Ep. #28: Quality Time with… Chris (Chaco Canyon) – Washington’s 1st Certified Organic Vegetarian Cafe
As I’ve been working on the “Healthy Living: SEATTLE” guide (available now), it’s been fun to discover new places, whether it’s from Google or a friend.
This week, I’m thrilled to share a new find (to me) that will definitely be included in my upcoming guide! I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Chris, the owner of Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe!
Among many other distinctions, Chaco Canyon is the only certified organic vegetarian restaurant in Seattle (and the first in Washington); others may be organic, but they are the only vegetarian one.
Lots of places may use terms like “organic” on their menu and it can be vague – what exactly is organic? Sometimes not even the waitstaff know! Chaco wanted to prove what they are doing: using 94-97% organic ingredients throughout the year.
They’ve even made it a priority to source locally. In fact, because tomatoes haven’t been available during the winter, they removed tomatos from their menu during those months and offered new items based on items that could be found locally.
While it’s exciting to see restaurants have this kind of integrity, Chris realizes that it definitely raises an interesting question of organic vs. conventional – which is better for the planet and for us? Simply: there is no easy answer.
You can read even more about their commitments and some of the other “firsts” they’ve accomplished right on their home page.
What we talked about…
- What do they hold as most important?
- How they plan to grow and keep their ideals
- What % of people who eat there are actually vegetarian or vegan (you may be surprised)
- Why do they have scientists on staff?
It’s a bit challenging to hear everything that Chris says – the price you pay running a popular spot!
More about Chaco…
- They’re not dogmatic about being vegetarian – you won’t find any “buzz words” around
- They geek out by making things as sustainable as possible: you won’t even find a trash can there!
- They definitely cater to the gluten-free crowd: using two separate kitchens to make this possible
Despite its firm ideals and solid approach, Chaco Canyon really began on a whim: Chris and his wife were out and saw an open storefront for lease. They weren’t looking to create a business, but she remarked, “you should start a cafe.”
Chris had never run a restaurant, though he did work at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, a fine dining restaurant dedicated to organic food production, small farms, and sustainable agriculture – the same themes that can be found in Chaco.
One of the coolest things I heard Chris say is that they can’t say their food is “good for you” because we’re all different. What they strive to do is provide good, compelling, vegan food and let their customers decide what to eat.
The goal is to be 100% sustainable – Chris knows it’s impossible, but it keeps pushing them. Sounds like a great practice to me. :-)
The mission is to have as few inconsistencies throughout the experience in the restaurant as possible, mostly in terms of sustainability and the environment. It is a little silly when you see an organization, for example, composting, and yet you can see so many other areas of waste they’re not addressing.
While tackling as many issues as they can, the folks at Chaco Canyon are also excited to educate and share that information with their customers.
PLUS, Chris really listens to his market: a few years back, the restaurant did a survey on if their customers would rather have recyclable cups or GMO (genetically-modified) corn-based compostable cups? The recyclable ones won in a landslide, and that’s what you’ll find with a to-go order.
What I ate there:
- cucumber and sea veggie salad
- ginger sesame bowl with kelp and zucchini noodes (WOW – pic above)
- special carrot chai drink
- gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan brownie (YUM)
Find their full menu here.
They also provide an extensive ingredients book at the register, should you feel inclined to peruse every item in any of their offerings – super helpful!
You can find Chaco Canyon online here, and if you’ll be in Seattle, you can check them at one of their two locations:
Corner of 50th & 12th
4757 12th Ave NE, 98105
Corner of Alaska & 38th
3770 SW Alaska St, 98126
On a final note, Chris believes that Chaco is no longer his vision: it’s an amalgamation of all his employees and customers – they are the ones with all the ideas of where to take this.
I’m really excited where that will be!
What do you think about Chaco Canyon, their menu, and their commitment to the environment?
I’d love to hear your answer along with any other comments you have below.
Until next time,