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Mid-Atlantic Vegan Dining Adventures: DC, Philadelphia & Rockville

November 29, 2009

This November we traveled to Washington D.C. to visit our good friend Bill. Before leaving we decided we would take notes on our vegan dining adventures in the Mid-Atlantic. We found some real gems. Not only did we eat … we got to see my brother Kevin and spend a day in Philly, drive down the Chesapeake Bay, visit markets, nature hikes with giant vultures(!) and the cutest kitchen store east of the Mississippi. SEE OUR TRAVEL PHOTOS HERE

Day 1, Chicago, IL to Rockville, MD:

We left Molly and Boo in the care of some super friends and were on our way! Driving from Chicago to Maryland took about 12 hours. My giant thermos of green tea stayed hot the whole time! We packed peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and some things we normally don’t have in the apartment (chips, pretzels, crackers). As Jason ate his sandwich before we had even left Cook County, you can imagine that our road food was gone by the halfway point. Mid-way through Pennsylvania we hit up a Taco Bell at the I70/76 Breezewood junction as it was closing. Starving we ordered a ridiculous amount of bean burritos without cheese. Thank you TBell for being there on the open road.

Day 2, Washington DC:

After one heck of a escalator ride up three stories or more at the at the Adams Morgan Metro exit we emerged to lots of good smells piping out of a block of Indian and Mediterranean restaurants, which we took to be a good omen for any dining for that day. We strolled around without any real destination in mind exploring Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Embassy Row and the Dupont Circle. We did little planning or vegan reconnaissance for eating on this trip. Usually on vacation we have a strict agenda of exhibits I want to see, restaurants we want to eat at and a few must-visit sites. Playing it by ear added to the relaxed mood of the trip this time. We did use VegDC.com for a helpful reference.

We decided to start our vegan dining adventure with crazy toppings at the Amsterdam Falafelshop. Walking down 18th Street we spotted this hot spot with patrons spilling out of the patio onto the stoop next door, eating fries out of white paper cones and enjoying every morsel of their stuffed sandwiches. Definitely looked like the place to eat on a Saturday afternoon. We lined up inside to order and next to the register found a fresh-looking buffet with a ton of choices to top off your falafel sandwich from Jerusalem salad to pickled beets. I put a combo of spicy sauce, sweet purple cabbage and some kind of cucumber and onion mix on our sandwich. The topping station was pretty intense and you didn’t have much time to think, but the sandwich was great and probably would be with any of the toppings!

After some more walking, people-watching by the Dupont Circle Fountain, meeting up with Bill and visiting the Phillips Collection for a dose of art & culture we set out on a quest to find dinner. We had heard that DC has an awesome, vegan-friendly Ethiopian dining scene, so we walked over to the U-Street area and quickly found our dinner spot, Dukem. Enjoyed this restaurant a lot. Three of us split a giant platter of food with lots of variety in flavors and textures. Great place to share a special meal. We also enjoyed our glasses of Gouder, an Ethiopian wine.

After short walks through the happening U-Street neighborhood and the National Mall, we went back to the Metro and then Rockville, so we could rest up for Philly.

Day 3, Philadelphia, PA:

Bill, Jason and I met my brother Kevin at the Reading Terminal Market on Sunday Morning. This market is a giant bizarre of restaurants and shops, continually operating since 1892. The four of us split up and all came back to the table with veg friendly eats! Jason found a plate of Chana masala, daal and rice, Bill scored a soy BLT, Kevin got falafel and I had a sandwich of stuffed grape leaves and fresh juice. Yummy and inexpensive.

We walked all over that afternoon. Saw the Liberty Bell, Eastern State Penitentiary (admission includes an audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi), walked along the river, toured the super cool Fabric Workshop and Museum where I got to sit inside a story hut made from handcrafted fibers, and stood on the ROCKY steps.

Although we covered a lot of ground in the city, we ended up eating dinner just a few blocks from the Reading Terminal Market at the Kingdom of Vegetarians Restaurant. I had never had dim sum before and always wanted to, so I jumped at the chance to try this place out. Oh my! So much food and it just kept coming! Liked almost every dish brought to the table, especially the wonton soup, sesame mock duck and steamed dumplings. The food on the other patrons’ tables looked fresh and delicious, too. Another very special meal. Highly recommend checking this place out while in Philly!

Day 4, Chesapeake Bay & Rockville, MD:

The next day we spent exploring the Chesapeake Bay area. Didn’t stop for anything to eat, so when we returned to Rockville we were hungry and had pizza on the brain. We were shocked when a google search for “Rockville vegan pizza” came up with an option only a couple of miles away, Zpizza. We dialed up right away and felt confident we would get a delivery with no cheese. 30 minutes later Zpizza delivered. The crust perfect, sauce was skimpy but good… but the daiya brand vegan “cheese” melted on top was disgusting. Sure we ate the whole thing (we paid for it), but it honestly tasted like movie-theatre-fake-butter-flavor and chemicals. Much prefer our homemade pizza creations.

Day 5, Washington DC & Rockville, MD:

Back to DC for more touring. This day we saw the excellent Green Community exhibit at the National Building Museum and a lot more of the city by foot.

For lunch we stopped at the acclaimed DC vegan bakery, Sticky Fingers. We had some great sandwiches–a chix’n wrap and a bar-b-que seitan sandwich with some killer red cabbage slaw. We took the desserts to go, but didn’t even make it to the Columbia Heights metro stop before our curiosity got the best of us. We had the oatmeal creme sandwich bar and a lemon coconut cookie. Both were so good. I vow to learn to make that sandwich cookie, which was a better version of one of my childhood favs, the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie.

In search of the Eastern Market, we stopped for directions in the most adorable kitchen supply store, Hill’s Kitchen. They have everything you could need for your kitchen and a great selection of classes. We picked up a new Epicurean cutting board, one of those onion savers that looks like an onion, and a cookie cutter shaped like Illinois!

Then we strolled through the lovely Eastern Market to find some fixins for our dinner. We picked up some tofu, green beans, onions and rice to take back to Rockville, where Jason whipped up a great great stir fry and I made a vegan gluten-free apple crisp. This home cooking with Bill was our favorite meal of the whole trip.

Day 6, Rockville, MD to Chicago, IL:

The next day we headed back to Chicago. Stopped for some vegan road eats at Panera Bread in a rest area of 1-80 in Ohio. We were sorry to see the trip end, but happy to see Molly and Boo greeting us at the door.

Can’t wait to return again to the Mid-Atlantic for a visit next year! Thank you Bill for putting us up and Kevin for the Philly day!

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