Capitalizing on Its Diversity: DC Veg Week Showcases More Than Just Tofu
Washington, DC held its second annual Veg Restaurant Week from May 6–13, and it seems the event improves as it iterates. Sponsored in part by the Better Food Foundation, the weeklong festivities celebrate the merits of plant-based cuisine and encourage DMV residents to indulge, enticing the vegan and veg-curious with discounts and giveaways at local restaurants. A total of thirty-five restaurants participated this year, including Pizza Loko, Fruitive, and television star Spike Mendelsohn’s PLNT Burger.
Mendolsohn co-hosted Veg Restaurant Week with DC’s House rep Oye Owolewa last year, and with public health icon Tracye McQuirter in 2023. DC native McQuirter is a best-selling author — The Potter’s House displayed her book The Ageless Vegan all week long, in tribute — as well as the founder of the 10 Million Black Vegan Women movement. McQuirter launched the non-profit public health intervention in the hopes of inspiring 1 Million Black Women to go vegan each year, for the next 10 years.
Eating vegan is a joy when you live in a city with so many mouthwatering options. Veg Restaurant Week always allows DC’s diverse foodscape to shine brightly, and this year delivered. Israeli, Indian, Georgian, and Afro-Caribbean cuisines all featured in the week’s restaurant specials, along with American classics like vegan salisbury steak from Ruby Reds. Motherland Kitchen offered free fufu to anyone who purchased two veg dishes, while Cielo Rojo debuted a vegan flight: gordita, flauta, and quesadilla made with Vertage plant-based cheese. Teaism highlighted plant-rich entrees at the top of its menu after learning about DefaultVeg strategies. DC Harvest? They went all-in, undergoing a complete vegan takeover of the dinner menu, debuting new vegan brunch dishes, and resolving to use plant-based cooking oils in the kitchen in place of butter from here on out.
Those specials lasted seven days, but DC Veg Restaurant Week also hosted a handful of one-off events. This year’s celebration kicked off with a cocktail mingle at DC Vegan’s Botanical Bar sponsored by Hot 99.5, with themed social gatherings sprinkled throughout the days to follow. Spacycloud held bingo night for the LGBTQ+ community, while Soultarian held a more comprehensive game night — everything from Jenga to Family Feud — for people of color. Vegheads convened at Pow Pow for dumplings and egg rolls on May 8th, Sticky Fingers Diner hosting a mixer for DC-area environmentalists the next night.
All of this received full support from the District’s extraordinary leaders — who share our vision of a plant-powered future. Recall that Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a proclamation last year citing both human and planetary health as reasons to embrace plant-based foods. The document also referenced the District’s Green Food Purchasing Act, which made DC the nation’s first jurisdiction to establish a specific target for reducing emissions associated with food purchases destined for public facilities (e.g., schools). Washington leadership is putting its money where its mouth is — and for that they were rewarded.
On May 10, DC Veg Restaurant Week hosted a special reception for district council members in partnership with councilman Charles Allen, chair of Committee on Transportation and the Environment. Attendees were treated to a delicious plant-based lunch from HipCityVeg and RASA, as well as oatmilk lattes from Blue Bottle Coffee (a chain famous for its plantmilk-by-default approach). Allen spoke about how important plant-based diets are to cities’ resilience, and moments later, unveiled a truly masterful piece of artwork: DC’s most iconic landmarks, carved from fruits and vegetables. Crafted by artist Eric Baisas, the cityscape was then proudly displayed in the District municipal building for the remainder of the week.
Veg Restaurant Week clearly appeals to councilors and citizens alike, and we fully expect to see more “plantastic” events like it pop up in other cities. Municipalities across the world are warming up to low-carbon food and encouraging their residents to eat more plants. Going DefaultVeg is a win-win for health and climate, whether it’s implemented in schools, hospitals, or just your very own dinner table.
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Mikhala Kaseweter is Content Manager for the Better Food Foundation.