The unexpected closure of The Vegetable Garden, one of the Washington, DC area’s vegan favorites has stunned many loyal fans.
Besides its location (in N. Bethesda), the best thing about Vegetable Garden was that omnivore friends didn’t feel they were doing you a favor by accompanying you there. The Chinese-style vegan restaurant’s dishes tasted as delicious as the “original recipes” that people forgot they were prepared without using animal products.
The second best thing about Vegetable Garden was its large menu: Many restaurants I visit, I have difficulty choosing something, because very few things look appealing. Yet Vegetable Garden’s menu was so varied, I could barely make up my mind, and always felt there was something to look forward to trying on the next visit…
Vegan sushi rolls, seaweed salad, soba noodles, and kung pao tofu were among my favorites, while an omnivore friend preferred yams with pecans and “beef”, or pineapple fried rice. I also loved Vegetable Garden’s complementary whole-wheat vegetable bread with sesame seeds, as well as “heart-healthy” menu items, macrobiotic dishes, and western-style deserts such as “cheesecake” made with non-dairy milks.
Vegetable Garden was a perennial favorite of PCRM, Compassion Over Killing, and other vegan and animal rights organizations, too. With so much love (and a Zagat rating), how could Vegetable Garden go out of business? Rumor has it the landlord was raising the rent. Most customers I know would have been willing to pay more to keep them in business, had they only known in advance.
Yuan Fu (another vegan Chinese restaurant further north on Rt. 355) is often compared with Vegetable Garden. While I don’t think it comes close—particularly for number of healthy choices, and higher prices–with no other vegan option in Rockville, I am grateful to have them around.
When living in Tokyo, I often lamented the lack of vegan restaurants there, and envied all the vegan dining choices in the U.S., as well as the fact that DC had recently been awarded the #1 “veg-friendly” large city in North America by PETA.
To be sure, there are some vegan options in downtown DC (Cafe Green, Everlasting Life, Sticky Fingers, Elizabeth’s Gone Raw), but in the suburbs they’re few and far between.
Great Sage in Clarksville, MD, is my new “Go-To” vegan restaurant, particularly for its Sunday brunch menu. Though a little out of the way, Great Sage’s vegan versions of typical American comfort foods–such as tofu quiche, hearts of palm crabcakes (pictured above), and biscuits with gravy and tempeh bacon–is building a growing number of fans.
So, how about getting out there and supporting your neighborhood vegan restaurant today! What’s your favorite vegan-friendly restaurant in the DC area, and why? I believe there should be a knowledge base shared among vegan restaurants owners and chefs to encourage more of them to open up, avoid common pitfalls, and prosper. Would you agree? Please let me know in the comments section!