Beefsteak is Jose Andres' first stab at fast casual in DC, originally aimed at the college kids of George Washington University. It has been open on the GW campus for about a year now with its second location having opened in Dupont Circle just a few months ago. I really wanted to love this place...yeah, I wanted to.
Beefsteak's motto is "vegetables unleashed." But, I hadn't gone all year for a few reasons: (1) none of the premade suggestions on the menu are vegan...none; (2) nothing is labeled as vegan or not on the website; and (3) their press release indicated that they were not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. And it isn't that number three matters because I eat at meat-centric places all the time, it was just bothersome that they chose to point that out.
I heard good and bad things all year long so I finally gave it a try. As I walked in on a Friday evening, it had a stale feel to it. I walked up to the counter and asked if they knew what was vegan or not before I placed my order. The girl called down to another girl who said she did.
First, you choose any amount of vegetables you would like from the list that changes regularly. As all of the suggested combinations weren't vegan, I was left on my own. I chose the warm vegetable bowl filled with sweet potatoes, edamame, asparagus, mushrooms, and bok choy. They then boil your veggies as you continue to choose the accompaniments. Next, you choose your grain: bulgar, quinoa, or rice. I chose quinoa. Then, you choose your sauce. They said that only the Garlic Yogurt wasn't vegan, which leaves the Black Bean, Cilantro, or Spicy Tomato. I chose the cilantro. Then, you can add something "meaty," which is all meat except for avocado for an additional .99 or 1.99. I skipped this. Why isn't there tofu or tempeh? Next, you choose a dressing. The Lemon Honey isn't vegan. I went with the Soy Ginger. Finally, there are other toppings.
They didn't tell me the kimchi had fish until after I had added it so they had to start over. They had no idea what was in the seaweed salad so I avoided that as well. I topped it with sesame seeds and that was it.
By the time I tasted it, it was lackluster. The vegetables were just boiled and blah. The cilantro sauce was good, but why is there both a sauce and a dressing as they didn't pair together well at all. The fact that nothing is labeled vegan in a veggie-centric restaurant is unbelievable. Right across the street, you have Sweetgreen and Cava Mezze -- both label all items as vegan or not. The meal was nearly $10, which would buy you an awesome salad at Sweetgreen. With that kind of competition, I don't know why any vegetarian would come to Beefsteak. Slight changes could fix all of this and I'm surprised that while Jose Andres' other restaurants like Oyamel have separate vegan menus, this one does not. Shame shame.
800 22nd Street NW
Washington, DC 20052