Where to Eat for Cheap in Seattle and on the Eastside

49 delicious (and some superbly nutritious) meals out for breakfast, lunch and dinner

By Chelsea Lin & Amy Pennington January 16, 2015


This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.

Breakfast of Champions

For $10 or less

Morsel and Bean
The name of this bright, new Ballard café (with a sister spot, known simply as Morsel, in the University District) may imply small, delicate portions of its signature item. But the truth is that these tender house-made biscuits are big enough to be a meal on their own. Get one plain, or make it a Spanish Fly, with salty Manchego, prosciutto, runny fried egg, arugula and aioli made with Mama Lil’s peppers ($6.75). The best part: You can order one at the drive-through and never have to change out of your pajamas. Ballard, 5905 15th Ave. NW; 206.457.5735; 4754 University Way NE; 206.268.0154; morselseattle.com  

Dough Zone in Bellevue
Consider this humble eatery, tucked into a Bellevue strip mall, the poor man’s Din Tai Fung—and we mean that in the best possible way. The offerings aren’t exactly the same, but Dough Zone also makes xiao long bao (soup dumplings, referred to on this menu as juicy pork buns, $8.50 for 10), alongside another regional specialty called sheng jian bao, or jian buns ($8.50 for five) that have a similar meatball-and-broth combination inside, but a much doughier exterior. Both are exceptional. The spicy beef pancake rolls ($4.75) have bold flavor without being terribly spicy and are filling enough for a modest meal; congee ($2.75) comes with free refills. This is a place well-suited to groups, where the $10-per-person price promises a wide variety of tastes. Bellevue, 15920 NE Eighth St.; 425.641.8000; doughzone7.com
Schooner Exact Brewing
Beer and brunch—an unlikely duo that pair perfectly at this industrial SoDo warehouse brewery. On weekends between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Schooner Exact serves scrambles, sandwiches, salads and a few star waffle creations: The light, crispy Elvis waffle is a synthesis of sweet and savory with banana slices, peanut butter and two strips of bacon on top ($7). There’s an all-ages dining room to the left as you walk in—made kid-friendly with the addition of coloring books and toys—and some larger communal tables for catching up over beers in an open area to the right. Plus, there’s outdoor seating (overlooking the parking lot) in warm weather. SoDo, 3901 First Ave. S; 206.432.9734; schoonerexact.com
As with King Midas, everything Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi touch turns to gold. And so it is at Revel, where a simple bowl of porridge has been elevated from the status of gruel to brunch’s unsung hero, worthy of appearing on the same menu as flavor-packed kalbi burgers and ramen topped with pork belly. The congee ($10) changes seasonally, and really shines in the fall and winter, when a warm bowl incorporating ingredients such as shrimp, Brussels sprouts and pickled goathorn peppers is just about perfect. Fremont, 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; revelseattle.com

Serving breakfast at Revel
The Hi-Life
Housed in an old firehouse just off Market Street in Ballard, this family-friendly diner serves some of the best deals in town for weekday breakfasts: six meals for just $5.75 each before 11 a.m., known as the “not-so-early-bird breakfast.” What’s the catch? It’s not the most inventive food. But if there’s ever a time for buttermilk pancakes, chorizo-stuffed breakfast burritos and goat cheese scrambles—and there definitely is—this is it. Ballard, 5425 Russell Ave. NW; 206.784.7272; chowfoods.com/hi-life

The Sexton
For Ballard barflies, The Sexton is best known for its sexy Southern charm and expertly crafted cocktails. And though it’s regularly packed at night, it sits noticeably quiet during Sunday brunch, when the farmers’ market bustles just outside the door. Grab one of the two window tables, and people-watch over inexpensive brunch choices, such as baked eggs with arugula and ham ($8) or house-made biscuits and hearty sausage gravy ($6). Most of the dishes will cost you less than a cocktail. Ballard, 5327 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.829.8645; Facebook, “The Sexton
Easy Street Records
The chair seats are cracked, and the tables wobble, but breakfast at this record-store-meets-diner is a Seattle rite of passage. Under an old-school street lamp, early birds brave the 7 a.m. opening but most patrons roll in later and expect to wait for breakfast burritos (starting at $6.95) and lunch options including a parade of rock-inspired sandwiches, such as the Culture Club ($8.25), which is constructed of three layers of turkey, ham and bacon on wheat. The menu—and the everybody-knows-your-name service—is easygoing and readily accommodates kids and vegetarians. A word on those prices: The money you save on breakfast will likely be spent on vinyl before you’re done. West Seattle, 4559 California Ave. SW, 206.938.3279; easystreetonline.com
Voula’s Offshore Cafe
This classic spot, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, won Guy Fieri over with its family-run hospitality and house specials, such as the Chinese pancake baked with chunks of ham and an egg inside ($9.65)—big enough for three people to share. Eggs and bacon can be found anywhere, but the rectangle of buttery, golden brown, perfectly crisped hash browns served alongside Voula’s eggs and bacon (inching over our limit at $10.35) elevate the fairly boring order to something extraordinary. It’s casual, greasy-spoon fare—near the waterfront on North Lake Union, no less—at its very finest. University District, 658 NE Northlake Way; 206.634.0183; voulasoffshore.com
Café Presse
Francophiles, take note: There’s more to French breakfast than the perfect croissant. This longstanding Seattle favorite serves one menu for most of the day. Opt for a simple bowl of creamy yogurt with honey and walnuts ($5) or the heartier croque madame ($8.50)—one of the best in the city. Lunch, too, can come in at less than $10. Capitol Hill, 1117 12th Ave.; 206.709.7674; cafepresseseattle.com

Porkchop & Co.  
While weekend brunch generally triggers an afternoon nap, weekday breakfast needs to provide energy and sustenance. Order Porkchop’s breakfast bowl: a modest portion of Anson Mill heirloom grits topped with two slow-poached eggs and tender roasted kale ($9)—for just such a nutritious pre-workday meal. The room and the food are simple and cozy, without pretension. And while these are the sort of dishes you could have made at home, why would you when you can eat them here? Ballard, 5451 Leary Ave. NW; 206.257.5761; eatatporkchop.com

The breakfast bowl at Porkchop & Co.

The Lunch Rush

For $10 or less

Il Corvo
This weekday lunch-only spot is no secret—the lines regularly stretch out the door, and you’d best play by the rules and order at the counter before snagging a seat at the old church pews that line the walls. But owner Mike Easton knows his way around a pasta cutter, and the three daily changing variations of handmade pasta ($9) are worth every bit of the effort. It’s not a fancy place—you bus your own table and grab your own water—but the casual ambience helps keep this lunch relatively inexpensive. Pioneer Square, 217 James St.; 206.538.0999; ilcorvopasta.com
El Camión Adentro
For years, El Camión’s high-quality taco-truck grub had to be ordered (and hastily eaten) in a parking lot. But thanks to its 2013 takeover of the old Zesto’s space in Ballard, there’s a permanent place—with booths inside and a patio out back—to enjoy the truck’s tacos, burritos and, our personal favorite, gorditas ($6.60): a plate of three thick, handmade tortillas topped with meat (the adobada spicy pork is great), grilled onions, Cotija cheese, salsa verde and avocado. Avoid arriving early for lunch on weekdays if you don’t want to wait in line with the flurry of hungry Ballard High School students. Ballard, 6416 15th Ave. NW; 206.784.5411; elcamionseattle.com

Seattle isn’t hurting for sandwich shops, but affordable ones are another story. Delicatus covers a number of very important bases: cheap enough for frequent visits and varied enough that you needn’t repeat your order (unless you want to, of course). A chalkboard menu spells out more than two dozen sandwich options, from a Reuben ($9.75), piled high with corned beef, to the popular Pavo Diablo ($9.75), with smoked turkey, avocado and roasted poblano peppers. Dinner brings table service—and a bigger tip. Pioneer Square, 103 First Ave. S; 206.623.3780; delicatusseattle.com
Coco Ramen & Curry Bar
Anyone unfamiliar with Japanese curry should know that it’s less like the spicy, colorful versions available in other parts of Asia and more like gravy made from a spice-flavored roux. Coco’s modern, corner spot in Bellevue may be the only local Japanese restaurant where curry is the specialty and the reason for going—not just an afterthought in a longer list of dishes. It’s served atop a mountain of rice and protein on par with Seattle’s most generous teriyaki stands. Order the pork katsu plate ($8.99) for the most traditional experience; ask for it to be made spicy, if you dare. Bellevue, 120 Bellevue Way NE; 425.454.0588

Oma Bap

This is Korean food made very fast and very cheaply, served with plastic utensils at plastic tables. It’s also Korean food for novices: The bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) and pickles in the signature rice bowls called bibimbap ($8.95) ring a tad sweeter than may be standard, and the overall flavors lack the pungency and spice typical of true Korean fare. But it has quality ingredients, plenty of veggies, and a fried egg and hot sauce on top. So really, what could go wrong? Capitol Hill, 1223 E Cherry St.; 206.538.0080; omabap.com

Sushi can be a wallet-busting meal, but not so at Kisaku for lunch, where a five-piece combo and California roll, plus miso soup, is $9.45. In fact, many of the menu items at this refined yet casual Japanese restaurant—including donburi, yakisoba and a daily bento box—come in at less than $10. As with dinner, the best seat in the house is at the sushi bar; unlike dinner, it’s fairly easy to nab a spot there during lunch. Green Lake/Tangletown, 2101 N 55th St.; 206.545.9050; kisaku.com
Loretta’s Northwesterner
Floor-to-ceiling wood paneling makes this South Seattle neighborhood hangout dark even on the brightest days, but the all-day menu of pub food is best suited for lunch. A bar first and foremost, Loretta’s has better food than it ought to—the Tavern burger, a Dick’s-size single patty with a delightful char, dressed simply with American cheese, pickles, chopped onions and secret sauce, is just $3 (hand-cut fries are $3.50 as well, and worth it). A vegan burger, made in-house, is available for the same price. South Park, 8617 14th Ave. S; 206.327.9649; lorettasnorthwesterner.com 

The Tavern Burger at Loretta’s Northwesterner
Heaven Sent  
Legal complications after a split with his former partner resulted in a change of business names for locally famed chicken slinger Ezell Stephens. Rather than the eponymous Ezell’s, his newest restaurants are called Heaven Sent, and the chicken served is just that. The Lake City location is bright and impersonal in a familiar fast-food way, but the fried chicken ($8.20 for two pieces plus a side, roll and drink) is salty, crispy perfection. As for sides, the mashed potatoes and coleslaw are classic. Lake City, 14330 Lake City Way NE; 206.363.1167; heavensentfriedchicken.com

Tacos Chukis
Taco-truck prices at a brick-and-mortar location: too good to be true? Not so at Tacos Chukis, a hard-to-find spot on the second floor of a patchouli-scented indoor shopping area on Broadway. The menu is limited, but most tacos are less than $2 each (they’re small, and you’ll want to order somewhere between two and five) and well executed. Particularly tasty is the house taco ($2.25), which features a hunk of grilled pineapple and dollop of guacamole atop marinated pork, chopped onions and cilantro. The beers won’t break the bank either. Capitol Hill, 219 Broadway E; 206.328.4447; Facebook; “Tacos Chukis

The $2.25 house tacos at Tacos Chukis

Dinner Deals

For $15 or less

Oddfellows Cafe   
A rare find in Capitol Hill: A handful of entrées at this American-Euro café fall at or below the $15 mark. Dim lighting, compact seating, salvaged decor and high ceilings impart an urban feel here, where you can expect to find a multigenerational crowd. The meatballs and polenta with mascarpone ($15) is a plate any Italian grandma would love. Thick tomato sauce is spooned over rich polenta and topped with two fat meatballs; it’s a portion large enough for leftovers. For a more hands-on meal, the porchetta sandwich, made from slow-roasted pork and served with hand-cut fries ($14), is hearty yet elegant. Capitol Hill, 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807; oddfellowscafe.com
Black Bottle  
A warm glow from dim lighting and heavy wooden floors with patina from foot traffic welcome diners into this Belltown restaurant, with its tall, street-facing windows. All plates here are served in shareable portions and categorized into specialized sections on the nontraditional menu. Vegetable platters are less than $11, and the meat and seafood plates are less than $16—a true bargain. Order a platter of the roasted shishito peppers with crunchy salt ($5), in which one in every handful of peppers is hot and spicy. For meat lovers, don’t miss the house-smoked wild boar ribs ($8), which are sticky with sauce, robust and sensual. Seafood, too, is reasonably priced. A plate of scallops with bacon and fried kale, at $15, is a splurge—and a luxury you may not want to share. Belltown, 2600 First Ave.; 206.441.1500; blackbottleseattle.com
The People’s Pub    
The shabby brick exterior, dated signage and illuminated “Cocktails” fixture may put some people off  this Ballard staple, but don’t judge this book by its cover. Inside, a wide room with red walls, framing wooden tables and high-backed chairs, lends to an overall Bavarian vibe, complete with beer steins on display.  People rave about the deep-fried pickles on the German-American menu, but you’re better served choosing one of several traditional entrées that come with a portion of mashed potatoes and rotkohl—a braised heap of red cabbage cooked with apples, onions and wine. Try the Hunter’s Meal: jagerschnitzel, a pan-seared pork cutlet with a mushroom pan gravy, and substitute the house-made spaetzle, a springy German pasta, for the potatoes ($15). Ballard, 5429 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.783.6521; peoplespub.com
Pike Street Fish Fry

Recognizable by its large neon sign—a singular piece of art on an otherwise black building—this fish shack is a no-frills box of a restaurant just off the hipster-filled sidewalks of Capitol Hill’s busy Pike Street. Order from a short list of options at the walk-up counter inside—cod, catfish, shrimp, calamari or oysters are available daily ($9.50–$10). All seafood is fried in a beer batter seasoned with paprika and a perfect amount of salt. A small selection of sandwiches ($7) and tacos ($3.50) is also available. Gone are the deep-fried lemon slices it used to serve, although a side order of lemon aioli adds a citrusy zing to both fish and fries, as does the piquant house-made tartar sauce, which is excellent. Fries are twice-fried and crispy, served in a red plastic basket alongside the fish. With low ceilings and tall communal-style bars for seating (there is one small booth), it’s best to get your fish to go, which leaves time for it to cool before you dig in. Capitol Hill, 925 E Pike St.; 206.329.7453; Facebook: “Pike Street Fish Fry

Fish and chips at Pike Street Fish Fry
Bongos Café
There aren’t many—any?—opportunities for dining on the beach in Seattle, but this neon shack in a landlocked former gas station near Green Lake has changed all that with a covered sandbox patio for eating alfresco year around. The laid-back vibe of this Caribbean restaurant carries indoors, where you place orders at the counter for hefty sandwiches or plates of citrus-braised pork ($9.99) or spicy shrimp ($10.99) paired with black beans, rice and a sweet, pickly slaw. Service is friendly and speedy. Green Lake, 6501 Aurora Ave. N; 206.420.8548; bongoscubancafeseattle.com
Jebena Cafe 
You don’t have to have an extended Ethiopian family to get your share of fir fir (a traditional dish of injera cooked with lamb or beef) and kitfo (a sort of heavily seasoned steak tartare)—just order up the combination plate at this family-run Pinehurst restaurant, north of Northgate, and you’ll feel like you’ve been adopted. The meat combos ($14/$15.50) and vegetarian combo ($12) each feature half a dozen different dishes laid out on a spongy circle of injera—enough food for two smaller appetites, or one big one. Don’t miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee. Pinehurst, 1510 NE 117th St.; 206.365.0757; jebenacafe.com
Pies & Pints

This is the house (er, bar) that pie built, but not the sort that’s served à la mode or the kind you pick up by the slice. Instead, the pies sold at this Roosevelt pub are Australian style pies: savory pockets of dough, about the size of a baseball, filled with meat and/or veggies. While the steak and potato may be traditional, we love the version that included chicken, bacon, mushrooms and Swiss in a creamy Marsala sauce ($11.95, including a side). Everything from the stocks to the desserts are made in house at this lively spot, also known for its trivia nights and live music. Roosevelt, 1215 NE 65th St.; 206.524.7082; piesandpints.com
Boiling Point
“Eat at BP” screams the neon lights at the back of this hot-soup hangout in the Chinatown–International District, which adventurous eaters know as one of the few places in town to serve stinky tofu. While some hot-pot specialists serve it as a whole-table dish, the portions at Boiling Point are better suited for individuals and priced accordingly. The house special soup ($12.99) is a good place to start for the uninitiated; keep in mind that spice levels can range from not spicy to flaming hot. Chinatown–International District, 610 Fifth Ave. S; 206.737.8506; bpgroupusa.com

Vostok Dumpling House  
If communist chic were a thing, this Capitol Hill restaurant, bedecked in Russian propaganda posters, would be its perfect expression. The Eastern European theme carries over to the menu, which focuses on two types of dumplings: Russian pelmeni, available with chicken ($5.50–$9.80) or pork ($5.25–$9.65) filling, and the more delicate Ukrainian vareniki, filled with potatoes, cheddar and onions ($4.50–$8.85). Half orders allow the option of trying both and staying on budget. Vegetable offerings are negligible—the occasional pickle or bowl of borscht—but you won’t miss them. Capitol Hill, 1416 Harvard Ave.; 206.687.7865; vostokdh.com
Travelers Thali House     
At the epicenter of Beacon Hill, a welcoming purple house offers vegetarian fare that is big on flavor; the scent of warming spices hits you as you walk up the steps, passing by a red brick patio with dangling bistro lights. The à la carte menu of Indian favorites can be ordered in a mix of plates or condensed into one of the many sizes of thalis ($7.50–$22)—a platter of ramekins and small bowls filled with legumes, salads, chutneys and cooling yogurt sauce. Ask the friendly staff to steer you in the right direction, or build a meal from the janata thali—a mix of seven dishes—and add salads and snacks. Standouts include the gol gappa ($6), a small crisp cup made from semolina cradling cooked potatoes and chutney, which is meant to be filled with pepper water (a blend of fresh herbs and chiles served in a small pitcher on the side) and eaten in one bite. Don’t miss the refreshing bhel puri salad ($6), either: a fusion of puffed rice and crisp noodles tossed with cucumber, herbs, green chiles and lime. Beacon Hill, 2524 Beacon Ave. S; 206.329.6260; travelersthalihouse.com
Green Leaf  

One of the International District’s most beloved (and quirkily furnished—wagon- wheel chairs!) eateries is this hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant. Thanks to a more comprehensive menu than pho-only establishments, there’s a little something for everyone. Our favorites are the bowls of cool vermicelli noodles known as bun ($9.95–$11.95) topped with everything from fried egg rolls to lemongrass beef to skewered grilled shrimp. While alcohol is available, we recommend the traditional Vietnamese beverages, such as iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk or ultratart fresh lemonade (both $3.25). Chinatown–International District, 418 Eighth Ave. S; 206.340.1388; greenleaftaste.com  

Pono Ranch    
If not for the colorful graffiti on the corrugated steel walls surrounding this hidden gem, you could miss this industrial-looking urban oasis (its name is Polynesian for “harmony”) nestled up to the Ballard Bridge. Enter via a sprawling courtyard with a native plant garden and sculptured metal art. Under a eucalyptus tree, the stone patio has radiant heating, and a new outdoor shelter is meant to protect from the elements. Inside, the restaurant is small, with only a handful of tables. Belly up to the bar or grab one of the high bistro tables with plush stools. Blues play in the background, and the staff is hospitable and warm—it’s like relaxing in a friend’s backyard. Everything is organic and natural on the short menu. A burger ($11) is cooked to order and adorned with hand-cut fries that can run a bit blond, but are delicate and crispy. Don’t miss the fish tacos ($11) deep-fried in beer batter or seared—with a citrus-cabbage coleslaw and pico de gallo with fire-roasted peppers. Ballard, 4502 Shilshole Ave. NW; 206.258.2162; ponoranchballard.com

Outdoor seating at Pono Ranch in Ballard

Big Chickie  
In the southern reaches of the city, one of 2014’s most anticipated openings was a Peruvian pollo a la brasa (or charcoal-
roasted rotisserie chicken) restaurant named Big Chickie. Located in a former gas station in Hillman City, Big Chickie may have a roadside fast-food feel, but it also has inspired eats: long-marinated, ultra-flavorful chicken along with sides ranging from beans and rice to kale slaw sweetened with golden raisins to cheesy shredded potatoes. A quarter-chicken plate ($8.86 for white meat or $7.95 for dark) comes with two sides and a cornbread muffin—a plentiful serving for one. Hillman City, 5520 Rainier Ave. S; bigchickie.com

Noodle Places

You’ve come a long way since those dorm-room cups of noodles—but the slurping hasn’t lost its thrifty appeal
Photo by Andrew Vanasse

Shoyu Ramen at Kukai Ramen & Izakaya  
A Japanese chain, Kukai Ramen & Izakaya (Northgate, 319 NE Thornton Place; 206.946.6792, kukai-ramen.com) is a game changer, thanks to its real-deal ramen, such as the shoyu ($8) flavored simply with Japanese soy sauce. Pay an extra $1.50 for the addition of a marinated soft-boiled egg.

On-tama Udon at U:Don  

The key to U:Don’s (University District, 4515 University Way NE; 206.453.3788; freshudon.com) success is in the udon noodles, which are meticulously made from scratch using special Japanese flour. The rest that goes into this beautiful bowl (ranging from about $5 to $12) is just a bonus: a light broth made of dashi and shoyu, a sprinkling of green onions and ginger, and a delicate on-tama, or hot spring egg. 

Kao Soi at Pestle Rock  

Curried kao soi ($10 at lunch, $13 at dinner) at Pestle Rock (Ballard, 2305 NW Market St.;, 206.466.6671; pestlerock.com) is colorful, spicy and everything that is right with Thai food. This soup-like dish, common in northern Thailand, has boiled egg noodles topped with crispy fried noodles, pickled mustard greens and red onion.

Wonton and Beef Brisket Noodle Soup at Mike’s Noodle House  

Bring cash to Mike’s Noodle House (Chinatown–International District, 418 Maynard Ave. S; 206.389.7099) or you may miss out on the wonton and beef brisket soup ($5.35–$6.35). There are many reasons to wait in the frequently long lines at Mike’s, but this soup—meaty, thin-skinned wontons, fatty brisket and skinny egg noodles swimming in savory broth—is all you need. 

Pho Bo at Pho Bac
In a city littered with pho joints, Pho Bac (Chinatown–International District, 1314 S Jackson St.; 206.323.4387; thephobac.com) comes out ahead, particularly with its pho bo ($7.50–$8.50): beef stock simmered for 10 hours, with steak, brisket, meatballs, tripe, tendon, rice noodles (banh pho) and all the trimmings.

Laksa at Indo Café  
A recent addition to the menu, the laksa ($9.95) at the Indonesian restaurant Indo Café (Haller Lake, 13754 Aurora Ave. N; 206.361.0699; myindocafe.com) is cold-weather comfort food. A large bowl of rice vermicelli noodles arrives, the noodles sharing the broth with curry, chicken and shrimp, punctuated by basil leaves and bean sprouts.

Healthy Meal Choices

Eating healthy while dining out isn’t always easy, but if you dig deep enough, there are a few delicious and nutritious options to be had. With an eye toward vegetable-rich, lean protein-based meals, here are some of the best—and most affordable—dishes the city has to offer
Photos by Andrew Vanasse

Shakshuka at Eltana Bagels

Known for its wood-fired bagels, Eltana may not be the first place to consider when eating healthfully, but don’t overlook its Middle Eastern–leaning menu. Here, shakshuka ($9.25)—a warm, thick stew of peppers and roasted tomatoes—is crowned with two eggs that poach in the hot sauce. Feta cheese and fresh parsley act as garnish, and offer a salty and verdant bite. It’s served with a bagel for dipping; choose from a multigrain option, such as the sesame wheat, or go with a gluten-free version if you’re avoiding grains. Fremont/Wallingford, 3920 Stone Way N; 206.420.1293; eltana.com

All-green Scramble at Evolution Fresh  
This is clean eating for the masses, or at least that’s the plan for this Starbucks-owned eatery. The tiny takeout stop feels crisp and clean, with its hard concrete floors and wide, high, bright walls. Oversize photographs of fruits and vegetables scream healthy meals, which range from green juice to grain salads. For breakfast, check out the All-Green Scramble, a 220-calorie meal of eggs, steamed broccoli, wilted kale, raw spinach and grilled zucchini tossed lightly in lemon tahini sauce ($4.95 bowl/$5.95 wrap). With locations near the major shopping areas, these cafés make perfect pit stops. Downtown, Bellevue and University Village; evolutionfresh.com

Center of the Universe from Silence-Heart-Nest

Take care of your soul while you tend to your body at this spiritually driven vegetarian restaurant in Fremont. The light blue walls and Picasso-esque bird murals are pleasing to the eye, and the meditative music is calming, if not a little unusual in a restaurant. Waitstaff in saris serve the generously portioned Center of the Universe scramble: three eggs with onions, mushrooms, spinach (ask for extra) and cheese served with a mound of golden home fries and slices of multigrain bread (all for $9.50). And for any early birds, an abbreviated breakfast menu is available before 11 a.m. for $6 a plate. Fremont, 3508 Fremont Place N; 206.633.5169; silenceheartnest.com

Half a turkey sandwich and soup at Bakeman’s Restaurant

Home base to legions of downtown workers, Bakeman’s is always hopping during midweek lunches. The place is hidden on the ground floor of a nondescript building in the north end of Pioneer Square; enter this industrial-lit den with low ceilings and linoleum floors via a steep set of stairs. It’s best to be on your toes in this cafeteria-style setup—employees work quickly to take and fill orders, passing soups and sandwiches to you on a school-cafeteria-size tray. Opt for half a house-roasted turkey sandwich (white, dark or mixed meat), served with a dollop of cranberry sauce and a generous amount of shredded lettuce on house-made wheat bread. Pair this with a bowl of old-fashioned split pea soup for a hearty lunch. Pioneer Square, 122 Cherry St.; 206.622.3375; bakemanscatering.com

Veggie sides at Agua Verde
It’s easy to think of tacos as being cheap, but healthy? That’s not as simple. Agua Verde, the beloved restaurant on the shores of North Lake Union, serves traditional Mexican cuisine in a small, wooden cottage with bright walls and festive music. Skip the heavy tacos and order one of several hearty and veg-friendly sides for $3.50 each, such as arroz verde (rice with mashed chard), ensalada de col y arándanos (red cabbage slaw with cranberries), or the pineapple and jicama salsa. Ordering three sides gets you a side of corn or flour tortillas ($9)—if you don’t mind those extra calories—and the self-serve salsa bar helps add some kick. University District, 1303 NE Boat St.; 206.545.8570; aguaverde.com

Raw kale Caesar at Home Remedy
This is healthy eating at its finest and fastest—a large salad bar with several choices of lean protein is a win in this downtown gourmet deli created and run by Tom Douglas Restaurants. Hidden in the wayback (you’ll have to make it past the pizza station), a 12-foot-long salad bar offers a choice of chef-made salads or DIY options for building a healthy lunch. We recommend the raw kale Caesar, a salad fit for the gods, and the same, popular version that is served at Serious Pie. Pile on a few pieces of lean roasted chicken for protein and you have a well-balanced lunch to go. All items are $8.99/pound. Downtown, 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8407; tdhomeremedy.com


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