Equinox, located a few blocks north of the White House, offers a Sunday all-you-can-eat vegan brunch ($35). The main menu is also loaded with plant-based options. The restaurant was founded by husband and wife team Todd and Ellen Gray 19 years ago. Ellen, a vegan, decided to infuse her compassion for animals into the business. They’ve been offering the vegan brunch for 12 years and it continues to grow in popularity, serving clientele that includes many meat eaters. Ellen admitted the idea has shattered every expectation they had when they started it. Advocates for sustainable food, Todd and Ellen worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama to shape White House and school food policies and remain incredibly active with charities in the D.C. community.
Reservations are required for the Sunday brunch. I had a pleasant exchange with Ellen prior to my visit and she had a nicely decorated and primed table waiting for me when I arrived. Brett, my waiter, was prompt to the table, courteous, and professional.
My tops picks from the wide array of choices in the buffet are the potato latkes (pictured above), french toast, and rigatoni. The latkes with apple sauce, which Ellen personally delivered to my table fresh from the kitchen, reminded me of the latkes my mother cooked for me when I was a child. They were crispy, fresh, and delicious–not the easiest dish to veganize. The french toast was granola crispy on the outside, included a soft berry filling, and didn’t tip the sweet scale. It’s not easy to effectively replicate french toast without eggs either so these were two impressive culinary feats. The texture and taste of the french toast was indistinguishable from egg-based french toast. Finally, the squash in the rigitoni really popped and provided a unique flavor with terrific texture. For dessert, the brownie was in a league of its own–comparable to a moist bite of fudge topped with a chewy marshmallow and walnut pieces.
Chef Todd does enough with those three dishes to show people how fun it is to eat vegan food. Those are top-tier productions. In the second level, I would place the cauliflower (It’s a favorite among guests; although very good, it was too fried for my taste), the cold pizza slices, and the pear salad which is made whole with a savory date vinaigrette. Finally, you will not suffer from eating the jam bars for dessert.
The final tier includes a tofu scramble station which I found a bit bland. I prefer my homemade scramble. The fruit salad was excellent and fresh but it’s unlikely most people will eat much of it as they’re more likely to leave room for dishes they can’t make at home. The bread dipping station was fine but it’s also not something that deserves stomach real estate with more tantalizing options available.
The buffet also includes Silky Parsnip and Granny Smith Apple Soup with Celery Root, Green Onion, Roasted Apple and Arugula and Winter Citrus Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts, Shaved Fennel, and Mustard Vinaigrette. The only food I didn’t like was the Almond Rochers but there are plenty of other desserts to satisfy your palate, including Pecan Pies, Chocolate Cannoli, Mini Cheesecake Bites, and Pecan Snowballs. Everything else was either very good or mesmerizing.
This isn’t your typical buffet where items are left sitting out either. Todd and his team bring out fresh batches of every dish every few minutes. The line moves quickly and positive energy abounds. You’ll enjoy being here and you’ll leave plenty full.
Chef Todd is constantly out of the kitchen kindly socializing with customers, pouring drinks, and answering questions. When I asked a waiter a few questions about the food, he walked to the kitchen and Todd returned to assist me. It’s obvious Todd and Ellen enjoy feeding people and cultivating relationships. They’re tremendous hosts and wonderful food and philanthropic ambassadors.
I sampled every dish the brunch offered. At $35 for the all you can eat buffet, the price may be prohibitive for some diners but if you can afford it or if you’re in town visiting, it’s worth the trip. Equinox provides opportunities for vegans to show meat eaters that vegan food is fun and delicious and doesn’t require sacrifice.