The first time I ever heard of Sweet and Natural was in November 2016, when I was planning my 21st birthday weekend. I was searching for places that made vegan, soy-free cupcakes. I saw Sweet and Natural’s menu and it looked wonderful; but I couldn’t afford their prices, so I put it on my list of vegan restaurants to visit when I had more spare cash. Being a poor Millennial who was determined to save money, I made it my business to only go to the metro, the gym, and back home (maybe a late night Wendy’s run for some fries and a tea if I was desperate!) so I never made it out to Sweet and Natural because it was, lowkey, far from where I lived at the time. Although it is a Black-Owned Business and I make it a priority to support them at least twice a month, I knew that I wanted to patronize them, I just didn’t know when I could, mainly due to my hectic schedule. So I put it in the back of my mind and stuck with the closest vegan restaurant, Everlasting Life, which was down the road from my place. Coincidentally, I got a job as a sales representative at a catering company less than half a mile away from Sweet and Natural. Despite knowing it was located near my workplace, I still didn’t go because I was still determined to save money and would do so by any means necessary..
I had a budget for groceries and was excited to have free nights, because those were the times that I was going to look for new, easy vegan recipes to try. During that period of time, I stayed in the kitchen and away from restaurants, even though I literally lived around the corner from a Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, Caribbean restaurant, a Hibachi Restaurant, Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor, Papa John’s, AND 5 Guys. So one day, I made two huge pots of basil pesto pasta (with two different recipes and pastas) and it was enough to give me lunch for like at least a week. The next day, I was elated for lunch time to come around because I had a huge container of this amazing pesto pasta. My coworker asked me what I had for lunch, so I show her all of my pasta in all of its green basil-y pesto-y goodness with a smile on my face. She then asks me if I have ever been to Sweet and Natural, and I told her no, but I knew about it and that it was nearby. She then tells me to look at the menu online and decide what it is I wanted (Initially I was hesitant, but the moment that she told me that she was going to pay, I was all of a sudden all about it) so I went ahead and did so.
When she and I left work, we made a stop at Starbucks, and then drove over to Sweet and Natural. We pulled up and the first thing that I noticed was a bright red awning and customers enjoying their food in the window seats. When you walk in, the first thing that you feel is the chill from the open drink cooler, and the heat from the food counter that fills the restaurant. The first thing that you see when you enter is a Sweet and Natural employee smiling at you behind the small, yet full food counter in addition to the assortment of vegan desserts and pastries that surround the perimeter of the restaurant. And the only thing that you can smell is the amazing assortment of food that was waiting for you. After a long deliberation at the counter (despite me looking at the online menu in detail for A WHILE), I ordered the Cauliflower Au Gratin, chickpeas and rice, with candied yams, and it had to be one of the best meals that I have ever had. I demolished my plate to say the least (and got the itis midday but it was honestly well worth it). The chickpeas and rice were flavorful and filling, the Candied Yams, which are cooked down with Craisins were perfectly sweet, and the Cauliflower was amazing to say the least. But it wasn’t enough for me to make it my place. A few weeks after that, I was taking my break on a Friday (also pay day) and I stopped by to see what they had for the day. So when I approached, I asked which of their entrees were soy-free, to which he answered, “the Vegan Curried Goat”. Shocked was not the word for my initaial reaction and I couldn’t contain myself. Before I gave up meat, I always put Curry Chicken and Goat at the top of my list of things that would be the hardest things to give up full time, as eating Jamaican/Caribbean food was a favorite past time for my family and I. So I proceeded to order this vegan curry goat without even asking for a sample, and had it placed over a bed of black beans and rice, and then I saw that they had plantains as well (and me being a plantain connoisseur, I could not have been more elated or quicker to order), so I figured its a party. I decided to get candied yams because, why not, I guess I’ll consider Fridays (really the entire weekend) my cheat day. So when I got back to work, I sat down to eat my meal, and I knew that Sweet and Natural was going to be my new place the moment the Curry Goat hit my mouth. Everything about the taste and texture of the “goat” was as if I never had to give it up in the first place. And since there are beautiful Latinas and Afro-Latina’s that work there behind the scenes,, the plantains and curry are second to none.
Not long after I fell in love with the Curry Goat, I went in to inquire about the fried chicken, to see if it contained soy. Because I have only heard good things about it, but I wouldn’t want to get hooked on it full time if it’s chock-full of soy, something that I can’t have on a consistent basis. To my surprise, it only contains 2-5% of soy, and since I try to keep my soy intake very low, I was interested to find out how they were able to . In all honesty, it to this day, has been the best vegan (close to soy-free) fried chicken that I have had. Somehow they have perfected the crunch on the outside, and the juiciness on the inside, and it keeps me coming back to the point where I mainly only come on Fridays, and order Curry Goat, Plantains, their newly soy-free mac and cheese, and an additional small side of the fried chicken with BBQ sauce and honey mustard. I’ve also had the pleasure of eating the quinoa meatloaf, which is 100X better than how it sounds, as well as the quinoa breakfast sausage and grits that they offer on Saturdays and Sundays. It was recently revealed that they are in the process of making some of their dishes soy-free, which allows for those of us with allergies and sensitivities, to now enjoy more things on the menu. Their entrees along with their recipes are completely unique to them, and before you even fully fall in love with the food, you’ll fall in love with their individuality as a whole.
Because all of the employees see me on a consistent basis, I am able to have a lengthy conversation with each of them, especially because they have memorized my order. I try my best to bring family members and friends there to pay it forward, because I’m a large advocate for supporting small businesses. I’ve come to them when I was sick, I’ve come to them when I was hungover, I’ve come to them when I was dehydrated, I’ve come to them after I got into a car accident, I’ve come to them when I was hungry, and I’ve even come when I wasn’t even remotely close to being hungry, because the energy is always positive and the food is a reflection of that. I was gifted a cookies and cream cake for my 23rd birthday recently. I’ve even delayed a trip to go and get a full meal and side of fried chicken before I embarked on a 4 hour trip to Virginia Beach, and put my fried chicken in my cup holder. I highly recommend this establishment because everything about your experience both when you walk in and after you leave, is going to be filled with love and amazing food (that I typically have to break open on the way from the restaurant, back to my job). As it is tucked away on a side street in Mt. Rainier Maryland, it is definitely a hidden treasure to the D.C. Maryland, and Northern Virginia vegan food scene.