The Washington, DC metropolitan area is very vegan-friendly. If you're headed to DC, you're in for a treat! This post is intended to be used as a guide for vegans visiting Washington, DC. I was born and raised in the Virginia suburbs of DC and know the area very well. Feel to contact me with any questions.
Let's get right down to it. If you only have time and/or money to visit one restaurant in DC, Virginia, and Maryland, here's where you should go (separated by state).
Best vegetarian restaurant in DC
Java Green is definitely the best vegetarian restaurant in DC. I LOVE Java Green. I used to work three blocks from the restaurant, which was very dangerous, as I would go for lunch almost every day.
- All vegetarian (almost all vegan)
- 1020 19th St NW
- M-W 8:30am-8:30pm, Th-F 8:30am-9:00pm, Sat 11:00am-6:00pm, Sun Closed
- Menus: Food and Drink
Java Green is all vegetarian and almost all vegan. Almost everything is vegan by default, but some sandwiches contain dairy cheese. Anything on the menu can be made vegan.
The food is amazing. Much of it is organic, and you can have your sandwich made on whole wheat. Oh, and the drinks (smoothies and frappes) are made with vegan whipped cream (made by Java Green)!
I can't say enough good things about Java Green. The owner, DJ Kim, is an amazing person. He is vegan and has such a positive outlook. I've gotten to know him over the years and each time I see him he greets me with a hug (although I know I'm not special because he hugs everyone). Each time I leave he says, "Peace brother."
Java Green was named the Most Progressive Restaurant in the United States by PETA. The restaurant is 100% wind-powered and near everything is biodegradable and compostable.
If you're only going to go once, get the Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl and the Drumsticks appetizer. If you don't particularly care for spicy food, get the Chicken Java (ask for soy cheese). The Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl was a favorite of omnivores at my old office. It pleases everyone.
Also, you must get a frappe. It's pretty much required by locals. I recommend the Mocha Nut Java or the Sunset Beach. Amazing drinks. The drinks are usually made vegan by default, but feel free to confirm by asking for soy. And, don't fret, the whipped cream on top is vegan! Funny story: I ordered a frappe when I first visited Java Green and was upset to see whipped cream on top when I received my drink. I told DJ I was vegan and didn't want whipped cream. He pretended at first that it was dairy and then informed me that it was vegan. So, yes, the whipped cream is vegan.
My food recommendations include the following:
- Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl
- Chicken Java (ask for soy cheese)
- Drumsticks appetizer
- Veg Max
- Spicy Sausage Rice Bowl
- Chicken Deluxe
- California Gimbob
My drink recommendations include the following:
- Mocha Nut Java
- Sunset Beach
- Vanilla Ginseng
- Agave Ginger
- Green Tea Latte
- Tango Acai
Driving and parking in the city is usually unbearable, especially during a weekday. I highly recommend you take advantage of the great public transportation in the area: the Metro. The train will take you most anywhere in DC, usually within several blocks.
Take a look at the system map of the Metro train system. Java Green is just two blocks from Farragut West on the Orange and Blue lines, and two to three blocks from Farragut North on the Red line.
Oh, Java Green also has a vegan brunch on Saturdays from 11am-3pm.
Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, Java Green is providing drinks at my wedding.
Best vegetarian restaurant in Virginia
Sunflower is the best vegetarian restaurant. Period. It's my favorite restaurant that I've ever been to, thus far, and I've been all over (Australia, New Zealand, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, and more). Seriously, it's amazing! It's worth going to DC just for the food here.
- All vegetarian (almost all vegan)
- Vienna location: 2531 Chain Bridge Rd
- Falls Church location: 6304 Leesburg Pike
- Both locations: M-Sat 11:30am-10:00pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:00pm
- Vienna location: (703) 319-3888
- Falls Church location: (703) 237-3888
- Menus: Vienna and Falls Church
Sunflower pleases everyone. It's a wonderful place to take omnivores, even picky ones. I have yet to meet someone who didn't like the Sunflower.
My fiance, best friend, and I visited Sunflower so often that they know us all by name.
Anyway, when I lived in the DC area, I visited their Vienna location, the only one at the time. They've since opened another location in Falls Church, right next to Seven Corners. If you don't already know, Seven Corners is the most awful intersection in Northern Virginia. It's a mess. But, it's worth dealing with to visit this new location.
So, which location should you visit? The menus are about the same. The Vienna location was first and has been around for 11 years. It's smaller and cozier. The Falls Church location is less than a year old and is much bigger. The atmosphere is nice, but I prefer the coziness of the Vienna location (it may also have to do with the fact that I've been going there for six years).
If you're going just once, you HAVE to get the General Tso's and Fried Chicken appetizer. I guarantee you'll love it. It's the best vegan meal I've ever had a restaurant, hands down.
- General Tso's Surprise
- Fried Chicken
- Sweet and Sour Sensation
- As You Wish Garden
- Curry Supreme
- Kale & Burdock Deluxe
I'm not big on the desserts, so I almost always skip those. You probably won't have room anyway, as the meals are big portions. If you're looking for dessert, I recommend heading to Sticky Fingers Bakery.
I recommend driving or bringing your bike on the Metro. The Vienna location is about two miles from the Vienna Metro station. The Falls Church location is impossible to reach by walking (Fairfax County, VA is not kind to pedestrians or bicyclists). You'll have to drive or take a bus from a Metro station.
Best vegetarian restaurant in Maryland
The Vegetable Garden is the best restaurant on the Maryland side of DC. I've only been several times, but enjoyed the food. I think I like the dessert even better, though. Their cakes are amazing.
- All vegan (but rumors of honey in some desserts)
- 11618 Rockville Pike
- M-Thur 11:30am-10:00pm, F-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Sun 11:30am-9:30pm
If you're looking for somewhere you can be in-and-out I recommend The Vegetable Garden. While the food is good, the customer service is not so hot. I always feel pressured to eat my food quickly, as the workers just stand there and watch you, waiting for you to finish. Then, they're quick to run over and drop off the check. So, great if you're pressed for time, but not if you're for a peaceful place to take your time and chat with friends. Also, in my experience, they're not very friendly. Instead, they're more matter-of-fact and just focusing on the business and the food.
I believe The Vegetable Garden is 100% vegan, although I remember hearing rumors of honey in some of their desserts. I'd ask just to make sure. They may have phased that out by now.
Some meals are organic and are clearly labeled as such. This is wonderful but I feel like I should choose an organic meal over a non-organic meal.
- Sesame Veggie Chicken
- Lemon Chicken
- Chicken with Cashew Nuts
- Key Lime Pie
There's no need to drive. The Vegetable Garden is directly across the street from the White Flint Metro station on the Red line. Be sure to use the pedestrian underpass to cross Rockville Pike. Don't wait at the light.
Alright, those are the best vegetarian restaurants in each state/district.
If you have more time, be sure to check out the following:
- Great Sage (closer to Baltimore)
- Meskerem (Ethiopian)
- Pizzeria Paradiso (soy cheese pizza)
- Saran Foods (Indian)
- Soul Vegetarian (amazing soul food)
- Sticky Fingers Bakery (best bakery in the world...they're also baking the cake for my wedding)
You can access a very comprehensive guide to the DC area at VegDC.com.
(Image courtesy of dailyjoe.)