The Atlas District’s Fare Well has completed its transition to Sticky Fingers Diner. Doron Petersan’s new version of her vegan diner (406 H Street NE) swings open on Wednesday, March 16 with more cake and donuts, plus an all-day menu starring a full cast of vegan versions of American comfort food classics.
“We’re just making everything better. It’s going to be better; we’re going to have cake; and you’re going to love it,” Petersan says.
The rebrand puts all of Petersan’s projects under the Sticky Fingers umbrella, which now includes the brick-and-mortar diner with savory and sweet items served at tables and to go; an e-commerce site shipping Sticky Fingers products nationally; a variety of treats sold at stores like Whole Foods; and the Columbia Heights-based Sticky Fingers Bakery (1370 Park Road), where she and her team do the majority of the baking, pick-up and delivery of bakery items. Soon a warehouse housing the manufacturing side of the business will join the plant-based mini-empire, allowing Peterson to focus on direct-to-consumer and grocery items and also produce for the diner and the bakery.
All-day breakfast at Sticky Fingers Diner includes veggie-centric chilaquiles, pancakes, and Benedict Florentine, plus more morning hits for weekend brunch. Buffalo cauliflower dip, polenta fries, pierogies, and assorted plant-based burgers using Beyond or Impossible patties make a return on the lunch and dinner menus. Like Fare Well, Sticky Fingers Diner will serve vegan milkshakes, coffee drinks, and booze.
Two notable changes include a la carte, plant-based charcuterie available in the dining room (Fare Well required orders for these ahead of time) with house-made cashew-almond cheddar, almond ricotta, vegan pepperoni, and “roast beef.” Also, in line with a move toward brand consistency, Sticky Fingers Diner will have a consistent line-up of all its Sticky Fingers Bakery items, including ready-to-eat items, baking mixes, and decorating kits.
The dining room has a new look, with wooden and steel banquets, brick walls, and cheery splashes of orange, pink, yellow, and green. Petersan has added more seating as well in response to demand: Between the dining room’s booths and bar and and outdoor patio, there are about 56 seats up for grabs.
“But the big difference you’ll see is that we’ve returned that bakery and deli feel in the front. When you walk in, you’ll see two bakery cases, both very prominent but with a really small footprint,” Petersan says.
Petersan opened Fare Well in 2016, but her vegan brand was born much earlier than that: Sticky Fingers Bakery first fired up the ovens in the late ‘90s, when vegan was still a negative word associated with health food.
“Now I feel like we have another problem where everyone tries to do something plant-based and veggie-centric and...I’ll just let you fill in the blanks,” she says. Not great versions are mostly due to the popularity of plant-based foods, she adds. For example, there are good and bad versions of pizza, but it isn’t pizza’s fault. Likewise, “you can’t blame vegan food for bad versions.”
That said, there are plenty of really good options that have grown out of the popularity. “There are a lot of vegan places that have popped up and that is awesome and I frequent all of them and I love them. There are certain things that we all kind of do, but we don’t all have the same menu.”
Sticky Fingers Diner stands out among this growing list of vegan spots because of its laid back approachability. “This is an introduction in order to get people hooked on something that is ultimately better for them and better for the planet for a long-term basis,” Petersan says.
“We call it a burger; we call it steak; we might call it chicken. It’s not a chicken, but calling things seitan is really terrifying. There is still that taboo.”
“My pride and joy comes from people coming in and having something they enjoy; or coming in and getting a birthday cake for the first tome for somebody who is maybe allergic to dairy or allergic to eggs; or somebody coming in here after they’ve had to make a healthy change and they are still able to get something like pancakes or a burger that is still better for them as opposed to the non-vegan counterpart. People can come in and get breakfast foods or brunch items and know they can eat anything they want and they are doing less harm overall,” Petersan says. “The mission is where I find my joy and where i identify with the products.”
Opening hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.