In the midst of celebrating its 25th anniversary, Madison Valley's haven for lovely, lively vegetarian food is making a move you wouldn't quite expect: Cafe Flora is opening a second location at Sea-Tac, delivering what might be the most ambitious plant-based airport dining in the nation.
Floret (great name) will combine some Cafe Flora favorites with new creations geared towards travelers, including plenty of things you can grab to eat on the plane. Produce will come from the same local and organic purveyors who supply the restaurant, coffee will be Stumptown, and fliers craving sweets will have a whole lineup of vegan and gluten-free desserts, not to mention morning options like Flora's vegan cinnamon roll.
Going the airport route might seem a surprise, but owner Nat Stratton-Clarke, who regularly flies back to the UK to see his family, points out that vegetarians get short shrift even in this era of fancy, chef-driven airport projects (that goes double for vegans). But the thing that really sold him on opening in Sea-Tac was the space. Floret will occupy a new spot between the A and B terminals, its dining room sporting a 27-foot bank of windows overlooking the runway. These 1,800 light-filled square feet seemed a fitting spinoff for a restaurant beloved for its plant- and tree-filled atrium. Stratton-Clarke says he'll fill this new space with greenery, "to create a relaxing, stress-free environment"—as much as such a thing is possible when air travel is involved.
The dining room will have about 60 seats where you can soak up all those aviating views and natural light plus a full bar. The grab-and-go counter will be the place for portable dishes like the Cafe Flora caesar salad. This being an airport, it will be open from 6am to 11pm every day.
A few vegetable-embracing food counters dot America's airports, most notably the all-vegan Real Food Daily at LAX. Meanwhile, omnivorous airport menus are adding more and more plant-based options that don't feel like halfassed gustatory consolation prizes. Floret will be Sea-Tac's first foray into vegetarian food, but also the only veg airport outpost Stratton-Clarke knows of that offers a proper sit-down restaurant, not just a counter. Sea-Tac is slowly revamping all its airport concessions, so look for more local restaurants to sign leases in the coming months.
Floret is still a ways off—construction will begin in March and Stratton-Clarke's hoping to serve his first breakfast platter by September 2017—but look for the restaurant next to forthcoming Delta lounge, near the current site of the Tap House Grill and the playground. But when it opens, the restaurant will be a badge of how seriously our region takes plant-based eating, and how the meatless diet has edged its way from the fringe to the heart of the mainstream over the past few decades...in large part thanks to the ambition and aptitudes of places like Cafe Flora.