Port City Flavor: Plant-licious places

Port City Flavor: Plant-licious places
(Photo/ Hawwi Ethiopian via Facebook )

By Laura Van Pate | lvanpate@alextimes.com

 As more people choose foods that are not made with meat or animal byproducts, an increasing number of Alexandria restaurants are providing vegetarian or vegan options on their menus, while others offer only vegetable and fruit-based food. Options are not limited to just entrees, as some restaurants have crafted vegetarian and vegan desserts. The options below show that residents don’t have to leave Alexandria’s city limits to dine out on excellent vegetarian or vegan food. 

Hawwi Ethiopian 

With a mixture of vegan, vegetarian and meat-based meals and appetizers, Hawwi Ethiopian – located at 1125 Queen St. – has delivered a taste of Ethiopian food to the city since 2013. 

Vesekadu Mosa, the owner of Hawwi, said he enjoys cooking vegan and vegetarian meals for everyone to enjoy. 

“Veggies are a big part of our culture,” Mosa said. 

Sambusas, also known as samosas, are a popular vegan appetizer Hawwi offers. The appetizer is a fried pastry stuffed with lentils, spinach or a mix of vegetables. This is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine and often consumed during Orthodox fasts. 

One of Hawwi’s most popular dishes is the vegan sampler, a platter of 10 different dishes. It includes red and yellow lentils, red split peas, collard greens, chickpea puree, cabbage, potato, green beans, carrots, beets and spinach. The sampler is served with either basmati rice or injera, a sour fermented pancake-like flatbread and a staple in Ethiopia. 

Hawwi also has breakfast options. Foule consists of plain fava beans, olive oil, cloves of garlic, diced red and green onions and tomatoes. The restaurant also makes its own traditional Ethiopian coffee often known for its vibrant fruity or flowery tones. 

Just Fine Donuts 

Just Fine Donuts, which opened in June 2021, provides a full menu of vegan donuts for all to enjoy. Located within The Dairy Godmother on Mount Vernon Avenue, Just Fine Donuts strives to pave the way for vegan desserts in Alexandria. 

“I had a friend who is vegan, and one day, he decided to make me vegan donuts to show that they’re delicious,” Russell Gravatt, owner of Just Fine Donuts, said. “Before I had them, I didn’t believe that vegan donuts could be good, but I was wrong.” 

Gravatt said he now wants to create the same delicious donuts that his friend made for him for vegans in Alexandria. 

“There are very few restaurants out there that specifically cater to vegans, let alone restaurants that make desserts for them,” Gravatt said. “I want to make donuts that vegans in Alexandria can enjoy.”

Just Fine Donuts serves different types of donuts
with vegan icing. (Photo/ Olivia Gravatt )

Just Fine Donuts offers their specialty made with many different bases, including cake and yeast. The cake donuts are made from vegan cake batter. There are a variety of flavors, including two specialty flavors – apple cider and blueberry, which are only available on the weekends. 

The yeast donuts – the typical base of many donut shops – are also a fan-favorite, and a common flavor is strawberry with vegan icing and sprinkles. There is also the option for a yeast donut either glazed or vegan chocolate. Just Fine also offers donut holes coated in cinnamon sugar or glazed. 

Fritters are another vegan-safe option at Just Fine. Many are fruit-flavored, including apple, peach, blueberry and cherry. The fruit changes regularly. 

Zen Press Juice 

Zen Press Juice, a woman-and Asian-owned business, has offered vegans and vegetarians a variety of healthy and delicious food since moving to Alexandria in 2022 at 806 King St. 

“I really enjoy making vegan and vegetarian food,” owner JuAnn Wong said. “I realized there’s a need for vegan and vegetarian options because society is becoming more conscious about eating healthy and if their food is ethically sourced.” 

Although Zen Press has a limited food menu, many of the items are vegan or vegetarian-friendly, including their coconut jam toast, acai bowls, pitaya bowl, pad thai, elote burrata and avocado toast. 

One of the most popular vegetarian-friendly dishes is the berry peachy burrata, which consists of arugula, peaches, strawberries, mint, cashews, burrata, balsamic glaze, olive oil and sea salt. Burrata is an Italian cow milk cheese. 

A popular vegan dish is the pitaya bowl, a dragon fruit-based bowl with jackfruit, mango, strawberries, oat milk and agave as options. Topping options include granola, strawberries, lychee, coconut, hemp seeds and honey.

One of the many bowls Zen Press serves at their
King Street location. (Photo/ Zen Press )

Many of their juice options and cleansing packages are vegetable and fruit-based. A popular juice is “Joy,” made of beets, carrots, apples, cucumbers and ginger for pre-workout. 

“I think our food is really special for vegans and vegetarians to try,” Wong said. “Most vegan and vegetarian places focus on replicating a burger, but instead, Zen Press Juice wants to focus on highlighting the freshness of produce paired with a clean product like tofu.” 




Elaine’s, a new Mediterranean restaurant that opened in March at 208 Queen St., is already serving delicious food to vegans and vegetarians. 

“My wife Cynthia and I really like making vegan and vegetarian options for our customers,” Jeffery Higgins, co-owner of Elaine’s, said. “I would say our sofra, which is a Greek dish that could include hummus and pita, is one of our best options for vegans and vegetarians because it can be a filling appetizer.” 

One of Elaine’s famous vegetarian dishes is their salty feta, a mixture of tomato, chives, oregano and urfa pepper. Another popular dish is their vegetable shish which includes mushrooms, zucchini, squash and muhammara. 

Elaine’s also offers halloumi goulash containing phyllo-wrapped halloumi, banana-tahini and fennel.

(Photo/ Elaine’s )

“We opened Elaine’s because my wife promised her grandmother she would open a restaurant named after her, as her grandmother’s name is Elaine,” Higgins said. “We really think food – whether it’s vegan, vegetarian or meat – brings people together and that’s our mission with Elaine’s.”