Eat Vegan in Oly!
By Leslie Baker
Downtown Olympia: You’ve got something for everyone! Arts groups and venues out the wazoo, every kind of entertainment, shops that are sexy and that sell smoking equipment, vintage clothes and psychics, records and bikes, babies and funky fashion. And freaks, oh so many freaks. I love you, downtown Oly, and I wouldn’t want to live and work and spend my time anywhere else, but there’s one thing you lack: a vegan restaurant.
Don’t get me wrong, Olympia, you show us vegans plenty of love. There must be at least six restaurants within spitting distance of where I sit right now who cater to a vegan customer, complete with vegan menu options and in some cases separate grills to prevent vegan/carnivore cross-contamination.
Sorry to be a big baby, but I want a 100% vegan restaurant! I want a place to go in and sit down and just order, no worries, no questions to ask, totally safe for me, my sensitive palate, morals, and especially tummy. Sigh. I dream of a full-service 4-course vegan meal complete from appetizer to dessert, including vegan wine and beer! You see, the thing about vegans that many do not know is, WE LOVE FOOD!! A lot!!
Absent an all-vegan spot, I have decided to share some of my absolute favorite menu items from the restaurants I do frequent downtown who cater to a Vegan Tummy.
Darby’s, 211 5th Ave SE
Thank you Darby’s for your very, very awesome “Vegan Burgers” menu (yes! separate from the “other burgers” menu! We count! We really count!)
The third one down is the Mushroom Cheez Burger. It is the “Vegans Delight” patty which contains roasted veggies, roasted pecans, garlic tofu, and bread crumbs, topped with a big pile of sauteed mushrooms, a yummy bistro sauce, and most importantly, Daiya brand vegan cheese — the most stretchy, melty, vegan cheese around.
Olympia Hot Dog Co.,
311 4th Ave E
HOKAY VEGANS! You’ve only got 5 bucks? NO problem!! Let’s hit the hot dog stand outside of Jake’s! What? you ask, Oh yes, I say.. THREE choices of vegan Tofurky dogs. Including a kielbasa and spicy Italian. Oh and don’t forget your side of tots!! And all of it cooked on a separate veggie-only grill and/or fryer.
Thanks guys. You have saved me from lunch time angst so many times over…. (Now, can you guys PLEASE get some vegan cream cheese for that dog? Galaxy is a good brand. Once you do, perfection will have been achieved. no joke.)
Quality Burrito, 213 4th Ave E
Well, duh. QB has a pretty good menu of vegan choices. Everyone knows that. Sometimes it’s a little too spicy for me personally, like the chipotle sauce on some of the taco choices, but not everyone is as sensitive as I am. My personal favorites are the Marinated Mushroom Tacos with garlic herb marinated mushrooms and crispy shallots, and the Tempeh Tacos – veganize this by leaving off the jack cheese. Pico de gallo yumminess!!
Le Voyeur, 404 4th Ave E
I love this place. I need to spend more time here in general. Don’t eat here, however, if you are in a big hurry. Not gonna happen; good food takes time, ya know. Absolutely everything on the menu can be made vegan. Le Voyeur also uses separate vegan/carnivore grills. Additionally, their soups, dressings, and sauces “and even the bread crumbs” are made from scratch and vegan. My favorite meal here is the Sloppy Hippie, a tempeh sloppy joe with grilled onions and green peppers and BBQ sauce. Get it with Seasoned Fries! GARLIC-IE!
Bearded Lady Food Co.,
412 Franklin St
If you don’t already know, Bearded Lady Food Co. is an evening sweet kitchen that serves many vegan and gluten free fantasies, including my favorite, the ever changing “build your own sundae” menu. Incredible. These ladies blow me away with their creations — and they are open late Fridays and Saturday nites so its the PERFECT vegan date.
Also, I asked some vegan friends of mine to describe their very favorite Oly vegan eating experiences” — so that you could at least read a second, or third, opinion other than mine (because i am a creature of habit, and dont expand my own horizons as much as I should.).
Dave Harvey: While my actual favorite downtown vegan meal is only available in the fall when the chanterelle’s start popping up and Le Voyeur makes this amazing chanterelle po’ boy, and you just have to order it without cheese, I’m not really going to to talk about that here — it’s only just now spring! But I will turn you vegan or vegan-interested types onto a little-known Olympia secret.Did you know that every week in Oly we have Vegan Thursday? It’s true! Every Thursday, Old School Pizzaria serves up tasty vegan slices. While apparently their normal sauce has cheese in it, once a week they bust out this special cheese-less sauce, slather it on their perfect thin crust, throw on some strips of roasted eggplant, roasted garlic, cashews and basil, toss the whole thing in their blazing hot ovens for a bit, and voila: greasy, old school, vegan deliciousness, by the slice no less! Then you can walk on over to Batdorf & Bronson, where every Thursday afternoon, they get a fresh delivery of Seattle’s vegan Mighty-O donuts! These are perhaps the most delicious donuts on the planet. They get about 5 of 6 different flavors, and each one is an absolute mouth-watering treat. A slice of pizza, a donut and coffee — unbeatable!
Erin Moore: When I am in the mood for something delicious and affordable in a nice and friendly but still casual atmosphere, I head out to Tofu Hut in Lacey. Have you tried the “Korean Jap Chae”? It is one of my very favorite vegan meals in the Olympia area. They offer it with beef but have the option of “veganizing” many of their dishes (you can tell by looking for the picture of veggies next to the dishes listed on the menu) and this, in my opinion, is the best one. Jap Chae noodles are made of sweet potatoes and have a unique taste and look. It comes with Tofu Hut’s signature fried tofu, which is heavenly. The veggies are always cooked to perfection, still a slight crunch but warm all the way through. I usually have them add peas and extra broccoli and go light on the onion, but that’s just my preference and they are always very happy to oblige my special order.
Lisa Harper: Open since 1997, Le Voyeur is a quintessential Olympia lounge and restaurant. Serving hearty American sandwiches and entrees, almost every dish they offer can be “veganized” without sacrificing any taste. The kitchen opens right into the eating area and you can tell the food is fresh and homemade. Be prepared for some spice with Le Voyeur, as everything from the “Pasta-a-la-Oly” to “Seasoned Fries” has kick to it. Every item is delicious, but my favorite is the “Caribbean Jerk Tofu” sandwich, topped with jalapeño and veggies, on dark rye with their ginger sauce. Well-priced drinks and local bands playing in back make Le Voyeur an amazing place to stop, eat and stay awhile.
Lesli, again: OK! I’m really hungry now! ◙