06 October 2011

Where NOT to eat vegan: Asylum, Washington DC

For almost a year now I have wanted to try Asylum's vegan brunch. Hugged up next to lots of other great bars and food joints in Adam's Morgan, it's taken me some time to get around to it but this past Sunday I made it a point to get there.

The decor was what I expected. Chains, skulls and dark black booths with heavy drones of metal playing over the speakers. So far so good. I can get into this -- now get to the food!

We sat for a while and waited for menus. None came so we got up and politely asked the busy waitress. When she brought them over she apologetically explained that only the back of the menu would be available. This left us with the vegan options of pancakes, French toast, BBQ tofu and grits or a tofu scramble burrito.

I ordered the pancakes, which are pictured above (Oh did you think those were tortillas too? Nope.) and my friend ordered the burritos. If I had to describe the meal in one word: abysmal. The only flavor I could discern in the pancakes was cinnamon. Cinnamon? They arrived lukewarm so my vegan spread never melted. The sweet potato home fries were soggy. My friend said his burrito was fine but also lukewarm and the Daiya thrown on top of the tofu and beans was done so with no attempt to heat it up or melt it.

While all of us have had to struggle through a subpar meal in our lives, I usually just remind myself that it is only one meal of my life and let it go. As a vegan I know what it's like to eat a baked potato while my family feasts. And that's fine, most places don't cater to vegans. But if an establishment does cater to vegans, and even boasts that they cater to vegans, you expect the food to be good.

The food served to us at brunch this weekend was embarrassing. I couldn't help thinking, as I chewed my tasteless paper-thin pancakes, that this is what people think of when they think of vegan food. This is why they are hesitant when I offer to cook for them or share my food. As any vegan foodie aspiring home chef will tell you, this simply is not necessary. I've won over many a timid taster with my own vegan cooking. Bad vegan restaurant food is just plain embarrassing.

If you read the Yelp reviews of the brunch you'll see mention of vegan chili cheese fries, waffle fries piled high with Daiya, a vegan breakfast bowl, biscuits, and copious sides of tempeh. All of these items were unavailable this past weekend. Were they hiding the real menu from me? I'll never know. Their online menu is chock full of vegan bar food delights.

Maybe they were having an off night. Or maybe an off week. The Yelp reviews from this past weekend seemed equally unfavorable. Unfortunately, with so many great places to try in the District, its unlikely I will be going out of my way to eat there again anytime soon. If you want a guaranteed good meal or you want to show-off to your friends by treating them to some vegan eats, my recommendation -- skip Asylum. Or at the very least call ahead and make sure they're offering the full menu.

Where to eat vegan: Sticky Fingers, Washington DC
Where to eat vegan: Macy's in Flagstaff, Arizona
Where to eat vegan: Cultured Pearl of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Lacey Walker | @quinoaween
Lacey is a food photographing, French speaking, English teaching, travel enthusiast. She's been known to cut a rug. She's also been known to spend all day in bed eating vegan waffles and talking to her cat Hibou. Follow Lacey on her blog and Flickr.

Photo credit: Lacey