Silver Diner Review | Vegan Options at Silver Diner

When I first moved to Maryland seven (!!!) years ago, I was delighted to discover a local diner chain with vegan options. Back then, Silver Diner had a location at the mall near my office, and it was a not-infrequent destination for celebratory team lunches. The options were good and creative, too, more than just your average portobello burger or veggie wrap. Unfortunately, the mall location closed years ago, and I haven’t really been to a Silver Diner since.

This year, though, Silver Diner has upped its vegan options game, introducing a Just Egg Benedict, adding the Beyond Burger, and offering an entire section of vegan entrées. So when a (vegan!) friend suggested we head to the location in Frederick as part of her low-key birthday celebration, Steven and I thought that sounded like a perfect idea.

After much deliberation, I ordered the cauliflower mac and cheese, which features tempeh bacon, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, and a cheesy sauce served over cauliflower and zucchini… all topped with Beyond Meat meatballs. An unexpected combo, to be sure, and not only because there’s no pasta in this mac and cheese. I was dubious, but hopeful. Local vegan restaurant Great Sage has an outstanding mac and cheese that includes both pasta and big chunks of cauliflower, and I’ve often pondered ordering that dish sans pasta, but with added cauliflower.

Alas, Silver Diner’s take on cauli mac and cheese couldn’t live up to Great Sage’s classic version. Instead of big, toothsome cauliflower florets, the cauli, tomatoes, and zucchini are finely chopped, mixed with nearly undetectable  bits of tempeh bacon, and stirred up with a Chao- and nooch-based cheesy sauce. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a sauce, because it was indiscernible from the rest of the dish’s elements (as I’m sure is obvious from the photo).

To be fair, it all tasted pretty good (if a bit overly herby). The Beyond Meat meatballs were tender and flavorful, and the asparagus was cooked just right. But to call this a mac and cheese is, frankly, absurd. Call it a stew, maybe, or a cauliflower “rice” dish, but not mac and cheese. It irks me that Silver Diner is presenting this as a vegan take on mac and cheese when our mac and cheeses are not generally pasta-free! If any curious omnivore were to order this, I fear they’d be quite disappointed. It felt like a dish that just wasn’t well conceptualized. Why are there meatballs served on top?! That’s not a feature of mac and cheese. Nor are roasted tomatoes. It’s just bizarre.

On the bright side, the side of fries we ordered for the table to share were absolute perfection, the perfect combo of crispy, salty, slightly herby goodness, and my dining companions enjoyed their dishes (Beyond Burgers and Just Egg Benedicts). And afterward, we got to hang out with Maggie: always a good time.

Hot Breads Gaithersburg Restaurant Review | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Four

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

Gaithersburg, Maryland, is not exactly what I’d call a vegan hotspot. Sure, we’ve got the standard veg-friendly chains (Chipotle, Cava Grill, Noodles & Co.), a few Mexican restaurants where you can cobble something together, a Chinese resto with a more than respectable vegan menu, and the Beyond Burger-slinging newcomer Barking Mad Café, but that’s about it. There are no 100% vegan joints, and we’ve got to head out of the city limits to experience most of my favorite veg-friendly establishments.

But! There’s a newcomer to the veg scene. (At least, it’s new to me.) A few months ago, Steven was browsing ye olde interweb when he stumbled across a review of a nearby restaurant.

“Have you ever heard of Hot Breads in the Kentlands?” he asked.

I had not. The Kentlands is a nearby planned community, with mixed-use buildings and a walkable town center and one of my favorite veg-friendly Thai spots, but I hadn’t heard of any place called Hot Breads.

“It looks like it’s got a ton of vegan Indian food,” he said, browsing the menu online. “And… wait, vegan cakes and pastries?!”

He had me at “vegan cakes.”  We tried Hot Breads and were delighted by it. The cakes were just OK, but the main meals? They were fantastic. So, with our newfound appreciation for authentic Indian food (and my promise to take Steven out to dinner for his 30th birthday a few weeks ago, a promise delayed because we were fostering a puppy who couldn’t be left alone for too long), we hit up Hot Breads again last week.

Both of us ordered a masala dosa. Despite the sunken appearance of the one on the right, they came out lovely and crispy, stuffed with a potato and pea filling and served alongside coconut chutney, a tomato-y sauce, and sambar. Steven also ordered chili idli. Look how cute these mini idli are!

Despite the cashier warning us that the chili idli would be very spicy, we both found them quite mild. The sauce was also quite sweet and almost ketchup-y. Steven didn’t care for it and I was neutral, although the flavor did get to be a bit much after a couple of bites.

Although the online menu doesn’t indicate which items are vegan, the cashier who took our order (it’s a fast-casual joint) was able to check with the chef to verify which items were OK. Pastry case items are labeled clearly. While I didn’t get a dessert this time, Steven got a strawberry cupcake to go and reported that it was quite tasty.

So, Hot Breads? A definite jewel in Gaithersburg’s veg-restaurant-scene crown! :D

The Best Places for Vegan Brunch in D.C. and Maryland | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Twenty-Eight

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Four: Entertaining
Brunch: the under-appreciated get-together meal.

‘Round these parts, brunch is most definitely not an under-appreciated meal! It’s a weekend tradition for many, and whenever I have friends or family visiting, Steven and I nearly always take them for brunch. We’re lucky to have a few top-notch vegan brunch choices in Maryland and D.C., so I figured I’d share them with you today. (If you’re looking for a whopping big post of DIY vegan brunch recipes and inspiration, I direct you here.) Now, on to the list! Here are my recommendations for the best vegan brunch in Maryland.

Great Sage

I never ever regret going to Clarksville-based Great Sage for brunch. Although I’m occasionally disappointed by their main dinner dishes, which can sometimes lack creativity, their brunch selection is consistently solid. They always have a perfect mix of savory and sweet options, so all your dining companions should be able to find something that appeals. Plus, they have boozy breakfast drinks — including a massive vegan Bloody Mary! I’ve enjoyed quite a few Great Sage brunches in my day, such as the crabcake sandwich, their amazing pierogi quesadillas, and their yummy breakfast sandwich (featuring a tofu egg, sausage, and cheese). You’d also do well to get one of their signature cinnamon buns to go — they are massive and delicious.

 

Glory Doughnuts

I’ve sung the praises of this Frederick-based establishment a fair few times over the past few months, and for good reason. Not only are their doughnuts top-notch, but they have a fabulous and creative selection of all-day brunch eats! Think PBR-infused Belgian waffles, big ol’ plates of huevos rancheros, and decadent apple pie stuffed French toast. Their coffee is also exceptional; it’s from a local woman-owned, fair-trade roaster and is just really, really tasty. Get here early to make sure there are doughnuts available, and stake your spot early — tables fill up fast!

Smoke and Barrel

Tofu scramble and Smoke & Barrel in D.C.

For a vegan brunch in D.C. proper, Smoke and Barrel in Adams Morgan is an excellent choice. Yes, it’s a BBQ and bourbon joint. But if you can get past all that BBQ, you’ll be rewarded with some surprisingly creative vegan brunch options, like a a house-made sweet potato and oat burger and a massive chili-cheese tofu scramble (featuring Daiya). They even have vegan wings! I ordered the tofu scramble last Galentine’s Day when I was out with my ladies and did not regret it. It comes with a massive pile of tofu scramble; a smoky, spicy chili; thick slabs of Texas toast; and crumbly delicious home fries. And although we ordered a mimosa pitcher on that day, Smoke and Barrel also has brunch cocktails! The Happy Trails (bourbon, peach liqueur, orange bitters, soda water) sounds particularly nice.

Fare Well

Owned and operated by Doron Petersan — the same brilliant gal who started Sticky Fingers bakery — Fare Well is an old-fashioned (yet all-vegan) diner with plenty of brunch and breakfast options. Truth be told, I’ve never actually been here for brunch — just for small snacks (including the croissant pictured above), but I really need to rectify that mistake. Just look at that menu: French toast casserole, featuring challah French toast?! Seitan and waffles?!? Cookie dough pancakes?!?!? Give me a break! I have no doubt everything is excellent, and I need to get here stat.

Sticky Fingers

No list of vegan spots in D.C. would be complete without Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, Petersan’s original vegan joint. It’s really more of a bakery than a full restaurant, but you can still enjoy brunch at this small cafe. The weekend brunch menu is small but features a few options similar to those at Fare Well — challah French toast, for example. You can also get biscuits and gravy, a breakfast burrito, and a few other options. I’ve been to Sticky Fingers plenty of times and have never been disappointed.

Other options

The buffet-style vegan Sunday brunch at Equinox is a bit of a legend around here, but somehow I’ve never been. It’s $35 a head — excluding drinks, which will set you back ~$11 each. That’s a bit steep for me; I have a small stomach and buffets don’t play to my eating style (I prefer smaller but frequent meals, spread out throughout the day). Still, I know I should try it — with options like a chickpea cassoulet, stuffed whole-grain French toast, and a tofu scramble station, I’m sure it would be a great experience.

NuVegan Café in College Park is one of our favorite spots for comfort food: I can never pass up their mac ’n’ cheese, their fried chicken “dummies,” or their garlicky kale salad. They also have brunch, though I’ve never tried it. But the options are vast and varied, with everything from oatmeal to pancakes to omelettes, and I’m willing to bet it’s all quite tasty.

Local chain Founding Farmers is an oft-hailed farm-to-table establishment with vegan-friendly main dishes (including the Impossible Burger). They allegedly have vegan options as part of their set-price brunch buffet, but their online menu is unclear. That’s a shame — and a missed opportunity. I’m not about to pay upwards of $30 when there’s a chance I’ll only have fruit and toast for breakfast.


This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I haven’t even touched Baltimore! I’m sure there are plenty of other spots in D.C. with vegan options, but I live far enough from the city that a trip in for brunch is rare. I’ll update this list if I try any great new places, though.

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The best vegan brunch spots in Maryland and D.C. // govegga.com

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Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

VeganMoFo 2015 bannerDay 17: Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish.

Maryland is one of those states that’s pretty synonymous with a specific dish — crabcakes. Or anything with crab, really. As a child, years and years before I moved to Maryland, I visited cousins who lived here and went out crabbing with them. Even then, I remember feeling unhappy with the practice and very uncomfortable with the whole boiling-and-eating-them thing.

Now, thinking about my participation in the catching and killing of perhaps dozens of crustaceans makes me feel sad and guilty. Tonight’s dinner — the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For — is my small way of offering up a little tribute to those crabs of my youth.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

With a tempeh base, these cakes are quite filling. I didn’t have a red bell pepper in the house, so I substituted a yellow pepper instead. I also made one other big substitution: using Old Bay instead of the spice blend in the recipe. You can’t make crabcakes without Old Bay!

I did have a little trouble with this recipe. The cakes didn’t hold together well at all; I ended up adding some aquafaba as a binder. They’re also pan-fried in oil, making them a little heavy for me. That side of sliced peppers certainly helped!

Here’s to you, crabs of Maryland, and here’s to eating tempeh instead of flesh!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Vegan Eats in Maryland and DC: Part II

Hello, all! Happy 2012. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and that you welcomed 2012 with some awesome people – I sure did. :) I’ll recap my very vegan Christmas soon, but first I have to finish blabbering about all the delicious food S and I ate in Maryland! In Part I, I talked about Great Sage, Sticky Fingers Bakery, and Pho 14. Now to the rest of our eats!

Liquid Earth in Baltimore, MD

Besides hanging out in the Columbia area and visiting DC, S and I also spent a day in Baltimore. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend the American Visionary Art Museum – I’m generally pretty ambivalent about contemporary art (okay, that’s generous… I’m usually not too fond of it!), but I truly enjoyed the amazingly creative and fun works at AVAM. I also appreciated their definition of visionary art: “…art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” It’s so inspiring to see how people from around the world feel the call to creativity and subsequently produce beautiful, thought-provoking art.

But that’s a total digression, because I’m supposed to be talking about food. Our first meal in Baltimore was at Liquid Earth after a morning of wandering around AVAM. Boasting an impressive juice and smoothie menu, Liquid Earth feels a bit like your stereotypical veg restaurant – cozy, with eclectic decor and inked-and-pierced servers – my kind of people! ;) S ordered (and really enjoyed) the Filly Cheese Phake, which substitutes tofu for steak. I didn’t try it because it includes provolone cheese, so I’ll have to trust his review. I lunched on their T.L.T., which featured a house-made organic “bacon.” The sandwich was not really anything to write home about, but that was exactly what I was craving: something simple, tasty, and filling that reminded me of my beloved BLT sandwiches of yore. I also got an Original Strawberry Smoothie, which was sadly disappointing. It’s hard to imagine that you can go wrong with strawberries, bananas, soy milk, and ice, but it seemed as if ice was the main ingredient in my smoothie, rendering it bland and lackluster. However, S’s Ginger Zinger juice totally made up for my drab drink. A simple mixture of Granny Smith apples and copious amounts of ginger, this was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted (yes, my juice experiences are limited). S and I both loved it – it was zesty and spicy and totally, totally delicious. I wish I had a picture of it and its beautiful green hue!

One World Cafe in Baltimore, MD

After an afternoon at the National Aquarium,* S and I met up with his mom and one of his college friends for dinner. We headed to One World Cafe, where I was delighted to discover that it was Taco Tuesday! $5.50 for two tacos and a side of spicy rice? Yes, please! Sometimes a girl craves tacos; what can I say. One World Cafe offers a vegetarian menu with many vegan options, and they happily substituted Daiya cheese for the dairy cheese on my dish. The tacos were exactly what I wanted – simple and spicy, with all the fixings.

Tacotastic!

My dining companions enjoyed lasagna and macaroni and cheese, so I can’t speak to those dishes, but their reviews were quite positive. :) Our meals filled us up and gave us the energy to navigate the crowds on 34th street in Hampden to see the houses all decked out in their Christmas light finest. As S’s mom put it, “Tacky but beautiful.”

Busboys & Poets in Hyattsville, MD

Busboys & Poets is a very cool, very politically involved, and very activist-y establishment. Although they try perhaps a little too hard to make the decor seem very hip and artsy, the overall ambiance of this place is definitely my style. The menu features meat but is very veg-friendly, with lots of vegan options that go beyond the ubiquitous portobello mushroom sandwich that most restaurants seem to think meets their veg quota. S and I started out with the Coconut Tofu Bites as an appetizer.

Coconutty and crispy.

Oh my goodness. These were so, so tasty. These bite-sized morsels of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth bits of tofu were encrusted with crispy, fried coconut and dipped in a sweet plum sauce with hints of pineapple. The combination of flavors was just perfect, even for someone like me who is generally wary of sweet dinner items. I’m sure these are terribly unhealthy, but for a rare indulgence, it really couldn’t get much more delicious. And I’m so impressed that a mainstream restaurant did something so very creative with tofu – this little dish would not be out of place at an upscale all-vegan restaurant, yet it’s on the menu at an establishment that also features meat. I really appreciate that creativity in a restaurant!

For our main meals, S and I both ordered the Veggie Burger, a “homemade vegetarian burger with sprouts, avocado, tomato on wheat bun.” It did not disappoint.

A bit of an indulgence, but totally worth it.

Can you see how big and plump that burger is? It was just bursting with vegetables, beans, and lentils – the perfect veggie burger! I loved that it was topped with avocado, too – I need to remember to incorporate that wonderful green fruit into more of my burger-eating experiences. With a side of sweet potato fries, this was a really tasty (and filling – I only ate half!) meal, and I rounded it off with a soy cappuccino – the perfect end to the Maryland portion of my holiday vacation.

So there you have it – all my Maryland eats! I’m drooling just thinking about those coconutty tofu bites. :)

What’s the most creative vegan dish you’ve had in a mainstream restaurant?

*My views on aquariums are similar to my views on zoos (shared at the end of this post).

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Vegan Eats in Maryland and DC: Part I

Greetings from Rhode Island! After spending five fantastic days in Maryland with S, I hopped on a quick one-hour flight to Rhode Island. Now I’m chillin’ with my family until S joins us late Christmas night. So far I’ve baked one batch of cookies (Five-Spice Snaps from Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season), taken the train up to Boston to visit friends, and otherwise just schlepped around in my super-comfy new plushy bathrobe. Tomorrow we’ll do lots more Christmas baking and food prepping, so I’ll feel a bit more productive.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – I have some Maryland-related eats to share! I was blown away by all the veg-friendly restaurants S and I encountered in MD (and DC), so I figured I’d share ’em! I highly recommend all of these places – each one was impressive in its own right, and definitely worth a visit. I’m splitting this post into two, though, because I’m prone to ramblin’ and it’d get mighty lengthy if I didn’t!

Great Sage in Clarksville, MD

S’s mom treated us to dinner at Great Sage on one of our first nights in Maryland. Their menu is totally vegan, and their dishes feature local and organic ingredients. We started with the Artichoke-Spinach Dip appetizer, a chunky dip with just the right amount of mozzarella Daiya. Spooned onto crusty crostini rounds, it made for a creamy and satisfying start to our meal. For my main dish, I went with the Santa Fe Salad because I was in the mood for something a little on the light side. The salad was fantastic. Mixed baby greens, black beans, roasted corn, red onions, and tomatoes were perfectly coated in a delicious house-made lime-cilantro dressing, then topped with a generous scoop of guacamole, a light sprinkling of cheddar Daiya, and finished off with tortilla strips and big cubes of marinated tofu. The combination was perfect, and I really loved the dressing – it was tangy and flavorful without being overpowering. I was slightly disappointed with the tofu, which seemed a little bland for my tastes – grilling or broiling it might’ve fit better with the theme of the dish. But otherwise, it was perfect and completely filling.

If only you could smell the dressing!

Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington, DC

Man… I am so envious of anyone who has easy access to an all vegan-bakery like Sticky Fingers. On our list of stuff to do in DC, “visit Sticky Fingers” was right alongside things like “go to museums” and “visit the Botanic Gardens.” As soon as we arrived in the District, we headed straight for the bakery for breakfast and a coffee fix. S enjoyed the Breakfast Burrito, a whole-grain tortilla filled with tofu scramble, black beans, Daiya, tomato, and a generous helping of spinach. Because he’s a generous gent, he offered me many bites, and I can attest that it’s a solid breakfast option. The addition of ketchup made it even better, until some uptight indie boy came over and demanded that S return the ketchup then didn’t even crack a smile when S laughingly apologized for hoarding it. Uptight Indie Boy, you give vegans a bad name and I do not want to be associated with you. Anyway, S also sipped this pretty cappuccino:

Swirly!

I did not get anything nearly as fancy for my breakfast. I enjoyed a simple (but really tasty) cup of coffee along with a Cranberry-Ginger Muffin, their seasonal muffin flavor. I can’t remember the last time I ate a muffin that neither I nor my mom baked, so it was a real treat to enjoy a light, fluffy, bakery-style muffin that I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare. If the ginger had been a little more prominent, it would’ve been an absolutely perfect breakfast! In fact, it was so good that I forgot to take a photo until I was halfway done eating.

Proof of this muffin's deliciousness.

S and I had plans to return to Sticky Fingers for dessert later in the day, but that didn’t pan out. Alas! I really wanted to try a Peppermint Fudge Brownie. Maybe one day!

Pho 14 in Washington, DC

After a morning of ogling gems and minerals and questioning the necessity of a Chilean miners exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, S and I met up with two of his college friends for lunch. S introduced me to pho when we were in Chicago over the summer and I really enjoyed it, but sadly, Madison’s vegan pho offerings are non-existent. We made our own version once, but it wasn’t quite the same. So, S was pleased to discover Pho 14, which offers both traditional pho options and a more animal-friendly variety. While S opted for a veg bowl of pho, I went for something slightly different – Bun Chay, described rather sparsely as “vegetables with fried and dyed tofu.” I received a big ol’ bowl of yummy tofu, slightly pickled veggies, thin, round rice noodles, and even more fresh veggies, all of which tasted fantastic when doused in a sweet chili sauce. It was the perfect meal, the kind that fills you up yet doesn’t leave your tummy feeling heavy or uncomfortable. It was light, clean, and absolutely delicious, and it provided me with lots of energy for perusing the fantastic collections at the National Gallery of Art.

…and that’s it for this installment! I’ll talk about the rest of my yummy eats soon. But first – what fabulous restaurants did I miss in DC?! What’s your favorite travel destination, food-wise? 

And also… happy holidays! :)