The hardest part of adopting a vegan diet has been making sure to get enough protein, and although Leo’s offers a surprising amount of options — edamame, tofu and beans are quick go-tos — I can only sustain a Leo’s diet for so long before I begin to crave food that doesn’t come from a cafeteria.
Once I went vegan, I quickly realized that Washington, D.C., lacks good vegan and vegetarian restaurants. While many local eateries can accommodate those who follow the popular food trend, most just offer one or two meatless options. Sweetgreen allows you to mix and match vegetables and dressings with either falafel or tofu, but I wanted to find a restaurant that was a little more playful with its dishes.
Penn Quarter’s Protein Bar was just the place. The restaurant, which opened over the summer, specializes in high-protein food and drinks and makes ordering vegan easy. Not only does it have multiple vegan selections, but it also gives you the choice of making any meat or dairy-based item vegan.
My friend and I split two “Bar-ritos.” The first was the “Vegan Original,” a grilled whole-wheat wrap stuffed with marinated tofu, black beans, vegan cheese, quinoa and cilantro. Unlike the burritos from Chipotle or Qdoba, this one was light, yet still packed with flavor. The whole-wheat tortilla and quinoa added a nuttiness and texture that other burritos lack.
We also tried the chilled “Green City Vegan Bar-rito,” a refreshing combination of tofu, kale, pepitas, chickpeas, creamy vegan chia dressing and a mixture of romaine, spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots and purple cabbage. I particularly enjoyed the crunchy pepitas and crisp lettuce since they mixed well with the dressing, which was similar to ranch. Both “Bar-ritos” are packed with 28 grams of protein, which is nearly half of the daily recommended amount of protein for a typical woman.
Additionally, Protein Bar offers quinoa bowls, green salads and chili. It serves breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m., so you can start your day with a well-balanced, protein-rich meal that will keep you full all day long. Breakfast includes breakfast “Bar-ritos,” scrambled eggs, oatmeal and quinoa bowls.
If you are looking for a good green juice, Protein Bar is the place to go. They have four different raw juices to choose from that are pressed right in front of you to ensure their freshness. I ordered the “Market,” which is the standard green juice mix of celery, kale, spinach, parsley and apple. Protein Bar also has a wide selection of blended protein shakes, creamy concoctions of protein powders, fruit, milk or yogurt and other creative additions, like cocoa malt and peanut butter. To accommodate vegans, the eatery also makes blended drinks with whey or soy protein, almond milk, soy milk or soy yogurt. Most of the smoothies have 15 to 20 grams of protein for a 12-ounce serving. You can also add nutritional boosts such as the “Flu-Fighter blend” or the “Hangover blend” at no extra cost.
One of the best things about Protein Bar is that it is a good place for both vegans and meat-lovers alike to enjoy a healthy, well-balanced meal that is loaded with nutrition. Unlike many other restaurants that focus on nutrition, Protein Bar is reasonably priced and affordable for college students looking for their healthy food fix.