Entering Marlam Cafe is like taking a step back into the good ol’ days. After guests slide into plush red booths, which are set atop shiny checkerboard floors, they peruse a menu of classic American favorites, such as burgers, wings, root-beer floats, and hand-spun milk shakes. The old-school vibe carries into the eatery’s weekly line-dancing lessons and karaoke nights, all of which furthers Marlam Cafe’s mission to serve up an experience to families that’s equally as entertaining as it is tasty.
A non-profit destination for fresh-brewed coffee and gourmet sandwiches, SkyTop Cafe is powered by Elevate Church, with all profits going toward community outreach programs. Each morning, the staff brews fresh batches of One Village Coffee served alongside a variety of breakfast options, including egg sandwiches and bagels. For the remainder of the day, they construct sandwiches lined with fresh ingredients such as zesty pesto, turkey, and sun-dried tomatoes. On Friday evenings, SkyTop stays open late to host open mic, karaoke, and live jazz.
As the bread-filled ovens in Our Place Bakery Café exude a gentle heat, the dining room’s similarly warm, cozy decor puts guests at ease. The cooks diligently craft the café’s menu of baked goods and familiar soul-food staples, such as vegan pastries, free-trade coffee, and golden-fried chicken. Following a spiral staircase, patrons descend into an underground cellar, where the lounge-like ambiance includes intimate lighting and cotton-candy-stuffed armchairs. Exposed brickwork encircles the space’s stool-lined bar and fully equipped sound stage, upon which musicians perform regularly throughout the week.
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.
Accompanied by beer, wine, and cocktails made from gin and even kombucha, dishes are served in 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 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.