Middle Eastern, Vegetarian
It’s Mamnoon’s upmarket grain bowl–and–juice bar takeout, in Amazon’s Doppler Building downtown. And out of it comes food as global, refined, and healthful as distinguishes all of Mamnoon’s properties. Consider the mujadara: Upon a warm foundation of brown rice and green lentils are heaped bright magenta cubes of pickled turnip, flecks of fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds spiced with Aleppo pepper, and a creamy dollop of Seattle’s own Ellenos yogurt. This dish mingles the sour with the tart, the sweet with the savory, the high notes and the bass notes, along with a brilliant spectrum of textures and colors. Super fun to eat. The classy little vegetarian spot is mostly takeout, with just a few seats.
Atop Queen Anne awaits an organic cafe with, well, a bounty of fresh dishes: imaginative salads, hearty grain bowls, sandwiches, and a brunch that won’t quit. (Truly, brunch is served all day, every day.) Bounty Kitchen employs local faves, like Beecher’s Flagship cheddar cheese and Sea Wolf Bakery sourdough, and is well attuned to the many dietary restrictions du jour—making most things vegetarian or vegan friendly, gluten free, or dairy free.
Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch
This counter-service spot, a pastel-tiled nook on Capitol Hill, serves up grab-and-go items like toasts, egg sandwiches, savory grain bowls, and a small but varied menu of seasonal and locally sourced foodstuffs that are healthy without harping on about it. Case in point: B-Sides’ rice bowl is put-a-ring-on-it good. On a bed of rice sit textural bundles of joy—puffed wild rice and amaranth, char-roasted turnips and broccoli, a perfectly runny soft-boiled egg, tahini and chickpea-miso dressing. If there were ever a place to hide away with a book and a cup of joe, it’s this Analog Coffee sibling cafe. B-Side also delivers on the drinks: vermouth and soda, michelada, grapefruit-cardamom mimosa—toast to good health with something boozy.
Long the vegetarian standard-bearer in town, this beloved Madison Valley dining room can make gluten-free taste good. Its quesadilla starter—roasted yam in a corn tortilla with pumpkin seed, cilantro, and scallion spread, salsa verde, and lime creme fraiche—is happily inhaled. The menu continues in this gleefully inventive vein, careening from one clever textural harvest to the next. The menu changes with the seasons, but certain dishes—the comfort-filled Oaxaca tacos, the delectable portobello wellington—must remain lest a city revolt. All are enjoyed in a window-wrapped room, particularly pleasant during weekend brunch, and an atrium complete with burbling fountain.
Healthy pasta sounds like the saddest trombone of all fast-casual concepts. But this Capitol Hill newcomer from two Tuscany natives delivers legitimately superb pasta—and with fewer carbs, too. Pick your shape from the day’s offerings, which may include spaghetti, rigatoni, or big spirals of campanelle, then select a sauce, like Sicilian pesto made with mint and almonds or braised hen with pistachios and citrus zest. Nuclear-scientist-turned-chef Filippo Fiori extrudes pasta made from a legion of flours: quinoa, rice, rye, corn, and bean among them, the combination of which adds more fiber, more protein, and more satisfying bite.
The dream of the ’70s is alive in Fremont, at this “elevated hippie food” restaurant across from Waiting for the Interurban. For a spot that’s become a daily haunt for people carrying yoga mats, Eve offers an airily romantic sense of place at moderate prices. As for the food—starters, spreads, salads, veggies, and mains—it nails “hippie” more consistently than it does “elevated,” alas, but that’s not a deal breaker for a town that doesn’t offer much else for clean-eating destinations. Look for egg-crowned grain bowls, bright veggie spreads, a bison burger brilliantly topped with pickled apple and sweet onion jam, and a kale-with-olives-and-currants salad for the ages.
The local fast-casual chainlet may seem a tad like a cafeteria salad bar—customize your greens, wraps, and grain bowls with any manner of accoutrement plucked from silver buffet tins—but what’s not to like about fresh salads made to order, your choice of everything, tossed before your eyes in a big stainless steel bowl? It’s quick, easy, and a remedy for sad desk lunches everywhere.
Seen one new poke shop in this town, you’ve seen the other 500, right? Not so—this Belltown newcomer lets you assemble a bowl with uncommon add-ins like octopus, pickled radish, or crispy lotus root. Staff suggestions keep all these choices from overwhelming, and you walk away with a healthyish lunch that bursts with color and texture.
Juicebox’s Kari Brunson and Hot Cakes founder Autumn Martin created a lineup of vegan ice cream that’s crazy decadent, deeply flavored, and in no way a dietary consolation prize. Their scoop shop serves frequently rotating flavors, like brown sugar vanilla, gingered golden milk (which tastes, in the best possible way, of pure ginger), and salty caramel ash that’s sweet and salty and the color of a thunderstorm cloud. Sorbets include a beet-strawberry-rose combo and concord grape shrub. There’s a pumpkin butter seasonal flavor studded with corn bread and spiced pecans, and chocolate date, which packs all the richness of a date milkshake. Ice cream comes in a cup or gluten-free vanilla-maple waffle cone and you can top it with things like chocolate magic shell and activated charcoal caramel. It bears repeating: Everything in here is vegan and gluten free. Bonus: A second location will open shop in Ballard come February 2018.
The healthy juice trend has made major inroads in places like Portland, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. And Capitol Hill’s newest outpost for liquid combos like the Julius (carrot, Valencia oranges, and turmeric root) also benefits from owner Kari Brunson’s culinary background with a full-on food menu, which flouts the limitations of the little kitchen.
Holding down the corner of First and Bell is this sweet-spirited spot with raw timbers, lofty ceilings, long tables, and a drop-in ambience—Belltown’s version of Oddfellows. The menus (brunch, lunch, dinner) are heavy on comfort food (fried chicken and waffles!) and even heavier on sustainability: Ninety percent of raw ingredients are sourced within 360 miles of Seattle. It’s an admirable shtick that sometimes results in flavorful fare: short ribs in kalbi with roasted chilies, lamb leg over farro, a fresh and crunchy beet and filbert salad. Too frequent blandness and inattention to preparations, however, establish the limitations of farm-to-table fundamentalism.
An eloquent country-house aesthetic prevails in this airy, two-level space off Occidental, with its bakery, deli, and in-house flower shop, painting a Jane Austen dream of the English countryside—right down to the cobblestones and leafy London plane trees out the window. Foodwise it’s breakfast, lunch, and brunch iterations of Matt Dillon’s (Sitka and Spruce, Bar Ferdinand) signature passions: bold salads with grains and vegetables, lots of cultured dairy, extraordinary brown bread for spreading, and plenty of vinegar counterpoints. Don’t miss a slice of strawberry cake or gateau Basque for dessert—this bakery is outstanding.
Shiny as a stainless crankset, Métier is a timbered three-level cyclist’s dream, with classes, training facilities—and a cafe. The healthy food leans toward Belgian waffles topped with intelligent novelties like creamy chickpea-tempeh salad with baby arugula and curls of iberico cheese; lovely against the waffle’s plain, sturdy crunch. Sides like avocado and kimchi liven things up declaratively, and libations—coffee to booze, with everything in between—suggest that the biggest benefit of cycling just may be thirst.
This is what happens when bar owners open a coffee shop. Specifically, this is the result when Rob Roy proprietors Anu Apte-Elford and Chris Elford open a coffee shop. Caffeinated drinks are made with a bartender’s touch: syrups, like one made with orgeat, are crafted in house; then there’s nitro cold brew, made dark and stormy style with fresh ginger for kick. Find Olympia Coffee and espresso drinks—sans frills if you so desire—or go for a coconut milk latte, a sweet-and-foamy island retreat delivered in a thrifted mug. And while tiki cocktails flow at the adjoining bar next door, tropical libations aka “restoratives” come in the form of fresh juice, such as Phoenix Down, made with coconut water, sugarcane, pomegranate, falernum, lemon, and mint.
Bakery/Pastry Shop, Sandwiches/Deli
Toby Matasar is gifted. Her Eats Market Cafe in West Seattle gained a huge following with cinnamon-swirl french toast, upmarket egg biscuit sliders, a matzoh ball soup to make bubbe cry. But two years ago, Matasar closed Eats and started a new lifestyle of the paleo variety. Now, the French-trained pastry chef of 20 years is entirely gluten free, as is her hot spot cafe and bakery across from Seattle University. Niche carries gluten-free daytime foods—including the spinach salad and the veggie burger beloved at Eats—along with panini and baguette sandwiches and, oh my, waffle-ini, or Belgian waffles pressed into sweet or savory panini-style sandwiches.
The blanched, lofted space splashed with Santorini blue and pulsing with noisy Pike/Pine vitality is home to the Greek flavors of owner-host Thomas Soukakos’s youth, plated beautifully. Salads bursting with ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs (below), smoked cod fritters, vivid tzatziki—all can be assembled into winning noshfests and lubricated with ouzo, quite affordably during happy hour. Larger plates might include grilled octopus or a za’atar-crusted rack of lamb.
American/New American, Vegan, Vegetarian
Vegans come in two flavors: Those who want to avoid any semblance of meat and dairy, and those who want to pretend they’re eating it. Plum Bistro is for the latter. In the lofty, fir-floored Piston and Ring Building, Makini Howell (who gave us the vegan sandwich houses Hillside Quickies) cooks up feisty-flavored renditions of classic comfort foods in her kitchen: spicy Cajun Mac and Yease (pasta with yeast substance), a jerk tofu “burger,” Cajun-fried seitan (wheat gluten) “steak” with wild-mushroom gravy. Vegans of the second camp will relish Howell’s bold flavors and plate-filling portions of decidedly nonvegetal textures. And if vegans of the first camp should wish for a greater selection of salads that don’t come topped with things like tempeh bacon—they’ll still like it better than the carnivores, who are likely to leave Plum pondering whether any human in the history of civilization has ever actually liked soy mozzarella.
Shiro Kashiba is a verifiable sushi legend in this town; 74 years after he arrived from Japan to become Seattle’s first sushi chef, Kashiba opened this serene restaurant in the heart of Pike Place Market, where people queue up for a spot at the 14-seat sushi bar and perhaps the most pristine sushi experience Seattle has to offer. If you’re more into reservations than long waits, the dining room offers the same omakase menu as the counter, plus classic Shiro dishes a la carte. To clear up any confusion: The chef is no longer affiliated with his previous, more casual sushi bar in Belltown, though it still bears his name and is still worth a visit.
American/New American, Breakfast/Brunch
The slackers who once hauled their hangovers to brunch at Linda’s Tavern are older now. For them, there’s Tallulah’s, the 19th Avenue spot from Linda’s own Linda Derschang (King’s Hardware, Oddfellows, Smith)—a classy, glassy marvel of midcentury good taste, with Dusty Springfield on the sound system and nary a taxidermic animal head in sight. At booths and tables around the window-clad corner room, beneath floating globe pendants and sweeping sight lines, aging hipsters chat loudly while enjoying refined eggy brunches (chunky corned beef hash with poached eggs, a fine wild mushroom omelet with crispy onion frizzles) and evening noshes of topped flatbreads, veggie small plates, and some half dozen solidly achieved and healthy mains. Cocktails are creative, “gluten free” and “vegan” are carefully marked on the menu, and a general wave of bonhomie wafts about the room, borne on the goodwill of a genuinely friendly crew. In fine weather, dining spills through double doors onto every neighborhood’s dream of a patio.
Editor's Note: Updated December 23, 2017 to reflect that Navy Strength serves Olympia Coffee, not Counter Culture; and its nitro dark and stormy cocktail contains ginger, but no ginger beer. Updated January 14, 2019 to reflect Navy Strength Coffee and Juice Bar's closure.