For most visitors, the lively pubs, vibrant nightlife, and cozy restaurants of Columbia City's expanding corridor make a hop on the light rail worth the ride. Yet vegetarian fare is still largely underrepresented in the hood, making St. Dames, the south side's beloved vegetarian eatery, a sought-after destination for veggies exploring the area.
St. Dames' Mac & Cheese.
Set amidst rows of newer condos and local businesses, this little strip of MLK has seen some changes over the years, but St. Dames' interior is well worn and lived in. Religious themed collage art, scattered potted plants, cozy wood booths, and festive string lights pull off a kind of "tasteful hippie" (or is that "eccentric aunt"?) aesthetic. Their price point is equally homey: entrees do not exceed $13, wines by the glass range right around $6, and the short list of cocktails are inventive but uncomplicated, about $7 a piece.
I had the vegan Mac and Cheese, which simply cannot rival the yeasty, spicy glob made famous by Plum (we'll get to that next week), but it was served with a generously portioned side dish for which the restaurant is attracting equal attention: tamari braised kale. The slightly salty, nutrient-rich green was tender though not overcooked, with a textured bite that was wholly satisfying. (It should be noted here that all of St. Dames' side dishes are wondrously interchangeable).
"You know, this food's actually not bad," heckled Mr. Paleo, when our waiter stopped by to check in. We had shared our plates and all agreed the Italian white bean and herb fritters, kale-pistachio ravioli in smoked goat cheese sauce, and samosa-style hush puppies--deep fried croquettes with a traditional samosa filling and a bright tamarind mint sauce--were truly exceptional.
We settled up and left for the Columbia City Theater, perfectly positioned for the night ahead and well-sated to make the most of it. With wholesome, inexpensive offerings, accommodating gluten-free and vegan options, and an atmosphere light enough to smile though an occasional good-natured jab, St. Dames is a lovely snapshot in a growing urban scene quick becoming one of Seattle's unique charms.