When Doron Petersan opened her first Sticky Fingers bakery back in 1999, D.C. was a very different place, particularly when it came to vegan dining.
"Sticky Fingers started at a time when 'vegan' was a terrifying and scary and bad word," she said. "We are a Southern city, and making something without butter or meat was like, scandalous. So when we first opened, it was more about showing people how you can make things delicious without using animal products."
In other words, "Cookies are a gateway drug," as she likes to put it.
Now as Petersan prepares to open her larger, second operation at 406 H St. NE, a diner-style bakery, bar and bistro, it's less about convincing people of the movement and more about catering to those who support it — as well as pleasing those with food sensitivities and preferences where a plants-focused diet just makes sense. The city is now full of restaurants serving up plenty of vegetarian or less meat-focused-fare, even if they don't necessarily brand themselves that way — and diners are eating it up.
The name of the restaurant, Fare Well, plays off the old phrase "Fare thee well," which essentially means "to take care of yourself and take care of everybody around you," Petersan said. "We did not want to simply be Sticky Fingers Number Two; this is so much more than that."
Petersan has spent more than two years figuring out how to take what she started at Sticky Fingers to the next level. "When we moved to Columbia Heights in 2006, we realized people couldn't survive on just cookies and cupcakes; not unless we were serving insulin shots alongside them," she said. "It wasn't going to sustain us or anyone else that long."
Everything at the restaurant will have a baked aspect to it ("That's who I am", she says). They'll be making their own pastas and breads, and expanding their cookies and pie offerings (including savory pies). There will be quiches, frittatas, balkava and items found in a typical Jewish or Italian bakery in New York (yes, that means rainbow cookies), plus calzones, pizzas, empanadas, homemade ice cream and more. Petersan won't ignore the doughnut craze either ("I never thought I'd see people cry over doughnuts," says Petersan).
The restaurant aims to be comfortable and welcoming, with cocktails from the W's Joey Ambrose, and all beers and wines on tap. They're aiming to open by the beginning of summer, and will hold some pop-up events at the Columbia Heights store and in the Atlas District before opening.
"I have a horrible, horrible habit that I want to make sure everyone is taken care of and well-fed," she said. "People are always telling me that's impossible, but that's my goal with this place: for everyone to feel comfortable, have the food they're craving and enjoy the experience."