Chaia is a very small, fast casual restaurant offering seasonal plant-based tacos in Cady's Alley in Georgetown. I had heard of Chaia for many years -- colleagues raved about these vegetarian tacos and friends suggested we go, but a quick glance of their menu never seemed promising as all items listed cheese and/or yogurt as ingredients.
Their menu is vegetarian, but doesn't mention anything about vegan options, so I assumed they weren't vegan friendly. Luckily, I was wrong. On our first visit, I discovered just how it works. There is a menu of five tacos and three sides every day, which changes seasonally. Although none of the tacos are vegan as-is, most can be modified to be vegan. I chose the taco trio of three tacos for $11.
There was no seating available inside, so we found some seating outside in the courtyard. The smoky eggplant was pretty good, but seemed like it was missing something. The garlic lemon greens was also pretty good, but tasted more like it should be a side rather than a bunch of greens in a taco. The best one was the mushroom, which was fantastic. What I didn't like was that the way they modify them to be vegan is by leaving something off (usually cheese or cream), which leaves one feeling like something is missing. So instead of replacing a creamy milk-based sauce with a cashew-based sauce or chunks of feta with chunks of nut-based cheeses, they just leave it off. For $11, you'd think they could develop a delicious vegan sauce or offer vegan hard cheese as well.
On my second visit, I got two mushroom tacos and the chipotle sweet potato hash. Both were excellent. I used their hot sauce as well, which was actually pretty hot and delicious! And we got a seat inside this time. Win all the way around!
So, all in all, I like this place. The food is pretty good even though I think they could develop some more vegan sauces and/or offer vegan hard cheeses. I also think they should advertise that most items can be made vegan because there is no notion of this on the website. Given how fresh these ingredients are and that they use fresh herbs, I think the $11 price is about right. And although it does take some time to get the food when they are busy, they make it fresh right in front of you. I'd love to see them expand into a space where there is adequate seating because I think they have the business and even more people would come if they could sit and eat there. I also noticed they are now available for order on UberEats, my new favorite food delivery service.
Nice job, Chaia. Looking forward to next time.
3207 Grace Street NW
Washington, DC 20007