Equinox, at 818 Connecticut Avenue, is only about a block from the White House. It’s the perfect place to take an out-of-town friend, especially if that friend, like Caryn, happens to be both vegan and gluten free. Most of the time, Caryn would bring her own food, store it in the freezer, and we would avoid eating out. Luckily, DC has more refined cuisines than South Jersey, and after about ten minutes of searching, Equinox appeared.
Once we found a vegan friendly location, the options become endless. At present, Equinox offers: a Sunday Night Adventure Dinner Series (5 courses for $45, with a surprise culinary style each week); Todd Gray’s Market Vegan Brunch (Sundays, buffet style, $35 for adults, $15 for children); Lunch (a la carte, about $20 per entree); Dinner (3, 5, or 7 courses, between $55 and $80, wine extra); and a snacky happy hour with half-priced food items.
All of the options have both vegan and non-vegan choices—an equal number of each (except for the vegan brunch). The food is self-described as “mid-Atlantic inspired,” and they only use ingredients found within 100 miles of their location.
The restaurant is tucked into a block of restaurants, one block away from Lafayette Park and has several rooms. There’s the main dining room, with an assortment of two-person booths and four-person tables, a long table for twelve or more nearer to the hostess stand and, right on the street, a cozy set-up, complete with a fire, for a relaxed (but loud) street-top meal. Everything is pale white, blues, and greys, which works to create a comfortable (though formal) appearance.
A good touch at the beginning of the meal was an amuse-bouche “compliments of the chef” consisting of a light crouton piled with seasoned parsley and other greens.
Ordering was the most harrowing part of the experience. We were told to pick three items from either side of the menu, mix-and-matching encouraged, but we could not distinguish between the first and the main course (hint: the two prices next to each item indicates whether it’s served as an appetizer or an entrée).
Other than that small snafu, the dinner arrived without a hitch. After the amuse-bouche, we got some crusty, crunchy bread and oil (Caryn’s gluten-free, so more for me!) and within fifteen minutes our first course was out.
I’m going to rave about the vegan-ness again. I got shrimp and lobster toast; crunchy, seafood infused triangles presented prettily and demolished in minutes; but Caryn’s sweet butter lettuce salad was just as tasty. As someone who had tried for five years to go out to eat with vegans, it is a happy surprise to pick a colorful plant off her plate and have it be perfectly seasoned and rich.
But back to the meat-lovers out there, the healthy veggie flare wasn’t detracting anything from the quality of the pork I had for my main course, a small fan of tender cuts that I initially thought was way too small, but by halfway through the plate thought was Goldilocks-right, a perfect portion matched by the delicate seasoning touch.
Though Caryn’s main course of winter squash and Brussels sprouts was a little on the sweet side for an entrée, it blended it well with dessert, where we both went vegan, me for a chocolate cake (the richest, darkest chocolate I’ve had in a long time) and her with bruleed pineapple and winter fruit (ever the healthier one).
On the way home, we were assuring each other of our enjoyment of the experience. For it truly was an experience, a novel one, to find a restaurant so willing and capable of catering to all palates, presenting a variety of options for the ultra-conscientious among us who believe down to their marrow that by doing their part, our part, and eating less meat, the world will be a better place for human and animals alike.
I hope to find more restaurants like Equinox in the future. I truly believe that the lack of participation in vegetarianism and veganism has something to do with the fact that it is perplexingly, frustratingly difficult to share a meal out with friends. Equinox provides a model, both in their business mission and the quality of their food, for any restaurant to do its part and go green.
Katie Avagliano is a contributing writer for Café Américain and a first-year candidate in the American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.