Young and Hungry

Comments Come True: Tempeh Panini at Busboys and Poets

When I asked where to find a proper veggie sandwich many of you not only understood my dilemma, but offered heart-felt suggestions. The last veggie sandwich I ordered (and wrote about) tasted, "meh." Although maybe I should clarify, since my dad made a point over Thanksgiving to ask me what the word "meh" meant. Please raise your shoulders, tilt your head and say "meh" as a question. Think: bland, bored, uninspired.

I plan to tackle my way through your advice, an ambitious list of 24 establishments (see below), and decided to start by proximity and free Internet usage, and apparently, at a place with an affinity for late '90s rap—Busboys and Poets' location at 14th & V streets NW.

Breathe and stop. For real. And give it what you got.

My head is nodding up and down, a full inch too wildly for a workday afternoon, especially in a public place. But when you get advice, follow it and it proves true, a showy head bob is in order. Especially to Q-Tip. Especially to tempeh.

Alan presented this vegetarian sandwich recommendation:

"Tempeh sandwich at Busboys and Poets – minus sprouts, plus avocado. Absolute delicious, and vegan too!"

I sat down with purpose at Busboys, eager to try the recommended tempeh sandwich. Alan, I have to tell you, I swooned at first bite.

Breathe and stop. For real. And give it what you got.

How did Q-Tip manage to so appropriately rap my thoughts?

Meaty, smoky, and pleasantly chewy, the tempeh tricked my mind. Although it didn't resemble the exact texture of meat, the flavor felt familiar. I also added on avocado, like Alan said, but someone at Busboys must be reading Young & Hungry comments because the sandwich no longer sported sprouts. Still-crunchy sauteed onions, roasted red peppers, arugula and a vegan mayo filled out the sandwich without overpowering the soy plank.

Impressed, I asked manger Che McKissic how the kitchen prepares its tempeh. I learned it didn't. Busboys uses Lightlife brand tempeh (which you can buy in the DistrictMaryland and Virginia according to its website) and McKissic admitted the chefs "Cook it as is. It comes that good."

And I have to say, Che, I think you're right.

Comments Come True: Veggie Sandwich Checklist
(In order of appearance in the comments)

  1. Cork Market
  2. Cowgirl Creamery
  3. Busboys and Poets
  4. Taylor Gourmet
  5. Booeymonger
  6. Pret a Manger
  7. California Tortilla
  8. Jaleo
  9. Highland Cafe
  10. Jimmy John's
  11. Greek Spot
  12. Sticky Fingers
  13. Earl's
  14. Yum's
  15. Super Taco
  16. Luna Grill
  17. Five Guys
  18. Sidamo
  19. Everlasting Life
  20. Au Bon Pain
  21. Devon and Blakely
  22. Corner Bakery
  23. Potbelly
  24. Black Squirrel

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  • mary

    I have no idea why the mushroom burger at Eventide isn't on this list. (Except for the fact that I didn't add it). Try it. Now.

    Word to the wise: unfortunately, the veggie burger at the Black Squirrel is the only think on the menu that has disappointed.

    I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the veggie subs at Taylor Gourment. I can't stop ordering meat when I visit T.G.

  • cgaul

    This is the first Young and Hungry post I have read and even though I didn't think I could ever eat a bite of tempeh again after having some real bad tempeh moments, you have made me almost willing to drive to DC to try this sandwich. Great article! Looking forward to going through the list of places vicariously.

  • Preeti

    Awesome list, will definitely be following this series closely! Cork Market's veggie and Taylor's Spring Garden are two I perpetually crave.

  • Alan

    So glad you liked it! Can't wait to see your take on the others...

  • betsy shipley

    Just thought readers would like to know how to make theri own tempeh using our easy method that we developed while in business in Mich. for 9 1/2 years with Betsy's Tempeh
    Enjoy the best ever tempeh.

  • Tina

    You just used "meh" in a review. I officially won't read this blog anymore. What a non-descript, hipster-indifferent, stupid word for a food reviewer.

  • jpk

    tina is lame.

  • Jackie

    That Tempeh sandwich at Busboys is the best. I always say I'm going to order something else when I go there - but I can't stay away!

  • Amber

    How is Amsterdam Falafel not on this list?