Young and Hungry

Huh? Quinoa at a Barbecue Joint

Quinoa is about the last thing you'd expect to find on a menu otherwise filled with pastrami, burgers, and "smokey joe" sandwiches.

But at Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights, the "Veg 'n' Egg" entree with quinoa, roasted beets, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, spinach, sliced almonds, and a fried duck egg is the most popular menu item among staff. I have to give it credit: The $9 dish with a balsamic reduction and vegan barbecue sauce is nearly as hearty as the pulled pork.

"Even though we're a barbecue place, we don't like to be completely pigeon-holed into the barbecue theme," says chef and co-owner Trent Allen. "There's very large segment of vegetarians in the neighborhood and D.C. in general." Among them: two of the owners' girlfriends.

Allen says he didn't just want to do a veggie burger, and he was drawn to quinoa because it adds meatiness to a vegetarian dish. Kangaroo Boxing Club also makes its own humus and serves a farm salad with balsamic-macerated strawberries, arugula, candied ginger, toasted pecans, feta, and tarragon dressing—a far cry from the mac and cheese or baked beans I expected to find at the barbecue spot. (OK, I found those things, too.)

The restaurant also has a vegan barbecue sauce, which sits on every table along with four other spicy and sweet varieties in squeeze bottles. The other barbecue sauces contain drippings from the smoked pork or beef. The sweet vegan sauce has its own secret ingredient to add an "umami" flavor, but Allen will not reveal it: "It is vegan, and I have a feeling nobody will ever guess it."

This week, Kangaroo Boxing Club will also debut a jalapeno roasted-garlic falafel sandwich with a vegan barbecue Greek yogurt sauce. Allen says he hopes to expand the vegetarian and vegan options even further as the less-than-two-month-old restaurant settles in.

Photo by Jessica Sidman

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