I have a co-worker and friend named Heather. Heather is a vegetarian. She’s one of those odd vegetarians, though, that doesn’t really eat a bunch of vegetables. She likes them just fine, and she’ll eat them if you cook them for her, or bring them to her, but she doesn’t seek out vegetables the way a stereotypical vegetarian would. In fact, she tends to eat a lot of mac and cheese, and mozzarella sticks are her favorite bar nosh. Fried food is good food for Heather, especially when it involves cheese. So when I told her about Vegetate, the vegetarian restaurant in Historic Shaw, and my experience there, she said “now that’s the restaurant for me!” – and it totally is. Here is why.
Tucked away on 9th street, between Shaw and the Convention Center metro stations, Vegetate is hard to spot. I was wandering around oblivious and called the friend I was meeting there and went, “are you sure this exists? Where are you trying to take me to?!” to which she said, “Hush up, look harder, it’s here” and there it was. I spotted a sleek silver sign with a V on it, and slid into the converted row home. Hardwood floors and simplistic design, I already felt calm. I took a deep breath and even felt healthier. That feeling would not last long.
The thing about Vegetate is this: while it is all vegetarian, some of it even vegan, it’s still pretty darn fatty. Most things are smothered in cheese, fried, or covered in butter. I’m not complaining (at all) I’m just putting that out there. I wasn’t nibbling on sprouts, I was downing some high-quality junk food. We sat at the bar, and I had a super SUPER delicious spiked lemonade with rosemary. Oh man, with a little sparkling water added in, this cocktail was perfection, and at happy hour, reasonably priced. We started with the Vegetate Burgers, also on happy hour special. Two mini “burgers” with caramelized with crispy red onion and garlic mustard aioli, the bun was grilled. A bit dry, it was still tasty, the onions were nice, and the mild cheese was good. The fried risotto balls were also on the happy hour menu, and they were tasty, I’m currently a fan of fried things, and round things, so this was a winner. Nothing to note, but happy fried goodness.
After that start, we decided to throw together a meal of small plates. I ordered the Seasonal Vegetable Gratin – filled with sliced zucchini and summer squash it was a mini gratin with feta & local yogurt. Cheesy delicious, but I burned my tounge, cause I got too excited and tried to eat it too fast. Story of my life.
We also ordered up the Grilled Flatbread with goat cheese, kalamata olives, & local greens. While the goat cheese didn’t stand out (it was a harder goat cheese lightly grated onto a pile of chopped olives and heated but not melted) the multi-grain flat bread was where Vegetate took a turn for the stereotypical vegetarian. While I liked the textures in the flatbread, it was a bit cardboard-y and dry. Maybe if it were served with a bit of good olive oil for dipping? Or make it a goat cheese flat bread with tapanade in oil as a side you put on yourself? It needed something to liven it up.
But don’t get too excited about all the health in the flatbread, we also had Fried Green Tomatoes with beet infused yogurt & baby greens salad. Pair that with the gnocchi, which isn’t really supposed to be pan sauteed, I don’t believe, and you’re back in guaranteed-to-make-Heather-happy-land. Being a HUGE fan of the potato, I’m surprisingly not a fan of gnocchi, but I liked this. I think because it was drowning in oil, and the crispy from the pan made the texture less chewy to me. It was nice. The fried green tomatoes were tart, but my lovely companion felt like the sauce was too mustard-y. I liked it fine, but I like strong flavors like mustard.
We rounded out our already fatty meal with dessert. I already wrote about the cookie sandwich up in June’s Eat Like Me feature, but I can do it again, no problem. Two fresh baked chocolate chip cookies hug vanilla gelato. Topped with fudge sauce, I seriously was in dessert heaven. The bartender told us this was a chef seasonal special, so GET IT WHILE YOU CAN, go! Off with you! It exists for only so long and you need to eat as many as possible between now and the undefined end date, so stop reading this blog, and go eat these cookies. I’ll still be here when you get back. By far the best dessert I ate in June, I’d highly recommend this.
All in all, I loved Vegetate, even for all it’s grease. I loved the small plates, I liked the fresh ingredients (even if you smother them in cheese) and I love the vibe of the place. Clean lines, pretty, simple interior, I’d be back in a heartbeat. In fact, I think after reading this article Heather will run into my office and drag me there! So grab your vegetarian friend (or your vegetarian self, depending) and head to Vegetate for an evening of delicious greasy (yet healthy? at least organic? okay, at least made from vegetables?) greatness.
Vegetate is located at 1414 9th St. NW. Closest Metro stops: Shaw-Howard University (Green line) or Mt. Vernon Square 7th St.-Convention Center (Green and Yellow lines). For more information, call (202) 232-4585.