I was in Seattle for the first time last month and had the chance to explore the city’s vegan side. From what I had always heard about this vibrant capital of the Pacific Northwest was that it was as replete with coffee shops and rain as with delicious vegan dining. Yet even as the city teems with cruelty-free options (possibly more per capita than New York) it is just as committed to its “free-range” chicken, “grass-fed” beef, and “open-water” fish—none of which I’m convinced actually are. For a city so adamant about the separation of trash from compost from recyclables, I imagined more of this environmentalism shining through in day-to-day dietary choices as well. For now, we’ll just focus on the positives.
Moo Shoes has a Left Coast sister—and she sells chocolate, too. Vegan owner, Sadaf Hussain, opened The Chocolate Shoebox two years ago in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge. It’s twenty minutes by bus north of downtown, and surrounded by other vegan options. The store is small but offers a wide selection of men’s and women’s shoes, accessories from belts to wallets, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Really good chocolate. I brought back an assortment of these US-made treats for my non-vegan friends and they apparently fought over every flavor.
Highline Vegan Bar is an enormous second-floor space in Capitol Hill that caters to punk bands and the scull-and-crossbones-wearing vegans who listen to them. It wasn’t my ideal night out, though not because of the music. I got the Tempesto, a tempeh sandwich with pesto, avocado, and red onions, all swimming in grease. The latter wasn’t listed on the menu, and my friends had to wade through the same soppy oil to reach their meals as well. Eat at your own risk.
Seattle has a gem in Makini Howell. When I ate at Plum Bistro I knew I had found the real deal. Like many restaurants in the area, Plum’s architecture and décor is industrial-chic, with its steel and distressed wood and its massive garage-like door that slides up to the ceiling for fresh air. Everything—and I ate a lot—was second to none. From the spicy Cajun mac ‘n’ yease to the grilled polenta and orange fennel salad to the wild mushroom fettuccine, I was so impressed I thought I might write a letter to the restaurant. Then I met the owner herself.
Ms. Howell, who insists she’s much older than she looks, was born and raised vegan in Tacoma, just south of Seattle. In 1972 her parents opened the still-thriving vegan restaurant, Quickie Too, in her hometown, and went on to open Hillside Quickie, Sage Café, and Plum Bistro in Seattle. On my last morning in town I ventured over to Sage, an itty-bitty joint with a Bob Marley vibe and by far the best sandwich I’ve ever had (the crazy Jamaican burger). I implored the waitress to let me compliment the chef and moments later, warm and smiling, out stepped Ms. Howell.
Second from the left, Makini Howell, with her staff at Sage Bakery and Cafe
The incredible Crazy Jamaican Burger with a side of seasoned and stir-fried short grain brown rice
It’s not often the owner of four establishments also serves as one of its chefs, especially when preparing to open her fifth—a vegan kiosk at the Seattle Center—later this month. Ms. Howell is clearly passionate about producing high-quality vegan fare and has set the standard very high.
A few other spots to note include In the Bowl, listed as vegetarian pan-Asian but entirely vegan and first-rate; Wayward Vegan Café for brunch, in the University District; and Cinnamon Works at Pike Place Market which offers a range of incredible vegan muffins and cookies.