"Stepping one foot inside Sage is to see all there is to see: three or four tables, a bakery case and counter, a few baked


Sage: A Vegan Restaurant That Actually Smells Like a Restaurant

"Stepping one foot inside Sage is to see all there is to see: three or four tables, a bakery case and counter, a few baked goods and a kitchen in the back from which pumps whatever music the cook has a yen for at the moment. The décor is minimal (artful photos of flowers and salads) and the service simple: Step up, order what you like, take a seat and wait--sometimes for a long time. Because of the size of the place, ten customers can feel like a king-hell rush, and three orders coming in at once can jam up the kitchen for a half-hour, easy.

But none of this is what matters. The style of cooking is what's important here. A form and a mindset. There is something different about Sage, something that sets it apart from most other vegan operations from the minute you step through the door and into the swing of lunch business on the Hill. It's the smell. Sage smells good, like caramelizing onions and hot oil in the pan, like roasting mushrooms and smoke from the grill, the tart spike of citrus and the deep, earthy sweetness of sugars meeting heat. Too many vegetarian restaurants stink like flowers, patchouli, wet dog and the hippies keeping them, of the dim and verdant vegetable murk of slowly dying greenery that is like the death scream of broccoli being terribly abused."

From this week's review of Sage Cafe, in which I become a highly temporary vegan.

Yes, that's right: Me, the consummate carnivore, eating vegan food. And not just a little vegan food, either. A lot of vegan food. And while my usual trick--my usual snarky, smart-ass gimmick for reviewing vegan and vegetarian restaurants--is to sneak in a little plastic baggie filled with pre-cooked chicken or bacon to add to whatever wad of tofu or vegan not-dog I'm trying to choke down in the name of fair play and reasonable critical representation, this time around I did none of that. Inspired by the love lavished on the place during our discussion of possible vegan barbecue operations in the greater Seattle area, I went in cold, with no backup, and I ate as much as I could hold.

So what happened? Well, you'll have to wait for tomorrow to find out. That's when the review of Sage will be available both on the newsstands and online. And at that point, I expect this whole battle over cruelty-free-versus-delicious to start up again with each side equally entrenched and itching to have their say.

And I, of course, can't wait.

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