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Like many metropolitan areas around the country, the Washington D.C. restaurant scene is infused with plenty of must-visit, destination-worthy spots. But the extended story of the food scene here is shaped by the city’s primary industry: government. Feeding embassy employees and interns from around the US and across the globe means that the city sports a truly global array of restaurant and catering options that define comfort food no matter where you are from. This diversity of restaurants is just one reason U.S. News and World Report placed metro D.C. as fourth on its recent list of best places to live.  Here are some of the most interesting new and classic trends shaping the Washington D.C. catering.  

Vegan for Meat Lovers

Steak’s reign as the power food of choice in Washington D.C. catering is being pushed aside by the trend of plant-proteins and all things vegetable. And, while you can still order a great steak in the land of blue pinstripe suits, options for plant-based proteins are exploding – even for meat lovers.” People are looking for guidance on how to eat without meat and eat without processed foods,” said Elena Johnson, President of  Nourrie Cuisine.

  • Protein Bar offers both meaty and vegan protein options to top their range of wraps, bowls, and salads. But Amy Sweet, Senior Catering Sales Manager for Protein Bar is seeing a shift towards vegan proteins in smoothie options. “People in DC are very health-conscious, and people are asking about ingredients,” she said.  While the demand for protein in any shape has inspired the chain to add steak as an option to its scramble bowls, lighter, vegan options are becoming increasingly popular. In response, Protein Bar is launching blended green juices and smoothies in 2018.
  • The entire menu from the super juices, nutrient-packed smoothies, and even the vegan desserts at Khepra’s Raw Food is designed with an eye toward health and well-being. Popular items at this Washington D.C. caterer like the Coconut Crab Cake, Avocado Nori Rolls, and lasagna put a raw spin on familiar favorites.
  • Mediterranean food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines for a reason: its emphasis on vegetables and grains with meat treated as more of a side dish. C’Meet’s vegan lentil balls pack in the protein while the vegetarian Turkish breakfast plate, with eggs, yogurt, cheese, and vegetables makes a high protein, customizable vegetarian breakfast.

Next Gen Asian Flavors

It is impossible to talk about the Washington, D.C. catering and restaurant scene without mentioning the huge shift that is taking place in Asian cuisine. As we cast a glance on 2018 and its food trends, countless new flavors are popping up that span the Asian diaspora. From jackfruit to kimchi, diners are experiencing Asian beyond Chinese and Thai, looking at new ingredients, spicier foods, and dishes once unfamiliar to most Americans.

  • At Banana Leaves Sushi Bar, flavors from Malaysia and Indonesia happily co-exist with those from China and Japan. Dumplings stuffed with pork and vegetables and the Maki Package are hugely popular but the Crabmeat Pancakes and Bali Tofu add a dash of the unexpected to any catered event.
  • Bibimbap, a bowlful of rice or noodles, topped with mixed fresh and pickled vegetables, and, often an egg or slices of beef, is a Korean specialty that combines the next generation of Asian flavors trend with the protein and bowls trends. Customizable and endlessly interesting, the dish is the specialty of Bibibop Asian Grill.
  • Teaism fuses the flavors of the Asian teahouse with the casual dining ethos that is sweeping the region. Their vegan Black Bean Bento Box tastes uniquely of Japan and their Korean Brisket Sandwich, seasoned with chili-laden gochujang are both hugely popular.

Ramen as Comfort Food

Part of the greater trend in next gen Asian flavors, ramen also taps into the comfort movement. Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of steaming hot noodles, especially on a chilly winter day? Ramen spots are popping up all over the Washington D.C. restaurant scene and most of them offer gluten-free options in addition to traditional ramen noodles.

  • Ramen has a long history in both China and Japan, but the Miso Ramen served up in numerous, popular variations by Tokyo in the City hails specifically from the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Their most ordered noodle soup, BBQ Pork Miso Ramen, is a heart lunch of sliced pork, bamboo shoots, and a soft egg nestled on top of thick ramen noodles. Their Chicken Katsu Bento Box includes seaweed salad and vegetable dumplings, an instant upgrade to the traditional boxed lunch.
  • Ramen from Asia 54 focuses more intensely on the noodles, serving its ramen straight and without broth. Though listed as a side dish menu, Ramen comes with your choice of protein, making it an either a very hearty compliment to a main dish or an entrée in its own right. Both the Singapore Rice Noodles and the Pad Thai are served with gluten-free rice noodles.
  • Asian Kitchen serves up noodles in styles from across Asia. The gluten-free Pad Thai is the most ordered but noodle devotees can shake things up with Japanese style Tempura Udon, fusion style Honey Peanut Noodles or Ramen with your choice of protein.

From upgraded bento boxes to smoothies that power you up, Washington D.C. catering has never been more exciting. No longer confined to familiar flavors and textures, foods from Asia and lighter, more healthful protein options are infusing the Washington D.C. restaurant scene, introducing Americans and in-the-know locals to the amazing array of delicious fare.

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Christina Mueller

Written by:

Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller has been writing about restaurants, chefs, and culinary trends for more than 10 years. She has published recipes and written a cookbook that is still in a stained manila folder close to the stove. She spends her free time sharing favorite restaurants around the world with anyone who asks.

Posted in: Trends in FoodNeed to Know

Tagged with: Asian, DC, Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian, Washington