I had heard that a bar in Mount Pleasant called, "Tonic," started offering vegan options so one of my friends and I went to check it out. It was in a slightly sketchy area that I don't go to that often, but it appeared that the area was on the up-and-up so after some discussion, we decided it was safe to get out of the car (kidding!).
There were only a few people in the restaurant/bar when we arrived so it was pretty quiet. They said we could sit wherever we wanted so we chose seating away from the two large-screen televisions, which were playing sports at the time. I started off by ordering the Strawberry Basil cooler, which was listed as a classic at Tonic. I figured this meant it was pretty good. It had fresh strawberries, muddled basil and strawberry vodka. Although it sounded good, it tasted like it had been watered down so I sent it back and asked for a glass of wine instead. The wine, Regaleali, Nero D'Avola from Sicily, wasn't very good either. It tasted thick and old like it had been opened a week ago, but I decided to just drink it anyway. Strike number one.
When I inquired about the vegan options, which are not clearly marked on the menu (though they are online), the waitress didn't know much about them. The meal that sounded the best to me was the risotto with white wine, garlic, and spinach pesto. The waitress told me that although this dish is not vegan, they could modify it so that it would be vegan. I asked her what wasn't vegan and she told me the pesto had cheese in it. I asked her what kind of sauce it came with then and she told me that it didn't come with any sauce. She said they'd basically just serve me the risotto in a broth. Well, that doesn't sound very good. Why offer to veganize a dish if you aren't going to make it much like the item on the menu? Why not make a vegan pesto without cheese? It is easy enough to do. So, that was strike number two.
I finally decided to order the curried tofu dish, which was 100% vegan. It arrived as just curried tofu without any rice or anything else, which I thought was odd. The curry with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro was a tasty base. Unfortunately, the tofu wasn't all that good in it. The tofu tasted like it had been taken out of the package and just dropped into the curry so it was very bland. The curry itself was tasty, but the tofu really wasn't. Had they let it marinate for a while, it would have been better...or if they had used baked tofu with a firmer texture, it would have been even better. And...it definitely should have come with rice. Strike number three.
For $16, the curried tofu dish was expensive and way over-priced. This place was like a cross between a sports bar and a Friday's -- not my favorite type of atmosphere. And, the service left much to be desired. I don't think I'll be going back there any time soon.
Tonic Restaurant & Bar
3155 Mt. Pleasant St. NW
Washington, DC 20010