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As the nation's capitol, Washington, D.C. tends to have a politically motivated reputation than being a fun city full of culture and diversity. I moved out of the city over a decade ago because I was tired of people asking me what I did for a living before asking me what my name was. This year, I made a decision to move back to D.C. for a few months. I will admit I was a little reluctant at first, but since I have been here I have noticed an amazing transformation that transcends beyond museums and monuments. Not only has Washington, D.C. been named The Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit Magazine, but each neighborhood that I have explored has established its own distinct personality.
For those of you who are looking for some inspiration, I have picked seven areas that are worth checking out.
Shaw - This area is historic and hip. Weather permitting, check out one of the four rooftop bars/gastropubs that boast beautiful scenery and delectable food. Brixton, 801 Shaw, Takoda Restaurant and Beer Garden, and Nellie's Sports Bar are all within walking distance of each other between 9th on 7th streets NW. If you are in the mood to shop, browse through Kit and Ace, Frank + Oak, Ministry of Supply (for men), Bonobos (for men), Chrome, and Warby Parker. They are all within walking distance of each other and also between 9th and 7th streets. If you are in the mood to see a show, The Howard Theatre have a wide variety of engaging performances.
Columbia Heights - Many people go Columbia Heights because the neighborhood Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are located right near the Metro. But if you are searching for truly authentic ethnic restaurants, it's worth visiting Columbia Heights. If you love Laotian food: Thip Khao offers steamed fish cooked in banana leaves, goat curry, and tamarind/lemongrass infused, spicy dishes. Mi Cuba Cafe offers much more than traditional Cuban delicacies like Ropa Vieja or a Cuban sandwich. Visit this cafe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you want to try Cuban coffee, grilled meats, plantains or rice and black beans but with a Cuban flare. Bad Saint, is a Filipino restaurant awarded as the number two best restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine. But be prepared to stand in line to get into their 24 seated restaurant space. It will be well worth the wait.
Union Market - Find an oasis of culinary delights in the warehouse district on 5th St NE near the Gallaudet NOMA Metro stop. You are guaranteed to find a craving here. Over 40 vendors offer endless food and drink options. If you love salmon, Neopol Savory Smokey offers fresh salmon lox on bagels or a Salmon BLT sandwich which will leave you always wanting more. For dessert, stop by Toli Moli to try falooda popular in the Asian subcontinent. I grew up drinking falooda, and was personally excited to try this stand, and I was not disappointed. Falooda is a healthy alternative to ice cream; it is a refreshing drink full of superfoods, rose water, and basil seeds the tastes and textures will leave you wanting to try more flavors. And, if you love hosting guests and are looking for some inspiration stop by Salt & Sundry to find small-batch foods and craft cocktail ingredients.
Monument Walk at Sunset/Nighttime - There is something so special about walking through monuments during or after sunset. The crowds are light, the atmosphere is serene, and there is a sense of reverence in the air. Depending on the time of night, take a taxi to the Jefferson Memorial. Take time to sit on the steps of the monument and watch planes fly by. From the Jefferson Memorial, walk to the FDR and MLK Memorials. Cross the street toward the WWII Memorial to see a beautiful view of the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. If you have time, walk beside the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Bring your camera; you will want to preserve these precious memories.
The Kennedy Center- You don't have to buy tickets to a show just to visit The Kennedy Center. Tours of the center are offered, free concerts take place every night at the Millennium Stage, or dine in one of the two restaurants that overlook the Potomac River. The outdoor area boasts shimmering views of the Georgetown Harbor.
U Street Corridor (Includes 14th St)- This neighborhood is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and yoga studios. Some of my favorite selections include Barcelona, Le Diplomate, Compass Rose, Cork Wine Bar, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, Lost Society, and Yoga District (I had to include at least one yoga studio), but there are so many options to choose from. If you are a music lover, the Lincoln Theater and 9:30 Club are historic venues where you can listen to legendary classics as well as budding artists.
Chinatown- This part of the city is well known for Asian cuisine and entertainment via the Verizon Center. I have discovered a few favorites that are worth tasting: Reren Lamen and Bar for fresh noodles and organic ingredients, and Graffiato by Mike Isabella for artisanal pizzas and Italian inspired small plates. If you are in the mood to for a little retail therapy, City Center is where you need to be.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to head back to my former home, Raleigh, NC. I love Raleigh and tend to miss it when I am on the road. However, when I left Raleigh I was eating very differently. When I arrived, I was a little concerned about where and what I would be eating for the weekend.
Let me say this, the south has a rich food history that should be praised. It extends beyond BBQ, biscuits, and sweet tea. The Triangle in particular prides itself in locally grown and seasonal produce along with creating wonderful atmospheres for people to dine in.
So what did I eat all weekend?
The place I miss the most in Raleigh is Trophy Brewing & Pizza. I used to live right across from the beer and pizza stop and loved ordering a beer and their signature Daredevil pizza covered in cheese while sitting outside. It was to my surprise as I scanned the salad offerings that they offer Daiya (dairy alternative) cheese ! I quickly whipped up my own pizza with arugula, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and LOTS of cheese. It was divine.
For date night, my fiancé and I ate at Fiction Kitchen. I had never given this restaurant much thought and I am really sad I didn’t before. This restaurant takes the motto “I can make anything you eat vegan” to the next level. We started with a summer must-have, zucchini fritters with a vegan sour cream, and completed the meal with vegan sushi and vegan lemon blueberry donuts. The ingredients are all sourced daily from the local farmers markets and the plates are almost too beautiful to eat. The flavors and textures leave nothing to be desired. Next visit I will be ordering their signature “chicken” and waffles.
A friend mentioned to me that a new raw spot had opened downtown and I of course went. Twice! Cold press juices fill the fridges and kombucha flows straight from the tap. The coconut ceviche makes you feel like you are in the Caribbean. But the true star was the tuna poke, using sustainable fish piled high with greens. While not a completely vegan food choice, this is what fast casual food should be like. I also highly recommend their blueberry bee pollen smoothie.
Whenever I travel in the US I always find the closest Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market on Wade Avenue had their salad bar set up and ready to go by 7 am each morning, which made for delicious salads topped with breakfast potatoes and a side of vegan steel cut oatmeal. If you know how to stick to lighter weight options, like shredded beets, zucchini, and seeds, you can make an impressive salad for under $10.
These restaurants are starting a new movement of raw and vegan food joints in Raleigh. As people start demanding healthier and sustainable food options, I can’t wait to see how the vegan and raw movements redefine the food of this city in the south.
This piece was written by Travel Expert, Jennifer DeSimone. Reach out toJennifer via Facebook or via email at Jennifer@theartofintentions.com
One of my favorite things about traveling is the food. I literally get excited just walking by little food markets and looking at all the local favorites. I’ve been known to stand in the chip aisle just to read the flavor options or buy half a dozen candies for curiosity’s sake.
As I’ve been transitioning into a more vegan, high vibrational foods–focused diet, I was a little nervous about spending three months on the road, not having my Vitamix, or even access to a kitchen most days. I made a promise to myself that I would do some research to seek out the best options, but also to be kind to myself if I really wanted to try something outside my vegan diet or just couldn’t get a vegan meal.
First stop: Bali. Or, as I like to call it, The Vegan Food Mecca.
I mean wow!!!! An entire month flew by as I sipped on avocado juices, slurped down smoothie bowls, and indulged in raw vegan ice cream.
To be completely honest and transparent, I did enjoy some incredible prawn, a few bites of a traditional coconut beef stew, and lots of eggs, but in general I stuck to meat and dairy free eating.
Here are my top 5 picks for vegan eats in Bali:
Seeds of Life Café
Located on a side and less busy street in Ubud, this restaurant is a 100% raw vegan restaurant which boosts a tea and tonic bar. Rotating daily specials and homemade desserts like “Oreo” cheesecake round out their all day breakfast options and lunch/dinner menu. My favorite picks include the dragon fruit sol jar, banana pancakes, Pad Thai, and the decadent chocolate torte. If you’re looking for a spot to get some work done, order a pot of oolong tea and savor the health benefits.
Travel Hack: Traveling with an omnivore? Check out Kafe. Their organic and vegan menu has something for everyone, including seafood, a kids menu, and a daily raw option. Don’t miss the the raw vegan moringa mint chip and maca cacao ice creams!
Earth Café & Market
Our taxi dropped us off at this gem by accident and I am so glad they did. They have a full market with all sorts of whole foods finds, including three floor to ceiling cases full of self serve desserts, many of which are raw vegan. The menu includes a cold pressed juices, soups, and salads, as well as a rotating power foods special plate. I love their commitment to sustainably and the community vibe the restaurant had.
If you are anything like me you follow various Instagram food accounts – and drool over them every day. I knew I just had to go after months of drooling over their feed. I began following this spot because of their beautiful smoothie bowls – and their incredible #gardengangters tag. I am talking smoothies served in fresh coconuts, fills with beautiful fresh fruits and topped with your pick of super foods. The bowls are simply filled with happiness. You literally cannot go wrong with anything off the menu here.
Travel Hack: Too full for dessert? Ask for a to go box from the register at Earth Café for a sweet ending to the day.
While not a 100% vegan spot, Bali Buda is every traveler’s dream. Along with its market and restaurant, they also have grab go fresh produce, vegan dairy products, and fresh baked goods and homemade snacks. They have some of the best soups and raw crackers I have ever tasted. If you’re feeling a hungry, stop in for a raw pudding pie and a Jelly Belly juice with turmeric and aloe.
Of all the restaurants we tried, this had the best urban vibe. They offer daily rotating smoothie bowls and insanely delicious vegan (and meat) burgers. Its like cheat day without the guilt. This is the spot you come to drink coffee, get work done, and then stay for lunch. Highly recommended for date night!
Travel hack: Bali Buda has a large grocery store in Ubud along with a restaurant around the corner. Soul Bowl also serves great mimosas perfect for brunch time!
As with everything in life, enjoy in moderation and order dessert first.
Have you been to Bali and have other food suggestions? I’ll be back this August and would love to try your favorite spot!
Paleo. Whole30. Vegan. Vegan-curios. There are so many ways people define their food choices these days which can be overwhelming. Most days, I just want to eat a lot while looking great in my yoga pants.
My philosophy on food is pretty simple:
1. It has to taste good and be satisfying;
2. It has to be ethical;
3. It has to be cost effective; and
4. It must be fiancé approved.
In March, as part of the EpicSelf fellowship in Costa Rica, I went (mostly) raw vegan for 30 days. I needed to go back to basics when it came to food. It was the first time I learned about “high vibrational foods” and the affects of these foods changed my entire mindset.
Here’s how eating these foods fuel my lifestyle:
Vibrational foods fire you up with energy because these are foods that eat sunshine! That sunshine literally becomes a piece of you and allows your inner light to radiate. You body takes this clean energy and burns it up. The best part? Some of the most indulgent foods are full of this energy like big bowls of “nice” cream, fatty dressings, and even dark chocolate.
The more I focus on intentionality, the more I find myself wanting to align my food choices with my lifestyle. Being impactful, conscious, and kind stems from my food choices. Food is a complex matter but knowing how, where, and by whom your food is grown and raised by, empowers us to buy better products.
Super foods can be pricey but are designed to last. Products like seeds, spices, and powders last since a little goes a long way. While fresh produce needs to be purchased more often, foods grown locally and in season can lead to big savings.
Food is designed to be shared and eaten with loved ones. Many diets limit the foods you eat to the point that your social life suffers. Eating real food opens up new eating experiences. Eat with people you love and feed them delicious food. They will support you once they taste how good it is.
With any lifestyle choice, there is a learning curve and I was so lucky to have a teacher guide me through this process. I am not a nutritionist and do not claim to be one – yet I cannot stop talking about the new foods I eat like cacao, kale, turmeric, tahini, nori, spirulina and vegan protein powders The list goes on and on, which opens so many new ways to combine foods.
It has been almost 60 days since I made a switch to a mostly vegan diet. With any lifestyle choice, you will find yourself eating that slice of pizza. The key is balance and finding what works for you. Over the next several months I will highlight my food choices and their impact while traveling and encourage you to join me on this epic adventure.
One note: the food issues this country faces are enormous and I want to be sensitive to the fact that I am lucky to have access to such foods. While food is a basic human right, we need to ensure that everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.
Need an idea for breakfast? Try this amazing “nice” cream with chia jam for breakfast or an evening treat.
2 frozen bananas, in one each pieces
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
large bunch of kale
1 scoop of raw vegan protein powder like Garden of Life
Optional: turmeric, matcha, cinnamon, or spirulina
Add all ingredients to blender and mix until creamy. You may need to push down mixture or add extra liquid until it blends.
Optional: mint, basil, cinnamon, or vanilla
Blend 6 strawberries until liquid. Pour into container and add ½ cup of chia. Stir to mix and store in airtight container overnight.
Pour nice cream into a bowl and top with your favorites like cherries, chia jam, unsweetened coconut shreds, cacao nibs, matcha, hemp seeds, and/or cinnamon. Grab spoon and dig in!
This piece was written by Travel Expert, Jennifer DeSimone. Find her @theartofintentions on Instagram.