Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Dames

I recently went to St. Dames, the new vegetarian restaurant in Columbia city, to celebrate my birthday. This means I was poised to order everything from drinks to dessert and I had my expectations set high. Upon entering the restaurant, I was excited to see that the owners had done a pleasing job of creating a cozy, stylish, hip ambiance with plenty of booths, art, and careful lightening, none of which was a given considering the location in the somewhat characterless new mixed-use buildings just north of the Columbia City Light Rail station.

We started with drinks, and I ordered the St. Cinnamon, one of many tasty sounding specialty cocktails offered in addition to a full bar. It was made with muddled pear, bourbon, and cinnamon infused simple syrup, and was just the sort of slightly spicy, slightly fruity cocktail that I love. And for a fancy bar drink, it was reasonably priced too at $8.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you are probably aware of the rarity of looking at a menu on which every item is actually available to you. The need to *choose* something off of a menu is an unaccustomed pleasure, and I scratched my head for a good long while as I debated the merits of just about every delicious looking item offered. I ended up choosing a butternut squash gnocchi with a side of braised kale, and my dining companion ordered a portobello cheese steak sandwich on homemade baguette. Both were delicious, wholesome and beautiful. YES.

Gnocchi with grilled vegetables, toasted hazelnuts and feta cheese along side a huge delicious mound of lightly braised, wonderfully seasoned kale.

Just about every item on the menu is either vegan, or can be made vegan. Many items are gluten free. They bake all of their own (deliciously gluten-filled) bread. They allow you to substitute side dishes however you desire, which is pretty exciting because I want to try just about every one of them: braised kale, whipped veggies, french fries, roasted vegetables, etc. AND, they are doing everything with an eye towards sustainability.

Marinated portobellos, grilled peppers and onions, melted provolone and lettuce on a fresh homemade baguette, along side fries and what tasted like homemade ketchup.

The gals running the place were so friendly and hard working it made me love it all even more. I get the feeling they are still refining aspects the menu and service, but they were completely sweetly accommodating to my requests (for example, butter for my bread).

Chocolate mousse pie (vegan, I think), with a nice optional dollop of real whipped cream.

I can't say enough good things about this place. The last time I got my hopes up for a new vegetarian restaurant was for Plum, which was so dissapointing on my visit I've not given it a second chance. The fact that St. Dames is in my own neighborhood is just icing on the cake.

When people ask me "What do vegetarians eat?" I'd like to steer them right on over to St. Dames, where the dishes are composed to stand on their own as complete, delicious, and not based around re-creating meat dishes with manufactured meat substitutes. It's the kind of food I would cook at home if I had endless time and skill to put into it, and I am absolutely thrilled to have these gals willing and able to do it for me!

I really really wish success for this place, go there and eat and let me know what you think.

St. Dames on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Essential Baking Company

I had lunch recently at the Georgetown Essential Baking company, where I was treated to the lamest Caprese sandwich I have ever had. It is hard to knock the place because the staff was so friendly, but really this was ridiculous.

The small sandwich cost around seven dollars, which isn't exactly peanuts. The bread was fresh, as it should have been in a bakery, but the laughable innards of the sandwich consisted of one extra thin slice of coldcut style mozzarella, a piece of mealy tomato, and a couple of soggy basil leaves. One side of the bread had a faint drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the other was dry. WTF.
I know it isn't exactly summertime, so it is unrealistic to hope for garden fresh tomatoes. But this doesn't excuse the fact that they couldn't muster a couple of slices of thick fresh mozzarella or some additional sauce (more vinegar? olive oil? a nice pesto?) for the bread. Plus, for the price, the danged plate could have used some chips.

Essential Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 17, 2010

King of Pho

I am always interested in restaurants in the outer reaches of our area, especially those that make good post outdoor activity dinner stops. Post outdoor activity dinners hold tremendous amounts of promise: You are hungry, you are tired, and you've likely just used up a zillion calories and thereby feel indulgent. Yet many of the "on the way home" options turn out to be somewhat disappointing.

A recent ski day at Crystal Mountain prompted dinner at King Pho in Auburn, which came highly recommended by my meat eating dining companion.

I was pleased to see that there were indeed vegetarian options, including a tofu vermicelli bowl. I decided to order a little outside of my usual Vietnamese arsenal and got "Green beans and mushrooms with tofu". A quick chat with the waitress about not-frying the tofu revealed that she didn't speak English, and I decided not to engage on the "Is the Pho broth vegan? Does the bun sauce have fish in it? Can I have broccoli instead of mushrooms?" chain of inquiry. Those questions remain a mystery at King of Pho.

My dinner was somewhat blah. The quantity of real food was pretty small, though there was a hefty scoop of rice on the plate. The green beans were cooked nicely, but the sauce was nothing special.
That said, I can understand the carnivorous enthusiasm for the place. For the same price as my meager, boring plate, a duck eater received a giant steaming bowl of fragrant duck noodle soup, a plate covered in a beautiful plentiful pile of some sort of papaya salad , artfully composed with seared duck and caramelized shallots.

After dinner I was still hungry and demanded a sharp turn into a Dairy Queen, dethroned in Seattle but still reigning outside the city. I have childhood memories of the Peanut Buster Parfait as the only junk-food treat my mother ever showed interest in, and it was thus cemented in my mind as really top notch. Sure, the new menu requirements reveal the fact that a single Peanut Buster Parfait contains 700 calories, but I rationalized that I probably needed those calories and enjoyed the heck out of it anyhow.

King of Pho on Urbanspoon

Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Georgetown Liquor Company

I'm going to take a moment here and say, again, how much I enjoy the Georgetown Liquor Company (I've written about it before, here). Every time I go I am thrilled with the breadth and deliciousness of the vegetarian (and very vegan friendly) menu.

On a recent trip, I ordered a Lowell Sandwich, which was a complete delight of vegetarian "ham", green chilies, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, baby greens and chipotle veganaise on a toasted whole wheat hoagie roll. I had a choice of sides: soup, salad, or chips and salsa, and chose the salad, which was large and perfectly dressed with homemade vinaigrette and shaves of Parmesan.
My dining companion ordered the Portobello Salad, which was the biggest salad I've ever seen in a restaurant. It was a beautiful, enormous pile of baby greens, gouda, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and delicious marinated slices of portobello mushroom. I don't generally like mushrooms, and portobellos are no exception, but here they were so perfectly seasoned and marinated that even I enjoyed a taste.
The ambiance of the Georgetown Liquor Company is a little brooding, with black walls and dark themed art, and is the sort of place where I might be initially skeptical about the state of the kitchen. But I have been completely consistently impressed with the food that they make, and would even go so far as to say it's just as good as any other vegetarian restaurant I've been to in Seattle.

I love the Georgetown Liquor Company!

Georgetown Liquor Company on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Social restaurant feasts seem to involve sushi these days in my world, the most recent of which was a celebratory evening at Kisaku in the mysterious Tangletown neighborhood near Greenlake.

The group began with a bunch of appetizers, two of which were somewhat appropriate for a vegetarian: edamame and agedashi tofu, which came covered in bonito flakes. When I order agedashi tofu for myself, I'm always careful to specify that I'd like it without the bonito. On this occasion I simply scraped it off and continued to eat the lightly battered tofu.

While the rest of the table ordered platter after platter of creature based sushi, I secured myself a nice little supply of vegetarian goodies: Tofu Dengaku: tofu in a (surprisingly sweet) red miso sauce, a $1.50 Kobachi salad with a scoop of mashed potatoes, and a beautiful Devil's vegetarian role that had an outer skin of marinated, fried eggplant.

It can be tricky with Japanese food to get seemingly meat free options truly free of fish products, but these all seemed to be genuinely vegan (with the exception of the mashed potatoes, which might have had some mayonnaise in them). It was nice to have some unusual options!

Kisaku on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taqueria El Rinconsito

In honor of a recent visit from my lovely out of town sister, my aunt and uncle treated us to a midday feast at their favorite Mexican Restaurant in Burien: Taqueria El Rinconsito. Off the bat, Taqueria El Rinconsito passed the first superficial test for Mexican Restaurant promise: the place was full of Spanish speaking patrons.

The menu is mostly meat based with only cheese enchiladas as a vegetarian option, but the staff was friendly and happy to oblige my request to put some beans in there too.

The taqueria also gloriously passed test number two, the salsa bar. I am an absolute salsa bar fiend, and was immediately swooning (discretely) over what I saw:
Four types of delicious, spicy, varied blended salsas ranging from sweet to smoky, some sort of pico de gayo that was cabbage based and outstanding, pickled carrots and jalapenos, fresh radishes and lime wedges.

Next was the third test, the agua frescas:
I have yet to see a more complete display of these sweet tasty beverages. Taqueria El Rinconsito has horchata (rice milk with cinnamon), Tamarindo (tamarind), Guayaba (guava), Jamaica (hibiscus), and mango. I had a taste of each, but ultimately decided the creamy horchata would best sooth the burning mouth I was so looking forward to from the salsa bar.

My meal was huge and delicious. I'm still not sure what to call this style of Mexican food... it is usually referred to as "family style" but that doesn't say much. On my plate of 3 enchiladas made with fresh tortillas and delicious rich red sauce, I also had a scoop of well seasoned yellow rice and a pile of whole beans (made without lard).

Taqueria El Rinconsito isn't exactly classy-date in ambiance, but it is full of natural light, clean enough and the food is fresh, delicious and inexpensive.

Thanks K & M for the wonderful afternoon!

Taqueria El Rinconsito on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thai Tom

Thai Tom is the tiny, cramped University district darlin' where the food is fast and delicious and the air is smoky with the flavors of Thai delight.

The concise menu includes tofu as a meat choice, and it seems the brisk staff is used to dealing with the fitful culinary whims of university students and didn't bat an eye when I asked for my spicy noodles (more or less phad kee ma0) made vegan.

I'm not sure Thai Tom is necessarily the best in the city, but it is consistently tasty, fresh, and hot. A seat at the bar (sometimes a necessity if you wish to be seated ahead of the giant hungry line) is an entertaining peek into the madness of flying hands, flames and sauces as the sweating cooks blast out order after order.

Add all of that to the inexpensive prices, and it's no wonder the place is so popular.

Thai Tom on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Six Arms Brewery

I was recently on east capital hill looking for dinner around 9:30pm, just past the witching hour where regular restaurants close their doors and late night establishments reveal themselves. I ended up at Six Arms, a brewery with the sort of late-night food that makes me glad to live in a city like Seattle. Not only did the menu have all sorts of tasty vegetarian appetizers like hummus, roasted corn black bean salsa, and goat cheese torta (if you like that sort of thing), and multiple vegetarian mains like a grilled smoked mozzarella sandwich and a tofu burrito, they had two different types of vegetarian burgers: boca burgers, and garden-type burgers made with their own Hammerhead Ale and malted grains. Holy crap, yes please on the latter.

The burger comes with a choice of sides including fresh cut fries, tater tots, salad, etc.

Long gone are the days of vegetarian choices limited to brewery nachos!

PS: Happy Hour starts at 10pm, which I unfortunately missed. Had I made it, my garden burger would have cost just $4.

Six Arms (McMenamins) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010


A recent cold, rainy evening inspired a night of sushi with some friends at Aoki on Capital Hill. Aoki has a couple of simple vegetarian rolls, but no real clincher on the menu and I decided to order non-sushi items for my dinner instead of requesting anything special from the sushi bar.

Many sushi restaurants have a delightfully low-priced simple salad on their menu, and Aoki is no exception. For $1.50, I received a nice size bowl of crisp ice burg lettuce with thinly sliced red onion in a delicious sesame dressing.
I also ordered my Japanese restaurant standby: Agedashi tofu. If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that I tend to special order my tofu non-fried. This is because I generally find fried tofu to be a less delicious, unpleasing textured, excessively greasy version of what it could be fresh or steamed, not because I have an aversion to eating fried things. Agedashi tofu is an exception to my general tofu rule in that good agedashi tofu (and I've never had it bad) involves all the best of both worlds: fresh, custardy, smooth tofu on the inside with a delicate but crispy, salty, crunchy crust on the outside. It is an example of deep frying done with a a concerted culinary aesthetic rather than as a default, and it is exquisite.

I also ordered a plate of Yakiudon with tofu. The price for this plate was $6.50, and at that price I wasn't sure if it was going to be a tiny sampling, consistant with what $6.50 tends to get you at expensive sushi restaurants, or a full meal. I was extremely pleased to receive a huge plate of steaming noodles. It is unusual to feel that a sushi restaurant delivers good quantity value for the price (no doubt because all of the non-vegetarian items are so precious), but Aoki absolutely did. Nice.
It was a lovely evening out, just what I needed. Thanks P & B!

Aoki Japanese Grill & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mayuri Bakery

A couple of years ago I visited Mayuri, a delicious east side Indian restaurant, and have since heard rumors of other avenues to experience the Mayuri empire including a deli, a grocery store, and a video store. A recent quest for a cricket uniform set me off on voyage to the Indian flavored area of Redmond near the Microsoft campus, and while driving around I came across what I thought was the Mayuri deli and decided to head in for dinner.

After entering and getting a feel for the place, I lost confidence that we were in the deli. This particular location was dominated by a case of colorful desserts and seemed to be the Mayuri Bakery instead, but there was a savory dinner special written on a board, and a lovely selection of savory condiments on the tables, so my dining companion and I decided to go ahead with dinner. The special was poori, a deep fried flat bread, with some sort of saucy dish to eat with it. I got curried chick peas, and my dining companion got some sort of spinach with potatoes.

Under the fried bread was a pile of chopped fresh red onion, some fresh chili peppers and a wedge of lime. I doused the whole thing in some nice spicy garlic chili vinegar and scooped up bits of everything with the greasy bread. It was tasty enough, but certainly not outstanding.

Our specials also came with some really good, really creamy and sweet mango lasse, and a square of double-layered cake that was so boring even this dessert lover didn't bother eating it.

I guess the slow search for the real Mayuri Deli continues.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Recent out of town company inspired an indulgent dinner at Mashiko's Sushi Bar in West Seattle. Mashiko's had me charmed right off the bat with three things done delightfully: pretty water glasses garnished with cucumber slices, table set with a bowl of rice cracker snack mix, and a claim to be Seattle's first fully sustainable sushi restaurant.

The menu is large and has a variety of vegetarian items mixed in (marked with a radish icon) with the fish, in addition to a dedicated vegetarian sushi list. There is even a vegetarian "Chefs Choice" sushi assortment that includes a couple vegetarian rolls and a selection of vegetarian nigiri.

I started my meal with a "Deep Forest" roll, which included tempura asparagus, avocado, tomato and Cajun spices. I really enjoyed the flavor and spice of this roll, but found the overall texture of the innards to be a bit on the homogeneously soft side.
Next, I ate Agedashi Tofu, special ordered vegetarian (menu indicates that it can be made veggie upon request). The order included a hefty quantity of fresh tofu in a surprisingly thick, deep-fried crust bathed in some delicious savory broth.
As the meal continued and more details emerged, the restaurant revealed itself to be even more awesome. I found our waitress to be especially wonderful. For starters, she acted neither bitchy nor judgemental about having a vegetarian to wait on (not always the case at sushi restaurants). Second, she seemed to really know her sushi and used an impressive array of descriptors (including swimming speed) when describing what a certain fish might be like.

I was also really impressed with the bathroom, which was complete with high tech Japanese toilet seat that was not only exquisitely electrically prewarmed, but had multiple bidet/shower options that came with a multitude of adjustment to suit any mood.

Really everything about this place was fantastic: food, ambiance, spirit, staff. Not exactly cheap, but there was no reason it should have been.

Mashiko on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bent Burgers

I am happy to report a change for the ol' Seward Park (Columbia City, Lakewood, Genesse, etc) neighborhood: The oft changing restaurant on the corner of Dawson and Wilson might have finally found a long term resident, Bent Burgers.

This poor corner has long had the taint of unsuccessful bistros and breakfasts joints, and somehow the idea of a reasonably-priced burger place just feels right. It's about time!

The decor is well coordinated with lots of handmade urban art and a super hero theme.
The staff was friendly, the owner was hanging out in the shop, and Garden (as well as beef, chicken, turkey) Burgers are featured on the menu. I enjoyed the list of additional toppings and added jalapenos to my burger for $0.50.

They also have hot, fresh fries, both potato and sweet potato. The fries came with fun house-concocted sauce: Mae Ploy Ranch (ranch with sweet chili sauce and spices).

I've got my fingers crossed for this place!

Bent Burgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wrap O Roll

On the way out of town recently some friends and I stopped at Wrap O Roll hoping to grab a quick dinner. The restaurant looks like a chain, but I don't believe it is. There were various vegetarian options on the menu, and I ordered a spicy lemon grass vermicelli bowl.

We were the only ones in the restaurant, yet our order took a really surprisingly long time to arrive. Considering we were hoping to make this a quick stop, it was sort of a nuisance.

The food that I got was so-so. The tofu (special ordered fresh) was tasty, and the veggies and noodles were nice, but the sauce was so disgustingly mega-sweet I couldn't eat it. A dining companion who ordered the same thing but did eat his sauce later complained of a stomach ache that felt like he'd eaten a massive amount of sugar. Not surprising.

The "rolls" are supposed to be the specialty here, so perhaps those are more inspiring than the overall meal that I got.

Wrap O Roll on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 1, 2010

Anthony's Pier 66

Dear readers I apologize for a second post in a row without pictures. I'll try to keep this short. I was recently forced (a rather pampered use of the word) to eat lunch at Anthony's Fish Bar down on the waterfront. The choices for a vegetarian at this establishment are limited to sides: french fries, coleslaw, chocolate chip cookie, or fish taco sans fish (tortilla with coleslaw in it). Essentially: NO GO unless you eat fish.

The exceptionally nice cashier suggested that I check around the corner at Anthony's Pier 66 proper (white table cloth), and it was there that I found a few vegetarian options: grilled cheese, grilled bowl of veggies, spaghetti with marinara. Still not exactly the garden of Eden but I asked to combine the bowl of grilled veggies with the spaghetti and had a somewhat decent vegetarian lunch.

This actually wasn't the first time I'd found myself hungry at Anthony's fish bar with a table full of fish-eaters. In the past I'd just abstained and pilfered unfinished fries from my dining companions as they made their way to the trash. It was a good discovery today that I could go around the corner and buy an entree to-go from the main Anthony's and bring it over and partake a little more wholesomely with my greasy-lipped dining companions at the fish bar.

Anthony's Pier 66 (Belltown) on Urbanspoon Anthony's Fish Bar (Belltown) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2100 Bar and Bistro (Marriot Hotel)

I was recently at the Marriot Hotel on the waterfront for a business lunch of sorts. I was initially excited to have a fancy lunch on somebody else's dime, but was totally disappointed when I got a look at the menu.

There were four vegetarian choices:

1. Grilled cheese sandwich
2. Oven fired cheese "flatbread"
3. Butter lettuce salad with goat cheese croutons
4. Tomato soup

These options might sound like fun little meat-free interludes to an omnivore looking to vary it up, but for a vegetarian, the cheese+bread option can be tiring and incomplete.

I ordered half a grilled cheese with the house salad. What came was an expensive joke in proportion... a tiny sandwich and a pile of full-size butter lettuce leaves with sliced red onion. Sandwich was delicious, but with enough butter and good cheese and fresh bread it's not hard to make a tasty grilled cheese. Salad was nice too, it's hard to go wrong with butter lettuce, but I would have appreciated it if somebody in the back could have cut it into manageable size before it hit the table. I felt like a tool cutting my salad with a knife and fork like it was a piece of flimsy watery steak.

But the main problem was the tiny quantity. One of my dining companions ordered a Cesar salad, and when she too was done screeching her knife across her meager plate of full-size Romain leaves we nearly crashed knuckles reaching desperately for the last bread in the bread basket.

This place isn't worth the money for a vegetarian.

2100 Bar Bistro and Ballroom on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dante's Inferno Dogs

Dante's Inferno Dogs has a cart in Ballard that is open late to feed the drunken masses. I recently went on a dark and rainy night and was quite pleased to see that they have two veggie dog choices: Spicy Chipotle and Apple Sage. I chose the Spicy Chipotle, and from a nice list of toppings selected cream cheese, grilled onions and peppers, banana pepper and jalapeno slices as my toppings. My 3 other dining companions got the same dog with their individual topping choices.
I inhaled mine, enamoured by the toppings and not paying much attention to the dog itself. My dining companions, all of whom were of the "conscientious omnivore", sometimes vegetarian persuasion, were not exactly enjoying theirs. One went back and got himself a meat dog. The other two ate their Chipotle dogs, but felt pretty immediately gross and had lingering upset stomachs that lasted into the next day. These friends all love spicy food, yet there was talk that the Chipotle dog was just too danged spicy to be enjoyable.
I seem to be winning this hotdog race

It is kind of a mystery that I didn't experience this myself, especially considering mine was covered in hot peppers... I'm thinking that maybe I was so relieved and thankful to have a vegetarian option to shove in my piehole I didn't pay enough attention to whether it was actually good or not.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


A lovely weekend in Leavenworth to loosely celebrate a friend's birthday recently landed us at Gustav's, one of two burger joints in town, for dinner. We chose Gustav's over the no-frills Heidleburger because it has an awesome rooftop deck that is just perfect for hanging out in the evening sun.

It had been many years since I'd eaten at Gustav's and there were some changes, most notably that fries now come with the burgers.

I ordered a pepper jack veggie burger, which was composed of pepper jack cheese, roasted red pepper and chipotle mayonnaise.

The burger was tasty, but in a serious "grass is greener" moment I found myself a little disappointed about the french fry situation. The past annoyance of having to buy a separate order of expensive fries to accompany a somewhat expensive burger at least ensured a giant, piping hot basket of french fries. The new "fries included" scheme instead provides just a meager few luke-warm french fries along side the burger.
Now I know I probably sound sort of gross being so concerned about the french fries, but dinner in town in Leavenworth usually comes after a physical day and the french fries are a highly anticipated event. That and on this particular evening, the birthday boy was really looking forward to the feeling of over-eating with an emphasis on fried potato variations, so I felt especially sensitive.

As much as I love kicking back with a beer on a rooftop deck, and I think my Leavenworth burger preference is definitely Heidleburger, where the veggie burgers are just as good (and way cheaper), they have both tatertots and fries, and you can eat outside on picnic tables, on the grass, or wherever you want with whatever libation you have. AND, as we discovered on the way out of town the next day (still on the bday boy's quest for the fried potato overload), Heidleburger now has a "Chipotle" option for it's burgers that was spicy and delicious.

Sorry Gustav's! I want to love you but your little nemesis Heidleburger keeps getting in the way!

Gustav's on Urbanspoon

Heidleburger Drive-In on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


A friend who lives in the Central District recently invited me to check out a cool looking new cafe in the neighborhood: Cortona. We went for breakfast on one of these gift-from-the heaven's type of sunny summer mornings and dined outside.

At first glance, the Cortona is awesome. Somebody with a nice sense of design put in some effort in the form of rough timbers, big windows, and clean, light spaces. We both had waffles from a delicious looking Belgian waffle menu that included varieties like: cinnamon sugar, banana, tiramisu, fruit, etc. I ordered a plain Belgian waffle with butter and maple syrup. It was tasty and fresh and made with nice organic ingredients.

The Cortona also sells empanadas the size of the mothership, including a vegetarian variety (served with Sriracha).

So this is all fine. But there is another element here that needs attention and is definitely tricky: On the one hand, the Cortona is a great feeling neighborhood coffeeshop and breakfast spot in a neighborhood that could really use one, and for that reason, I feel good about supporting and encouraging it. On the other, it turns out that Cortona is owned by a volunteer pastor at the Mars Hill mega-church, a church that has some strong views about hot topics such as homosexuality and evolution. Stuff to think about!

Cortona Cafe on Urbanspoon