Beefsteak, somewhat confusingly, is a mainly vegetarian restaurant showcasing vegetables (like the beefsteak tomato, which explains the name). It has two locations: 800 22nd St NW in Foggy Bottom and 1528 Connecticut Ave NW near Dupont Circle. I had really hoped that Jose Andres, the celebrity chef behind Beefsteak (and a whole host of other places in DC, like the amazing China Chilcano) could make me like vegetables. The food itself is actually fairly tasty (though I didn’t like the “Frida Kale” when I had it), but it simply isn’t filling. You can add “something meaty” to your dish, such as a poached egg, chicken sausage or mozzarella, but even with that a meal from Beefsteak just isn’t filling enough for me. Most of its bowls are around the $7.50 to $8.50 range, but adding any of the protein options adds a couple of dollars. In the end, you get a meal for over $10 that still leaves you hungry. I’d honestly rather go to Chipotle, but Beefsteak still gets three stars for its innovative concept and fresh, healthy choices that appeal to those with healthier eating habits (and smaller stomachs) than mine. Their homemade juice drinks are tasty too.
Sweetgreen is a fast casual salad restaurant chain that began in the DC area in 2007. It has various locations throughout DC and the suburbs, including in Foggy Bottom, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, Crystal City, Ballston, College Park, Silver Spring, McLean, Tysons, Fairfax and Reston. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not often eat salads because I almost never feel full after eating them. The salads at Sweetgreen are no exception in this regard, but they are very tasty and innovative. I can totally see the appeal of this place for those who do like salads, so I am rating it based on that. I ordered a seasonal specialty called the Umami Grain Bowl, which was healthy and delicious (though I was of course still hungry after). There are numerous other inventive salad choices, such as the “Rad Thai,” which is a Thai-inspired salad with shrimp. For those counting calories, however, be warned that some of the salads are highly caloric- the winner in this regard is the “Earth Bowl,” which packs a whopping 775 calories (as a comparison, a Big Mac contains 563 calories). Of course, there’s a lot more to healthy eating than calories, and there is certainly far more nutrition in Sweetgreen’s food than in Mc Donalds’. Sweetgreen also has delicious house made fountain drinks and everything (aside from the reusable bowl) is compostable. Sweetgreen gets major points for offering nutritious, environmentally conscious food in a casual, bright atmosphere. It just isn’t a filling enough meal for me
ME Swing Coffee Roasters aka Swing’s located at 1702 G St NW (additional locations, as well as the roastery, are in Alexandria), is a venerable institution that was established during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency in 1918. The G Street location is inside a soulless, brutalist concrete building, but don’t be fooled by the drab exterior. Inside there is a mahogany coffee bar and other artifacts from the 1920s (taken from the original Swing’s location in the Mesco Coffee Roasters building at 1013 E Street SE) in an atmospheric space. Tasty coffee is available, including single-origin pour-overs. I also had a savory rosemary biscuit, which was satisfying as well. Swing’s is only open weekdays during the day and lacks comfortable seating for those who want to lounge around (seating options are mainly stools/counters and high tables).
Juan Valdez Café is a Colombian coffee chain (started by Colombia’s with locations in DC, NYC and Miami. Its DC location is in Foggy Bottom at 1889 F St NW. Juan Valdez Café offers Latin American coffee options, such as Café Cubano (espresso sweetened with raw sugar as it is brewed) and coffee with cardamom, that are difficult to find elsewhere in the city. There is standard cafe fare, like muffins, but they also have Latin American options
like Pan Guava, a guava-filled pastry. My Café Cubano was very tasty (if you like sweet coffee)- it’s a bit like having Turkish Coffee but without the mud at the bottom. The Pan Guava was also pretty good though I found the filling a little syrupy. The cardamom coffee seemed a bit weak at first but grew on me as the cardamom steeped longer in the coffee. My time in the Middle East has made me a huge cardamom addict. It is a fine place to hang out for a while with a laptop, but it is not the coziest. It is a chain and feels like
one, and lacks the character and cushy armchairs of other DC cafes like Tryst. That aside, it’s a good place to go if you want a coffee shop that offers something a bit different from the standard fare and it certainly attracts a diverse crowd of people from all over the world (whom I figure work at the nearby Bretton Woods institutions). Be aware that it’s only open weekdays, during the day.