So, you’re “trying to eat better.” Welcome to the club - a club full of people looking for something kind of healthy, but still more interesting than a bowl of raw kale. Here are our favorite places in Seattle for lighter meals, from vegan food that actually tastes good to other options that are both satisfying and at least a little bit nutritious.
Opus Co. is a neighborhood restaurant in Greenwood that’s about the size of a studio apartment. It has six tables, a four-seat chef’s counter, and very little decoration other than some mason jars and a shelf full of logs. But the food is outstanding. Everything here is cooked on a wood grill, and we especially like the golden beet salad, purple cauliflower with “squash guts” mole and hazelnuts, and buttermilk soy-brined roast chicken with malt vinegar caramel. It’s ideal for a date or dinner with your health-conscious, non-claustrophic parents.
Cafe Flora2901 E Madison St
Even though Cafe Flora is a vegetarian restaurant (with a dining room full of plants to drive the point home), it takes some navigating to find the stuff on the menu that isn’t flatbread pizza or deep-fried vegetables. But it’s there. Roasted cauliflower with a dijon sauce, kale and squash polenta, and the portobello mushroom French dip are all good choices when you want a healthy meal.
There are some less-than-healthy routes you could take at this Mexican spot. Like ordering the 44oz Tomahawk steak for yourself, or getting the (excellent) shrimp tacos with cheese and garlic butter. But many of our favorite plates here actually happen to be kind of good for you. The tortilla chips are baked, not fried, and the marinated grilled chicken is the best protein on the menu. Plus, you can swap lettuce cups for tortillas on any of the tacos. Pay no attention to the person across from you eating a chorizo quesadilla covered in cotija and Mexican cream.
Ciudad’s thing - aside from its prominent mural of colorful, creepy characters like a vampire werewolf and a skull shaman taking a phone call - is its charcoal grill, which makes eating kind of healthily here easy. Go for the harissa-marinated chicken or some citrus shell-on prawns alongside smoky yogurt or chimichurri, plus some charred snap peas and hummus.
Keep Trove in mind for great Korean BBQ. There are salmon and duck options in addition to beef, and your protein(s) of choice come with ssam lettuce wraps and three different tasty condiments. We also like the bok choy caesar salad with spicy shrimp. This is a big spot that feels kind of like an adults-only party in an IKEA, so it’s especially good for group dinners or birthday meals.
This is a vegan restaurant, but that doesn’t mean everything here is healthy. Far from it, in fact. The crispy portobello buffalo burger with fries is probably not what you’re looking for, but the lighter items at Plum Bistro are still great - like the pan-seared creole tempeh with braised collard greens and a cherry tomato sauce, or the grilled tofu with olive pesto. Round things out with some charred broccolini or avocado sushi rolls, and even though it’s slightly against the spirit of this guide, you’re probably also going to want the spicy cajun mac and “yease” to share with the table.
Deru, which is all the way out in a Kirkland suburb, feels a little bit like a farmhouse inside. Fittingly, it earns its mention here because of one dish: the farm salad, a big bowl of mixed greens, marinated chicken, roasted carrots, feta, and fresh herbs, plus a vinaigrette good enough to drink on its own. Even with french fries and wood-fired pizzas in close proximity, you’ll want this.
The Whale Wins is perfect for when you want to eat somewhere nice, but also be healthy - despite having very little willpower. You can shake the menu and flip it over looking for the carbs, but you’ll have very little luck. What you’ll find here instead, aside from a dainty-looking dining room and patio, are mostly proteins and vegetables. Not to mention pretty modest portions. Get the salt-roasted half chicken if you want something that didn’t grow in the ground. The housemade pickles are good, too.
Being healthy and eating cheeseburgers are typically mutually exclusive activities, but not at Table. The baked veggie burgers here are made from roasted eggplant, cashews, marmite, and some other stuff that makes them taste like actual food, and despite being topped with American cheese, housemade pickles, and a vegan tomato mayo, they’re pretty light. Pair them with lighter sides like succotash with avocado, or roasted potatoes with goat cheese and green harissa.
Most of the things you’ll find at this bright spot are healthy: from the rotisserie chicken DIY tacos, to the watermelon salad, to the smashed avocado with queso fresco and radishes. So it’s pretty easy to do a lighter Mexican meal (washed down with an agua fresca) here. Come for a girls’ night or happy hour with coworkers.
Yes, our favorite thing at Mamnoon is a deep-fried cauliflower drowning in tahini - but it’s still cauliflower at the end of the day, and at least it’s not covered in batter. So have at it, and don’t forget some mezze like baba ghanoush and hummus, beef and lamb kefta with yogurt, and grilled chicken that’s tastier than it really has a right to be. It’s slightly upscale, but this is still Seattle, so you can come in your gym clothes and fit in just fine.
This is a beachy Hawaiian-Korean-Mexican fusion place in West Seattle that, despite serving pork katsu and macaroni salad with spam, also has some tasty healthy options. The tacos here are filled with marinated, non-fried proteins (like miso ginger chicken and “sexy” tofu - yes, it’s actually great), plus cabbage and a creamy sesame sauce. You can also skip the tortillas altogether and get a taco salad, which still tastes good. We promise.
Tallulah’s is a nice neighborhood spot with decor that’s simple but expensive-looking, and the menu is mainly made up of things you’d want to eat after taking a spin class - proteins, grains, and vegetables. Dinner options range from braised cauliflower tacos or a falafel bowl with pickled peppers and fennel to some nice grilled trout. So even if you didn’t just do some cycling at an EDM rave, you’ll be in good shape.
Barrio is a great spot in general to eat classy Mexican food, but it’s in this particular guide because of a delicious chopped salad with romaine, roasted corn, pickled red onion, cabbage, avocado, tomato, cheese, and spiced pepitas. The grilled chicken here also has a tasty spice rub on it, and if neither of these things appeals, try some seared fish or a vegetable hash. The main decorative element here is candles - lots of them - so it’s a pretty place to take a date, too.
For a special occasion kind of meal, try Westward, which has a great location on the waterfront. Start with the wood-fired gigantes beans with tomato and feta or some steamed clams, and then get some seared fish. Even the heartier proteins like the pork cheek and braised lamb shoulder aren’t too rich. If it’s nice out, come early to grab a seat on the Adirondack chairs with an Arnold Palmer overlooking Lake Union - it’s good for your mental health, too.
This place is great for at least three things: pho, partytime, and eating kind of healthy. You can build a commendably light meal here from rice noodle soups, Bun Cha, tofu wraps, and rotisserie chicken.
Harvest Beat is the best place in Seattle to throw down some serious money on a vegan tasting menu. OK, it’s kind of the only place in Seattle to do that. But it’s great. Expect things like a bean soup, roasted broccoli with a miso chocolate sauce, or some squash stuffed with sweet potato. There’s a single nightly seating at 7pm, which begins with the chef ringing a ceremonial gong and talking about all the ingredients that were once in dirt and are now on your plate. It’s definitely worth it, especially for a special occasion - even if you’re not a vegan.
This is in a basement, but don’t let that deter you. The Indian/Nepalese/Himalayan menu is excellent, and largely healthy. Try the steamed chicken momo dumplings, or the saag paneer, which is more spinach than cream. Aloo gobi is also never a bad choice if you need some more vegetables in your life.
If eating fresh seafood while glamping next to a babbling brook sounds ideal to you, then RockCreek should be in your kind-of-healthy dinner rotation. Just know up front that it’s in a building, not a tent, and instead of a real brook it has a large photo of one. But we’re confident you can enjoy this fish spot with your favorite pescatarian(s) for a birthday, date, or dinner with the parents.