A Vegan Date in West Seattle
The island is your mock-oyster 🦪
August 18, 2022
📸: Box Bar
When I was a vegetarian kid growing up in West Seattle, if you had told me there was even one vegan restaurant opening I would have thought you were lying—much less three, with an honorable mention to lacto-ovo Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant in White Center.
But now, the island is your mock-oyster, full of plant-based delights for any time of day. Although part of me is still shocked by the options, it actually goes perfectly with the area’s unmatched nature preserves, wildlife sightings, and other outdoor delights.
Want to make a day out of it? This nature-centric itinerary is designed to be an ideal outing for a pair of crunchy romantics. You’ll start with a snack, browse some plants, and hit an in-city trail, and finish off the night with dinner and drinks—and you’ll never have to double-check for sneaky dairy or chicken stock once.
Fuel up 🤤
Flying Apron, formerly located in Fremont, has been a haven for those with specific dietary needs for years. Everything is both plant-based and gluten-free, and while the baked goods are delicious, their options go beyond the ordinary coffee-shop fare. Now that they’re located right at the center of the Junction, you can start your date here in the early afternoon with some coffee and treats.
If you’re hungry enough for lunch, you could try their lasagna, mac n cheez, or pizza, all with homemade cashew ricotta or cheez sauce, or maybe a salad or tofu scramble. If you just want a pastry with your coffee, you could opt for a cinnamon roll, muffin, or donut. Or you could get a more decadent dessert with two forks if you want to set that mood early. Just keep in mind that you’re going to be doing a good amount of walking today—you don’t want to slow yourself down!
📍 Flying Apron Bakery: 4709 California Ave SW
Open 9 to 5 Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
The cafe has some seating, or you could get everything to go and nibble your way to the next destination.
Pick up a friend 🌱
Walk for around 10-15 minutes down California Avenue to West Seattle Nursery, a beloved local institution that combines a wide selection of plants and garden goods with a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Buying a whole rosebush might be a little impractical right now, but you can explore their densely-packed shelves of plants, ooh and aah at your favorite flowers, and smell the fresh herbs. Share your dreams of indoor jungles and edible gardens.
Head next door to the Greenhouse Gift Shop, a relatively new (at least in the past decade) and extremely browseable addition to the nursery. This is where the houseplants live, and, since they’re so portable, maybe pick up a few new air plants. It’s also home to a wide selection of artisan goods—some local. The candle selection alone, which includes plenty of pretty little holders, could keep you occupied for a while. Watch for scarves, blankets, and other textiles, too. If for some reason you could use another coffee or tea, the Greenhouse also includes a small espresso bar.
📍 West Seattle Nursery and Greenhouse Gift Shop: 5275 California Ave SW
Open every day 9 to 7. In the gift shop, pottery is featured especially prominently, including plant pots and other home decor.
Pro tip 🪴
Check the Greenhouse Gift Shop’s clearance rack by the bathroom for some deals on things that are sometimes only a little broken.
Into the woods 🏕️
You could always drive here, sure, but the 20-minute walk is part of the fun. Ignore Google Maps’ walking directions, which take you on a roundabout route with a frustrating amount of backtracking. Instead, head straight down Southwest Brandon Street, cut through Fairmount Park, and find the staircase at the back that takes you uphill through the trees. Then, just walk down a few short residential blocks and hang a left on 35th—the park should be about a block down on your right.
Once you get through the front gates and past the main lodge, Camp Long feels pretty removed from the city and busy arterial just outside. The 68-acre park has 1.6 miles of heavily-wooded trails, along with a short trail connecting to Longfellow Creek. Expect plenty of native plants and the occasional interpretive sign. As you wander the park, keep an eye out for the giant, inlaid sundial, which is both fun to interact with and a good photo op, and the small cabins built by Works Progress Administration workers in the late 1930s.
One of its biggest attractions is Schurman Rock, a 20-foot-high climbing rock designed to incorporate as many potential climbing problems as possible. While one side is a more challenging, sheer face, the other is easier to scramble up. Assuming nobody is waiting to use the rock, it’s a nice place to relax in the sun and chat for a bit.
📍 Camp Long: 5200 35th Ave SW
Fun fact: There are multiple facilities to rent, including ten “rustic” cabins named after local mountain peaks.
Veggie-forward decadence 🧆
Head right back the way you came because Box Bar is right across the street from the nursery. I don’t want to call the food “elevated,” mostly because I hate that term, but their creative, veggie-forward approach to bar comfort food does make the menu feel special. They also don’t skimp on the portions. The generous plate of nachos tastes fresh rather than weighty, topped with pickled onions, lentils, pico de gallo, and house-made cashew queso and tofu crema.
While most of the menu spins off classics, there’s no attempt to mimic meat—something longtime vegans may find refreshing in a post-Impossible Burger dining landscape. The French dip is stuffed with portobello mushrooms. While modeled off a tuna melt, the chickpea cheddar sandwich makes no attempt to be fish. While they employ various creamy cheese substitutes, there’s no attempted Daiya-like wizardry.
Don’t come away with the impression that this is a health food restaurant—if you’re looking for that, try HeartBeet Organic Superfoods Cafe—because it gets decadent. They serve tacos filled with jalapeno poppers. Rotating dessert selections have included pound cake, mousse, and cheesecake.
The drink menu includes an impressive selection of box wine, along with canned beer, cider, seltzer, and cocktails. The cocktail menu typically includes non-alcoholic options, too.
📍 Box Bar: 5401 California Ave SW
Open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 9. They’ve also got brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 2.
Sarah Anne Lloyd is a writer and lifelong Seattleite whose work has appeared in Seattle Met, The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, KNKX, and others. She lives on the outskirts of West Seattle with her partner, an absolutely perfect dog, and six terrifying chickens. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahannelloyd.