(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — From Beyoncé to your neighbor, vegan and vegetarian food options are making their way to palates across the globe. Whether it’s an occasional lunch choice or an everyday lifestyle, Chaia D.C. (or simply Chaia) allows people of various diets to experience a green diet in a new way.

Founders, Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern, are friends turned business partners who were motivated to build the Chaia brand by their work as writers and educators, their love of Mexican cuisine, as well as their respective upbringings (Bettina grew up in New York City and Suzanne was raised in the Midwest). From those elements, Chaia’s “farm to taco” dynamic has formed a special relationship between farmers and urban street-style food.

The journey began in 2009 when they were posting recipes to their blog. Wanting to expand outside of the digital space, they decided to create a tangible product for the public and set up shop at Freshfarm Market, a farmers market near the White House. Through years of hard work, the duo was able to open what is now their Georgetown brick-and-mortar shop in November 2015.

Juan Bordas, Catering & Events Manager for Chaia, was aware of the restaurant during his collegiate days. “I used to come here all of the time before I started working here,” he explained. Bordas also praised Simon and Stern for their dedication throughout the years and sees them as his “idols”. Between his fellow staff members, the atmosphere, and the food, Bordas feels “super lucky” to work for Chaia. 

The restaurant’s taco options include mushroom, creamy kale and potato, smoky collard greens, Moroccan carrots, and roasted squash. These vibrantly flavored dishes can be topped with add-ons and paired with a variety of sides. The menu options change depending on the season, with the D.C. eatery sourcing their ingredients from Little Wild Things City Farm. The first generation farm has indoor and outdoor locations in Washington, D.C., with the former located across the street from Chaia.

Staff prefer to reference the restaurant as a “seasonal vegetable taco shop,” shying away from using the words “vegetarian” or “vegan.” This reference is mainly due to people immediately having preconceived notions and assuming the establishment is exclusively for people who don’t eat meat or animal products. Their ultimate goal is to help people to eat more vegetables in a flavorful way that also helps them maintain a healthy diet.

“I chose to become a vegetarian when I was 14, and I moved to the US,” from Europe said Justine Marguerat, a recent college-graduate currently working in Washington, D.C. “I became really critical of the way meat is produced.” Marguerat has also eaten the mushroom taco from Chaia, being her menu item of choice.

Kristen Douthit, a local resident who works in Washington, D.C. as well, still prefers to eat meat but would not throw out the idea of some vegetarian options. “I’m a never say never kind of person,” Douthit said. “I would be willing to incorporate vegan meals on occasion, but I love meat too much.” She also emphasized that the more lenient options of vegetarianism is more feasible for her compared to the stricter lifestyle of veganism.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center article, there was a survey of U.S. adults regarding veggie-based diets in June of that year. About six-in-ten U.S. adults younger than 30-years-old (61%) said organic produce is better for health than conventionally grown varieties. Similar trends were noticed of adults younger than 50-years-old (71%) and older than 50-years-old (64%), who had bought organic foods at least once in the past month. About four-in-ten of each age group say that most or some of what they eat is organic.

To learn more about Chaia and their other menu options visit their website here.

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