A smattering, a wee sample, of the many restaurants serving up hearty meals sans meat.
Ada’s is a house bookstore and vegetarian cafe along 15th whose unpromising exterior opens like a geode: a sparkling brilliance of crisp white cabinetry and square tables with enchanting collections under glass and hanging computer screens framed like art. What could a technical bookstore possibly bring to a menu? Care, for starters, in a long list of egg dishes and grain-veg salads and cheesy entrees and exquisite sweets baked in house, like a brown sugar “pop tart” in shattering pastry. And detail, when the ratio of gruyere to leeks in the daily scramble is gauged as if by some finely calibrated instrument.
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-scallion spread, salsa verde, and lime crème fraîche—is happily inhaled. The menu continues in this gleefully inventive vein, careening from one clever textural harvest (artichoke croquettes, served with citrus cream and chili lime sauces on a bed of lentils and slaw with orange-ginger vinaigrette) to the next (grilled polenta cakes with roasted oyster and cremini mushrooms, kale, delicata squash, pomegranate molasses, fig balsamic reduction, and Point Reyes blue cheese). 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.
Floret, located between the A and B terminals, next to the Delta lounge, has plenty of familiar dishes from Cafe Flora, from the Oaxaca tacos to the cinnamon rolls, even the custom-shaped pancakes on the kids menu. Then there are those airport-specific challenges, like the grab-and-go food that’s central to Sea-Tac’s food offerings. While Cafe Flora hasn’t jumped on the grain bowl bandwagon, these healthy-trendy composites make perfect sense in an airport setting. Portable breakfast is also a big deal in an airport with so many morning flights. Enter a line of new breakfast sandwiches, like a buttermilk biscuit with fried egg, cheddar, caramelized onion, and tomato jam—even a gluten-free biscuit if desired. Bring on the pimento grilled cheese bites and superfood salad.
Recipe for an instant Seattle legend: Take one forsaken corner storefront by the railroad tracks in Georgetown, lined with mottled brick. Add booths, tables, a bar, and at least one restroom sporting a perky B-film soundtrack. Paint concrete floor and exposed ceiling ducts. Throw in a little Donkey Kong, then finish with a tight list of fresh and feisty vegetarian and vegan food—a simple plate of roasted carrots and Yukon Golds and golden beets or other seasonal vegetables, topped with melted goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic-honey reduction; a sandwich crafted from a lentil-sage variant of the delish meat substitute called Field Roast, apricot chutney, and brie; or cheese enchiladas bubbling away under a chili-nuanced red sauce. Douse liberally with blue-ribbon alcohol, crafted into fruity cocktails. Serve to the whole motley crew of Georgetown denizens—they of the pink hair, pierced extremities, and low budgets. This is a recipe they can’t get enough of.
The stunning talents of most of the team from the prix fixe Wallingford vegan destination, Sutra, are in evidence in its larger reincarnation up the street. Though not as pretty nor as serene as its predecessor, it’s got outdoor seating and, better yet, the chef’s vegan-cookery bag of tricks (contrasting textures, layered flavors, a hint of modernism, and good ol’ coconut milk). Single-seating, five-course dinners might include dishes like a smoked carrot-ginger bisque, a beet and sorrel salad with candied walnuts and black lava salt, a Napoleon with roasted cauliflower and truffle celeriac mousse. An earnest moment of gratitude and ringing of a gong before dinner won’t be everyone’s cup of kombucha, but for our money—and not a whole lot of it, in this value-rich restaurant—reverence is the appropriate response to this food.
The healthy juice trend has made major inroads in places like Portland, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. And this Capitol Hill outpost for liquid combos, like one with charcoal, apple, lemon, and ginger, also benefits from owner Kari Brunson’s culinary background with a full-on food menu, which flouts the limitations of the little kitchen. Find a rainbow of colors—and flavors—inside a bowl housing millet, roasted roots, red beets, radish, spinach, seasonal kraut, turmeric pickled soft boiled egg, and a ginger-turmeric-pepita sauce.
In the Denny Regrade you’ll find ’Table, care of Doug Kawasaki and Ma‘ono’s Mark Fuller, two loyal meat eaters. No cows here. Instead: Vegetarian winners like the ’Table Bowl, an earthy, nutty mix of mushroom, eggplant, kidney beans, quinoa, and hominy topped with a dollop of yogurt and tangy, pickled cucumbers.
Duck into this house restaurant on Beacon Hill and watch that conventional wisdom go mano a mano with fragrant lentil soups; pan-fried, paneer-stuffed paratha flat breads; and some of the most interesting vegetarian fare going in Seattle today. Weekday lunches are simple and nuanced and $7.50 at their most lavish (go for the spicy chickpea curry plate with mango chutney; samosas aren’t as distinguished). The bigger deal are the multiplate feasts called thali, served weekend nights, loaded with the chutneys and pickles and cool yogurt raitas that add lush textures to spicy vegetable stews. Mango lassi and chai are exceptional.
Entirely vegetarian—and entirely lovely–this pizzeria in the Chinatown–International District slings hot pies whole or by the slice, like one with thin rounds of potato and aromatic rosemary or the Dragon topped with fresh basil and sweet roasted red peppers. And if meat cravings must be satiated, the Field Roast pepperoni is a solid, savory approximation. To drink: Wash everything down with a Manny’s or another one of the handful beers on tap. To sit: At the counter, watching passersby walk down King Street.
Editor's Note: 'Table closed in March 2018.