Fremont Neighborhood Lunch Roundup (With Special Emphasis on Best Vegetarian Options) – Seattle, WA

So I realized that, along with my Adobe buddies, I've been eating several lunches a week at restaurants in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood for nearly a decade. Sometimes I think about doing full reviews of them, but lunch isn't the best test of a restaurant. Still, this is a substantial sample, and a popular neighborhood, so I thought I'd do a roundup of every one I've eaten at more than a few times, all in one swell foop. Of course let me give the obvious caveat that I'm a vegetarian, so I'm reviewing the vegetarian option(s) at each of these spots, foodwise. But even if you are strictly a meat-eater, I can probably clue you in on the atmosphere, service, price and general quality. 

Please add a comment at the end if you want to amplify or disagree with any of these reviews. I'd love to hear from you!

Asian

Baguette Box on Urbanspoon
Baguette Box offers a modernized take on Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches. If you aren't a Banh Mi afficionado, you probably just haven't tried one yet. Crispy-crusted, French-style rolls are offered with a variety of fillings, always topped with pickled vegetables and cilantro and usually a mayo-based sauce. Add your own hot sauce. Baguette Box is owned by the same folks as the much fancier Monsoon. Sandwiches run about $6 and are quite filling. There are two vegetarian options but I always go for the coconut-tofu and avocado. Very delicious and satisfying. Service is at the counter with several communal tables to share, or take your carryout down to the steps overlooking the ship canal on a nice day.

Blue C Sushi on Urbanspoon
Blue C serves kaiten sushi, which means the food comes around on a conveyor belt. The atmosphere is very informal and fun. You sit at the bar and watch the chefs make big batches of each item and put them on the belt. Each plate is color-coded to indicate the price. Press the blue light and your server will come over and tally up your bill. You can also request items that aren't currently up on the belt. There are a few booths and tables where larger parties and sit face-to-face. Quality is a bit variable. Sometimes everything will be really fresh and stellar, and other times it can be only fair. I usually get out of there for around $12 after tax and and tip. One great thing about Blue C is that if you are in a hurry and there is no wait for a table, you can be in and out in like 25 minutes, because you can start eating the moment you sit down. Favorite item: the green bean tempura rolls. The combination of crispy tempura and soft rice is killer.

Chiso on Urbanspoon
Chiso is much more upscale than Blue C. Table and sushi-bar service are offered. There are a few delicious vegetarian options, including tempura (skip the non-veggie sauce), sushi rolls an a nasu eggplant stiry-fry. But I almost always choose the veggie chirashi sushi. A big bowl of sushi rice is topped with avocado, cucumber, kaiware (radish) sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and optionally egg, and served with pickled ginger and wasabi, like the more familiar rolled sushi. $10.50. Tremendously good. Service here is paced more to a traditional business lunch, it will usually take slightly over an hour.

Jai Thai (Fremont) on Urbanspoon
Jai Thai, back before they doubled in size, is where I first fell in love with Thai food. Service was fast, and they treated regulars great. They have a wide variety of the vegetarian standards, including stir-fries, noodle dishes, and all of the curries, salads, fresh and fried rolls, etc. With the curries you have to be sure and ask which ones may have shrimp paste or fish sauce in them. Since they expanded, service has deteriorated in my opinion, both in friendliness and speed. Honestly, if I lived anywhere that didn't have so many good Thai places, I'd still be in love with Jai Thai. But since I have a pick of multiple spots in just a few block radius, it is no longer my favorite.

Kwanjai Thai on Urbanspoon
Kwanjai's service is astounding. They take your order the moment you look even vaguely ready, and the food comes out about 2 minutes later, piping hot and tasty. The vibe here is really informal. Waitresses joke around with customers, the door is open if the woks get too smoky, and everyone is usually having a good time. It kind of feels like you have a Thai aunt whose house you get to visit. I like their peanut sauce dishes better than most places, and also the Massaman curry. They don't really venture outside the standard dishes much, but what they do, they do fast, well and inexpensively.

Lucky Pho on Urbanspoon
Lucky Pho is only a few weeks old as of this writing. The vegetarian pho was just ok. A decent selection of vegetables and enough tofu, and a fine garnish plate with the herbs, bean sprouts, jalapeno and lime. But the broth was blandish. I had to stir in a lot of hot sauce and hoisin to amp up the flavor. I'd have it again, but it didn't rock my world. The tofu banh mi was fresh and flavorful, and very traditional. Could have used a bit more salt.

Tawon Thai on Urbanspoon
Tawon is probably my overall favorite Thai restaurant in town. They offer a wider variety of dishes beyond the standards, including a killer noodle soup called Kao Soi (with a housemade chili paste), Tawon noodles (with cashews and pieces of sauteed Romaine lettuce, trust me!) and pumpkin curry. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal here. Service can be a hair odd, like sometimes 3 out of 4 people at a table will have their food and the last one might wait 5 more minutes. But for lunch, who cares, right? Just dig in and enjoy. My usual tab here is $11.50.

Yak's Deli on Urbanspoon
You might not expect that a Teriyaki place is going to have many vegetarian options. And you might worry that a place with the somewhat unfortunate-in-English name "Yak's" might be sketchy. You would be wrong on both counts. Yak's actually cranks out a good array of basic stir-fried rice plates and noodle dishes, and has recently added an ok bibimbap (my standards are high for this dish; no stone bowl here). I think the spicy asparagus and tofu is their best dish, especially when asparagus is in season locally. You'll get out of Yak's for around $8.

European

35th Street Bistro on Urbanspoon
I don't make it to 35th St. Bistro often. It is pretty spendy for lunch and does traditional French fare without many vegetarian options. It is about 180 degrees apart from the hippie bounty of Still Life, the former occupant of that space! But everything I've ever had there has been beautifullly prepared. Good salads, good frites. Go if you are a Francophile or need a short European vacation.

Asteroid Ristorante on Urbanspoon
Asteroid has gone through a lot of gyrations since it moved from its tiny home on 45th to a relatively cavernous space on Fremont Ave. It was closed recently for a few days and a lot of folks thought it was out of business. Not, but it did change owners. I haven't been in since, but will update when I can report on whether the usually excellent food has changed.

Addendum 4/9/09: Costas Opa (Greek) – see review here.

Pub / Burger / Deli

Homegrown Sandwiches on Urbanspoon
Homegrown is the newest restaurant in Fremont and is generating a ton of buzz. They self-describe as a sustainable sandwich shop, and live up to that billing with mostly local and organic ingredients. They are doing a brilliant job, because all that backstory is there but the focus is on how that can make your food delicious. Vegetarian options include a sweet-potato and black-eyed pea cake, a grilled portobello sandwich, and a hummus and avocado deal, plus salads. I had to try the portobello because of the chimichurri. It was rich and satisyfing, and I enjoyed piling slaw on top of it like bbq. The sweet-potato cake sandwich was great (basically along the lines of Hoppin' John), but could have been a little larger. I expect Homegrown is going to be a permanent favorite.

Blue Moon Burgers on Urbanspoon
Blue Moon offers regular or southwestern Gardenburger patties as a replacement on any of their regular burgers, which range from the normal cheeseburger to some fairly outrageous combinations involving pineapple and blue cheese. Fries are thin and crispy as they should be. I can only eat this sort of thing occasionally because I feel like I have to go to sleep afterwards, but Blue Moon does a solid job.

Brouwer's Café on Urbanspoon
Brouwer's has an outrageous selection of European beers, and knowledgeable bartenders who can tell you all about them. Unfortunately for me, drinking at lunch isn't really an option since I have to go back and mind-meld with a computer afterwards. The space is a really cool modernized warehouse, with nice architectural details. I would describe the menu as "creative pub". Vegetarian options will usually include a pasta and sometimes a falafel-burger thing. Last time I was there, the portion on the vegetarian special was surprisingly small, but the flavor was good. For me, this place is a good mix-in for variety but not a mainstay.

Dad Watson's on UrbanspoonRed Door on Urbanspoon
Dad Watson and the Red Door are so similar I thought I'd combine them. Both are busy day and night. Food is pretty much standard bar fare, veggie burgers and fries, salads. Dad's also has a tofu burrito, and the Door has some sort of hummus plate. Server's are usually nice and reasonably efficient given the crowds. Just good, normal places.

Roxy's Deli on Urbanspoon
Roxy's Deli works in a classic New York Jewish deli mold. You can get breakfast all day, veggie burgers, bagel sandwiches, egg salad, matzo brei. I thought they had a veggie reuben but I don't see it in the online menu. Dr. Brown's sodas, so you can get your dose of Cel-Ray or cream. Quality, service and portions are all good. I should eat there more.

Mexican / Latin

Flair Taco on Urbanspoon
I've written about Flair Taco before. They do a really nice job with very authentic Mexico City style tacos and tortas. The tofu adobado option is delicious. A taco is only $1.50, so order 3 or 4 and eat 'em while they are hot for a fast and tasty lunch.

Paseo on Urbanspoon
Paseo is a small Cuban place with a few tables and long carryout lines. They are always jammed because the food is ridiculously good. Vegetarian options include a killer tofu sandwich and some variations of beans and rice. If you go for the sandwich, don't wear your best shirt, or plan to eat it while leaning over a drain (or your worst enemy).

Taco Del Mar (Fremont) on Urbanspoon
Taco Del Mar is bad. Here's a Taco Del Mar story. I ate at the Lake City Way location once, and even though there were only 3 customers it took them like half an hour to produce the food. So I emailed the corporate office to complain, and they sent me a coupon. I then tried to use it at the Fremont location and they accused me of trying to pass a fake coupon! The food is flavorless anyhow, so why bother? Walk a couple more blocks and go to either Tacos Guaymas or Flair Taco instead.

Tacos Guaymas on Urbanspoon
Tacos Guaymas goes with more of a San Francisco Mission-ized style of Mexican food, loading up the tacos with rice and beans. Very different than Flair Taco (above), but equally delicious. They have an excellent bar full of house-made salsas and condiments. Look for the smoky red one and the thin avocado salsa. The tacos here are huge; two vegetarian ones will fill you right up. Fine burritos. A plate of enchiladas or chili relleno and you might have to sleep off the afternoon, happily.

Miscellaneous

Flying Apron on Urbanspoon
Flying Apron is a vegan bakery and cafe. The baked goods are about as good as any vegan ones I've had (which is to say, ok if you prefer vegan, but dairy really makes much better treats). I only ate lunch here once because it was really… not… good. Like, super slow service, undercooked, underseasoned root vegetables. Yucky.

Mad Pizza (Fremont) on Urbanspoon
Mad Pizza busts out a daily selection of about 4 pies available by the slice. The style is a relatively thin, soft crust and lots of cheese. Nothing earth shattering, but a satisfactory piece of pizza. They also have quite good house salads, including one with pecans, apples and blue cheese. Service is fast.

Nana's Soup House on Urbanspoon
I've written about Nana's over here. Healthy, modern-hippieish soups, salads and sandwiches.

Qazi's on Urbanspoon
Qazi's puts out one of the better Indian lunch buffets in the city. Indian food is much better suited to a buffet than say Chinese or Vietnamese cuisines. Many places don't rotate or change the dishes enough, so after a few trips you are too bored to go back. Qazi's does better. There are usually 3 vegetarian curries and a couple of dals. The components might not change that much, there will usually be something with potatoes, something with peas and so on, but at least there is a little variety. Their homemade carrot pickle is delicious too, if you like mustard oil. The buffet is $9. If you are lucky, the family's adorable 2 year old daughter will take your money and wave goodbye.

Silence-Heart-Nest on Urbanspoon
Silence-Heart-Nest is run by the Sri Chinmoy folks, in the former location of the lamented Longshoreman's Daughter. The menu is entirely vegetarian, and offers a range of diner favorites, or lunch, including all-day breakfast with pancakes, omelettes and scrambles (both egg or tofu). More lunchy stuff includes "neat loaf sandwich", veggie burgers and so on. They have an Indian plate lunch, with one curry, rice and dal which is one of the better choices. The food is fine but a little on the bland side.

Print Friendly and PDF
Posted by Michael Natkin on Friday, April 3rd, 2009 in Restaurants, Seattle.

10 Responses to “Fremont Neighborhood Lunch Roundup (With Special Emphasis on Best Vegetarian Options) – Seattle, WA”

  1. TimK
    April 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    Awesome article. Bookmarked for future hunger pangs.

    TimK’s take – I tend to eat dinner more than lunch in Fremont, and being non-veggie, non-foodie and a hophead my outlook is decidedly different. Some quick thoughts.

    Dad Watson’s – Sorry Mike, this doesn’t belong grouped with the Red Door. Granted, the pub fare food is similar, but as a McMenamin’s branch the beer choices are focused on McM’s own tasty brews and the food is their chain-wide menu (plus local specials). But I may be biased- I grew up in Portland and weened onto beer by their Ruby Ale, so McM’s is a taste of home for me. Decent burgers (mmm… Communications Breakdown), though the soft buns tend to disintegrate quickly. Skip the nasty, burnt shoestring fries and get the salad, which is garnished with tasty pickled onions. Just be prepared for McM’s other trademark- almost negligently absent service.

    Blue C – I’m frequently disappointed when I come here. Kaiten sushi should be cheap, grab and go stuff. Blue C tries to elevate the concept to be hip, with prices to match. For me this is failure for both concept and execution. The quality, and therefore value, is not there- the fish is cut too long and thin, the speciality rolls are overstuffed, and the selection of nigiri is disappointing.

    Costas Opa – My exposure to greek food is pretty limited, but I’m always satisfied when I visit here. Tasty food, albeit often greasy with olive oil.

  2. April 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Hey, I’m one of your daytime neighbors! And this is a great roundup. I’ve been lunching around this neighborhood for 7 years. It’s time for me to head to lunch, so the reminder on the Flair Taco truck is especially appreciated.

    I think that 35th St Bistro closed a few months ago, though. I hope to make it to Nana’s sometime, but I was glad to see we feel the same on the Thai options.

    -Rachel
    (I’m Sally S on twitter, by the way — the one with the blue wig. I like to call SS my legacy username. :) )

  3. Michael Natkin
    April 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    That’s funny, I didn’t even realize Dad Watson’s was a McM outpost. I’ve
    mostly been there with large groups at lunch, so not paying close attention.
    I’ve been to Six Arms and the one on lower Queen Anne a few times. I like
    their beer too, and yeah, now that you mention it… that food is awfully
    familiar… and you know, fine :). I’ll have to give Costas Opa another try,
    it has been years.

  4. Michael Natkin
    April 3, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Hey Rachel / Sally / Blue haired twitter-person – thanks for the note! I
    think 35th St. Bistro is open, but I see it has changed hands since I was
    last in and has even fewer vegetarian options than the past… unless they
    will do a croque madame minus the ham. Like Cafe Presse. Yum.

  5. April 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I use to go to Yak’s Deli about 20 years ago. Unfortunately the ownership changed so many times that I stopped going. But I love Jai Thai.. there little spring rolls make me happy!

  6. April 6, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    Lovely round up Michael! You’ve covered a ton of restaurants there :) Kudos on the effort :)

  7. DanaInK
    June 5, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    I’ll agree with Timk on all his point – except: McMenamin’s fries are THE BOMB!!! But then I love Dick’s fries… which McM’s are like a better version of.

  8. jess
    July 3, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Many of the dishes labeled as “vegetarian” at Tawon contain shrimp paste, including some of the curries.

  9. September 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

    Wow, so many vegetarian food options! If I order can you send to the uk? : – )
    Vegetarian here = cheese. Good reviews! Seattle sounds an excellent place to find veg food. Mark, Veggieopolis.

  10. June 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    I stumbled upon your blog while browsing foodgawker. Pleased to see that you are from Seattle, I go to UW so I will be using this post as a reference for all the yummy places I can go to! :)

Leave a Reply