DC Vegan, the popular vegan deli and caterer in Washington, DC, has officially established the city’s first vegan bar. Botanical Bar, located on the lower level of DC Vegan’s vegan Italian-American deli, serves botanical cocktails, local craft beer, and vegan wines, as well as a sampling of the deli’s most popular snacks, including fried king trumpet calamari with cashew parmesan and cauliflower wings with barbecue or buffalo sauce.
Leah Curran Moon and Michael Jantz Moon, DC Vegan creators and husband-and-wife team, started their catering business in Union Kitchen’s food incubator in 2015. It opened a brick-and-mortar “fine-casual” DC Vegan Delicatessen last year. Now, the area has grown even further with the addition of a basement bar with an atmosphere suggestive of midnight in the Garden of Eden.
The vegan deli is on the second level, the private event area is on the third level, and the new botanical bar is on the lower level of DC Vegan’s 5,000 square-foot facility. The new rectangular-shaped bar has 55 seats and contains local flora and images of nocturnal creatures on the walls, dark flowery wallpaper, and twinkling lights.
“Lush flora and earthly delights were the inspiration for the bar… I started by sourcing this dark, sexy floral wallpaper from Transylvania and then filled the space with rich inviting colors, twinkly lights, and dreamy textures,” Leah Moon, who doubled as the bar’s designer, said in a statement.
DC’s Vegan Cocktails
Bar manager Starla Newman collaborated with the Moons to produce specialty drinks and mocktails utilizing solely plant-based ingredients for the botanical-inspired menu. Aquafaba—an egg white replacer made from chickpea brine—replaces egg white foams, dairy-based creams are replaced with oat milk, and wine and beer are made without animal-derived products like isinglass, chitin, or gelatin, which are sometimes used in the clarification or fining process of those beverages.
A perfectly balanced sweet and tart Limoncello; a delicately flavored Peach Bellini topped with an edible flower garnish; and a Strawberry infused Negroni made with gin, strawberry Campari, sweet vermouth, and topped off with an orange peel and strawberry garnish are among the cocktail list’s highlights.
The bar will provide dinnertime mains and table service in the coming months, with dishes including a robust vegan lasagna and Chesapeake fritters, as well as vegan crab cakes made from hearts of palm. “We wanted to stop eating animals but didn’t want to give up our culture and the traditional foods we grew up eating, so we spent years finessing my Italian grandmother’s recipes maintaining the flavors and textures while making them vegan,” Curran Moon said.
Jantz Moon, for one, uses his background as a musician—performing with Paul Simon and Brian Wilson, as well as opening for Train, the Black Crowes, SpaceHog, B.B. King, and Barry Manilow—to bring local musicians to the venue. DC Vegan will also offer Pride events, such as drag shows and other themed nights, because of its proximity to many LGBTQ nightlife destinations and its proximity to the Pride march route.
Veg Restaurant Week in DC
Because of its health and environmental benefits, plant-based food has taken on a greater relevance in Washington, DC in recent years. The city held its first Veg Restaurant Week earlier this year. The event was made possible by a proclamation signed by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who wants to encourage residents to make healthy and environmentally sound decisions.
“Whereas plant-centric eating lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, and those conditions disproportionally undermine the health-related quality of life of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) residents of Washington, DC and whereas a global shift toward plant-centric food norms would help lower greenhouse gas emissions, and governments can play a crucial trailblazing role in facilitating such shifts by their citizenry” Bowser said in the proclamation, before officially declaring the week of May 7th DC Veg Restaurant Week in Washington, DC.
The Veg Restaurant Week included new dishes, prix fixe menus, and promotions all across the city to showcase local plant-based food. BDG’s Ghicken Vegan, PLNT Burger, and Hip City Veg were among the fast-casual businesses that took part, as were fine-dining establishments such as DC Harvest and Equinox. Gangster Vegan Organics, RAWish, and Sweet Sosumba Jamaican Vegan Café are just a few of the Black-owned restaurants in the nation’s capital that are helping to keep the rich legacy of Black veganism alive. El Tamarindo, DC’s oldest Salvadorian/Mexican restaurant, as well as pizza favorite Roscoe’s Pizzeria, were both on board with the festivities.
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