13 August 2012

Washington, D.C.: Smoke and Barrel

Washington, D.C. has an incredible vegan network.  If you find yourself in the area, check out VegDC.  Their website'll make it ridiculously easy for you to pick restaurants.

After spontaneously parking in Downtown Washington and strolling lazily around the MLK, FDR, TJ, and GM* monuments during a drizzle and subsequent rainbow, Dorothy and I thought VegDC would work for us.  Thing was, it was Sunday night.  A lot of Washington's best vegan joints were closed.  What is this, Brainerd?

Enter Smoke and Barrel.  You can practically taste the barbecue sauce on the air as you tie your horse's reins up, breeze through the door, and take the long piece of grass out from between your teeth.  They wouldn't even THINK about closing on Sunday night.  Hard.  Core.

Smoke and Barrel
2471 18th St NW
Washington, D.C.  20009
(202) 319-9353

The vegan and vegetarian items on the menu are handily marked as such, although Dorothy and I quickly realized that certain vegan dishes didn't actually have the vegan symbol - particularly the dishes that use the words vegan or vegetarian in the title.  If you're not sure, just ask your server.

I started with the house-made ginger ale for $3.  It was clear, and the flavor was very singularly focused on ginger.  I couldn't even taste sweetener, although I'm sure some small amount was in there.  The overall effect recalled east Asia more than cowboy BBQ, but I enjoyed it.

This Sweet Potato and Oat Burger for $10 just begged to be loaded up with barbecue sauce.  I slathered it up, took a big bite, and BAM.  All the sweet potato and onion built up the crunchy and tangy elements and came together in one pan-fried moment and I'm pretty sure I saw god, or at least John Wayne, or maybe just Marty McFly dressed up like Clint Eastwood.  As you work your way through the burger, bits of the patty may fall out onto your plate - and they'll taste totally different when you eat 'em separately from the burger.  In a good way.  In fact, I highly suggest just taking a couple bites from your patty.  Mm, sweet potato.

I requested fries for my side.  Those things rocked - Dorothy identified the seasoning as Old Bay, which was created in Baltimore for use on crabs and such, but works wonders for these little potato slivers.  It's got mustard, paprika, celery seed, bay leaf, pepper, and some other yummy stuff.  Next time you make fries, you'll know what to do.

Dorothy adored her BBQ Smoke Tofu Taco, BBQ style for $10.  She requested it vegan, so they left the cheese and sour cream out.  It came with BBQ sauce, vegan coleslaw (!), pickles, and your choice of a side - so Dorothy nabbed the Fried Okra.  Kay, that okra?  Holy Moskowitz!!  You haven't lived until you've tried breaded and fried okra.  It was like eating cheese curds, but without feeling like I was killing the souls of cows.

The tacos had so many fun flavors and textures going on.  They were spicy, messy, and utterly wonderful.  The tofu, jam-packed with taste, resembled ground beef.  And beneath all the loud sweet and smoky tones of the BBQ sauce, a lot of subtle flavors made the experience complete.  That was good food, my muffins.

After dinner, we visited the Starbucks across the street so Dorothy could grab something with caffeine.  It was late and we had a complicated drive back to Baltimore to make.  So I suggested she get a tea latte, and she got a Vanilla Rooibos - but it had A THOUSAND PUMPS OF SYRUP.  Too.  Sweet.

It kept her awake.  That, and the game we made up: Name One Weird Thing From the Animal Rights Conference for Every Letter of the Alphabet.  Was a good game.

* GM is for the old favorite George Mason, who helped the much more famous James Madison write the Bill of Rights after alienating his neighbor G-Dubs during the Constitutional Convention by refusing to ratify the document without amendments.  Oh, and he kept slaves and pretended he didn't like slavery.  Ahh, history.  I love unfairly applying the lens of the present to all the idolized rich white men of the past.

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