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Despite what some carnivores might think, a vegetarian sandwich isn’t limited to just grilled cheese. In fact, there’s a way to incorporate just about any vegetable—deliciously—into a sandwich. Thanks to the proliferation of produce-centric restaurants, D.C. has no shortage of less conventional vegetarian and vegan sandwich options.
You might think of beets as just fodder for salad and borscht, but at Penn Quarter’s Red Apron Butcher and José Andrés’ Beefsteak, the veggie is prominently featured. Red Apron’s Roasted Beet sandwich uses white beets as its main ingredient, and spicy harissa yogurt, feta cheese, and sauteed beet greens give it a Mediterranean flair. In Beefsteak’s Beetsteak Sandwich, juicy, red marinated beets are garnished with pickled red onions, sprouts, chipotle mayo, olive oil, and sea salt. Complete with olive oil brioche bun, it’s just as good as any steak sandwich you may come across.
Cauliflower might seem like a boring sandwich stuffer, but not so at Mike Isabella’s G and Woodward Takeout Food. G’s Roasted Cauliflower sandwich is spiced up with romesco sauce, pickled vegetables, shishito peppers, and paprika. Woodward Takeout Food’s Caulafel combines cauliflower and falafel, along with a sloppy Mediterranean concoction of hummus, chickpeas, kale, cucumber, harissa, yogurt, and cilantro.
You can’t go wrong with eggplant parmesan (unless, of course, it isn’t fully cooked, which is a chewy bummer). Two restaurants in particular take the Italian dish to the next level in sandwich form. The Eggplant Parmesan sub at A. Litteri is simple—breaded and fried eggplant generously coated in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese—but its just-tangy-enough sauce is utterly perfect. The Eggplant Parmesan at Bub and Pop’s is a gloriously sloppy mess with marinara, aged provolone, arugula, caramelized onions, pesto, and pecorino Romano stuffed in. Spoiler alert: You’ll need a lot of napkins. Eggplant also features prominently in another delicious sandwich at the downtown sandwich shop—the Bulgarian Feta, which contains an intimidating number of veggies including eggplant caponata, oven-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, caramelized mushrooms, grilled zucchini, and grilled fennel. Again, you’ll need a lot of napkins.
More from the Sandwich Issue: 15 Sandwiches You’ve Gotta Try
Illustration by Lauren Heneghan