The New DMV Gem: Busboys and Poets


Avocado Panini with Fries and Rose

Busboys and Poets. The name speaks for itself as each restaurant under the name becomes a landmark in each area that it stomps ground in within the DMV area. Being inspired by Langston Hughes, the name is catchy, and each sign is visually capturing to all that come across it which is one of the large contributing factors for its quick success and expansion. From the moment you walk in, you’ll see a small bookstore with a comfortable sitting area, so that even when there is a wait, you can, sit, roam, read, and allow the time to fly by. And I being someone who loves reading, I always do just that. Between The messages and pictures on the walls, the fun facts that are on the monitors, the lack of coordinated uniform amongst the host and serving staff, the unisex bathroom, and the poetry nights, the vibe of each restaurant is both completely unique to other  restaurants that hold the same name, and even more unique to all other restaurants that you will ever walk into.

On Easter 2012, my family and I ate at Eatonville, a restaurant with Southern-Inspired Cuisine named after the town in which Zora Neale Hurston was from (An establishment which has since closed its doors). And even though I wasn’t vegan yet, I wasn’t really craving anything at the moment that I was there, so I just ordered a cajun tofu salad which was simple, yet significantly better than I expected. The tofu was perfectly seasoned, and the salad that was paired, was an excellent choice.To add to the experience that the food hadn’t provided, I was taken aback by +the positive energy that was a catalyst for my family to have a loving debate, the catchy and capturing music, and the jazz inspired artwork that brightened each wall throughout the restaurant. I only went there once, and soon after, I found out that it had a sister restaurant called Busboys and Poets, so I figured that it had to be good since it was also founded by Andy Shallal, who is an entrepreneurial inspiration to me.

Now, even though I heard about it and passed it several times over the years, my first time going to Busboys and Poets wasn’t until New Year’s day of 2016, when my mother and I had gone to the Basilica which is located near the Catholic University campus. My mom is a complete and total foodie and had been there several times so she literally knew the entire menu. So we walk in, and were immediately sat. I was astounded by the comfortable energy that was flowing throughout the restaurant. My mother was overly excited for me to try the crab grits and suggested it before I had a chance to look at the menu fully (I still wasn’t a full vegan at the time) and so she attempts to order them, to which we received word that they don’t have it available and just as quickly as my mother got excited, she was unexcited. As I looked over the menu, my excitement increased because I had never been to an establishment with so many good looking vegan options that didn’t clash with the non-vegan options on menu. So my mother could eat, and I could as well without any complaints of not having enough options. I proceeded to order a tempeh panini which contained vegan mayo, arugula, red peppers, tempeh, and avocado with mixed fruit served on the side, as my entree and a raspberry cheesecake as my dessert.  I left amazed at the food, yet perplexed that there were so many solid brunch, lunch, dinner, AND dessert options. This was a brand new experience for me. 

From that day forward, I was able to make it the restaurant that I could never say no to going to. If there was ever any dispute about where I should eat either by myself or with a group of friends, Busboys and Poets was the default. And the vegan cheesecake finalized that decision because those that are close to me, know that cheesecake is a priority dessert in my world and I having traveled back and forth from New York for the larger part of my childhood, have become a self-proclaimed cheesecake connoisseur, and that I also had a hard time adjusting to not having cheesecake after I went vegan (but before I found Daiya cheesecake and started making my own so I was definitely going through a rough period). So just a few weeks later after my first visit, my uncle was in town from Upstate New York, and there was definitely a question as to where we should go.  Being as he is also a vegan and my father and brother are hard core carnivores, we made BBP the place to go so that all of us could eat good. It was then, I was able to try the life-changing chickpea “tuna” salad sandwich with a side of French Fries for the first time and I loved it so much that when the server came back to ask how we were doing, I looked like how Mulan did when Moo Shu stuffed breakfast into her face. I had seen the recipe a few times before I tried it, but I was going to call BS on the idea of tuna being replaced so easily. But they successfully manipulated vegans into believing that chickpeas can taste like tuna salad, even with the textures of tuna and chickpeas being completely different. So at this point, I’ve found my go-to restaurant and my go-to sandwich. Since those visits, I have had the Avocado Panini, Vegan Pizza, Vegan Nachos, Vegan Quesadillas, Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Plantains, Falafel Wrap,  cookies, brownies, and varied cheesecakes, and every single one of those items has given me the itis and caused happy food comas (But I’m dangerously disapppointed in myself for not trying the vegan mac and cheese yet). I’ve even been able to let my non-vegan family members try my dishes and let them know that BBP plays no games in that area. When I have been in completely weird or less than exciting periods in my life, or even super sick with colds, the energy throughout the restaurants have always managed to lift me up, which is something that food alone cannot always do. 

It has become a mecca for comfort foods to all demographics that live throughout the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Area, and each location have also become large tourist attractions. I can go there with my grandparents, my parents, sibings, nieces and nephews, or friends, and every single time, we would be able to have a wonderful experience that is supported by the light vibe of the always friendly staff, the delicious food, quick service (although I did order my chickpea salad sandwich for take-out and waited well over 30 minutes but I still love them anyways lol), an amazing cocktail menu, and options to have outdoor seating. It is making strides by expanding to multiple areas to secure its availability to all areas so that as time goes on, we won’t be needing to travel too far for good vibes and good food (I know I’ll soon be benefitting from the new Anacostia location and won’t be needing to go to Brookland, Shirlington, or Hyattsville anymore lol). I don’t just recommend Busboys and Poets to vegan or non-vegan food lovers. I recommend them to book lovers. I recommend them to visual art lovers. I recommend them to bar hoppers. I recommend them to spoken word and poetry lovers. I recommend them to anyone that may need a pick me up on any day for any reason. I recommend them to all that need good vibes, good food, and good fun. 

Why I love Sweet and Natural


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. 

My Vegan Snack Guide

When your snack drawer at work is too lit.

So as the holiday season approaches, we have one big thing that we have to think about outside of the food, presents, and money we’re about to get, and that is the traveling. Whether you’re going to Thanksgiving at your grandma’s in Chicago, your Aunt’s in Manhattan for Christmas, your BFF’s in Atlanta for New Years, or your mom’s for all three, who’s just a 30 minute car drive from you, There’s one thing that you’re going to need for all of this traveling: SNACKS! Snacking vegan used to be Celery and carrot sticks with no ranch, but some of these companies have made grabbing fast food and snacking increasingly easy for us. Whether it is healthy, kinda healthy, just a little unhealthy, or definitely unhealthy, we now have options! Below is my full guide for grabbing vegan food and snacks as you leave out on your beautiful holiday Quests.

If you’re in the mood for snacks, my top recommendations are:

  • Doritos Sweet Chili (my favorite) or Blaze
  • Lays Chips (Check Variety And Ingredients)
  • Harvest Snaps (Mango Chile Lime is my favorite)
  • Lenny and Larry’s Cookies (see variety)
  • Unfrosted Pop Tarts (I like Strawberry, but that’s just me)
  • Oreo’s (Grab a small beverage size bottle of almond milk if you’re really trying too have a good time).
  • Nutter Butters
  • Frito’s
  • Blue Diamond Almond Snacks (Wasabi Soy Sauce is my favorite) 
  • Fruit by the Foot
  • Sabra Hummus Snack Packs
  • Vegan Robb’s Puffs (see Variety) (I love the Cheddar Puffs and Dragon Puffs)
  • Earth Balance Cheddar Squares, Aged White Cheddar Popcorn, and Aged White Cheddar Popcorn. 
  • Dang Sticky Rice Chips (See Variety)
  • Celery Sticks and/or carrots (If that’s your thing)

If you want solid/ hot food before you hit the highway, my top recommendations are:

  • Chipotle Sofritas or Sofrita-less entree (I usually do sofrita-less and recommend the bowl if you’re in the passenger or back seat)
  • &Pizza, Mod Pizza or Kustom Pizza and Subs which has an assortment of vegan strombolis, pizzas, subs, and nuggets (Cause Sbarros’s ain’t where it’s happening)
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe wraps, bowls, and smoothies (see variety)
  • Veggie or Ume Onigiri from Hana Japanese Market located on U Street 
  • Whole Foods and Mom’s have multiple Grab and Go Options (I highly recommend Both of their Sushi platters, and Mom’s Cold Sesame Noodles.

If you want to hit a rest stop or make a pit stop, my top recommendations are:

  • Starbucks will make any latte with coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk.
  • Taco Bell’s 7-Layer Burrito (Order without Cheese or Sour Cream) with Cinnamon Twists on the side. (It’s really not complete without the cinnamon twists in my personal opinion).
  • Panera’s Oatmeals, Soba Noodle Bowl, and Mediterranean Sandwich (without the feta cheese).
  • Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Pretzel (ask them to spray it with vegetable oil before they dip it in the cinnamon sugar, otherwise it is dipped in butter).

How To Eat Vegan for the Holidays


vegan thanksgiving               

                  Soooo, As we all know, the holidays are coming up and the hardest part is making sure that you have food that you can eat, because why in the entire world would you want to be the only person at the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table that is unable to eat anything because even the greens have turkey neck bones in it? And honestly you may be playing with fire just asking for a salad because most people throw Ranch or Caesar Dressing on the salad in addition to cheese without even thinking twice. So when I transitioned into being a vegan, I had to begin making up my own options so that I can eat just as good as everyone at the table. Since I have had trial and error for the holidays as a vegan, I now serve as a sacrificial lamb to up and coming vegans, to which I proudly own. So have no fear, the Sapient Vegan is here!

                  When I was a little girl (and even now), my father and I were as thick as thieves. And coincidentally every single year, he would wake up first thing on Thanksgiving morning, and I would join him shorty after, (like I’m talking 7:00 am or earlier) to start cooking the 20 different animal infused dishes that made up our meal, and we would be the first to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while everyone else was still asleep (and mini Miss Dominique did not play about that parade). Since cooking the food the day of was usually easy given that we took Thanksgiving incredibly seriously and did everything the evening before like prepping the stuffing, cutting the greens, prepping the cheeses, boiling the potatoes, and peeling the sweet potatoes the night before, all we had to do was throw everything in the oven and do all that extra stuff with the turkey that kinda grossed me out, so we had a ton of extra time to watch the parade. And as everyone would trickle downstairs to watch it with my father and I, I was in love with the moment of watching it with my, so I was able to catch the beginning and I watched most of it, but the moment I saw my father walk back to the kitchen to continue cooking, I was 2 minutes behind him (because again, I was all about the parade and everything that went on with it). Ending the evening Sitting in the living room with my family and friends, with a plate full of turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and all of the other stuff that was no good for you in any shape, or form, while watching the Redskins vs. Cowboys (Grew up in a Redskins Family) was how my Thanksgivings always ended.

                   But once I started cutting things out of my diet, my family struggled to keep up with ways that I would be able to enjoy the holiday just like them, but I then became FORCED to make my own dishes, which I actually didn’t mind too much because I was getting older and knew the setlist of the Thanksgiving Parade from beginning to end. So at that point, I could focus on the food and making sure that my parents got all of the food out at a reasonable time (this would be a great time to pick at my siblings for being lazy, but I’ll let them live for now).

                      Fast Forward to 2016, I took a shot at a nearly plant-based Thanksgiving (I still ate seafood at the time, so I had salmon as my main dish). So this Particular Thanksgiving, I made Mashed Potatoes, Greens, Cranberry sauce, and tried to make Mac and Cheese (which was a dub because the local store only had vanilla flavored almond milk. Like even “Original Unsweetened” almond milk, still had hints of vanilla, so my mac and cheese tasted disgusting on multiple levels and I couldn’t hide it). Even though my dishes didn’t hit the way that I expected them to, I was pleased, but I also knew that I could do a little bit better. So Thanksgiving of 2017, I did the most. I got off of work the day before, ran to whole foods and got everything that I would need to show up and show out. I bought Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage, Dandies Marshmallows, Stuffing Mix, Potatoes, Garlic, Collard and Kale Greens, Cranberries, Sweet potatoes, Carrots, Celery, and nutritional yeast, and cashews. So I made cashew mac and cheese with my potatoes, carrots, cashews, and nutritional yeast (secured regular almond milk this time, but used whole wheat macaroni since that was all that they had, and again, my mac and cheese just not as good as it could have been).  I used my Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage, carrots, celery, stuffing mix, and vegetable stock to make sausage stuffing which was well received. I made whipped garlic mashed potatoes using coconut oil, a hand mixer, and a lot of patience. I made Pureed Sweet Potatoes with my Sweet Potatoes, and flavored it with sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg and topped them with Dandies marshmallows. I used Cranberries and sugar to make my cranberry sauce. And I used my additional carrots to make a carrot cake with a cashew cream cheese frosting (which I actually sold to someone). I ended up giving all of the dishes to my mom, since she is diabetic and needed a few healthier options, and And even though everything was vegan, it took the same amount of time, work, and effort as it would if I was to be making it with traditional ingredients. On Christmas, I served all of the dishes to my entire family and they all loved it. I even went the extra milk and bought Califia Farms Almond Milk Eggnog to mix with a little rum with my family.

                     This Year, I am not going to be able to put as much effort into my Thanksgiving as I did last year unfortunately, due to a very heavy work schedule. And usually since I like to do everything myself, I am slightly uncomfortable with the idea of not doing a lot of cooking for Thanksgiving, but I am looking forward for what I am planning to do that requires me spending the same amount of money, with half of the physical effort. And since there will be more than just me who will need some accommodations (my oldest niece has decided to become a vegetarian), it is important that I make sure that we are getting all of the good stuff (a lot is riding on my reputation this year). Since I stay away from soy for the most part, I will be purchasing a Field Roast Turkey Roast with Stuffing, field roast sausages and cornbread cubes for cornbread stuffing, Amy’s Rice or Daiya Mac and cheese, Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread for whipped garlic mashed potatoes, cranberries for cranberry sauce, dandies marshmallows, and almond milk for my sweet potatoes. (Tip: if you can, save about 1-2 cups of your mashed sweet potatoes to make sweet potato buttermilk pancakes the morning after. Recipe is below. You’ll thank me later).

                     If this is your first year eating vegan for the holidays, do not be intimidated. If you would like to spend the money and the effort to cook, I highly recommend the options above. If you want to spend the money, but no effort, then Sweet and Natural, Everlasting Life, NuVegan Cafe, DC Vegan Catering, Equinox Restaurant, The Hamilton, and more restaurants and companies will be offering Vegan Thanksgiving menus to be catered directly to you or served in their establishments. If you just want desserts, Whole Foods and Fare Well will have cake and pie options (place your orders with Fare Well ahead of time), and I make and specialize in vegan, soy-free desserts as well (check out Speechless Sweets). And if you don’t want to spend the money or the effort, wellllll I’m sure air tastes good or just finesse someone who loves you lol. There will be more than enough options for you and your family to all enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make this holiday season a great tasting one!

P.S. There will be a ton of pictures the day of, but you all already knew that.



My Recipe for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pancakes

(A slight twist on the original recipe below)

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of non-dairy milk + 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • ½ cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons non non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread) or refined coconut oil for frying and serving.
  • A LOT of Maple Syrup for serving, because why not? It’s Black Friday Weekend and you did all that cooking, eating, and cheering on your favorite team, so you deserve it. Treat Yo Self!
  1. Whisk your apple cider vinegar and non-dairy milk to and let it curdle for 5-10 minutes
  2. Mix all of your Dry Ingredients
  3. Mix your wet ingredients including your vegan buttermilk
  4. Mix in your Sweet Potato Puree
  5. Fry them babies up!

Suggestions: I’ve heard this works well in a waffle maker! Snag some field roast maple breakfast sausage to go along with it if you can! Also, Reddi Wip’s Coconut Milk and Almond Milk Whipped Creams save lives, breakfasts, and desserts.