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10 places to eat vegan tacos in Seattle

Blue Water Taco tacos

Tacos are probably the world’s most perfect food because of their versatility, lack of utensils needed, and overall tastiness. Put anything in a shell or tortilla, sprinkle some hot sauce on it, and BAM — awesomeness.

You could — and SHOULD — make tacos at home, but Seattle has you covered if you want to eat out.

Bait Shop — Bait Shop’s black bean and squash (of the butternut variety) tacos are pretty tasty, with a nice mix of pickled veggies on top, though I’m not a huge fan of the flour tortilla they wrap it in. Corn tortillas are for tacos, flour tortillas are for burritos. (I know, that’s a comma splice — somehow, other punctuation didn’t feel right.) Still, it’s a satisfying meal if you’re out on the Hill.

Bimbos/Cha Cha — Bimbos’ potato tacos have their critics (“too mushy”) but if you get them double-decker style with vegan cheese, they’ve got crunch without cutting up the roof of your mouth and overall pretty bomb. Bimbos also has a lovely and extensive selection of hot sauces, so it’s fun to get a couple of tacos and put a different sauce on each bite for full-on flavor explosion. Yes.

Chupacabra tacos

El Chupacabra — El Chupacabra puts rice on their tacos, which basically makes them mini-burritos. This weirds me out a little. Nothing against burritos, but if I wanted a burrito, I would order a burrito. I guess you could ask them to hold the rice? Grains aside, El Chupacabra’s variety of Gardein meats and Daiya makes the restaurant always a welcome option.

Georgetown Liquor Company — GLC and I are back on speaking terms after Anika introduced me and some other people to their nachos, but for a while I was really hesitent to dine there because they served real cheese on their tacos once and then a second time after I asked for a do-over of the first batch. They’re just your typical fake beef/tomato/lettuce tacos, but they’re named after princess Leia and are pretty cheap, so that’s cool. Just be sure to ask to make them vegan. Maybe even twice.

El BorrachoI haven’t tried El Borracho’s vegan tacos, but they have a soyrizo and potato offering that looks pretty awesome. Finally ate the soyrizo and potato tacos at El Borracho in April. They are super cheap (I think $2 each) and tasty, but pretty small. Good for a light bite, but you’ll still need to eat $10 worth to get full.

Veggie Grill tacos

Veggie Grill — I’m a fan of almost everything Veggie Grill does, and while these are not my favorite tacos in the city, they’re a decent option. I think it’s the only place to get vegan fish tacos now that Highline isn’t serving food — correct me if I’m wrong. However, if you’re at Veggie Grill and order anything other than their buffalo wings or Kale Caeser salad, I probably don’t understand the inner workings of your mind.

Rancho Bravo — For the longest time, I was under the impression that Rancho Bravo was not vegan-friendly. This is wrong. Their tacos are really just beans and veggies, but somehow they’re so good. Also, you’re probably a little drunk if you’re eating at Rancho Bravo in the first place, so their food is gonna be extra delicious to you anyhow.

Poquito’s — The yam tacos at Poquito’s can be made vegan without the cheese, and are fairly enjoyable. This is one of the only times you will ever see me endorse yam anything (down with sweet vegetables!), but something about the combination of grilled onions and cilantro balances out yammy sweetness. And the ambiance of Poquito’s is really fun.

Blue Water Taco — Several Blue Water Taco locations serve Field Roast chorizo (including the one on First Hill, where I go sometimes for lunch), which is a fantastic option for those of us accustomed to just getting beans at Mexican fast food joins. The Field Roast can be a little dry if overgrilled, so be sure to get guac and salsa.

Innkeeper tacos

The Innkeeper — Eating tacos with friends on the Innkeeper’s awesome patio on a warm spring or summer day is truly one of the joys in life. This is the only other time you will see me endorse yam anything (current offerings are sweet potato and yam, though I think it was yam/squash when I was there last). Unfortunately, I learned that the crema pictured here contains eggs — I am fairly certain they told me it was vegan when I ordered/ate it (though I might have just asked if it was non-dairy??), but just emailed the Innkeeper to confirm. Sigh. Still, the setting is nice and the vegan chili on the side is tasty.

Bonus 11th place (5/13/14 update) Highline’s kitchen is open again on Mondays and Tuesdays and they have FOUR KINDS OF TACOS!! I had the tofu tacos on Cinco de Mayo and they were bomb — all huge and chipotle-y.

Any other vegan taco recommendations?

Russian dogs at Cyber Dogs

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I love Cyber Dogs, and guess what: it’s Russian-owned! They also serve a number of Slavic-inspired dogs: perfect for Vegtastic!’s Vegan MoFo theme.

I had the pleasure of being served by bubbly owner Tania Harrison on my most recent visit — it’s near (but not super near) my work, so I make the trek on days I want a little walk or a big meal.

Tania wished me a happy Jewish New Year while preparing my Spudnik (a vegan dog topped with potatoes and mushrooms), and let me know that “All our hot dogs are kosher — they are made from soybeans killed humanely.”

While Dr. Strangelove played on the TV (with the soundtrack to TransAmerica), Tanya gave me a little USSR history lesson: regular Russians never felt any antagonism towards Americans during the Cold War. It was all a political thing.

Also, a popular joke of the time: in case of nuclear attack, put a white sheet over your head and run to the cemetery.

She proudly showed me my dog before wrapping it in tin foil (because it never is as pretty when you eat it at your desk) and was joking with a couple from the Netherlands on my way out.

Cafe Pettirosso

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Please let me talk about a dining establishment that I positively adore: Pike and 11th’s Cafe Pettirosso.

It’s a new obsession, and I don’t even know how to pronounce its name. I keep calling it “PettirAhhhsso” but my jerk coworker Neil was making fun of me for this other day like Hermione effin’ Granger — “it’s PettirOhhhsso…”

Pettirosso’s menu isn’t extensive, but has 4 or 5 really solid vegan meal options, as well as the bestest raspberry bars on the planet. It’s not just a “we can go there because they have one decent thing I can eat” kind of omni-co-dining place (*cough* 22 *cough*) — it’s the type of joint you hit up with a vegan pal.

And, it’s open 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, meaning you don’t have to wait for hipster waitstaff to work off their PBR hangovers if you want to eat before 11 a.m. on the weekend (like everywhere else on Capitol Hill).

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I love the industrial yet romantic decor — Pettirosso is hip enough for a date night or casual enough for brunch with buds, and you totally won’t be judged if you go in for a solo mimosa (which I haven’t ever done or anything. Nope, of course not).

But let’s talk about the food.

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Coconut tofu scramble. Pettirosso’s take on this breakfast classic is fairly original, served in a light coconut sauce. A recent dining companion and I tried to figure out what the green things were (“I think they’re something exotic, like lemongrass!”) before confirming that they are just fancy-sliced scallions. Tricksy, Cafe Pettirosso. The roasted potatoes and peppers didn’t knock my socks off, but roasted root vegetables in any form are delicious and I like that you get both toast and a fruit cup.

Good, but not my favorite item on the menu. That distinction goes to…

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Shawn’s Mac and Cheese! I heard a rumor that these are the same folks who run Bang Bang Cafe (Looks like they’re at least involved with it), and Pettirosso’s mac and cheese is similar to theirs in its spicy, creamy, oily deliciousness. Seriously, best vegan mac on the Hill — that’s right. I went there. Object all you want, Plum lovers — it’s my blog and I say what I want.

Another option that keeps me coming back is the…

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Tofu Breakfast Bagel! You wouldn’t think that fried tofu, cabbage slaw and a peanutty sauce would be the perfect bagel toppings, but they are. They just are. The savory sauce soaks into the bagel, the tofu makes it feel like a legit upscale breakfast sandwich, and pickled cabbage is just good on anything.

Did I mention there’s a bar too?

So, yes. Cafe Pettirosso. A hidden gem. Go eat there and revel in the deliciousness.

A few good places to eat out with non-vegans in Seattle

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My brother visited me this past Thursday – Sunday, so I didn’t cook much, from cookbooks or otherwise, but still wanted to put up a post in the spirit of MoFo!

It’s not that I wouldn’t cook for him — he’s a former picky kid who has turned into a total gourmand and now eats (surprisingly) anything — but I want him to move to Seattle and figured that the best argument in this city’s favor would be won through his stomach (and liver).

I also came down with what I am telling people was food poisoning (but was most likely an intense, delayed two-day hangover, given our Thursday night activities) on Friday afternoon, so kitchen time wasn’t exactly the first thing on my mind.

The challenge is always picking restaurants that will accomodate my brother’s desire to rob the planet of salmon and my desire to eat a sustainable, cruelty-free diet. Plus, it needs to have good beer. Luckily, this is not hard in Seattle.

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Collins Pub will sub out Field Roast cutlets for meat on some of their sandwiches. I ordered a super tasty veganized version of their Tower Steak Sandwich (actually, I forgot to ask about the bread — I had it in my head that everything was from Grand Central, and most of Grand Central’s breads are vegan. This may not be the case).

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High 5 Pie’s vegan crust is amazingly flaky, with just the right amount of sweetness. I’m a huge fan of the vegan apple

Six Arms has a hemp-based vegan burger, which I did not eat. I did down a bootyload of their cajun tots ($2.50 for a big plateful at happy hour!) after I finally got my appetite back — just ask them to hold the ranch dressing.

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The Aaron’s Special at Glo’s is amazing: sauteed veggies and guac over hashbrowns. I am probably never going to eat this again for reasons that are related to details I have already disclosed and inappropriate for a food blog, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t.

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The Cha-Cha now has a chipotle vegan chicken to add to their vegan burrito. I am addicted.

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The Redwood changed their brunch menu recently, but still will sub out tofu for eggs (no charge) and Daiya for dairy ($1 extra). If you ask nicely, they’ll make you a vegan Bloody Mary.

My brother was very patient as I photographed everything. Here we are together:

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Portland vs. Portland: visits to Maine and Oregon in August

I visited both Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, in August: East Coast Portland for the wedding of two college friends, and West Coast Portland as a volunteer at the International Food Blogger’s Conference.

Both are hip, beer-loving, vegan-friendly cities, so clearly I enjoy them both. They’re different enough in size, geography and demographic that you can’t really compare them side-by-side, though I definitely have a favorite. (Hint: it’s the PNW Portland. Shocking, I know.) I also had more time in PDX than PWM (little-known airport code for the Portland International-because-it-flies-to-Canada Jetport), so this post isn’t doing Portland, ME, complete justice.

Portland, Maine

I have pretty strong feelings against the rest of New England (yeah, I hate Boston), but Maine is cool. The people blindly root for the Red Sox and their accent is disfiguringly unattractive, (“the best place fuh lobstah is right heeyah in Portland, ahyup” — just kidding, Maine friends. You talk like angels.) but they’re so welcoming and down to earth. They’s good people. And they hate Massachusetts too (just not their sports teams).

And, despite the ubiquitous lobster and the inland folk’s love of hunting, Portland, ME is pretty vegan friendly — the Portland Press Herald just shared a list of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in the Portland area, and while it may not seem super-extensive, keep in mind that Portland itself has only 66,000 residents.

Gritty’s

My college friend, Mainah buddy, and wedding roommate Jon (Jonnie!) picked me up at the bus stop, and we had lunch at Gritty’s brewery on Fore St, for old times’ sake. (There’s another Gritty’s in Auburn, sister city of Lewiston, ME, our alma mater’s home.)

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I had a Thai-inspired portobella and asparagus salad with coconut rice, which was — surprisingly — vegan and tasty, though nothing to really write home about. Service on this visit wasn’t stellar, but since Jon and I hadn’t seen each other in six years and had a lot to catch up on, this wasn’t an issue.

They have great beer though.

This is Jon at Gritty’s.

This is me at Gritty’s. I think we can tell who’s a better photographer.

Wedding

At the wedding, I talked with Heather, a Portland vegan seated at my table, who says it’s not hard at all to eat a plant-based diet in Maine. Jon’s family has a deer-huntin’ gun propped up in every corner of their house, so I was skeptical, but there are enough hippies in the state that it comes as no surprise. I never had any issues eating vegetarian when I was in school.

The tempeh skewers Diana and Ben served were awesome. I wish I had taken a pic of those skewers. And a better pic of Heather.

Local Sprouts

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Jon dropped me off in the Old Port the next morning, and I hit up Local Sprouts for a vegan BLT and coffee. They need to use a soy milk that won’t coagulate in a cuppa Joe, but the selection of vegan offerings — baked goods, sandwiches and vegan mac and cheese — was impressive.

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Part of the menu! There was another board below this. As you can see, a number of vegan offerings.

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Whoopie pies are a very Maine dessert, but they didn’t have any that fated Sunday morning.

My VBLT on thick homemade bread was delicious.

Little Lad’s

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Little Lad’s makes the most amazing snack on the planet: herbal popcorn — the massive bag I bought of it (not the one displayed — I bought a snack-sized one for the bus and a gargantuan one to take home with me) served as a conversation starter after I returned to Boston. (“You don’t have popcorn where you’re from?” “Hey! Girl! Gimme some of that popcorn!” “I love a sexy lady like you who loves popcorn.” — I made that last one up, but the other two comments were real.)

Little Lad’s also serves sandwiches and a $4.99 vegan buffet and has other snacks, though I wasn’t wild about the carob chip cookie I bought there — I guess the idea is that you toast it, and I scarfed mine down on the bus, untoasted, so I can’t really comment fairly on its deliciousness.

Portland, Oregon


Portland, OR is a painfully hip town. What always strikes me is how clean everything is, like the whole town is one big movie set or front for drug operations. Even Twilight Cafe, this super shady bar on Powell where I saw a former coworker’s metal band play, is spic and span.

Bye and Bye

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I partially picked the hostal that I stayed in (The Inn Alberta Arts — awesome place) for the proximity to a number of vegan establishments, including the Bye and Bye. (The other reason I picked it because it was either that or a hotel — my hostel of choice was booked. AirBnB to the rescue!)

There’s a bit of a Southern daredevil vibe to the place, a decent beer selection and innovative cocktails, and great vegan bar food. All the pretty boys at the Bye and Bye have mustaches, as all pretty boys should.

The staff here was super friendly despite the cool atmosphere — Abraham the bartender told me his grandmother was a Helen, and he and I bonded over our out-of-date first names. 2000 B.C. whaaat!

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I ordered the Lefty’s Prayer, which was much less weird than it sounds and kinda like a margarita for the urban farming crowd — very pink and beety, but in a good way. I’ve had beet drinks before that haven’t worked (I’m looking at you, Elysian beet beer), but this cocktail went down nicely.

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For food, I went with my gut and ordered the Chili Pie, which was a big ol’ pile of Fritos smothered in chili, vegan cheese, red onions, and fake sour cream. I didn’t think I’d eat it all, but, surprise! I did.

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Well, hello, weathered yet still attractive painted man. May I have a drag of that cigarette? And maybe a dance? No? Oh. Okay. I’ll just go back to my hostel.

Sweet Hereafter

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Sweet Hereafter is the Bye and Bye’s sister bar, and I adore it. It’s right by the Hawthorne hostal — you’re never far from a Portland vegan watering hole if you travel cheaply.

I don’t really have anything different to say from my trip last year.

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The Buffalo sub is still my favorite sandwich on earth,

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the ice in the cocktails is still very large and cubical,

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the patio is still super chill, with that whole “I went to college but am totally blue collar — until I go to law school” Portland vibe (which is very similar to the “I have lots of piercings and tattoos so you won’t know I’m from a good family on the East Coast” Portland vibe),

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and the coasters still modestly letterpressed.

When I played pool with Brian, the old coworker I previously mentioned/an omnivore, and his girlfriend before catching my train on Sunday, he said he really likes Sweet Hereafter. So, it’s a vegan bar that’s not just for vegans! Yay! This actually makes for amusing times — I listened to a lively conversation between a passionate vegan and a non-vegan on SH’s patio that went something like this:

non-vegan: Dude, I eat a lot of meat. I’m a carnivore

vegan: you’re an omnivore.

non-vegan: no, dude, I’m a carnivore.

vegan: dude, you’re drinking beer. Beer is from plants. That makes you an omnivore.

Ahhh, I do love an intelligent debate.

Back to Eden

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Back to Eden is known for their vegan softserve and gluten-free baked goods, but it was much too early for ice cream when I went there at exactly 9 a.m. on a Friday morning, post-run. (Yes, exactly 9 a.m. — my unintentionally precise arrival did not win friends with the hostess.)

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Back to Eden is a cute little space with a nice little selection of baked goods — just enough variety to be interesting, but not enough to be overwhelming. (Vegans are so used to having few choices that some of us shut down when faced with too many options.)

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After staring at the beautiful baked goods, I bought some of the peanut butter fudge for later (I wanted to eat it then, but I do have some dignity).

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For breakfast, I ordered coffee and some sort of pesto, spinach, Tofurky and Daiya panini (yeah, yeah, probably about as much of a breakfast dish as ice cream, but I can’t do sweet things in the morning), which was oh-so ooey gooey and savory-delicious.

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Grilled to perfection, with the slightest bit of green for health. Yum.

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The decor is serene and garden-themed — a lovely, relaxing spot to eat. I read the Portland version of The Stranger and checked Instagram while blissfully nom-ing my food.

Hot Lips Pizza

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It took me several tries to find the Pearl District Hot Lips, mainly because it’s hidden in the Ecotrust building. (The Hot Lips website says, “Who doesn’t love hanging around the Ecotrust building?” Me, that’s who. WTF is the Ecotrust building?)

But, find it I did, and was rewarded with the spiciest slice (errr… two slices. I got a beer too. THIS IS A JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE, OKAY?) of cheeseless pizza ever. If bread, sauce and veggies aren’t your thing, Hot Lips does offer a number of pies with Daiya.

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So, yeah, those were my two big summer adventures. Good times! You visit any Portlands this summer?

first image from images by ambhaims (l) and sbfisher (r) via Flickr Creative Commons

Boston Dining Adventures

I lived in Boston (Brookline, actually) for two years right after college. I hated it.

As the clips I’ve seen of the HBO series “Girls” can attest, the years immediately proceeding college aren’t the best of one’s life in general, so I may be more critical of the city than I should be. Still, my California upbringing just didn’t mesh with Boston’s ribbon belt and Red Sox cap culture. When David asked if I would be willing to move to Seattle with him after only a few months dating (it was almost a year when we finally did it), I figured I really had nothing to lose by leaving (and don’t regret the relocation in the slightest).

However, with my friend Diana getting married to her college sweetheart, an wonderful guy named Ben, a few weeks back, I decided it was time to make my TRIUMPHANT RETURN to the East Coast.

Here’s basically what/where I ate while I was there for a couple of days in August — just a few spots. If you’re looking for a great resource on Beantown vegan dining, Vegan Miam has an awesome series of posts on other (and a few of the same) vegan places to eat in the greater Boston area.

Anna’s Taqueria

I met up with Tanya, visiting from New York via Woods Hole, around 1:30 p.m. on a Friday — we were both starving, and though the Bookline location was a mile or so away from our hotel near Fenway, I wanted my first meal back to be at the ubiquitous Boston burrito institution Anna’s Taqueria.

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Anna’s serves amazing burritos. It’s definitely not a vegetarian place and you need to ask for vegetarian rice, but everything is clearly labeled — the guac has sour cream, unfortunately. However, they have an amazing selection of roasted veggies (broccoli/eggplant/brussels sprouts/squash/carrots/etc) that the staff chop up and put into your burrito and refreshing agua frescas. Some salt would have improved it my burrito, but it brought back fond memories.

Veggie Planet

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Veggie Planet is a vegetarian pizza place in Harvard Square that will substitute tofu ricotta or Teese for cheese on any of their pizzas. My Portobella Redhead, with portobella mushrooms, caramelized onions, and an almond/tomato sauce, was excellent. You can swap rice for crust to make it gluten-free. My dining companions were thrilled with the Henry’s Favorite, and we each found a small to be more than enough.

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Veggie Planet shares a space with a folk music club, which means it can be hard to get a table when there are shows — we had to wait for an hour, though it was 7:30 or so on a Friday night (not to worry: Harvard Square has numerous shops in which to kill time/ buy a pair of pajama bottoms because you forgot yours). The only downside was that the wait staff was a little pretentious about the music scene, telling us to keep our conversation quiet so as not to disturb the patrons in the other room when in reality we could barely hear one another from across the cozy table.

Veggie Galaxy

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Veggie Galaxy is Veggie Planet’s sister restaurant in Central Square, though the atmosphere of each differs immensely. VP shares an intimate underground space with a folk music club, while VG is 100% diner, with cute tattooed girls serving up milkshakes and burgers.  All desserts are vegan and anything else can be made vegan, but most dishes are vegetarian by default, so FYI when ordering.

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M.E. (of Veganoramic View) and I sat in a comfy booth and split a Jack D’or and the stuffed French toast, which was absolutely amazing: soft bread with a bit of a fried crunch, filled with a sweet and slightly salty vanilla nut cream, topped with fruit and coconut whipped cream.

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M.E. got a chorizo-stuffed omelet, while I opted for a balsmic-glazed Seitan loaf over chard and mashed potatoes. After being denied mashed potatoes at the wedding, these hit the spot. I wasn’t wild about the flavor of the loaf, though I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so full.

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omelet

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loaf

For dessert, we had a few bites of peanut butter chocolate cake and the most amazing lemon meringue pie — yes, lemon meringue pie! M.E.’s husband Mike was the lucky recipient of the leftovers.

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Live Alive

Live Alive, right across the street from Cambridge city hall, offers grain bowls, wraps, salads, smoothies and juices in a peaceful, well-lit space. My breakfast rebel bowl was colorful and delicious, and the juice much needed after a few days of overindulgence. I’m definitely planning on replicating soon.

Trident Booksellers

For my last meal in Boston, I dined with Erik at Trident Booksellers’ Cafe, a few buildings down from the place I used to work (and he still does). I had forgotten all about the place, and was pleased to see their menu has a tofu scramble, vegan black bean burger, cashew chili, and juices. The cashew chili just hit the spot — another dish to replicate.

Other places to try

Sudo Shoes

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I walked by here on my way from my friend Mitch’s place in Somerville and just thought, “wow, cute shoes.” Then I saw a pair of Cri de Couer booties and realized that all of these insanely adorable kicks were actually non-leather! Sudo, pseudo, yeah.

Peace o’Pie

This little joint in Allston is kinda a hike to get to, but a good option for vegan pizza and meatball subs. I only ate there a few times during my tenure in the city, but it was always good.

Grasshopper

I never went here, but M.E. likes it. It’s a fake meat Chinese place right by Peace o’Pie.

FoMu

M.E. loves FoMu’s non-dairy ice cream offerings. I lived in Boston during the Wheeler’s days, and have always been impressed by how progressive this city is on the vegan ice cream scene — Bostonians love frozen desserts. FoMu, too, is located right by Peace O’Pie and Grasshopper.

Clover Food Lab

I saw this food truck on the Common and took a picture, but didn’t get around to eating there. They also have other locations around town!

Veggie Grill opens in Seattle!

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Have you fumed with envy when Portland and SoCal friends Instagram amazing lunches at Veggie Grill? Be jealous no more: Veggie Grill’s first Seattle location opens tomorrow!

I’ve been super pumped about Veggie Grill coming to town for a while, and was super pumped to attend a preview yesterday as a member of the media (because that’s what bloggers are these days, right?). I can’t speak yet to the service or how the food will be when prepared in a real-world situation, but what I ate for lunch was pretty darn tasty. Looking at the menu, prices are reasonable, at roughly $8-10 a sandwich or entree.

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The location, deep in the heart of Amazon territory, is pretty much everything you would expect from South Lake Union in 2012: clean, colorful, pleasant, and a little sterile. Veggie Grill isn’t a huge chain, but there is a certain corporate feeling to it. Still, it’s a vegan corporation, and I support that 100%. It breaks the mold of the standard Seattle vegan restaurant in many ways: it’s not hippie (though it’s largely organic and entirely non-GMO), it’s healthy but not overly so, there’s no cult behind it, and there’s very little pretention in the atmosphere. It’s good, speedy food that happens to be plant-based. (But this, of course, is based on my impressions as a guest of the company — full FTC disclosure.)

Here’s what I sampled.

VG Rollers

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What struck me about these was just how much the fake chicken (chickin’) looks and feels like real chicken, and, in the context of being thinly-sliced in a wrap with Southwestern flavors, tastes like real chicken (chickin’ is made of soy, wheat, and pea proteins). Once I got over being weirded out by that, I enjoyed this sandwich immensely — the tortilla was grilled to the point of being slightly crisped, while a creamy, spicy sauce adds flavor and balance, as well as masks any element of fakeness to the meat.

Chill Out Wings

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I am just mental for buffalo sauce, and the spicy, vinegary glaze on Veggie Grill’s did not disappoint me. For omnivores used to crisp-skinned wings, as Jay, the meat-eating fellow sitting across from me was, these do not achieve the same texture, but I enjoyed the hints of greasy crunch given by deep-frying panko-breaded chickin’. I love Highline’s nuggs with buffalo sauce, but as a fellow veg diner commented, Seattle hasn’t really had a true chicken wing analogue until now. (I still <3 you, Highline!)

And it comes with celery and ranch dressing. Swoon.

Tomato Bisque

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They served this soup right with the buffalo chikin’ strips, so I don’t think I can fairly discuss it, as I naturally gravitated towards the buffalo sauce (which is the natural reaction when choosing between something covered in buffalo sauce and something not covered in buffalo sauce), which overwhelmed anything else. The one bite I had before going buffalo wild was mild and creamy, just what you’d hope for in a bisque.

Grillin’ Chickin’

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To be honest, this was probably my least favorite dish of the bunch. I like the texture of the chikin’ (breaded in panko and fried in rice bran oil), but it was a little overwhelming as a sandwich. Jay thought that the avocado overpowered the dish, but I disagree: you can never have too much avocado.

Jay said that he “wouldn’t be unhappy with this” and that the texture was “better than average,” though he still would go with Skillet’s version. I’m going to take that as a nod of approval.

I’m not crazy about sweet potato fries in general, but I liked dipping these into the chipotle dressing. They were as crisp as any sweet potato fries I’ve tasted, and topped with a vegan parmasean, which made them more interesting than regular sweet potato fries.

Seriously, I think I’m the only person in Seattle who doesn’t like sweet potato fries.

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All Hail Kale

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Veggie Grill’s Kale salad is marinated overnight in papaya dressing to soften the leaves. This was a little sweet for my taste (I prefer my salads strictly savory) but the texture was very nice — for folks who won’t eat kale because of the bitterness, this salad would be a good gateway into greens.

Thai Chikin’

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The Thai Chikin’ salad was also on the sweet side, but this really worked — it had blackened chikin’ and crunchy, oily wonton strips to add depth. I would order this in a heartbeat.

Urban Plate

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The Urban Plate is a gluten-free option that I would definitely consider — it’s a stack of portobello mushroom, caramelized onions and tempeh covered in chipotle sauce served with miso-topped steamed kale. The texture of the tempeh was really wondeful: much smoother than some, with finer chunks of soybean.

Chocolate pudding parfait

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You know that scene in that episode of the Simpsons where Homer screws up really badly and buys Lisa a pony, but first buys her a ginormous ice cream sundae and she only eats one bite? That’s how I felt when they brought out this — I was stuffed by that point, though it was a very tasty bite. I’m more of a baked goods dessert person than a pudding or ice cream person (I like substance) but it was creamy, chocolatey, and cool. Mixing in the cookies and nuts (not pictured) would be really good.

Carrot Cake

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Yeah, so you know how I just said I’m a baked goods person? Baby, bring this cake on. I think the proportions in these bites were different than they might be in real life, but the cream cheese frosting was amazing. I nearly needed to purge to fit it in, but it was still so delicious.

Not pictured

Chocolate chip cookie!

Peach iced tea! Just the right hint of sweetness — very refreshing after you’ve biked from Pioneer Square to South Lake Union on a summer’s day.

Conclusion

Though I’ve written this post based on impressions as a guest of the company, my raving is not unfounded. Veggie Grill not the best vegan food in town (Plum) or the best atmosphere (I <3 you, Highline!), but it’s another great option, one that I’m optimistic that omnivores will embrace. I plan on returning after the training wheels are off to see whether the actual experience matches up to my first impressions.

Loving Hut Seattle

Rock climbing seems to be a pretty hot activity in Seattle right now — quite a few people I’ve met randomly recently climb. Even my college friend Ben has traded his viola for ropes and harnesses, as I learned on his recent visit.

I never thought I’d embrace the idea of using physical strength to defy gravity, being both loris-armed and somewhat afraid of heights, but I visited the Seattle Bouldering Project with a coworker recently and am now hooked — there’s something about overcoming the challenge of a scaling a wall that gives one great satisfaction. There’s also a social element that I haven’t quite tapped into.

My brother has been climbing for years and introduced me to the sport in 2010, but until SBP opened last year, there wasn’t really a convenient location to consistently climb — Stone Gardens in Ballard is a fun afternoon (energize with goodies from Wild Prairie, maybe?), but a trek from Capitol Hill.

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Climbing at SBP makes for part of a really nice Saturday outing by bicycle: coast down to Ranier (wheee!), work up a sweat on the walls, go shopping across the street at Goodwill, and then bike around the corner for lunch/dinner somewhere in the ID. (Uhhh, and then pedal your stuffed, exhausted, over-thrifted self home up to the Hill.)

VegNews has been talking up Loving Hut for ages, and while I’ve walked past their Palo Alto and San Francisco locations, I never ventured in to the Seattle Loving Hut on S. Jackson and Rainier until I started bouldering — it’s right on my way home.

Every Loving Hut has a different menu, allowing a somewhat individual experience across the franchise. Compared to, say the San Francisco menu, Seattle’s seems a little weak, but nevertheless has a decent selection of vegan Vietnamese food and a few American-style sandwiches. Here’s what I’ve tried across three visits (two on Saturday afternoon, one on a Thursday evening).

Golden Tofu

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This appetizer has a crispy outside and soft tofu inside and hints of scallion, with a peppery sauce drizzled with vegan mayo. A little bland, but nice texture. Hints of scallion. There’s a bit of a chicken mcnuggety oil flavor, which is actually pretty nice — they’re deep-fried, but not overly greasy. Delicious.

Veggie Wrap

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I was not into this. In general, I don’t do fake shrimp, and this comes with tofu (good), fake ham (also good) and fake shrimp (blech). Also, the wrap, made from mung beans, has a flavor that didn’t appeal to me. I don’t really know how to explain it. I did really like the chewy texture and the dipping sauce.

Szechwan Strips

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These were excellent! A light but flavorful sauce, with just the right level of saltiness. The wheat gluten achieves the perfect texture for seitan: not too soft and not too chewy, lightly fried around the edges.

Crispy Nugget Salad

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This was pretty tasty — fried soy protein chunks over lettuce, tomato and cucumber in a poppy seed dressing. I didn’t pay as much attention to this as I might have. Explanation to follow.

Thai Iced Tea

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I love the jasmine undertones of Thai iced tea, but this was just too sweet for my tastebuds. I was super pumped to have Thai Iced Tea for the first time in years, but could only drink half the glass. Major bummer.

Takeaways

I generally liked the food at Loving Hut, but there are a couple of reasons that I have hesitations recommending the place.

First, Loving Hut is a cult. A tasty, tasty cult, but there’s an element of weirdness nonetheless in the white bamboo furniture, closed circuit TV broadcasting Supreme Master Ching Hai’s messages of love and peace, and vegan propaganda posters on the wall. I’m all about veganism, obviously, but pushing it so persistently totally skeeves me out — I’m already there; don’t assume that I need convincing.

Second, and much, much pettier: on my most recent visit, the owners’ daughter, an impossibly cute 7-year-old, asked me how my meal was before I had started, then proceeded to saddle up at the table and interrogate me with questions.

I’m not particularly fond of children (I know, I know, this makes me the worst person ever), and though she was super adorable, I really wished that she had just left me to enjoy the meal that I had broken my budget for (I paid a huge vet bill for Zeno recently, and meals out have become a luxury). Several staff members walked by and ignored our interactions until finally her father came over and shooed her away.

To me, this is a deal-breaker in a restaurant — it doesn’t matter how good the food is: patrons should be able to sculpt their own dining experience without interruption. I get that it’s summer vacation and all, but I’m not paying to be a babysitter.

However, I generally liked the food, there are a lot of dishes I still want to try, and at roughly $10 a pop, it’s not a terrible indulgence. So, I’ll go back with a friend who’s a bit better at avoiding first-graders — and won’t order anything that has fake shrimp.

Field Roast is now at Safeco!

There are a fair number of vegan options at Safeco Field, and I’m very excited to add another to the list: the Field Roast Frankfurther stand in section 131 (adjacent to The Natural).

I had the honor of joining some other local bloggers, vegan and non-vegan (including the lovely Dawn of Vegan Moxie!), for a tasting of the Field Roast’s new offerings before yesterday’s Mariners game. (Full disclosure: Field Roast invited the other guests and myself stay to watch a rather embarrasing first inning and ultimate Tigers victory.)

5.17.12 update: Dawn also has a great post on our Field Roast tasting adventures.

Field Roast is a local product that I strongly support, and I promote extended vegan dining options anywhere, so I’m pleased to report that the experience was a positive one.

Field Roast owner David Lee served us four different options, a Frankfurter (sold for $6.25) and three specialty dogs, which will rotate at the stand ($6.50 — for what you get, this seems like a good deal). We also got to try Field Roast’s very first veggie burger, the Field Burger ($6.75).

They do offer dairy cheese on the burger, but everything else (sans burger cheese) is vegan (though the stand advertises itself as vegetarian). Note: all pictures represent half of a serving, save for the Field Burger.

The Frankfurther

The frankfurters are a little on the salty side (the good, “I’m at a ballgame” salty, not the “I think my blood pressure just skyrocketed” salty), and are very well seasoned — probably the closest to the meaty dogs of any vegan dog I’ve tried. When David Lee addressed the crowd he mentioned that Field Roast doesn’t bucket every special diet under the vegetarian label, meaning that they add oil (palm oil — yeah, I thought about the rainforest too. I’m going to email them about this, though I do use Earth Balance.) to their products to give them a richer taste. Compared with Smart Dogs, they definitely have more body and flavor.

The Seattle Chili Dog

This was the most traditional of the bunch, and the one I sampled first (after the plain frank). It’s topped with chili (made with Field Roast — how meta) and vegan “cream cheese” (oh Seattle — you and your cream cheese dogs). The chili alone was a little bland (I understand the need to appeal to a broad swath of the population, so I’d just add a dash or two of Tabasco to mine), but really compliments the saltiness of the dog. The cream cheese is actually an innovative mix of Daiya and coconut cream.

The IchiBan

Topped with sweet teriyaki onions, grated daikon and carrot, nori strips and a vegan mayo, this is definitely an unusual take on the traditional frankfurther. I loved, loved, loved  the creative flavor and texture balance of the toppings (sweet, creamy, crunchy, oceany) but am not sure what I think about putting them on a veggie dog (though I’d still order it). It is a nice nod, however, to my favorite Mariners player, the adorable Mr. Ichiro.

The Bombay

It’s not often that you get fried curry leaves at a ballgame, so this one tickled me most: chana dal, mango chutney, coconut cream, and the aforementioned fried curry leaves. I’m nuts about Indian spicing, so the Bombay definitely hit the spot. My favorite, fo’ sho’.

The Field Burger

The Field Burger is Field Roast’s first burger offering, and is a nice combination of a purely grain-based patty and those patties that are just pure seitan or soy with burger flavorings. It really captures the substance of a hamburger, with a texture that has just the right amount of resistance when biting — I don’t like my veggie burgers to go out without a tiny bit of a fight. Firm, not squishy.

My one concern is the service at the stand itself. David missed the tasting, so I treated him to a Bombay during the game. He didn’t think the griddle looked hot enough, and by the time we got back to our seat a few sections away, his dog was a little colder than he believed it should have been, though he agreed that it was quite tasty. The burger I sampled had that distinct dirt flavor of mold until I removed the offending tomato and lettuce; then it was delicious.

Ballpark food isn’t known for its quality (at least not in proportion to what you pay for it), but I fear that an already veg-skeptical crowd might be put off by a bad experience, which will affect more than just their attitude towards this one meal — it could miss out on what potentially might be a WOW moment about vegan food. However, if the Field Roast stand ups the game, so to speak, a bit in this area, I think it will be a great success.

Already looking forward to not starving or bulking up on garlic fries (actually, garlic fries are sorta why I go to baseball games, but, you know) at my next baseball game.

Peru: a very exciting South American adventure

I spent March 24 to April 8, 2012 in Peru with a couple of friends, and left with a few new ones.

Mary, Toni, and I stayed in Lima with Toni’s awesome family, then flew up to Los Organos on the northern coast and chilled on the beach in an awesome house belonging to a friend of Toni’s former girlfriend, Mariela. After that, Mary and I explored Cusco and trekked for 3 days in the Andes.

It was magical.

I ate a lot of (vegan) traditional Peruvian dishes…

Vegan(ized) causa at Bircher-Benner in Lima

Seitan and pumpkin stew with potatoes and yucca at Bircher-Benner

Tacu-Tacu at El Grifo

Toni eating Mazamorra morada in Kennedy Park

Lunch on the trail

Mushroom cebiche at Pescados Capitales!)

avocados…

Fresh fruit…

Salads …

Three hearts salad at La Rosa Nautica in Lima

Salty snacks …

Canchitas

Chifles

Yuccas Fritas

Sandwiches …

Quinoa hummus sandwich at Greens Organic in Cusco

Soy meat sandwich at Govinda in Aguas Calientes

Veggie sandwich at Aldea Yanapay in Cusco

Amazing Argentinan-style lentil burger at Prasada in Cusco

And non-Peruvian dishes…

Tofu stir-fry at Jack’s Cafe in Cusco

Drank a lot of beverages…

Chicha morada

Cusqueña beer

Inca Kola

Chilcanos

Coca tea

Saw a bunch of cute animals…

Cats in Parque Kennedy

The most loyal dog ever.

Llamas

Cow

Donkeys

What a cutie!

Visited a bunch of cool places…

Los Organos

Cusco

Lima

Machu Picchu

And hung out with awesome people.

It was an unforgettable experience, and I hope to return soon.

Peru, te quiero.

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