For many vegans, eliminating animal products is a decision made in young adulthood, a break from the traditions they were raised with. Not so for Plum Bistro head chef Makini Howard—she was brought up eating vegan from infancy, but it hasn't changed her welcoming, flavor-first approach to her food. As she explained to Eco Stiletto (who caught her catering a dinner party thrown by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix), “We want to make sure you don’t miss the meat.”
Seattle Weekly has concurred that the restaurant "sets an inspired and flavorful table for all," naming Plum the city's Best Vegan Restaurant of 2012. Its philosophy of accessibility means that the huge array of organic produce on the menu—root vegetables, purple cauliflower, trumpet mushrooms, seasonal fruit—takes forms that will be familiar to foodies of all stripes. There are gourmet burgers that pack their protein punch via jerk tofu and oven-broiled lentils; steaks of breaded portobello and herb-grilled seitan; and handmade pastas with sauces as rich and creamy as any made with dairy. A local favorite is the Spicy Cajun Mac ‘n’ Yease, a piquant take on a classic nutritional yeast–based cheesy sauce.
Servers bear the generously proportioned dishes—accompanied by beer, wine, and cocktails made from gin and even kombucha—into a dining room fronted by floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the sidewalk in the summer. Its rustic hardwood floors and tables fit right in with the gorgeously repurposed Piston & Ring Building, an automotive manufacturing building constructed in 1926. Once they leave, diners dazzled by their meals can replicate the dishes with help from Makini’s cookbook, with pages of innovative vegan dishes that provide an alternative to casseroles made from all the lunches left behind in the office fridge.