Monday, June 25, 2012

Malibu Greek Sub at Subway Cafe

Last week I checked out the much-hyped new vegan subs, available at select Subway Café restaurants in the DC area. The Subway Café concept is a upmarket version of a usual Subway franchise restaurant--with a coffee bar selling Seattle's Best (Starbucks' downmarket brand), fancier décor (this location had a flat screen TV), and soft rock playing in the background.  I visited the DC location at 555 13th Street NW.

Let me preface this review by saying that I don't eat at Subway chains regularly because there are normally such limited veggie offerings. White bread and banal salad fixings don't strike me as a satisfying lunch. However my boyfriend Matt, a trouper, eats Subway once a week with coworkers. He makes the best out of it. For example, he always asks for spinach rather than lettuce and gets as many veggies as the sandwich artists can pile onto his 12" sub. But he's never quite satisfied. (He confessed to his coworkers once that he could probably eat two 12" subs and not feel full.) So he was eager for me to beta test the new veggie options and report back.    

I do think it is great that Subway is looking to extend their menu to include plant-based options. Sadly, I think this excellent idea suffers from poor execution at the moment.  The Subway Café staff didn't seem to be trained to serve the sandwiches yet.  They were confused about what I was ordering, how to heat the veggie patty, and what price to charge for the sub.  In their defense, these new vegan sandwiches do not appear on the regular menu, but were advertised with small signs atop the glass counter.    

I ordered the "Malibu Greek," a rather confusing name.  I didn't notice anything particularly "Malibu" or "Greek" about it.  The sub consists of a veggie patty and the usual fixings options.  The individual veggie patties are stored on the fixings bar, in a silver container.  The staff decided that the patty should be toasted like a Veggie Max. (Could it be eaten cold?)  They also asked if I wanted cheese, which seems to be standard protocol but is an awkward question for the "vegan sandwich."  (I also ordered an iced coffee and was offered milk twice.)  The vegan sandwich moves down the fast-food assembly line, commingling with other sandwich prep--knives, gloves, stray bits of cheese, etc.  (It's too bad they don't have a separate prep area but they probably have limited space.)    
The Malibu Greek patty was reminiscent of falafel or a fried breakfast patty. It is definitely not trying to be a mock meat. You could see flecks of veggie pieces in the patty, not unlike some veggie burger brands.  I definitely noticed corn, carrots, broccoli, and rice in there.  Overall, I think this vegan sub could be a good option for vegan folks like my boyfriend, who dutifully eat out at Subway, and for non-vegans who'd just like to try some veggie fare.  I hope these vegan options are introduced to conventional Subway franchises in less upscale environs soon.      

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gunny Sack at Founding Farmers

It's been over a year since I visited DC's Founding Farmers at 1924 Pennsylvania Avenue. I know because a friend gave me a gift certificate that was burning a hole in my wallet. Luckily, I cashed it in for lunch last week. This Founding Farmers location is a nice lunch spot, especially if you arrive early to beat the rush. However, the acoustics are bad regardless of the crowd.
For lunch, I had the gunny sack, from their meatless menu. This dish is definitely not something I could make at home. (I've got phyllo phobia). The sack itself was flaky, filled with roasted veggies (I counted chickpeas, olives, golden raisins, peppers, onions, and artichoke hearts), and topped with a tart tomato sauce that contrasted nicely with the savory stuff. The side spinach was great; garlicky with a preserved lemon for extra citrus kick. Overall, it was a rich, veggie power lunch. I'll have to return to Founding Farmers again to check out the rest of their vegan offerings.  Next time I won't wait a year.    

Thursday, June 14, 2012

State Center Community Farmers’ Market Haul

I've discovered another farmers' market in my neighborhood: the State Center Community Farmers' Market. The market happens on Wednesdays, from 10am to 2pm, right in front of the State Center subway station at Preston & Eutaw Streets. It is really close to my favorite restaurant, The Land of Kush, too.  

This market is much smaller than the downtown Sunday market but it has a pickle stand with less crazy lines. There are also a couple of nice produce stands and some "healthy" lunch offerings that seem to be targeting state employees. Here is a photo of yesterday's mini haul of cherries, asparagus, and tangy jalapeño pickle chips.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Philly bites - fast food and happy apps

Here are some photos from a recent day-trip to Philly, one of my ex-cities. Philadelphia is a vegan mecca these days, boasting both a new vegan fast food restaurant and a new vegan slow food destination restaurant.  
First up was the fast food spot, HipCityVeg, located at 127 S 18th Street. The cute, brightly-hued restaurant is mainly take-out with limited seats. It is steps away from Rittenhouse Square, a great park for sandwich-eating and people-watching. The "Crispy HipCity Ranch" sandwich (pictured above) was crispy as advertised with a crunchy and tasty faux chicken filling. I also tried their sweet potato fries, the Buffalo-sauced portabella sandwich, and a chocolate brownie. All of HipCityVeg's offerings were fresh and appealing. Their packaging appears to be environmentally-friendly. And the service was quick and friendly.     
Next was the posh, slow food Vedge, at 1221 Locust Street.  Vedge was totally booked for dinner. Luckily, they have an affordable happy hour, from 5-7 weekdays, at their well-appointed bar and side lounge. (It does get crowded, so arrive early.) We tried three diverse appetizers: Korean seitan tacos, Togarashi wedge fries, and smoked mushroom tartare. The presentation of the dishes was impressive. They were artfully-constructed, ambitious small bites.  We also sampled the cocktails which were expertly-made and seriously delicious. Some day, I'd like to return for the Chef's Tasting menu, which looks like an elaborate experience.      


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A giant meal at Golden West Cafe

Last weekend we dined at The Golden West Cafe, a veg-friendly spot in Hampden, located at 1105 West 36th Street. What a large, spacious restaurant. It felt like one of those family-friendly warehouse chains, only with more punk rock, indie cred. And they had giant portions to match the space! We started our meal with a bucket of coin-shaped tots, served with BBQ sauce and a rich tahini dressing. Also we had a rather banal salad.
Our mains were the tasty BBQ riblet sandwich--with the greatest vegan cole slaw ever--and the spicy, saucy vegan burrito. Sadly, as is too often the case, we had no room leftover for any vegan desserts. Plus, I had already scored a vegan chocolate bar just down the street at Ma Petite Shoe, a shoe store with a jaw-dropping selection of artisan chocolate.