D.C. is home to excellent street tacos, but finding vegetarian options that compare to their carnivorous counterparts can be difficult.
We visited four taco shops in D.C. to find out which had the best vegetarian taco. Stop by one of these taco spots the next time you’re looking for a plant-based bite.
No. 4: Jaco Juice and Taco’s Vegan Veggie Taco
The house-like storefront of Jaco Juice and Taco is set back from the street at 1614 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Georgetown allowing space for a handful of tables to fill the brick-laid area in front of the restaurant. Inside, you’ll find a bar counter with stool seating in front of the area where the food is prepared along with minimal seating lining the right and back walls.
This vegan veggie taco ($4.50) is packed to the brim with a simple combination of fresh vegetables and tomatillo salsa, allowing Jaco Juice and Taco’s fresh ingredients to shine.
The warm flour tortilla cracked under the weight of roasted potatoes when folded, spilling out charred red peppers, caramelized onions, pico and guacamole. Sautéed kale and spinach added color and a fresh hearty element to a taco. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t try the shop’s famous homemade chorizo taco, but the vegan veggie’s potatoes packed enough satiety to replace a meat option.
Jaco Juice and Taco scored high for fresh ingredients, but the vegan veggie lacked depth of flavor. The peppers’ natural sweetness was the most notable flavor, but my taste buds were left disappointed as the perfectly crisp potatoes did not carry a distinct flavor profile. Jaco Juice and Taco presents a decent option for a group looking for a comprehensive menu and some outdoor seating, but the true taco connoisseur may have better luck elsewhere.
No. 3: Taqueria Xochi’s Nopales Tacos
It’s not the neon sign that attracts Taqueria Xochi’s massive line, but the atmosphere and food inspired by homemade Mexican dishes that keep the taqueria packed.
Located at 924 U St. NW in the U Street corridor, Taqueria Xochi’s small brick storefront is painted hot pink and complemented by a neon blue with “Taqueria Xochi” written in cursive letters.
I was originally underwhelmed by the simple nature of the nopales taco ($13 for 3 tacos) with just cactus and some root vegetable shreds as toppings, the price seemed steep. But the quality of the ingredients became more evident with each bite.
I took a patron’s suggestion and ordered a side of the restaurant’s fresh and flavorful tortillas to eat by themselves. Despite coming in at number three, the homemade tortillas themselves, with light charring, were the best quality out of the four restaurants. The cactus maintained its crunch and paired perfectly with the soft tortilla. Taqueria Xochi’s menu is limited in meatless options, but authentic preparation wins this joint its third-place position.
No. 2: Chipotle Sweet Potato Hash from Chaia Taco
Tucked away on a side-street in Georgetown, Chaia’s aesthetically-pleasing interior and quality, completely vegetarian farm-to-table menu appeals to everyone, vegetarian or not.
Chaia is a two-story restaurant located near the Georgetown canal at 3207 Grace St. NW. The interior is decorated with light wood and white painted brick with ample natural light, making for a vibrant space to enjoy your tacos.
The chipotle sweet potato hash taco ($4.50) is wrapped in a slightly-charred fresh corn tortilla. The natural sweetness of the potato marries the warmth of the chipotle seasoning, creating a layered flavor profile in each crispy bite.
The arugula pepita salsa had a thick and creamy consistency and a beautiful bright shade of green atop a mountain of potatoes. Feta cheese adds the final salty component to the tacos, and the dish is tied together with fresh sprigs of cilantro for additional flavor and crunch.
No. 1: Bandit Taco’s Tofu Taco
Bandit Taco has a tiny storefront in between Dupont and Logan Circles at 1946 New Hampshire Ave. NW. This taco spot is ideal for a quick lunch break with quick service and a casual atmosphere. Patrons are invited to sit on colorful metal chairs or outside at picnic tables lined with string lights.
With a side of outstanding sweet fried plantains, these tofu taco ($4.25) from Bandit Taco rocketed into first place.
Bandit Taco stole the show with its to-die-for packed veggie taco. Two thin charred corn tortillas held a pile of fried-to-order crispy tofu, sweet corn and mixed peppers and crunchy scallions. Poblano sauce oozed out of each bite, but the tortilla never felt soggy. And for the plantains, thick cut and pan-fried before being doused in honey.
Three tacos and an order of sweet plantains took the kitchen less than ten minutes to prepare. With late hours, this U Street joint is convenient for picking up a full meal or just a snack like authentic yucca fries ($4) and caramel cheesecake ($4.50).