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.
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.
Rabbits aren’t allowed to eat at restaurants (probably because they’re too small to reach the table). But, if they were, they’d all be super impressed with Homer, the Mediterranean restaurant that makes vegetables taste amazing and accommodates pretty much any kind of dietary restriction extremely well. Some of our favorite plates here are the charred carrots with a mustard balsamic sauce and burnt cabbage with olive oil, stracciatella cheese, and peanuts. If you aren’t an herbivore, the meat-based dishes (like the outstanding roasted chicken) are great, too.
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.
If healthy to you means a nice piece of fish, L’Oursin should be high on your list of places to get one. Your cod or salmon at this French will come with whatever kind of fresh produce is in season. And while we’re on the subject of health, no, you don’t need new glasses - everything in here is sepia-toned.
Kin Dee has all the Thai classics, like curries, wok noodles, and fried chicken - only here it’s exceptionally light. The pad see ew (which is our favorite in the city) doesn’t have too much oil. The delicious yellow curry with chicken and carrots doesn’t have a ton of cream involved. And, all of the entrees come with a side of tasty grilled vegetables. Add a homemade butterfly pea flower soda alongside some avocado fresh rolls, and you’ll be very happy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.