Food

Inside Fare Well: DC’s First Vegan Diner, Bakery and Bar

Inside Fare Well: DC’s First Vegan Diner, Bakery and Bar
Fare Well from Sticky Fingers chef/owner Doron Petersan opens with meatless takes on a diner classics, plus a bakery and bar. Photography by Jeff Elkins

When Doron Petersan launched DC’s first vegan bakery in 1999, Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, it took some coaxing to get Washingtonians to eat their vegetables—or in Petersan’s case, dairy-free brownies.

“I started with a bakery because it was more accessible,” says Petersan. “Cookies aren’t as scary as veggie burgers. Cupcakes look like cupcakes.”

The 46-seat eatery on H Street, Northeast takes inspiration from New York-style diners, offering American and Mediterranean classics.
The 46-seat eatery on H Street, Northeast takes inspiration from New York-style diners, offering American and Mediterranean classics.

Today, with diners embracing meatless—and meat-light—diets, Petersan was able to dream bigger when building Fare Well, her 46-seat diner/bakery/bar that opens today. The H Street, Northeast eatery is an ambitious project that draws inspiration from the New York diners of Petersan’s youth—all-day-and-night spots with big menus that offer bagel sandwiches and burgers alongside homey Mediterranean dishes like moussaka. You’ll find the same range of options at Fare Well, alongside a full-fledged bakery, coffee counter, and cocktail bar.

The menu emphasizes house-made items, including breads, seitan, nut-based cheeses, and pastas like this mushroom scampi.
The menu emphasizes house-made items, including breads, seitan, nut-based cheeses, and pastas like this mushroom scampi.

A largely house-made menu is unusual for most “plant-based” eateries—and even omnivorous ones—but Petersan and chef Amanda Desaulniers make most components on premises, from the breads and pastas to the seitan and nut-based cheeses like walnut burrata and almond-based ricotta. You won’t find mock meats (i.e. tofu masquerading as “chicken”), though there are plenty of familiar dishes that adopt the same seasonings as their carniverous counterparts, such as garlicky mushroom scampi, tofu-scrambled chilaquiles, and spicy Southern-fried seitan n’ waffles. All are made to be wallet-friendly, clocking in between $10 for breakfast plates and below $16 for entrees.

Settle in at the bar for local brews, classic cocktails, and house creations like a mezcal-passion fruit quencher.
Settle in at the bar for local brews, classic cocktails, and house creations like a mezcal-passion fruit quencher.

In addition to the sit-down restaurant, Fare Well boasts a takeout counter for quick-grab items and morning coffee, and a bakery where you’ll find fresh pastries, croissants, sweets, and rotating breads (challah, focaccia). Come evening the bar takes center stage. Barman Matthew Halligan oversees the drinks program, which includes a handful of local beers and wines, plus classic cocktails and a few house creations like Petersan’s current favorite, the Tiber Creek, with mezcal, passionfruit, and ginger liqueur. Of course, dairy-free milkshakes are available in a variety of flavors.

Head to the bakery for sweets and pastries, or settle into the long booth for desserts like a seasonal crumble with dairy-free ice cream.
Head to the bakery for sweets and pastries, or settle into the long booth for desserts like a seasonal crumble with dairy-free ice cream.

Initially Fare Well will be open Wednesday through Sunday, breakfast through dinner, and weekend bar hours. Petersan says she hopes to expand the opening days, and also offer neighborhood-oriented perks like a kid-and-parent-friendly happy hour. The aim is to embody the welcoming aspects of a diner instead of preaching a plant-based lesson.

“Yes, we are looking to reduce suffering in all aspect—better for you, better for animals, better for the environment,” says Petersan. “But my goal isn’t to force-feed people, or force an idea. It’s about making good food available.”

Fare Well. 406 H St., NE. Open Wednesday through Sunday, breakfast through dinner. Extended bar hours on Friday and Saturday.

The eatery is open breakfast through dinner, with later bar hours for the weekend crowd.
The eatery is open breakfast through dinner, with later bar hours for the weekend crowd.
Grab a refreshing cocktail, or opt for a variety of milkshakes in classic flavors like
Grab a refreshing cocktail, or opt for a variety of milkshakes in creative flavors like lemon-ginger and s’mores.

 

Retro touches are included in the design, meant to reflect a mid-century diner.
Retro touches are included in the design, meant to reflect a mid-century diner.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.