Washington, DC is home to many animal protection organizations and social justice activists, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find an ample supply of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. These ten hotspots have proven their staying power and left their vegan mark on the District, furthering the inevitable plant-based future.  


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1. Busboys and Poets
With several locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, Busboys and Poets has a community focus. Come for the mountainous vegan nachos or soul-satisfying brunch, then spend some time perusing the attached bookstore, bursting with social justice-oriented reads. Though not a fully vegan restaurant, rumor has it that the local chain is expanding its vegan offerings in hopes to become plant-based in the future. Raise a mimosa to progress! 


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2. Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats
Columbia Heights is home to Doron Petersan’s small shop with big flavors. Packed with all manner of sweet vegan treats, the bakery has become a DC staple. Petersan’s resumé says it all—with two wins on The Food Network’s Cupcakes Wars, she’s a confident contender in the national sweets scene—vegan or otherwise. Her goods are available outside of her flagship store as well, so when you’re done at Sticky Fingers, keep an eye out for Petersan’s signature Cowvin Cookies at Fare Well—her hip vegan diner on H Street (Miley Cyrus has been known to stop by the diner for its classic vegan milkshakes). 


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3. Fancy Radish
James Beard-nominated chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have made a huge splash on DC’s H Street—a vibrant area of the city where locals flock to cool bars and standout restaurants. The Fancy Radish fits right in with its distinctly curated atmosphere and sophisticated menu. Make your date night reservations and split the Rutabaga Fondue paired with a cocktail and one of the vegetable-focused Farm Boards. 


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4. NuVegan
NuVegan is DC’s home to vegan soul food. The casual restaurant features a cafeteria-style offering of mains and sides including creamy mac and cheese, chick’n drummies, crab cake sandwiches, and even baked goods (hello, jumbo cinnamon rolls!) and juices. If you can’t make it to one of the chain’s three DC-area locations, find it at a festival such as Baltimore’s Vegan SoulFest or the DC VegFest


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5. Great Sage
While this restaurant is located outside of the capitol in Clarksville, MD, it is well worth the drive out of the city. The food is organic, vegan, and unique, thanks to the consistently rotating specials. Expect everything from Ultimate Nachos to a plethora of entreé-sized salads and desserts. Satisfied with your meal, swing by the neighboring Roots Market to stock up on the local grocer’s wide selection of vegan specialty items to take home (we’re looking at you, Valsoia Vegan Gelato Ice Cream Cones). 


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6. Shouk
Celebrity chef Carla Hall called the Shouk Burger “the best thing I ever ate.” Coming from such an icon, this restaurant needs no more advertisement. The Shouk Burger is a traditional veggie burger made with chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower, beets, and spices. While it doesn’t bleed or sizzle, this vegetable-based patty has become a capital favorite amongst omnivores and vegans alike. This popularity has been reflected in several RAMMY (Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington) awards, so hop on the Metro and get yourself to one of the two Shouk locations to try this award-winning burger.  


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7. Pow Pow
For a quick bite as you stroll down H Street NE, stop in Pow Pow, a fast-casual joint serving “New Asian” eats. The standard menu is based on “greens, bowls, and rolls,” each offering a creative element to the otherwise common bowl meal. The Disco Stick Egg Roll is something you have to order at least once for the sheer experience of it—then you can say you’ve eaten an egg roll the size of a burrito. 


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8. Sunday Brunch at Equinox
Acclaimed chef Todd Gray and his award-winning wife Ellen Kassoff Gray opened Equinox (no, not the gym) with a commitment to sustainable farming and local, seasonal ingredients. While not a vegan restaurant, Kassoff has spoken out about her compassion for animals and implemented this plant-based brunch. Every Sunday, vegans and pre-vegans alike can enjoy a buffet of seasonal delicacies such as Summer Vegetable Jambalaya, Tofu Scramble, and Stuffed Walnut French Toast. Complete the meal with a beautiful array of finely crafted desserts such as Peanut Butter Mousse Brownies, Raspberry Jam Bars, Gluten-Free Cupcakes, Chocolate-Encased Cannoli, and more scrumptious delights. 


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9. Dangerously Delicious Pies
The name truly says it all. Also known as The Pie Shop, this hidden gem cranks out a mouthwatering selection of both sweet and savory golden pastry encrusted goodness. Learn from a local—the restaurant holds a Date Night Special Monday through Wednesday from 5pm to closing. Bring a date, friend, co-worker, or your mom and get two slices of the savory vegan Ratatouille pie, two side salads, and two slices of fruit pie for $23. It’s quite possibly the most delicious bargain in the city. 


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10. Turning Natural
With five locations throughout DC, a Turning Natural juice is never far away. This inclusive health food cafe also offers smoothies (try the Reeses Pleases) and light bites such as black bean burgers, acai bowls, and a create-your-own salad bar. It’s the perfect pick-me-up for the local in back-to-back meetings or a tourist trekking across the city to see all the sights. 

Check out these vegan eats and many others while visiting for the area for the annual DC VegFest on August 11 at Nationals Park. This event is open to the public. 


Erica Meier is the executive director at Compassion Over Killing and a Washingtonian.

Photo credit: Shouk

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