole roasted pig's head, The Partisan will cater to your meat cravings, no matter your appetite.
Tico is all about options, and lucky for you, they're all delicious. Seven types of tacos, tons of small plates like mac and cheese loaded with serrano ham and manchego cheese, and 140 tequilas will all keep you busy in the best kind of way.