Plum Bistro: The Convincing Vegan Cafe

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Another stop on my journey to hit as many of the spots in this NYT article? Plum Bistro in Seattle. Thankfully, I had the chance to make a trip to Seattle while in Portland for my wedding in August. Now that I write that, it seems impossible that I got married months ago, it seems like just a couple of days! Wedding madness aside, while planning our trip to Seattle my brother-in-law, a long-time vegan, raved about his experience at Plum Bistro, and said it was "some of the best vegan food he's ever had." His praise left me wondering: how good could it really be?

I'm an omnivore, one who's also been trying to eat fewer animal products in general after being horrified by this piece, among others. I also very much like vegetables and fruits, even some of the weirder ones, so for me plant-focused eating just makes sense. Best intentions aside, Jordan had extremely limited options for vegan food when we lived there. Grocery stores often lacked the ingredients needed to make vegan dishes at home besides plain roasted vegetables and rice. In restaurants, we were also generally SOL (except for regional staples like hummus and ful which happen to be vegan). We made do but often adopted a necessary attitude of flexibility when overseas.

I'm not here to lecture anyone about their diet or their food choices. I know a whole lot of privilege allows me to shop and consume the way I do. I was buying imported and exorbitantly priced tofu and nut butter in Jordan of all places. I got back to the United States and immediately jumped into exploring the hyper convenient, easily adaptable food system that exists here. You can get anything delivered for a price. Every type of restaurant, delivery, and takeout exists if you're privileged to live in a city and have enough money for them. I came back to the US with a lot of choices and I recognize that I was able to do all the bougie foodie things because I had a certain level of privilege, particularly the financial privilege that comes with an upper-middle-class job and lifestyle. And while I may believe in reducing (and changing the nature of) my consumption for the betterment of the planet, I do not believe that those choices can be forced upon anyone. Frankly, so many people don't have much choice concerning the foods they consume or other aspects of their lives that I take for granted that it's preposterous to even advocate that everyone becomes vegan. Just google "food apartheid" and read this.

But for people like me with lots of privilege and the plethora of choices that come with it, a variety of restaurants and ready-made items makes vegan eating a whole lot easier. They take the work out of leaving animal products behind and allow people to just enjoy the food. That's the strategy of brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and other purveyors of plant-based burger and meat options. Given their success, the verdict is clear. Make people's mouths water, give them the flavors and mouthfeel they crave, and they will eat whatever you serve them.

Veganism and food privilege aside, my brother-in-law was right. Plum Bistro Seattle is the real deal! Plum Bistro can make you forget that it's vegan and just enjoy. Their menu is full of the staples, think mac and cheese, kebabs, cheeseburgers, and tuna sandwiches (all made with various plant-based proteins). For those looking for food that doesn't involve the hint of "meat," there are also a variety of salads, grain bowls, flatbreads, and even grilled cauliflower steak. We tried the mac and cheese and it was immediately clear why the server recommended it. Rich and creamy, with a rare texture and umami flavor that I always look for but rarely find in vegan mac and cheese, that dish was IT. Even more shocking, the vegan "fried fish" sandwich had the texture of battered fish and that hint of ocean flavor that you associate with seafood. Our server told us that the dish is primarily tofu and seaweed, seasoned and fried to perfection to mimic the fish sandwich of your dreams. For those who can afford a $14 mac and cheese small plate in a hip, pricey neighborhood full of delicious treats, make a stop at Plum Bistro next time you're in Seattle.

For those of us who can't, America needs to do better for you.

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