We Love Vegan: Part 2

Photo courtesy of
‘Go Vegan Be Green Save the Planet’
courtesy of ‘bunnicula’

Yesterday, we began a three-part series in which our food writing team, Ashley and Katie, went vegan for a week. This is the second installment of the series. Catch up on Part 1 here.

DAY THREE

Katie: By now you know I eat fruit and a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. Nothing to see here, move along.

Ashley: I was a sad vegan this morning. I woke up and didn’t have it in me to leave the house, and much to my dismay had no food (vegan or otherwise) in the kitchen. I briefly considered wandering to Starbucks in hopes they would have something, but laziness prevailed and I had two cups of coffee instead.

Day Three continued…

Katie: For lunch, I headed to Pound Coffee, where they offer a vegetarian option with lunch every day. This day was Taco Salad day, and I was thrilled to find out that the soy protein they use is vegan. I ate a mess of black bean and soy protein thrown over corn chips and dressed with lettuce and salsa. While I missed my cheese and sour cream, I was full for the rest of the day and felt really good about my lunch.

Ashley: After my poor showing at breakfast, I was hungry come lunchtime. So I chased down one of our fine town’s food trucks to try out their vegan offerings. The big winner was El Floridano and their vegan banh mi. Usually the banh mi comes with turkey meatloaf as the protein, but it’s an easy squeezy change over to veganism with a tempeh substitution. I really loved the sandwich, with all the tangy flavors going on in there, I didn’t even miss the meat.

Photo courtesy of
‘Be a “Vegen”‘
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Katie: In our attempt to provide a well-rounded experience of veganism that included a realistic portrayal of where one might choose to eat if one were vegan, we decided we had to head to Cafe Green. I love Cafe Green’s big sister restaurant, Java Green, so it was only fitting we head to the sit-down equivalent. It was a gorgous night out, so we sat on the patio, people-watched, and noshed on some… mediocre food. I started with the mandoo, four little dumplings stuffed with mushrooms and fried. They were lovely. My entree was the squash gnocchi, which I wound up feeling super odd about. The sauce on the gnocchi was a sage “cream” sauce and didn’t go well with the flavors of the squash. I wished I had tried something else, like the vegan mac & cheese.

Ashley: I’m with Katie’s “meh” feeling on Cafe Green. While the food was fine, it didn’t seem like anything I couldn’t make at home. I started with the “Che” Bites, which were supposedly mock chicken, but it was the realest looking mock anything I’ve ever seen. They were essentially little chicken paninis, and they were pretty good. My Vegan Paella was less exciting, though it was really filling and satisfying. The chocolate cheesecake our waiter recommended was mind-numbingly bad though.

DAY FOUR

Katie: Fruit. Peanut Butter.

Ashley: Today’s breakfast is brought to you by Busboys & Poets. And another day, another tofu scramble. This one came with vegan bacon and vegan cheese and some veggies, but still…it’s a tofu scramble. Points for originality, but still…tofu scramble.

Katie: This turned out to be one of the craziest, busiest days at work of all time, and so I ran out of the office to Au Bon Pain and grabbed the lentil soup that they proudly advertise as vegan, a side salad with soy ginger dressing and some tea. The lentil soup wound up being good and satisfying, as I ate it between furiously answering phone calls.

Photo courtesy of
‘Sticky Fingers’
courtesy of ‘ciao-chow’

Ashley: Most of the week, I tried to eat vegan food that wasn’t designed to resemble a meaty meal, but when I walked in to Sticky Fingers, it was a lot of mock meat. Though I’d been warned that mock meat was more mock than meat, I thought I should try it. I had the faux club sandwich, which was weird but not AS weird as I thought it would be. And the fake bacon tasted a lot like beef jerky tenderloins, which is my number one favorite road trip snack food. So kudos to you, Sticky Fingers.

Katie: Dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s The Source was a giant relief after an insanely busy day. I was incredibly grateful champagne is vegan, and set out to drown out the sound of the ringing telephone with the din of the posh restaurant and some gorgeous vegan food by Scott Drewno. I loved everything at this meal, that man can certainly whip up some vegan food. I loved the tempura-battered green beans, and the tofu hot pot was to die for.

Ashley: I can’t say I was shocked that The Source was so wonderful, but I was pretty thrilled about it. Right on about the duo of green beans (to die for), while I also loved the hot and sour squash soup. Not exactly a meal anyone should eat on a daily basis, but this is the place for a vegan special occasion.

Photo courtesy of
‘Chick-Fil-A’
courtesy of ‘jeffisageek’

DAY FIVE

Katie: I sashayed into the office on the day before my birthday all ready for my vegan meal of fruit and peanut butter, and got to my desk and my AMAZING WONDERFUL co-worker had surprised me with a birthday-eve treat of Chick-fil-a breakfast. I froze. There ain’t nothin’ vegan ’bout that. I was faced with a dilemma – do I turn down my well-wishing co-worker’s offering of MY FAVORITE FAST FOOD BREAKFAST, and thus make her feel bad, or do I celebrate my birthday and make it up some other day? Well, duh. I ate the chick-fil-a. And I liked it. And then I felt massively guilty. What do all you vegans do with all this guilt? Sheesh. And while I did, indeed, cheat like Spitzer, I do think that my struggle is one vegans, and vegetarians for that matter, face regularly. What to do when someone has the best of intentions, and makes a big effort, and brings you food you can’t eat? I ate it. So sue me.

Ashley: After the death row final meal-type dinner we had at The Source the night before, I played things a little more casual with breakfast at Dos Gringos. This vegan-friendly coffee shop in Mt. Pleasant had a vegan breakfast wrap on the menu that was really filling, but after five days of tofu scramble, I couldn’t eat it. My friend had the oatmeal made with soy milk and seemed much happier than me.

Photo courtesy of
‘Dos Gringos’
courtesy of ‘sdean8′

Katie: To assuage my Chick-fil-a guilt, I ate sushi for lunch – avacado sushi. Cucumber sushi. Seaweed sushi. Nori and more nori. A dash of wasabi, a little soy, and I’ve got myself a perfectly vegan meal and don’t even really miss the fish.

Ashley: In the home stretch, I went to one of my meaty favorites – Sticky Rice. There are tons of vegetarian and vegan options on their menu, all clearly marked. I tried two rolls – a veggie futomaki and the Matsumi (cucumber and umeboshi) and the Mock Chicken Szechuan. I have to say, I would order the Szechuan Noodles even if I wasn’t vegan. The mock chicken was actually great.

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘erin m’

Katie: We rounded out the week by going super casual – happy hour. But where would I happy hour if I were a vegan? Science Club, of course. But that’s the obvious choice. The not-so-obvious choice is nestled in Arlington: Galaxy Hut. I got a setian barbecue sandwich that wasn’t all too offensive, paired with tater tots. THEY WERE DAMN TASTY. The tots, that is. The barbecue was fine, Ashley thought it was mighty nasty, but I thought her veggie hot dogs were way worse. They were floppy and had a gross weird texture that was unlike other vegetarian hot dogs I’ve had in my past. The veg chili on top wasn’t so bad, but the hot dogs…YUCK.

Ashley: I’ll be the first to admit (well, maybe Katie was the first), we didn’t exactly end strong. Once on Top Chef, Kevin said “setian is just yuck.” He couldn’t have been more right. While there are options for vegans here, especially if you’re in the mood for carnival food, I had real texture issues with everything I ate. The tater tots were a-ok though.

Stay tuned for the final installment in our three-part series tomorrow at 11 a.m. We’ll answer all your questions, and tell you more about our lessons learned.

Ashley Messick

Ashley is a born and bred Washingtonian who left for college but came running back to the District as fast as her little legs could carry her. By day she is a Capitol Hill brat, but by night she is a lean, mean, eating machine. It’s her goal in life to steal Anthony Bourdain’s job…by whatever means necessary. Contact her at Ashley (at) welovedc (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “We Love Vegan: Part 2

  1. I feel like you guys ate a LOT of meat substitute stuff all week. What about cereal and soy milk? Salad? Soup? Veggie burritos? I primarily eat vegetarian and vegan (with guilt-free cheats on pepperoni and bacon now and again-hey, I’m doing pretty well otherwise), and don’t eat seitan, tofu, or fake chicken. Nor do I miss it. It also would have been cool to see y’all try to make something at home.

  2. Mmmmmm, Dos Gringos. Mmmmm, Chick-Fil-A. Mmmmmm everything…except faux chicken whatever. Veg/Vegan food is soooooo good on it’s own (and I’m a former member of the Bacon of the Month Club) that I have a visceral hoity-toity-i-get-to-stare-down-my-nose-at-hypocrisy reaction to people who proclaim their vegetarianism or veganism and rave about the Not-Dogs or Boca Burgers ‘meatiness.’ Fah! Fah, I say! Eat tofu because it’s a blank palate that you can paint with ANY flavor in the history of mankind, not because you need a ‘meat-like-processed-soy-thing.’

    Grand experiment ladies, and I hope you survived the Day Job Madness Katie!

  3. Your talk of so much mock meat reminds me again of one of my favorite quotes, written by the ever-funny Kyle Baker.

    “Why do vegetarians spend so much time trying to make vegetables taste like meat? Do monks buy a lot of inflatable sex dolls?”

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  5. FYI, TaKorean is another DC food truck that has awesome vegan food. And don’t forget the burrito cart at 15th and K.

  6. @b – You make great points about having fake meat not be the only “main”. The fine dining restaurants we went to certainly got that, but it’s harder when you’re at Galaxy Hut and your options are fried things (tots) and not a lot of protein that isn’t fake meat. I think it’s the nature of bar food. We also tried to do lots of meat substitutes because we figured the other stuff was pretty obvious – a salad here, some sushi there. A bean burrito is generally delicious wherever you get it and this was half restaurant review/half experiment, if that makes sense. If I were to go vegan a week on my own, without the extra pressure of trying veg-friendly spots I’d eat a lot more stuff like the lentil soup from ABP and cook more on my own, and all that kind of thing, but we wanted to highlight a lot of DC spots and make this about DC, too. Tomorrow’s Q&A will clarify how we chose the spots. But thanks for your thoughtful comment!

    @kitchengeek I love tofu. Always. You are so right.

  7. I’ve been vegan for 2 years. The more I read about all the reasons for going vegan (health, world starvation, animal rights, and basically all the disgusting things that go into processed meat products), the happier I am with my decision. That is – I don’t struggle with the issue of cheating. But everyone has a different journey.

    Cool you found Galaxy Hut in Arlington. Love that place. For good vegan bar food in DC, try Asylum.

    I’ve been writing a blog on veganism and vegan travel for 10 months now, featuring many local DC vegan friendly places:
    http://adventuresinvegantravel.blogspot.com/

    And Katie – if you love tofu, try Twin Oaks Fine Herb tofu – it’s like a fine herbed cheese. Even my cat liked it (RIP Burbank).