Not that long ago, looking for good plant-based meals when dining out was a fool’s errand. If you were lucky enough to have a fully vegetarian restaurant nearby, you might find some imaginative dishes.
Otherwise, you’d just resign yourself to eating a baked potato, a sad salad and possibly soup. For people who don’t eat dairy, it’s even more challenging since chefs will often replace meat with cheese.
However, times are changing in the restaurant world, as with everything else.
Restaurant chefs seem to have realized that vegetarians and vegans eat out with people who don’t follow the same dietary restrictions. If a group is trying to decide on a restaurant that suits everyones’ needs, the ones that accommodate the meat eaters and vegetarians and vegans will rise to the top of the list.
Since Montgomery County, MD shares a border with Washington DC, the region features an abundance of high quality dine out and takeout options for all dietary preferences.
Here I’d like to spotlight a few that are especially fantastic for people who follow plant-based diets.
True Food Kitchen
Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD
This is a small restaurant chain inspired by the work of integrative medicine physician, Dr. Andrew Weil. The menu is designed around anti-inflammatory foods with the intention of making food that tastes good and leaves you feeling good.
That said, it is not all vegetarian or vegan by any stretch. In fact, exactly the opposite. Most dishes have meat or fish but they also serve fresh juices and a small, high quality choice of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
As a vegan, one thing that I sometimes miss is pizza. Most attempts at replicating traditional pizza with dairy-free cheese aren’t that great.
But True Food Kitchen’s Butternut Squash pizza isn’t just good, it’s off the charts delicious. It’s made with caramelized onion, roasted garlic, organic kale, vegan almond ricotta, dried cranberry and sage. With the omission of tomato sauce or mozzarella cheese, that might not sound like pizza to some people, but let me tell you, never mind what it sounds like. Just try it and thank me later.
This pizza has all the sensations we love, chewy or crispy crust, sweet and savory veggies and a homemade ricotta substitute that provides the yummy comfort food element that makes you want to eat the whole thing.
I’m even tempted to say it’s the best pizza, vegan or otherwise on the entire planet!
The Salads & Bowls section of the menu also includes several vegan options, though if you’re new to plant-based eating, they might now sound that appetizing. I can say from experience that all the ingredients are usually tops in terms of freshness and the chefs know how to create great homemade sauces and dressings to really elevate an otherwise ordinary meal.
Locations in Rockville and Gaithersburg, MD
This chain started out as a typical all-American diner serving standard breakfast all day, lots of sandwiches, burgers, fries and other comfort foods. But several years ago, they completely revamped their menu to provide more healthy choices using locally-sourced food. They still serve the standard burgers, Philly steak sandwiches, french fries and milkshakes making it an ideal choice for varying dietary preferences.
And their plant-based menu is *fantastic*.
My long-standing favorite from this place is the Tofu Banh Mi sandwich, hands down. It’s perfect every time. Comes with regular or sweet potato fries and cole slaw. However you can sub out the fries with a side of grilled asparagus or other vegetable. You won’t regret it.
But here’s why this restaurant chain is so great - they have fantastic vegan options in every category of their extensive menu. The entree section alone has 4 (!) vegan choices. That’s unheard of at 99% of restaurants, period.
Consider these choices people:
- Oat Milk Blueberry Pancakes
- Brussel Sprouts & Hummus Bowl
- Just Eggs Benedict - vegan scrambled ‘eggs’, smokey tempeh ‘bacon’, spinach, roasted tomatoes, vegan cheese sauce, sourdough toast and side of fruit. Trust me, it’s good!
- Tofu and Lentils - this is another one that needs description for you to believe it’s good so here goes: Sambal-agave glazed non-GMO tofu skewers, toasted coconut, spiced lentils, onions, tomatoes, banh mi slaw, curry sauce.
- Pineapple Basil Vegan Stir Fry
- Hen of Woods Mushroom Picatta
- Beyond Meatballs Mac N ‘Cheese’
Like a lot of restaurants trying to check the vegan box, they have the Beyond Meat burger. But unlike most places that serve it, they make it an experience. Topped with watermelon radish, pickled ginger, arugula, wasabi sour cream (oops, sub with vegan mayo or other dressing) and a miso glaze.
10205 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD
My only regret with this restaurant is the name. As a long-time vegetarian, holistically minded woman, it’s easy for me to embrace a place called Flower Child.
But when I want to entice a co-worker to order takeout with me, I cringe as I say the name. I’m so afraid it’s going to turn someone off and they’ll dismiss this restaurant and miss out on their healthy but delicious entrees.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed this place is popular with families with small children too.
Probably because they’ve mastered the art of making veggies taste so good, you feel like you’re having a treat.
Similar to the Silver Diner, this restaurant has an Asian style tofu sandwich, the Thai Dye wrap which is grilled tofu with a sweet, spicy BBQ sauce, topped with basil, avocado, carrot, daikon radish, cilantro and snap peas.
It’s the perfect combination of protein, with a touch of sweetness, a little crunch and fresh herbs all in sandwich.
The entrees here are based around a protein of chicken/meat/fish or tofu combined with 2 side dishes of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, spiced cauliflower, chili-glazed sweet potato, roast broccoli and other items. Trust me, they know what they’re doing with vegetables.
So that’s it for my plant-based restaurant recommendations for today. If you’re in town, I hope you give one or all of these places a try! Share your thoughts below.