Monday, July 22, 2013

Restaurant Explosion in the 14th St/U St Corridor, DC

You'd have to be living in a cave if you didn't know that the 14th Street area between N and W Streets was exploding with new construction of apartment and condo buildings as well as restaurants.  Every time I walk down the street, I see a new cafe and it all seems very overwhelming. There are so many new places, but who knows which ones are vegan-friendly?  Well, now I do.  I just spent the entire day walking up and down 14th Street and talking to owners, managers, and chefs at all of the new restaurants. I'd like to share with you what I learned.

As one might imagine, some restaurants are very vegan friendly while others are not. Some staff are friendly while others are not. Please note that I have not yet eaten at any of these restaurants, but based on the info below, you can bet I will soon. Please also note that changes to the menu to veganize items are listed in italics.

Most Vegan Friendly
Three restaurants/cafes really stuck out in my search as not only being the most vegan friendly, but having friendly chefs and/or staff that were happy to discuss the menu with me.

Let's start with Ghibellina (on 14th between Q & Corcoran), an Italian Gastro Pub. They offer the following:
  • Soups
    • Pappa Al Pomodoro - tomato and bread soup
    • Zuppa Di Ceci - chickpeas, rosemary, tomato, garlic rubbed crouton soup
  • Salad
    • Insalata Di Farro - farro, roasted beets, shaved fennel, hazelnuts, sherry vinegar, no ricotta
  • Sides
    • Patate Arrosto - roasted potatoes, rosemary, sage, black pepper (brunch/lunch only)
    •  Patate Lesse - boiled potatoes, olio verde, sea salt, no salsa verde
    • Fagiolini Sfiziosi - green and yellow wax beans, mint, lemon, croutons
    • Melanzane Arrosto - wood-roasted eggplant, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, no ricotta
    • Peperoni E Fagioli Marinati - heirloom peppers, cannellini beans, parsley, no anchovy
  • Pasta
    • Pici Carrettiera - this usually is made with their housemade noodles containing eggs - instead ask for the spaghetti noodles, sauce is made with tomato, garlic, basil, parsley, and peperoncino; also ask them not to top it with cheese
  • Pizza
    • Marinara Pizza - this is vegan as is! Classic Italian pizza made with tomato, oregano, garlic, basil, olio verde (comes standard without cheese); and there are tons of vegan toppings you could add if you like including calabrian chilies
Please note that the Verdure Fritte (brunch/lunch only) is not vegan because it is made with buttermilk. Also, the Zucchine Al Forno is made with honey.

Next up is Mike Isabella's Kapnos (14th & W St), a Greek restaurant. I really feel torn about this place. While half the menu is vegan, there are full pigs roasting in the oven in full view when you enter the restaurant. They are visible from the main dining area, but if you sit to the left, you wouldn't see them. While that is incredibly offensive, the vegan options look great. Here is what they offer:
  • Spreads (served with flatbread)
    • Melitzanosalata - smoky eggplant, roasted peppers, walnuts, no feta
    • Kohlrabi crudite - lemon, sesame
    • Stone baked flatbread - garlic oil
  •  Cold Mezze
    •  Farm house vegetable salad - red wine vinaigrette, no feta
    • Spicy watermelon - urfa, rind, fennel granite
    • Charcoal roasted fennel - arugula, almonds, dates, tahini
    • Smoky beets - green peppercorn, citrus, no yogurt
    • Marinated olives - red chili, marcona almonds, no kefalograviera
  • Garden Mezze
    • Briam - roasted tomato, baby squash, purple eggplant, potato
    • Fava - yellow lentils, corn, spinach, pearl onions
    • Grilled asparagus - sundried tomato, lemon rind, no feta
    • Smoky hen of the woods mushroom - kohlrabi, oregano, no graviera
    • Braised cauliflower - tomato chickpeas, fenugreek 

Lastly, there is &pizza that opened in the former Quizno's space right outside of the U Street Metro. This is more of a quick eat/take out joint. Who knew they were so vegan friendly?  All of their doughs are vegan including traditional, whole wheat, and multigrain.  They offer toppings like mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, spinach, broccolini, artichoke, and jalapenos. Then there are a bunch of finishes and oils that are vegan. And they have Daiya vegan mozzarella. Yay!

In my second tier, there are some vegan options, but not a lot.

Bar di Bari (14th & R St.) is a small European-style sidewalk cafe serving coffee, wine, salads, and bread. Their menu is limited, but there are several salads and sides that are vegan.

  • Green bean salad
  • Cucumber salad
  • Roasted beet and hazelnut salad
  • Herb roasted fingerling potatoes
  • Fruit salad
  • Baguette and foccacia breads

B Too is a Belgian Cafe on 14th Street between Rhode Island Avenue and N Street serving mainly mussel dishes. The Manager seemed very receptive to my inquiry and said she wants to add more gluten-free and vegan options. Right now, they just have a few.
  • For brunch, there is a Mushroom on Toast dish that they can make with basil oil instead of butter.
  • Slaatje in nen bokaal - vegetable herb salad, no egg
  • Salade van rode bietjes - red beet salad, mint, pistachio, green peas, no yogurt 
  • Healthy sandwich - vegetable sandwich, no egg
  • Fruit salad
In my last tier, there are hardly any vegan options or none at all.

Drafting Table (14th & Q) is a small cafe that offers four vegan options. During brunch, they have falafel and gazpacho. During dinner, they have falafel, fries, and a mixed pickle platter (without the dressing).

Le Diplomate (14th & Q) is the over-hyped French restaurant by restauranteur Stephen Starr. In a typical French way, they've given the middle finger to vegans. You can choose from four sides - just be sure to ask them to prepare them with oil instead of butter.

The host at Matchbox (14th & T) first told me maybe the black bean burger was vegan (it actually has egg), then after checking with someone, stated there was nothing vegan on their menu. I'm pretty sure some dishes could be modified to be vegan, but if they don't care to discuss that with me, then we shouldn't care to patronize their restaurant.

I called Etto (14th & Q) as they aren't open during the day and the woman who answered was not at all helpful. She wouldn't confirm that anything was vegan and told me to email her so she could respond later. She also advised me not to think of this restaurant as vegan-friendly as they use a lot of honey and eggs in their dishes.

I stopped by Taqueria Nacional, a new Mexican taco place on T Street. They have vegetarian beans, but not much else.

Next door, I found Bakehouse, a bakery. They offer a vegan cookie called "Luna's Vegan Cookie" made with chocolate, banana, and coconut. They said that a vegan ice cream sandwich would be coming soon.

Coming soon
In other news, there is still a lot that has not yet opened. Mike Isabella's G Sandwich Shop (14th & W) opens this Friday, July 26. On the opening day, all sandwiches will be free with donations going to charity. There will be a vegan cauliflower sandwich on the menu.  They also mentioned they'll be growing their own sprouts.

I stopped by Mcafe (14th & R). They said they'll be open in two weeks and have confirmed that they will have vegan and gluten free options.

Diego (14th & V), a Tex Mex restaurant, apparently will have some vegan options when they open.  And I know nothing about Ted's Bulletin, but they should also be opening soon.

So, there you have it -- the vegan scoop for the Logan Circle/U Street area. If you know of any other vegan options, please let me know in the comments below. Now, I can start planning my next restaurant visits.

Disclosure: menu items and methods of preparation change regularly. Please be sure to ask questions.


  1. Thanks, this is a great list to have!

  2. &pizza is the best, but they should cook the pizza maybe for another minute or so as the last one I had was a bit soft. Their salsa is good as it kind of tastes like pineapples