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Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rivera feels like the future. So many options. So much complexity. It offers “Modern Latin Cuisine” in three dining rooms, each devoted to Mexican, Iberian, or Brazilian cuisine. There are also fusion options under the “conexiones” heading. And they’ve brought back the original menu from their old restaurant, Saint Estaphe, but not everything on the menu is available.

I was grateful to be vegetarian at this place — I don’t know how I’d have waded through the options otherwise. We were in the Iberian room, but they let vegetarians order from across the three rooms. You can order some great dishes here, though they don’t cater to vegetarians by marking items. Or — what the heck — by creating a vegetarian menu to go with all those others.

My Pre-Columbian white gazpacho was too rich with almonds to finish, and my chili relleno seemed a tad undersauced. But never mind all that. Next time, I want 100 of the tortillas florales – perfectly light corn tortillas brushed with butter and with a fresh flower pressed in the middle.

In addition to choice and complexity, Rivera helpfully provides you with topics of conversation on the dishes themselves — we were directed to discuss the stimulus package. In the future, it will be this way everywhere, even at Denny’s.


An unexciting shot of me in front of Melisse — they don’t allow cell phone cameras to be used in the restaurant. Makes total sense. Melisse has gone to great lengths to preserve the 80s. Inside, it’s easy to believe that Reagan is still President and shoulder pads are cool. Allowing people to take photos with their phone would ruin the effect.

So if you love the 80s (and even if you don’t), Melisse is worth a visit. The sample “10” tasting menu is only for carnivores, but there is a fabulous 5-course vegetarian tasting menu. Chef Josiah Citrin doesn’t mind applying French techniques to vegetables. A puff pastry dish (Toad in the Hole) was my favorite, though the corn agnolotti was a close second.

Service is brisk but accommodating — they let me make substitutions to the vegetarian tasting menu for $10. Epic cheese cart.

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I don’t get excited about pasta as a vegetarian entree option. Unless it’s homemade pasta with sharp cheese and crunchy corn. It’s carby comfort food. The salad was delicious too, full of local greens. Il Posto didn’t have any vegetarian protein when I visited, but it might on a day when local beans are in season. Low-key, neighborhood bistro ambiance + seriously good Italian food + nice wine list, with decent options by the glass.

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Tilth has a vegetarian tasting menu, with wine pairings. As someone who was once served three courses of wild rice at a restaurant in Belgium (“we love vegetarians!”), this is a big deal to me. Organic, fresh ingredients — and they accommodate vegans.

Loved the cucumber soup (served with a sweet breadstick — surprising ) and buttery risotto, but I was, weirdly, amazed by the cheese plate: salty, creamy gouda with a plum jam and the flakiest, most delectable cracker I’ve ever had.

Tilth’s Maria Hines beat Iron Chef Morimoto. I bet it was the cracker that the judges swooned over.

Cozy bungalow setting. We had a nice table, but some tables were in awkward corners — may want to specify when you make reservations, which are absolutely required. Interesting wine list, though an early morning flight meant we only had a glass each.

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Poppy in the no-longer-scruffy Capitol Hill neighborhood serves “thalis” — plates with small portions of many different items. The thali theme is South Indian, the food at Poppy is pure modern American. My friend and I each had a 7-item vegetarian thali. They also offer 10-item vegetarian thali — one day soon, when I am very hungry, I’ll wish I’d had that.

Standout items: cauliflower agnolotti with lobster mushrooms, quinoa cakes with goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, sprouting broccoli, carrots roasted with fennel. Only the corn spoonbread disappointed. Lovely wine list, we split a crisp half bottle of Sancerre.

The interior looks like a particularly upscale Ikea — lots of blond wood. Pleasant enough, with attentive service. 

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Lola is a great Mediterranean restaurant from local celebrity chef Tom Douglas. Much more veg-friendly than nearby Dahlia Lounge, also from the same chef — he seems to own the block. We had the halloumi cheese kebabs, fava skordalia (mashed beans), and kalamata olive/fig spread. The skordalia was delightfully garlicky, though the olive/fig spread was too sweet for my taste. Solid vegetarian options, especially if you like sharing small plates. Downtown location, hip but not hipster vibe.

Bonus points for the waiter telling us the soup was made with vegetable stock — this place gets vegetarians.

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