Recently there has been some debate on whether Washington D.C. should remain a district, or push for statehood. However, what is not up for debate is that D.C. is a city with global character and one of the hottest food and beverage scenes in the US. According to some, D.C. is the most exciting food city in America. What?
For starters, D.C. is one of the most diverse cities in the world, bringing together more than 170 nationalities and ethnicities, which means you can find food from all over the world here. There is also a plethora of local ingredients for makers to choose from—cheeses, oysters, Maryland crabs, and fresh produce straight from nearby Virginia farms.
And it helps that the local population is forever on-the-go, and willing to try new food and beverage options. That’s why D.C. has been an ideal launching pad for a number of fast-casual rocket ships like Five Guys, Cava, and Sweetgreen, the latter of which was started in Georgetown back in ’07.
D.C. is also home to one of the world’s famous chef activists, José Andrés, who not only traverses the world to provide food for those in need, through his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, he’s also served many of those in need right here in D.C.
In recent years, Union Kitchen, quite possibly one of the most successful food and beverage accelerators in the United States, has worked with over 650 food and beverage companies, even branching out to distribution via Union Kitchen Grocery located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Union Kitchen has four stores in D.C. with a fifth one opening in a few weeks And while no one knows exactly what the future holds for retail stores, you can bet Union Kitchen will be on top of figuring it out.
Another advantage? D.C. boasts all of the above in a small, manageable package. D.C. is only 68 square miles compared to over 300 square miles of NYC. Of course, we’re including parts of Maryland and Virginia so that radius widens a bit but for the most part, D.C. is a close-knit and easily accessible hub for makers.
So who should you be following in D.C.? Below is our curated hot list of emerging F&B companies, complete with a handy little map. Read about ’em, get to know ’em, and ask for a sample when you see ’em. Know of a D.C F&B brand we should be watching? Tell us please!
(NOTE: We looked at over 60 new food and beverage of all shapes and sizes in the Washington D.C. area, specifically those pushing boundaries and innovating. We focused on companies five years old or less. These are the eighteen we felt best exemplified where the D.C. food & beverage scene is at this very moment.)
What happens when you set out to make a vegan pork rind? You end up with a Snacklin! As seen on Shark Tank, this crunchy, puffy, zesty and low-calorie snack (only 80-90 calories per 1oz bag) made from yuca, mushrooms, and onions. So if you’ve looking for a way to replace your Doritos habit, consider Snacklins. Available on Amazon as well as Thrive Market, the easiest way to get your Snacklins is probably direct through their website.
Looking for a way to spice up your meals and snacks, but without using spices? Try Veggie Confetti, a fun take on pickled vegetables such as carrots, onions, cabbage and even jalapenos. Veggie Confetti aims to add “bold color and big flavor” into every meal. What started out as a home pickling operation has now grown into a full-fledged flavorful business. While Veggie Confetti is available in more than 60 retailers in DC, Maryland and Virginia, the 12 oz packages are also for sale directly from the website.
This fruit and nut bar really only has fruits and nuts in it—apples, bananas and cashews (all organic of course) and doubles as a healthy energy snack for at home or on-the-go. It’s also gluten-free and vegan. Each bar has a minimum 6-month shelf-life. And we’re kind of obsessed with the simple yet bold packaging. Even better, 10 percent of every sale goes towards a different cause each month. (For July 2020, it’s National Bail Out, a Black-led movement to end pretrial detention.)
2 Betties is doing the unthinkable—making a clean donut. These snack rounds are gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, peanut-free and even refined sugar-free, sweetened instead with only some honey and maple syrup. You can see how they compare to other energy snacks here. The donuts are available in six different flavors—pumpkin spice, sweet almond, mocha chip, vanilla bean, maple cinnamon, and chocolate chunk—and all can be ordered directly online. Hint: go for the variety pack!
Finding a healthy breakfast item just got a lot easier thanks to Swapples, toaster waffles made from real foods. These paleo, gluten-free and vegan waffles are made with whole yuca root and natural sweeteners instead of processed sugars and grain-based flours. But with flavors such as blueberry, cinnamon, everything and even tomato basil, Swapples are good for any time of day! You can order these treats online and the frozen waffles will arrive in a biodegradable insulator called Green Cell Foam to keep them cold in transit.
As the name implies, these bite-sized snacks created by Daniel Berg are packed with nutrient-dense ingredients like oats, nuts, chia seeds, coconut oil, pea-protein and prebiotic fibers that will deliver long-term energy and satisfy hunger. They also come in tasty flavors such as sunflower butter white chocolate, peanut butter dark chocolate, almond butter and jelly and dark chocolate banana bread. Berg Bites are available in 300 stores nationwide but boxes of the bites can be ordered directly from their website.
For all those who can’t live without their morning joe, Clark’s Cubes allow you to make coffee anywhere, without pods or instant packets. Chris Clark’s plastic-free version of k-cup coffee comes in a cube in a compostable corn-based seal and can be dropped into hot water or cold water (30 seconds for hot coffee, 3 minutes for iced) making them ideal for backpacking and travel. The cubes are available in three coffee flavors—black, mocha and vanilla—as well as three tea flavors, Earl Grey, mango lemon and green mint. Ordering travel tins from their website is easy!
Sunomi Switchel is a nifty update on apple cider vinegar-based drinks, adding ginger, honey, spices and fruits to flavor things up. Like most ACV-based drinks, Switchel is good for your gut but also works as a hydrators, a pick-me-up and as a base for a fun cocktail or mocktail. Need more info? Check out the “WTF is Switchel?” page. You can shop the 6-pack collections on Switchel’s website and in select stores in DC, Maryland, Virginia and New York.
Amazi Foods offers a variety of snacks, including plantain chips and jackfruit jerky. The company is committed to ethical, transparent and sustainable sourcing practices from farmers in Uganda. You can shop Amazi’s products online and in a number of natural grocers across the country, including Sprouts Markets.
SASYA FOODS (@SasyaFoods): Indian-inspired snacks
Meaning ‘whole’ in Sanskrit, Sasya was founded with the mission of making Indian cuisine less intimidating to the masses. Sasya’s dips and chips reflect founder Krissna Matturi’s upbringing in South India with authentic flavors and spices. Their products are gluten free, non-GMO, vegan and have no added sugars. Explore and order the range of products on Amazon.
THE DOUGH JAR (@thedoughjar): Edible cookie dough
Okay, be honest… sneaking a spoonful of raw dough is one of the best parts of baking cookies. The Dough Jar’s dough is egg free and uses pasteurized flour, so it is 100% safe to eat raw, straight from the jar. The dough comes in a selection of fun flavors like Snickerdoodle and Monster Cookie, and is even available in vegan and gluten free varieties. Get your dough fix by ordering online or stopping into their Georgetown scoop shop!c
DAFERO DATE SPREAD (@daferodates): Date spreads and sweets
Dafero’s core belief is that healthy food and social good should go hand in hand, which is why they offer a line of delicious vegan, gluten and sugar-free, date-based sweets and employ and support at-risk women, including refugee women and former trafficking victims. Lina Zdruli, Dafero’s founder, has won a number of awards for her efforts and regularly consults on refugee employment and social entrepreneurship for international organizations and think-tanks. Learn more about Dafero’s cause and where you can buy their products on their site!
CULTURED KOMBUCHA (@theculturedkombucha): Craft kombucha
Cultured Kombucha is a woman and minority-owned craft kombucha company founded with the mission of bringing kombucha’s health benefits to communities who might otherwise not have access. Check out some of their cleverly-named brews and flavors here. You can find their brews in a number of grocers throughout the D.C. metro area as well as their online storefront.
8 MYLES (@8mylesllc): Gourmet mac & cheese and sauces
Nothing says “comfort food” quite like a bowl of warm mac & cheese. It was this craving that led to the creation of 8Myles, a line of gourmet, hand-crafted, convenient meals and sauces. You can find 8 Myles’ products in a growing number of retailers along the East Coast, including Whole Foods and Shop Rite.
WALT’S WAFFLES (@thewafflebun): Waffle buns and mixes
Upgrade your morning breakfast ritual with Walt’s Waffles’ line of lightly sweet, easy-to-use pancake/waffle mixes and ready-to-eat waffle buns (available for wholesale). Word is their pancake and waffle mix will make your family and friends think you’re a genius in the kitchen, thanks to the deliciously cripsy final result. Snag their products directly from their website.
IGNITE BARS (@ignitebars): Crunchy snacks
Fire up your health with Ignite’s line of crunchy, superfood snack bars that are also keto-friendly. With a variety of unique flavors like Caramel Almond Chia and Peanut Cinnamon Hemp, Ignite’s bars are packed with protein, fiber and micronutrients and are low in sugar. Buy ‘em online.
MAS EMPANADAS (@maspanadas): Frozen empanadas
Perfect for on-the-go munching, Mas Empanadas are convenient and mess-free! Founders Margarita and Andy were inspired to start the company when they discovered the need for a healthy and convenient family meal to fuel their busy lives. You can find their products, including both vegetarian and meat options, in retailers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as well as on their online shop.
SIMPLI (@simpligood): Ethnic grains and oils
Simpli’s mission is to create a healthier food ecosystem by using a sustainable supply chain. Founded in 2019, Simpli offers a variety of ethically and globally sourced products like quinoa from Peru, chia seeds from Paraguay and olives from Greece. Want to support their mission? Buy online!
D.C. Instagram food influencers to know:
- Vina Sananikone (@vinasana)
- Justin Schuble (@dcfoodporn)
- Eat the Capital (@eatthecapital)
- Lanna Nguyen (@eatdrinkdc)
- District Delicious (@districtdelicious)
- Made in DC (@thisismadeindc)
- Hungry Lobbyist (@hungrylobbyist)
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