Food & Drink

A Bloodless Coup

Two of Seattle's FUBU Vegetarian All-Stars

A Bloodless Coup

Lucas Draper

ARAYA’S Heaven’s got veggie spring rolls!

Sometimes you want to eat among your own. Seattle vegetarians have a growing stable of FUBU vegetarian restaurants—that's "for us, by us," honkies—devoting themselves fully to vegetarian and vegan cuisine from a variety of angles. (To be fair, I don't know for certain that the proprietors of Seattle's various vegetarian restaurants are indeed vegetarian themselves. Perhaps the owners of Fremont's Silence-Heart-Nest are just canny capitalists who serve vegetarian cuisine inspired by the spiritual teachings of Sri Chinmoy by day and eat veal steak tartare on mink chaise longues by night. I doubt it.)

Georgetown Liquor Company (5501 Airport Way S, 763-6764) bills itself as "Seattle's premiere veggie bar/lounge," and the name/tagline combination encapsulates the GLC perfectly. Here is a veggie joint where booze gets top billing, in a setting that feels like the basement rec room of your teen-vegetarian dreams. By the entrance, a row of scrappy televisions is rigged to old-school Atari video-game consoles, offering complimentary games of Asteroids and Space Invaders. In the corner blares a gloriously noisy jukebox, while above the bar hang newer TVs, possibly broadcasting bouts of hyperviolent Ultimate Fighting Championship. Sri Chinmoy would be horrified.

Any restaurant that refuses to link vegetarianism with ethereality is a delight, and the entire GLC hums with a down-to-earth ramshackle vibe. This extends to both the menu, which boasts a variety of veg-friendly spins on pub grub (sandwiches, nachos, salads), and the service, which is so lackadaisical it's funny. After flagging down a waiter, who seemed genuinely surprised by my existence, I ordered the Darth Reuben ($10), a veggie take on the deli classic with the corned beef replaced by roasted-tomato Field Roast slathered in Swiss cheese (also available with vegan cheese), sauerkraut, and rémoulade on toasted marble-rye bread.

Having abandoned meat before ever sampling an actual Reuben, my powers of comparison are limited, but my knowledge of Field Roast is extensive. What the GLC's menu called roasted-tomato Field Roast looked exactly like Celebration Loaf, with its signature bumpy-ridged top and a not-particularly-amenable-to-the-Reuben-experience taste. But the rest of the sandwich fought the good fight, especially the sauerkraut, which was sparse but strong, with a great tangy bite. Across the table, my (usually carnivorous) dining mate dug into a platter of GLC nachos with fake meat ($12), a flavorful pile of corn chips, pepper-jack cheese, Roma tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeños—all of which was thoroughly upstaged by the made-on-the-premises vegan taco meat, which was so spicy, it was scary, and so delicious, we couldn't stop eating it. Our happily burning tongues demanded the counter-downing of more beer than planned, which brought the value of the Georgetown Liquor Company into clearer focus. Vegetarians looking for a "special" meal out should definitely aim elsewhere. But those looking to get tipsy in a superfun rec-room bar with veg-friendly pub grub should go nowhere but here.

For that fabled special meal, vegetarians could hardly do better than Araya's Vegetarian Place (1121 NE 45th St, 524-4332), a University District mainstay I'd heretofore stupidly ignored. Plunked down on 45th Street within spitting distance of the Ave, Araya's was, I assumed, a collegiate vegetarian restaurant, and visions of kaffiyeh-clad undergrads and PETA-inspired poetry readings kept me away. My punishment for this idiotic assumption: a life devoid of Araya's for years—regrettable, regrettable years.

Araya's hypes itself as "vegan Thai cuisine," which seems restrictive until you realize that the difference between vegetarian and vegan Thai cuisine is egg on your pad thai. Araya's comes off as another good-to-great Seattle Thai restaurant, with special attention paid to vegetables and tofu/meat substitutes. In other words, it's Thai veggie heaven, with the heavenliness extending to the dining room: surprisingly large, well appointed, and both vast and cozy (a nice trick). Service is attentive but never overbearing, encouraging the sort of languorous multicourse meal Araya's extensive menu makes glamorously possible.

We started with a pair of appetizers that would've sufficed as a meal. The spring rolls ($6.50 for six—six!) were exemplars of the form (thin deep-fried crispiness surrounding a fresh veggie jumble), but all thunder was stolen by the vegetable tempura ($9.50), a platter of oh-so-lightly battered-and-fried fresh veggies (red peppers, zucchini, broccoli, onion) that thrilled my vacationing-carnivore dining mate and me equally. There's simply no arguing with a good fresh red pepper, and adding tempura to the equation takes things to an almost pornographically delicious level.

After such pleasing openers, our entrées were perhaps doomed to disappoint. Only one did. My pad phirk khing ($8.50) boasted an attractive aroma and a sprinkling of finely cut lime leaves, but problems arose with another primary component—the fake meat, here billed as "bean composition" (yum!) and formed into knotted chunks that required aggressive chewing. Not helping: the sauce-soaked green beans, which were distressingly bland. But happiness came rushing back with my dining mate's pad thai ($7.95), a straight-up meat-free spin on the classic tamarind-kissed noodles, delightfully spiced, with nice-size chunks of stir-fried tofu. When I order this pad thai again (and I will), I'll request the addition of broccoli and zucchini. But such a request may be a ways off, as working my way through Araya's voluminous menu could take years—glorious, glorious years.

Araya's is a vegetarian destination restaurant easily on par with the upscale standard-bearers—that is, the veggie-FUBU classics Carmelita and Cafe Flora (the latter recently redecorated by new owners, the former celebrating its 13th anniversary with a new chef imported from D.C.'s prestigious Restaurant Nora). But Araya's delights are both more expansive (its menu holds thrice the offerings of Carmelita and Flora) and much less expensive. As for the good-and-grubby Georgetown Liquor Company, it offers a vegetarian experience as different from Flora/Carmelita as bean composition is from foie gras—the punk-rock choice at the other end of an ever-more-fleshed-out Seattle veggie restaurant spectrum. Lucky, lucky us. recommended

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Comments (21) RSS

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I feel like 5 years ago there were a ton of vegan and vegetarian restaurants around Seattle. Now there are, what, five? Six? None on Capitol Hill? I miss The Globe.
Posted by RainKing on April 8, 2009 at 3:37 PM · Report this
"Araya's hypes itself as 'vegan Thai cuisine,' which seems restrictive until you realize that the difference between vegetarian and vegan Thai cuisine is egg on your pad thai."

Um, what about fish sauce?
Still, I'm excited to try this place.
Posted by tebay on April 8, 2009 at 3:45 PM · Report this
I'm not much of a vegetarian, but that was the most entertaining restaurant review I've read in, oh, ever, so I'll check these places out.
Posted by Ben on April 8, 2009 at 4:16 PM · Report this
Thanks for the good info on these two places. And please, more reviews from people who are not Bethany Jean. Sorry girl, but your reviews suck and you might consider dropping the "Jean", Bethany is enough name already.
Posted by eatinthehood on April 8, 2009 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Araya's is great! Sometimes when I'm looking for punishment, I go to their lunch buffet. It's only $8 or so, and the selection is AMAZING. Seriously. Like four different salads, fried spring rolls, pad thai, fried rice, a curry, and more. SO GOOD. i go to school in LA and the first stop home is always araya's. yum.

also, if you haven't tried the squid & ink, you should. it is vegan, but also delicious. the wait staff is almost as fun as at GLC, but good enough that you always have what you need. get the poutine when you go; it's life-changing.
Posted by Cook on April 8, 2009 at 5:58 PM · Report this
It's all about the Picard at GLC. It's the vegetarian version of a french dip and you cannot believe the au jus is not meat based. They have a spectacular music selection as well.
Posted by picard on April 8, 2009 at 6:13 PM · Report this
Um...In the bowl, Teapot, Hillside Quickies...all on the hill, all veggie.
Posted by BCpat on April 8, 2009 at 6:19 PM · Report this
as a veggie-since-birth, but not a new-agey-zealot, i really really appreciate GLC - veggie food (not vegan - i like cheese), a scruffy and rockerish enough environment that i can feel confortable, and alcohol!

squid and ink is also near by and it's vegan w/liquor... and brunch, which is one thing i'm always wishing the GLC offered
Posted by mmm on April 8, 2009 at 7:04 PM · Report this
Araya's "bean composition" is scary. But they are, otherwise, completely dreamy.

As is GLC. NOM!
Posted by violet_dagrinder on April 8, 2009 at 7:12 PM · Report this
Love GLC! I'm not actually vegetarian, but kind of love fake meats. One note, the roasted tomato field roast comes in a bumpy log, much like the bumpy celebration loaf. It's not as tasty as the field roast mushroom loaf.

I'd recommend the BBQ sandwich at GLC (they have some geeked out name for it which I can't recall) or the artichoke dip, which actually tastes of artichokes since it isn't slathered in cheese!
Posted by Noelle on April 8, 2009 at 7:18 PM · Report this
Thanks for the reviews David. I *just* discovered the GLC and am completely addicted to the Baron (BBQ "ham sandwich). It's the only place in town I can find vegetarian BBQ. So damn good, and last time I was there they had vegan chocolate mousse that has ruined me for all mousse forever.

While working your way through Araya, I highly recommend the Avocado Curry and the "Veggies Beef" noodle dish. Amazing.
Posted by leatherveg on April 8, 2009 at 7:37 PM · Report this
i've been waiting for some decent veg-restaurant review. thank you.

now i must try Araya's Vegetarian Place.
Posted by Raya on April 8, 2009 at 9:23 PM · Report this
I went to Araya's for the lunch buffet once and their only rice selection was brown rice. That's right - no plain, white rice at a Thai restaurant (buffet)! I never forgave them. Just because I'm eating vegetarian doesn't mean I don't want things to taste good.
Posted by SB on April 9, 2009 at 12:59 AM · Report this
Field Roast's tomato quarter loaf also has the bumpy ridges that their Celebration Loaf has, FYI.
Posted by PedestrianMe on April 9, 2009 at 1:27 AM · Report this
A co-volunteer recommended that we hold a post-event reception with a well-renowned guest speaker at Araya's. (Sorry for all the hyphens.) I had exactly the same concerns as the reviewer: the restaurant was too close to the Ave to have been designed for our quasi-professional needs. And I had exactly the same experience - WHAT A GREAT PLACE!

There were a dozen of us, and everyone loved the food. The atmosphere was perfect for the professional occasion, but also had intimacy. Really, just fantastic.

Araya's rocks -- and this is a great, eerily accurate, review.
Posted by Noproblemhere on April 9, 2009 at 8:48 AM · Report this
A note to Rainking: Ballet.
Posted by Lisa on April 9, 2009 at 11:13 AM · Report this
ID has Vegan Garden. Super tasty Vietnamese place on Jackson just west of where Rainier turns into Boren (location is lacking, but inside it's nicer/brighter/cleaner than most local Pho joints). The staff are super friendly (some don't have the best grasp of English, but that adds to authenticity in my book). As long as you don't get turned off my the dizzying array of fake meats, or the cult-ish "Supreme Master" channel they have on the TV this place should be on every vegetarians radar; whenever I'm in that part of town I somehow find myself hungry. Try the stuffed Banana Leaf (it's a bit on the sweet side), but our favorite.
Posted by I know my stuffed bananas--um ignore that on April 10, 2009 at 9:53 AM · Report this
chaise longues? drinky drinky much david schmader?
Posted by chase long? on April 10, 2009 at 10:27 AM · Report this
Fish sauce is definitely the biggest difference.
Posted by D. on April 11, 2009 at 9:46 AM · Report this
jhanjay in wallingford is what you should be talking about!
place is a very fine place to get a meal
Posted by grace on April 11, 2009 at 12:23 PM · Report this
@ tebay and G.

Fish sauce is not vegetarian
Posted by esr on April 13, 2009 at 3:16 PM · Report this

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