Kale has sprinted from hippie food to upscale cliche in record time, with restaurants everywhere harnessing the deep flavors of the dark green. But as the restaurants listed here know, mastering kale takes more than a pot of boiling water or a saute pan. Here, out picks for the restaurants which most deliciously showcase the hardy vegetable.
As always, Erin Thompson compiled our contributors' comments, there's no significance to the ordering of finalists, and the kale in the pictures may not correlate exactly with the kale in the text. Eat up.
10. Kale chips, Locol
This cozy spot in West Seattle livens up the busy, mostly-residential thoroughfare on 35th and offers a comfortable place for neighborhood regulars to gather. Food is elevated pub cuisine, with small plates, salads, soups, and sandwiches front and center, and where so many charcuterie-loving, pig praising gastropubs alienate vegetarians, Locöl keeps the herbivore in mind. The delicately seasoned (lemon, garlic, salt) kale chips are such a house favorite, they're practically part of the table setting.
9. Kale salad, Serious Pie
It's easy for Seattleites to feel a little cynical about Tom Douglas, the celebrity chef whose restaurants provide reliable refuge for out-of-town guests. But in case you'd forgotten, he also has chops. And by chops, we mean the ability to completely blow your mind with a food--pizza--you thought had run its creative course. The salads at Serious Pie also shine, particularly the kale salad. Lacinato kale is chopped, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, and then tossed with pine nuts, Calabria peppers, and shaved parmigiano cheese, making for a delectable starter.
8. Kale salad, Grub
At Grub, everything's fresh and handled with admirable care. The kale and cauliflower salad is tasty and tender, combining roasted heads of cauliflower with ruffled leaves of kale and firm chickpeas, bathed in the exact right amount of lemon-tahini vinaigrette, a punchy dressing that hits taste receptors not always activated early in a meal.
7. Kale salad with tempeh, Veggie Grill
You don't have to worry about pink slime at this southern California based vegan fast food chain. Veggie Grill's focus on all plant-derived ingredients and plant-based proteins (soy, wheat, and pea proteins, specifically, make up their "meat" products), make Veggie Grill an instant hit with the vegetarian community. The All Hail Kale salad brings together kale and cabbage with a chunky corn salsa, walnuts, and a super-sweet ginger-papaya vinaigrette. For just $2.75 more, you can get it topped with blackened "chickin'" or "tempeh."
6. Tamari-braised kale, St. Dames
At St. Dames, the south side's beloved vegetarian eatery, the vegan mac and cheese simply cannot rival the yeasty, spicy glob made famous by Plum Bistro, but it's 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.
5. Yam and kale pizza, Healeo
With all-white décor and a casual, modern vibe, Healeo is a haven for health food fanatics and and vegetarians alike. The cafe and nutritional supplement shop offers food that is not only chock full of nutrients but tasty too. Our pick is the gluten-free yam, kale, and caramelized onion pizza--sweet and savory with great texture. Piled on an herb-infused corn and rice crust, a palatable nut "cheese" provides the base, slathered with caramelized onions, and topped with crispy kale, luscious diced yams, and a fabulous soy reduction.
4. Charred kale, Plum Bistro
At Plum Bistro, the tastes are intense and the textures equally so. The vegan approach here is less from the hippie tradition and more from the school of meat substitution, with a strong nod to Southern tradition: po'boys, collard greens, mac 'n' yease, fried okra. And what would comfort food be--vegan soul food, to be precise--without some greens? The charred kale, which shares a dish with smoked tofu, roasted garlic, and Spanish almonds, is always a winner.
Sweet On Veg
3. Lamb, Serafina
Serafina is the rare Seattle restaurant where eating out is still considered a lark. A jazz combo is often playing in the background, freshly-made pastas are excellent, and the olive oil served with bread is notably first-rate. Although many guests are loyal to the rabbit, Serafina's tender, slow-cooked lamb shank takes sauteed kale as its partner in satisfying rusticity.
2. Sloppy Joe breakfast sandwich, Portage Bay Cafe
No matter what dragged you in (and kept you waiting in the winding line outside), Portage Bay's innovative twist on breakfast classics will make the trek more than worth it. Take the sloppy joe breakfast sandwich: Slow-cooked kale is an essential element of Portage's hearty assemblage of ground beef and lamb, potatoes and sunny-side up egg, piled atop an English muffin.
1. Kale salad, Skillet Diner
1. Kale salad, Skillet Diner
It's no swipe at Skillet's meat-making abilities to praise its extraordinary kale Caesar salad. The muscular salad, criss-crossed with fat, oily boquerones, translates kale--a staple of early season CSA boxes and macrobiotic diets--into a language that diners who came to eat fried chicken and pork belly can understand. Skillet's garlicky dressing clings to the ruffly greens, which are the same gorgeous hue as the undulating hills in a storybook. The salad's finished with snippets of Parmesan and pillowy croutons that Skillet's menu describes as "buttery."