Holidays are really all about food, aren’t they?
Finding, eating and talking about food shapes your days in a way that is almost unthinkable in non-holiday life; and as a vegan you inevitably add a few more levels of planning, researching and mapping into the equation when you visit somewhere for the first time. So what happens when you throw caution to the wind and wing it for two days in a totally new-to-you city?
Here’s what we learned about being vegan in Seattle (briefly), and how we managed to find some great vegan eats (purely by chance).
If you’re a follower of The Whole Ingredient, or have been keeping up with my travels on Instagram, you’ll know I have nothing but extreme love for Portland (and it’s expansive vegan food scene); and that we’ve just returned from another dreamy visit. Keen to explore a little more of the great Pacific Northwest before returning to London, we scheduled a couple of days in Seattle. Finally! All those hours watching Frasier would mean something. But as exciting as this was, we somehow managed to neglect to plan this part of our trip in quite the Google-mapped, note-booked detail that we’d taken with PDX. These things happen… Although not usually to me. I am a serial planner. I need a plan.
Do you need a plan?
Now, if you’re not a vegan, you might be wondering why it’s necessary to plan holiday eating at all. But there are two pretty good reasons:
- In a city like Portland or New York, there are so many great vegan restaurants to visit that you need to plan, map and prioritise – what if you missed out on something like this?!
- In a city less vegan-abundant, where you have little time and are travelling by foot or public transport, there’s a very real risk of eating chips (fries) or peanuts for every meal.
And so to Seattle. As a lifelong Frasier addict, I was really keen to explore the city immortalised on screen as a rain-soaked, coffee and small-brewery destination. Another great city of the Northwest, bordered by water and hemmed by forests. As far as vegan options go, Seattle definitely has some great and varied options: you just have to know where they are (and what time they close).
Even with limited time, I can’t recommend highly enough exploring on foot. Not being a fan of crowds or heavily tourist-frequented areas, walking out into the more remote areas of the waterfront was a lovely way to experience the city’s wilderness. Pack a snack selection and you’re all set. If you’re more of a casual tourist, happy to take in the city and not tick off a list of attractions, then this is your kind of mini-guide.
So here’s our two-day tour – pitfalls and all. It revolves around the city centre, but if you’re staying out East there are loads of great vegan options! Not to mention those in the University district. They were just too far away for us with our limited time and transport means.
Where to stay
We based ourselves in a wonderfully rickety Victorian apartment building in Capitol Hill. If you’re after a trendy neighbourhood (think Park Slope, but not as Shoreditch) where people actually live, then this is the place. And being up a really, really steep hill, you get fantastic views across the city and a good workout whenever you walk anywhere.
Coffee – Analog Cafe serves up simple, delicious coffee in very trendy, minimalist surroundings. Walk like a Seattleite on their way to work down the steep hills towards the water.
Breakfast – Bang Bang Cafe can be found in the Belltown neighbourhood, which makes it a perfect stop on your walk to the waterfront. As well as a generous range of vegan breakfast and lunch options (I loved their VBLT so much I had it both mornings), this is a friendly, chilled-out place where you can take your time over a coffee or two. Take advantage of the WiFi to plan your day, because it’s a surprisingly sparse entity in Seattle.
Do something different – Walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park and along the waterfront as far as you can (or want to) go. The whole stretch up to the Elliot Bay Marina is dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists, so you can really take in the misty views and wildlife. We were lucky enough to spot a seal swimming alongside us as we walked, which was an incredible moment. If you’re doing this walk, make sure you have supplies – there’s not really anywhere to stop along the way.
Do something touristy – Walk back from the waterfront through the Queen Anne neighbourhood up to the Seattle Centre and Space Needle. We were really glad we took the trip up to the top of the Needle and admired the view from the warmth of the bar. It’s a lot less hyped and fussy than, say, The Top of the Rock or The Shard.
Late lunch – Veggie Grill, for all of your American food desires; but done right. Huge portions and huge flavours, but all vegan with an emphasis on whole grains and grilling. We really need this chain in London. Even the burgers have whole wheat buns!
Get the beers in – The Pine Box, a craft beer bar housed in a former mortuary, and John John’s Game Room, an arcade and pinball bar, were our favourites. Check Barnivore for your beer’s vegan credentials.
Plan to eat dinner at – In The Bowl, for noodles and an Asian-inspired vegetarian/vegan menu. But get there before it closes at 9pm. Here’s a reason to plan.
Actually eat dinner at – Queen Sheba. Despite the lack of other diners, this place should be on everyone’s eating out list for Seattle. Absolutely one of the best Ethiopian meals I’ve ever had (and it’s a London staple), the food is also incredibly good value and the staff were friendly, but happy to leave you to it. In short, an absolute gem. Here’s a reason to go with the flow.
Coffee – Bauhaus. Walk down a different hill in the rain for great coffee, books, and handmade jewellery sold on the counter. This felt like the real Seattle; which is something that can be hard to track down in any city on a brief visit. The staff seemed genuinely interested in chatting, and shared their fears of the tech companies taking over the city, and stealing it’s soul.
Breakfast – Unless you’re able to go further afield, head back to Bang Bang Cafe. The food was good and we were at a loss for local alternatives, besides Wholefoods.
Do something cultural – Spend a couple of hours enjoying the Andy Warhol Elvis and a breathtaking Native American collection at the Seattle Art Museum, then wander along to Pioneer Square to see the historic heart of the city. Grab a pint or two and some chips at Pike Place Brewing Company before making a hasty retreat from the crowds.
Stock up for dinner at – Wholefoods! After two weeks eating out, sometimes you just need to eat in (and revel in all of the amazing vegan goodies you can’t buy in the UK – this was by no means a bad dinner choice).
Head to a brewery for pre-dinner snacks – The Falafel sliders at Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery are pretty tasty. There’s also a delicious-sounding BBQ tofu burger on the menu if you’re staying for dinner.
So maybe you can wing it
It all depends on your travel style, and whether or not you’re a ‘see everything’ visitor, and how long you have. Despite usually being one for a plan, not doing so in advance threw up some great surprise options that should be added to any visitor’s list to Seattle. Planning is great, and absolutely worthwhile, but actually, sometimes having to find an option for dinner (via an invaluable offline Google Map) can lead to some wonderful food, lovely memories and just a bit more of an adventure.