I live in the Washington, D.C. area with my husband and wanted to share a short list of a few favorite places I've tried that are not only vegan/vegetarian friendly, but also forgiving on my wallet. Here they are in no particular order and by no means a complete list. I hope to write up another post soon that includes another handful of vegetarian/vegan cheap eats in DC. I will say, it saddens me that I can't include Native Foods, a vegan fast casual restaurant, in this list as they closed all of their DC locations suddenly at the end of 2015.
1. Amsterdam Falafel Shop.
You can eat here and be truly full for under $10. They have three DC locations and one location in Arlington, right at the center of the Clarendon neighborhood. If you like falafel, this is a place for you. You can chose from a small (3 falafel balls) or regular (5 falafel balls) pita sandwich which you can then fill with 22 toppings including hummus, babaganoush, cucumber salad, tahini sauce, cilantro, onions, cabbage, and the list goes on. Delicious. The trick is to squish your falafel balls in your pita so that you can fit more toppings in it. They also have a falafel bowl to chose from, which is all of the tastiness of their falafel and toppings without the pita. Depending on which toppings you put in your pita, this could be a vegan or vegetarian place.
This is a relatively new shop that opened in the summer of 2015. There is only one location right across from the McPhearson Square metro in DC. It's a very unique place that is definitely worth trying. First off, it's fast casual and has only one communal table in the middle of the shop. I didn't even see a bathroom in there. It's small and really best for take out or if you are making a quick pit stop for some nourishment. The other thing you might have difficulty wrapping your head around is what they offer: burrito-size sushi rolls. Mind blowing, I know. But it's oh so yummy! I tried the "Elle" and their organic miso soup, so with tax it came to about $15. The burrito-size sushi was amazing, fresh, and filling. It was entertaining just watching the staff make it. The miso soup, which came from a dispenser, included fresh jicama, carrots, and green onion on the bottom of your bowl. (Check out my Instagram: @DingerDivesIn for a picture of the "Elle.")
Teaism is hands down my favorite cafe/restaurant in this area. They have four locations -- three in DC and one in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. They offer nearly two dozen different teas, a mango lassi, and beer, wine and sake. My favorite drink is their chai -- Indian spices, milk, and sugar. It's a little piece of heaven in a cup. As for food, they offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan treats for breakfast and dinner. They offer Indian vegetable curry, organic grilled tempeh bento box organic tempeh scrambled "eggs", lentil soup, and udon noodle soup, just to name a few vegan options. If you have a drink or tea with either your breakfast or dinner, it'll probably run you close to $15. Check out their menu.
4. Grilled Cheese DC or GCDC.
There is nothing vegan about GCDC. It's all about the comfort food and some cheesy goodness. They have just one location near the White House in DC. For lunch, you can get away with spending about $10 on just a grilled cheese sandwich, mac & cheese, or quesadilla. Their dinner menu is slightly pricier with different options, and it'll cost you closer to $15 - $20, especially if you order a drink. Needless to say, it's OK to indulge once in a while. The "mushroom melt" was delicious! Don't forget to order a side of tomato soup to dip your grilled cheese! This is a great, affordable brunch spot. They even serve mimosas! Grilled cheese and a mimosa on a Sunday? I don't know what more you could ask for!
5. Busboys and Poets.
This local chain restaurant just oozes a cool factor. There are six Busboys and Poets locations in the greater Washington, D.C. area. It has a hip, organic, and laid back atmosphere and their menu is simply divine, offering vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. In many ways, I'm surprised Busboys and Poets has done so well in the DC area because this area is very much centered on typical expensive American fare geared towards the elite. They offer a wide range of options on their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch menus from vegan "beef" sliders, vegan nachos, coconut tofu bites, to vegan "crab" cakes and vegan "tuna" sandwich. Most of their vegan/vegetarian starters, sandwiches, and entrees are about $10 - $15. While you might be tempted like me to order a bunch of items off of the menu, you can definitely get out of there for under $20 and be very satisfied.