Young and Hungry

What’s So Special About VegWeek?

Mayor Vincent C. Gray may have proclaimed it and Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards may have pledged it. But our vegetarian critic is nonplussed about VegWeek 2011.

Compassion Over Killing, a DC-based nonprofit, works on numerous campaigns, from shaming Dunkin Donuts' egg supplier to encouraging Subway to offer fake meats. This week, though, the lobbying group focuses on promoting meatless dining in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., among other places.

But is all the promotion really doing much to change our eating habits this week? I think not.

If we judged the event purely on the range of participating restaurants, then the week would be about as persuasive as Donald Trump's leap at the Republican presidential nomination. No one's biting except for the already converted. If you look at the list of restaurants participating in VegWeekAmsterdam Falafel, Bread & Brew, Cafe Green, Fojol Bros.—it's places that vegetarians and vegans already frequent for their meatless options.

I mean, gee, thanks for the 10 percent discount and all. But, come on, can't we advance the cause beyond the usual imitation "chicken" sandwich?

A better idea would be to enlist restaurants with a normally meat-heavy menu to offer something for the event, therefore tempting its meat-eating costumers to try something other than their typical half smoke or tuna melt.

How bout Old Ebbitt Grill serving up a crabless chickpea crabcake? Or Birch & Barley offering freshly fried donuts topped with toffee and fakin' bacon? Or maybe just Medium Rare serving something other than steak frites for once?

If Compassion Over Killing truly wants to spread its message, instead of simply rallying its base, then maybe they could come up with some better specials to make VegWeek more, you know, special.

Photo from VegWeek

  • Pam

    Aww, sounds like some hatin' to me.

    This is the first year VegWeek has expanded to DC, and really more nationwide-like. So let's see - scaling from focusing on Maryland (and there, mostly TK Park and Baltimore) to working with the whole DMV AND some other major US cities?

    If you want to change the game, I know COK loves volunteers! And to be fair - don't forget that many DC restaurants that are now veggie favs - Bread & Brew, Founding Farmers ... worked with COK to develop their veg-friendly offerings.

    So maybe, right-off-the-bat hatin' isn't so nice. When you decide to volunteer to make next year's VegWeek kick ass (or hey, volunteer for VegFest this fall), their email is

  • It’s What’s For Breakfast

    I think one issue with encouraging places that normally serve a meat heavy menu to do a week of veggie offerings is the lingering kitchen prejudice against vegetarians. I'm not a vegetarian, but I do have restaurant work experience under my belt, and I've witnessed this prejudice firsthand. The result is that many chefs don't really know how/care to put in the effort to make tasty vegetarian fare. It's kind of like when your college cafeteria couldn't figure out what to do with tofu. The possible result is some bland veggie options that might turn off a significant number of curious diners. Pretty sad considering that it isn't that hard to create very tasty vegan/vegetarian fare.

  • Umm

    Medium Rare does serve a vegetarian option -- you just have to ask for it. Haven't had it but heard it's good!

  • anon

    I agree with @It's What's For Breakfast -- the kitchens that offer nothing largely do so somewhere between indifference and disdain. Many of the really good high end places in DC will mostly provide good vegetarian options (though not all).

    I find it funny that Carmine's has not only a vegetarian menu but supposedly a vegan one too. Still don't want to eat there, but even a heavy gluttonous place can figure this one out.

  • Mike from Capitol Hill

    Total promotional fail. This is the first I've even heard about VegWeek.

  • DanielleinDC

    VegWeek is pretty new--I think it's only the second or third year they've done it. Give 'em time, maybe they'll work with less veg-friendly places to offer veg*an options on their menus.