Saturday, March 8, 2008

Vegan Visitor Guide to Washington, DC

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.

The basics
  • 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.

My recommendations

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

  • Temptation

  • 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

Getting there

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.

The basics

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).

My recommendations

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.

My recommendations:
  • General Tso's Surprise

  • Fried Chicken

  • Sweet and Sour Sensation

  • As You Wish Garden

  • Curry Supreme

  • Songbird

  • 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.

Getting there

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.

The basics
  • 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

  • Menu

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.

My recommendations
  • Sesame Veggie Chicken

  • Lemon Chicken

  • Chicken with Cashew Nuts

  • Key Lime Pie

Getting there

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:

You can access a very comprehensive guide to the DC area at

(Image courtesy of dailyjoe.)


ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

You lucky, lucky guy!
Sunflower is one of my favorite veg restaurants too. I went to DC for Spring Break last year, and in one week, I went there three times!

Billy said...

Hell yes! I love Sunflower. Why did I move out here to Seattle? There are so many vegan options here, but nothing compares to Sunflower.

VeganLinda said...

We worked in Virginia when Sunflower opened and we went their a couple times a week for lunch. We had the whole group (mostly non-veg) going and addicted to General Tso's Surprise. The owners we so sweet too and great service! They even had an annual appreciation lunch for their regular customers. Oh how I miss it!!

Billy said...

I love General Tso's. My friends and I are all hooked on it and the Fried Chicken.

The owners and managers really are nice. I really miss Sunflower. It was one of the best things about living in Northern Virginia.

Nicki said...

I LOVE the Sunflower and Java Green! I always felt like, at the Vegetable Garden, though, that they were trying to rush me out the door. I always felt a little uncomfortable there. The food is pretty good though, but nowhere near The Sunflower and Java Green in my opinion. And Sticky Fingers too - sooo good!

Vegan_Noodle said...

So very helpful! Now I need to take a trip to DC.

Billy said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Vegan Noodle: I highly recommend a trip to DC. Don't worry about the standard tourism stuff. Just go for the awesome vegan food!

Loretta said...

Thanks for recommending Java Green! We ended up meeting some college pals there for lunch--great location, central for everyone--and the food and service were fantastic! We will definitely be going there again when we're in town in early June and probably every time we visit thereafter.
Oh, and my sister-in-law and nephew (non-vegetarian/vegan) came with us, and they were psyched b/c of awesome assortment of vegan desserts since my nephew is allergic to eggs. It was literally the first time he had ever been able to eat dessert out. I'm pretty sure they'll be going back as often as they are able to make the trek up from Prince William. :) Thanks so much again!

Anonymous said...

You should also try Soul Vegetarian on Georgia Avenue (right across from Howard University). Although the name says vegeatarian, its actually vegan . And its real soulfood! Must try the Mac and Cheese! I live in DC and this is definitely my favority vegan place to eat. Another treat is Sticky Fingers Vegan Bakery in Columbia Heights. Try the muffins and the BLT.