PHOTO: St. Dames's vegan biscuits with mushroom and vegan chorizo gravy served with a side of tamari-braised kale.
A perennial favorite on the most vegetarian-friendly city lists, Seattle is a great place to be veg. The beautiful northwestern city has an annual VegFest that gives attendees the opportunity to watch cooking demonstrations, nibble food samples, and celebrate vegetarianism with like-minded folks. Seattle is also home to the Field Roast company, which makes the mouth-watering artisan vegan grain meats sold around the country. Whether you're a local or just visiting, here are five don't-miss picks for dining out in Seattle:
Mighty-O Donuts Arguably the best donuts in Seattle—and that's before you find out that they're organic, vegan, and free of GMOs and trans fat. (The Food Network agrees: Mighty-O's Sarah Beth Russert beat out mainstream competitors to take home the top prize of the Food Network Challenge: Donut Champions in April 2011.) What began as a home baking business in 2000 has grown into a thriving storefront open seven days a week. In addition to scrumptious glazed, chocolate-raspberry, coconut, and French toast flavors, seasonal offerings include pumpkin, strawberry shortcake, and the chocolate-mint Grasshopper. Feeling basic? Mighty-O's Naked Cake donuts are perfect for dunking in a cup of the shop's locally roasted, fair-trade coffee. The welcoming storefront has a handful of tables and chairs inside and out, or grab your donuts to go and head down to nearby Green Lake Park for a relaxing walk around the water.
St. Dames In the year since St. Dames opened, this cozy restaurant with round booths and religious kitsch decor has become a fast favorite on the Seattle veg scene. Owners Amy Weems and Sarah Murphy have carefully crafted a vegetarian menu with fresh seasonal specials that veggie-lovers will swoon over (chanterelle shepherds pie or bahn mi salad, anyone?). Everything is made in-house, including the bread, using organic and local ingredients whenever possible. Most menu items can be made vegan, many are gluten-free, and side dishes are interchangeable for no charge. Brunch offerings include bloody marys and mimosas, wild mushroom–herbed chèvre omelets, tempeh crabby cakes, and vegan gingersnap French toast. Dinner options include delicata squash risotto, chickpea-vegetable fritters, kale ravioli, vegan mac and cashew cheese, and more, plus an array of drinks from the full bar. St. Dames is located near the new Columbia City light rail station and is open for weekend brunch, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Cyber-Dogs Located at the convention center—a short stroll from the Seattle waterfront—this vegetarian internet café is a great place to grab a bite and an espresso (or beer!) while seeing the sights. The eclectic décor will catch your eye (stuffed animals and funky art cover the walls), but gourmet hot dogs on whole-wheat buns are the main attraction: get a plain ol dog, chili dog, or grab and knife and fork to indulge in some of the wildly creative combinations, like the California dog (avocado, salsa, and veggie bacon), Indian dog (spinach, potatoes, veggies, and yogurt), even veggie-loaded Russian dogs (eggplant and zucchini or beets and walnuts). Friendly staff includes owner Tatiana, a former software engineer who made her dream of healthful fast food a reality.
Wayward Vegan Café Hearty breakfast foods and deliciously meaty sandwiches rule the menu at this casual, seat-yourself diner. Tuck into a smoky-cheesy scramble with homemade seitan, savor herb biscuits with sausage gravy, or chow down on a Monte Cristo complete with grilled turkey and ham. In more of a lunch mood? Try the Pull No Pork sandwich or a crispy fried chiggen wrap. After your meal, walk across the street to browse Vegan Haven, an all-vegan grocery store that benefits Pigs Peace Sanctuary and sells everything from baking staples, mock meats, and wine to leather-free wallets and veg-message t-shirts.
Café Flora A Seattle institution for over 20 years, this lovely vegetarian restaurant in the Madison Valley is upscale and accessible enough to bring omni relatives and casual enough that children are welcome (there's even a small play area for little ones). The ambience—warm wood, exotic plants, a trickling stone fountain in a garden atrium, and rotating wall exhibits featuring local artists—is rivaled only by the food, which is locally sourced and beautifully presented on the plate. Enjoy classic Café Flora dinner entrées such as the coconut tofu with sweet chili sauce, portobello French dip sandwich, or stone-fired pizza. For brunch, try a seasonal scramble with local eggs or tofu, French toast or a crunchy cornmeal waffle, or savory hoppin john fritters with smoky collards and cheesy grits. Not planning to be in Seattle anytime soon? Try some of their delicious recipes at home: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/features/editors_picks/712
Lisa Barley is a former Vegetarian Times editor living in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. She loves a good brunch spread, whether prepared from scratch at home or out at a great restaurant.