Young and Hungry

Meat-Centric Restaurants With Great Vegetarian Dishes

With Meat Week and Meat-Free Week back-to-back, there's a little bit of a rivalry going on between those who love burgers and bacon and those who don't. But can meat lovers and vegans/vegetarians sit down to a meal enjoyed by both parties? At some restaurants, yes. We pulled together the best vegetarian fare from meat-centric establishments in the area—because there's nothing worse than subsisting on starchy sides or skimpy salads while your friends chow down on steak.

Kangaroo Boxing Club

Kangaroo Boxing Club may have hosted a Meat Week event, but it still has love for non-meat eaters. After all, two of the owners' girlfriends are vegetarians. In particular, we are fans of the restaurant's "Veg 'n' Egg" entree with spinach, seasonal veggies, and quinoa, topped with a duck egg, balsamic reduction, and vegan barbecue sauce. KBC also has a barbecue falafel platter that comes with a barbecue yogurt sauce and pickled vegetables. "We were kind of playing around with something fried," says owner Josh Saltzman of the falafel. "We didn't want to do a veggie burger, but we wanted something with a crunchy texture."

Kangaroo Boxing Club. 3410 11th St. NW; (202) 505-4522; kangaroodc.com

Red Apron Butchery

A butchery may at first glance raise a red flag for hungry vegetarians, but Neighborhood Restaurant Group's newly opened and sustainability-focused butcher shop in Union Market offers a hearty non-meat option in its sandwich selection. The grilled cheese is composed of three cheeses—fontina, swiss, and provolone—as well as smoked mushrooms and shallots.

Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE; redapronbutchery.com

The Pig

The Pig's head chef Garret Fleming says his menu changes every five or six days, but one vegetarian mainstay is the chickpea hash. The restaurant does its best to accommodate vegetarians, though Fleming acknowledges, "We do enough excluding just by calling ourselves The Pig." Most of The Pig's salads, including a radish and arugula combination and a roast beet salad, are vegetarian (except, notably, a crispy pig ear salad). The Logan Circle restaurant also usually offers one pasta dish that is vegetarian, which in the past has included a trenette with tomato saffron citrus broth.

1320 14th St. NW; (202) 290-2821; thepigdc.com

Smoke & Barrel

Smoke & Barrel serves vegan wings, automatically taking it a notch above your average barbecue joint on the vegetarian-friendly scale. (The wings are made of seitan and soy.) The Adams Morgan restaurant and bar also has a vegetarian chili, which you can put on top of the BBQ Nachos. Also on the menu: a barbecue smoked tofu sandwich, sweet potato, and oat burger with pecans in it. The restaurant began offering vegetarian and vegan dishes in order to appeal to former patrons of Asylum, the restaurant that previously occupied Smoke & Barrel's space. "When the changeover happened, the place had a good bit of vegan customers," chef Logan McGear says. In particular, Asylum had a vegan brunch, a tradition that Smoke & Barrel honors with roasted jalapeno grits and smoked tofu hash (along with meat offerings). McGear says his favorite vegetarian menu item is the vegan spareribs. Take note: Smoke & Barrel offers half off all vegan/vegetarian items on Thursdays.

2471 18th St. NW; (202) 319-9353; smokeandbarreldc.com

Mandu

When most people think of Korean food, they might think of bulgogi or galbi—meat, meat, meat! But Mandu also has an impressive lineup of vegetarian food. A lot of its menu items can be made vegetarian, including the dduk bok gi comprised of thick rice cakes in a spicy sauce with vegetables, their spicy stew as well the bibimbap. Mandu also has a veggie broth noodle dish with vegetables, poached eggs, and tofu in it. As for grill items, Mandu offers seasoned, glazed tofu, and veggies, so you don't feel left out next to your Korean barbecue-guzzling friends.

1805 18th St. NW and 453 K St. NW; mandudc.com

Estadio

Spanish cuisine is known for jamon and chorizo, but at Estadio, some of the best dishes are vegetarian. Among our favorites is the tortilla española, which chef Haidar Karoum learned to make from the wife of a famous Rioja winemaker during a trip to Spain in 2010. Other highlights include the blistered shishito peppers with sea salt, roasted wild mushrooms, and crispy Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and pine nuts.

Estadio, 1520 14th St. NW; (202) 319-1404; estadio-dc.com

Got other favorite vegetarian dishes from meat-centric restaurants? Tell us about them in the comments.

Photo of Kangaroo Boxing Club's Veg 'n' Egg by Jessica Sidman

Comments

  1. #1

    Great article. As a vegetarian, people often ask me what the best vegetarian restaurants are in the DC area, and my answers tend to be places like Jaleo, Zaytinya, Graffiato or Rasika. (CityZen and Rogue 24 both do fantastic vegetarian tasting menus.)

    As someone who's a vegetarian for moral reasons, not health, I'm not looking for sprouts and fake meats, I want something that tastes good. And I want it to be as well thought out as the rest of the menu, not an afterthought. Let's face it, just about anyone can make meat taste good. It takes a real chef to make the vegetarian item on the menu the star.

  2. #2

    my favorite place to take vegetarians to "surprise" them is Bourbon Steak … Adam Sobel has prepared the best vegetarian plates I've had in the city … not sure what he does in fall and winter … but in spring and summer he is spot on … asparagus, peas, limas, sprouts are a few of the early arrivals for his plates … he can hit it out of the park (I thought I was in a spa not a steak house) …

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