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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Restaurant Dishes I Have Known | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Twenty-Three

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Four: Entertaining
Fancy AF. Dazzle us with your haute cuisine or gourmet dishes.

Let’s get this out of the way: I am going to take some, ahem, creative license with the prompts this week. I alluded to it earlier this month, but I just haven’t approached this year’s VeganMoFo with much of my usual gusto. The trend continues this week. I’m tired; I’m busy with freelance work on top of my full-time work; I’m not in the mood to spend hours on fancy meals. We just adopted another dog (more on her later!); Steven’s not eating added sugar, so what’s the point of making yummy desserts; I’m stressed out by the horrible political climate in my country; sexist jerks on Facebook have gotten me down; the list continues.

It’s been difficult enough to follow the prompts up till now, but this week’s batch? Even worse. Terrifically worse! I have zero interest in spending hours with fiddly little cakes or troublesome sheets of fondant or the massive Thanksgiving-inspired hot water crust pie I briefly toyed with making. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I rebel!

So! Here’s what I’m doing instead: Showing you photos of restaurant meals I’ve known and loved but mostly haven’t shared here, because that’s about as fancy as I’m going to get. (Case in point: For breakfast today I ate leftover buckwheat porridge, and lunch will probably be a lentil soup we recently dug out of the bowels of the freezer. Dinner is anyone’s guess. I will accept deliveries of vegan pizza; enquire within for my mailing address.)

…and now, having gone back through about a year’s worth of photos on my phone, I’ve seen too many photos of Luna and I miss her so much.

HAPPY FREAKING MONDAY. Here, let’s distract ourselves with food.

Vegan roast from 222 Veggie Vegan in LondonAn incredible take on a classic roast from 222 Veggie Vegan in London. From the menu: “Hearty vegetarian roast with potato and parsnip mash laced with fragrant herbs. Served with onion gravy and steamed french beans.”

Gosh, this was SO flavorsome. Perfect textures, just the right amount of seasoning, and a massive vat of tasty onion gravy with which to smother everything. Oh, I loved this dish so much, and what a gem of a restaurant! We went there on our last night in London on a bit of a whim (more to come on that trip later!) and it was such a perfect way to end our holiday. I haven’t heard too much about this place but we both loved our meals.

Beet carpaccio

Beet “carpaccio,” just one of the many — many! — dishes we enjoyed on our all-vegan (!) cruise of the Norwegian fjords last month. More posts to come on that experience!

Vegan Irish coffee

Vegan Irish coffee, also on our cruise. Steven and I both indulged in many of these tasty treats, usually while lazing away an afternoon reading. Vegan introvert perfection.

Soup and sandwich at Kaf in Bergen, NorwayThe one meal we paid for in Norway because we were going to miss lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner on the boat that day!

We stopped at Kaf, a tiny veg-friendly cafe in the adorably quaint Bryggen section of Bergen. I opted for a combo meal, which included a spiced sweet potato lentil soup and a half sandwich. The latter was topped with avocado, tomatoes, radish, mango, a balsamic reduction, and a piquant pesto. Steven had a full sandwich with lots of veggies, including tender slices of roasted eggplant. Everything was tasty, fresh, and clearly made with care. So good. So expensive. I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for any other meals in Norway — ouch!

Porridge from 26 Grains in London

Fancy AF porridge from 26 Grains in London. Nordic Pear on the left; Plum and Bay on the right. This is probably the most hipster thing I’ve ever spent money on but it was goooood. (So was their oatmilk flat white.) I need to improve my own oatmeal game!

Crabcake from Great Sage in Maryland

The drool-worthy crabcake from Great Sage — our one and only “local” fully vegan restaurant — during a pre-work-trip brunch this summer. This is a do-not-miss classic at Great Sage!

Carrot lox salad at Great Sage

My 30th birthday dinner from this past March, also from Great Sage! I had their carrot “lox” salad and an order of the amazing cheesy spinach and artichoke dip. The dip was good as ever, but the lox was just too salty. Luckily I saved room for dessert!

Vegan meal at Seasons 52Steven’s mom got married about a year ago, and we all went to Seasons 52 for a late lunch after their sweet little courthouse wedding. This fancier-than-my-usual-dining-establishment has a separate vegan menu!

I chose the vegan paella, which comes with roasted asparagus and a grilled kohlrabi steak on the side. Truthfully, I don’t remember many details about the meal; it was a year ago! They also have a great bar, and I enjoyed a really nice Old Fashioned or two. We’re heading back to this restaurant in a couple weeks to celebrate the couple’s one-year anniversary. :)

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Windy City Weekend Eats: Part 2

Welcome to Part Two of my Chicago eats recap! Part One featured vegan diner food and fantastic pho, and Part Two only gets better. :)

After slurping pho for lunch, S and I switched to forks for our dinner experience. The next restaurant on the docket was Karyn’s on Green, where we transitioned from a fast-casual lunch to a fancy-schmancy sit-down dinner. I dined at Karyn’s Cooked last year, so I knew I could expect delicious, delicious eats from a Karynian establishment, and I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t have a photo, so you’ll just have to trust me. S ordered a pizza with arugula, caramelized onions, potatoes, and a cheezy topping, and he graciously let me share, so I can vouch for its deliciousness. I chose the Sweet Pea Risotto, which features white truffle oil, sweet peas, and pea pods. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how fantastic this was. Perfectly creamy, the entire risotto was infused with a delicate sweet pea flavor, turning it a gorgeous shade of light green. The crispy pea pods were a perfect textural counterpoint to the otherwise creamy dish – it was very well-balanced. It was also quite filling; S had to help me finish it. I’d absolutely love to recreate it, but I’m not sure I could do it justice!

Beyond its amazing food, Karyn’s had fantastic customer service. Through some oversight or miscommunication, S and I weren’t given menus for about ten minutes after being seated (we did have bread with an herbed butter to munch on, however), and our server was extremely apologetic and offered us a round of free drinks on the house. We both chose the specials of the night; S’s featured muddled watermelon and other things I can’t remember, and mine was a minty, chocolaty affair that was a rich, creamy delight. We rounded off our meal with a to-go dessert, a chocolate-peanut butter pie that I might have eaten for breakfast the next morning. Maybe. I can’t say for sure. Overall, our experience at Karyn’s was fantastic, and I still dream about my risotto.

Our final eating destination was a new-to-Chicago establishment, Native Foods. The Wicker Park location opened in early August, and it seems like it’s already gained a fan following. We just beat the lunch rush on Sunday and sat outdoors munching on a meatball sub (S) and a chicken-ranch burger (me). This is the type of thing I’d never make on my own, so I loved the opportunity to try it!

I swear it wasn't this neon IRL...

Native Foods does faux-meat really, really well, so it makes total sense that their new location was hoppin’ on a Sunday afternoon! My chicken-ranch burger was the special of the day, so I got a free side. Obviously I chose the sweet potato fries, and they were crispy, sweet, and salty perfection. I also got a lavender lemonade, which hit all the right notes – tart and tangy with the slightest floral flavor.

And that’s all she ate! Despite trying four fantastic vegan-friendly restaurants, our Google doc has many more options yet to be tasted. I resolve to one day try the famous Chicago Diner, Handlebar Bar & Grill, the Loving Hut, the Green Zebra, and one (or two… or three) of the vegan-friendly bakeries in Chitown.

Windy City Weekend Eats: Part 1

Although I didn’t spend last weekend in Portland with all the cool vegan kids, I’ve had my fair share of adventures this summer, including an action-packed weekend trip to Chicago with my manfriend, forthwith to be known as S. We had a great time, and I’m breaking up my recap post into two parts because it’s just too darn long (twss)!

So, Chicago. S and I have both done most of the standard Chicago touristy activities, so instead of taking photos at the Bean or buying overpriced mass-produced souvenirs at Navy Pier, we chose events that appealed to our interests. We took an architecture boat tour of the city (#protip: If you take the 8:00 AM tour, tickets are 50% off), visited the Museum of Science and Industry (agriculture [read: dairy] exhibit, gag!), marveled at the Baha’i Temple, checked out Ikea (my first time!), and ogled cute animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo.*

And, of course, we ate. Weeks prior to our trip, I created a Google doc with a list of possible eateries, so when we felt rumbly in our tumblies, we pulled the document up on my man’s phone and found somewhere nearby to eat. (Incidentally, I have almost been convinced that smart phones aren’t the devil now that I’ve learned how frakkin’ easy it is to navigate public transit with one. You basically say, “Oh, I would like to take the bus to Destination X; tell me how!” and the smart phone is all, “Yes, my liege! beep boop beep Here are step-by-step instructions on how to reach your destination! It will take you this many minutes and this many stops and, also, feel free to watch your progress via this small blue dot moving along this map! Have a great trip!” For those of us prone to travel-induced anxiety, it’s a godsend.)

Anyway, we ate. On Friday night, our first stop post-Madison and pre-Chicago was Ravinia Park, where we watched Fellowship of the Ring on a huge open-air screen while the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played the soundtrack live. Oh yes. It was as awesome as it sounds, despite the fact that we were 4,395 miles from the screen and had to perch atop a picnic bench to be able to distinguish Sauron from Saruman. After the movie ended, we hightailed it to – wait for it – a vegan-friendly 24-hour diner. 24-hour diner, y’all. Pick Me Up Cafe is located in Lakeview and has some amazing vegan options. It took me ages to decide between french toast and tostadas; I couldn’t decide if I wanted brekkie food or dinner food at 1:00 in the morning! S had less trouble deciding and chose a seitan-based sandwich, the details of which I cannot remember because I was waffling back and forth between my two options. Ultimately I went for the french toast, and I did not regret it:

Toast of the French!

Pardon the crappy colors, but it was late/early, the diner was dark, and I wanted to get my toast on! This is French toast like I remember it from my pregan days, thickly sliced and super filling. And our waitress even let me know that the butter on the side was vegan! Rapture! I also shared a creamsicle milkshake with S, and it was sweet and cool and delicious. Diner food at its finest.

Our next meal of note was a first for me. I’d never had pho before, but S is a bit of a pho connoisseur and has sung its praises repeatedly. So we were thrilled to discover that Chicago has at least one vegan pho option, Bon Bon Sandwiches in Wicker Park.

Phantastic!

This was the perfect meal on a rainy Saturday (it cleared up later, never fear!), and I really enjoyed the variety of flavors in each spoonful/chopstickful. S said the broth was not as flavorful as its beef-based kin, but adding various sauces and spices helped. I’d love to try to make this some time!

And that’s all for part one. I’ll finish up soon, I promise. And in the meantime, let me know if you have any tips for making homemade pho!

*Re: zoos. Zoos aren’t very vegan. As an institution, I feel pretty darn uncomfortable with them. Keeping animals in captivity for the sake of keeping them in captivity is ethically wrong. But I do think zoos can do some good when they promote breeding in species that are endangered because of something good ol’ humankind has done to them or their environment. And I also think they could conceivably foster awareness in visitors, particularly children, who might have that “aha!” moment when they realize that the cute animals they’re seeing in zoos are not so different than the cute animals that are butchered and cooked and served up for dinner. For me personally, any interaction I have with animals, at a zoo or elsewhere, reminds me why I’m vegan and reinforces my belief that I’m making the best choice I can. In my ideal, vegan-friendly fantasy world, zoos would be replaced by centers for the rehabilitation of injured animals and the breeding of endangered animals, and they’d be open to the public in an educational capacity so families could come and learn about our multi-legged friends. A girl can dream, right?!