Go Eat!: Wallingford's Tilth Restaurant


By Julien Perry

SEATLLE - There's a new restaurant in Wallingford with a dirty name.

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It's called Tilth.

"Tilth is the first top layer of soil that has all the life, all the microbes and nutrients and minerals," says chef-owner Maria Hines, who was named one of the "Top Ten Best New Chefs in America" by Food & Wine magazine.

She says Tilth is also a metaphor for what she and her staff are going through.

"We're new and we're just gaining ground and trying to figure out what it's like to have a restaurant and make it be as successful as possible."

Maria opened Tilth last September - one month after leaving her post as executive chef of Earth & Ocean.

"A lot of people are like, 'Wow! You were so ambitious. I just can't believe how quickly you opened it up. That's so fantastic!' And I'm just thinking, 'Rent's due on September first, so that's when we (had to) open up!'"

Tilth is one of only two certified organic restaurants in Seattle (the other is Sterling Cafe in Ravenna). That means Maria had to prove to the Oregon Tilth that 95% of her food was bought organically.

"They go through, they take pictures of your walk-in areas, all of your food storage areas to make sure anything that's not organic is clearly labeled; that there's a clear separation between organic and non-organic.

"They also take a look at the chemicals in the dishwasher to make sure they're non-toxic and require copies of organic certifications from each vendor you're purchasing from."

But all that effort is paying off. Maria says she's getting lots of support from the locals who pack her restaurant every night. A free table is hard to come by these days.

"We have a tasting-sized portion and entree-sized portion for every single thing on the menu."

The simply-prepared menu items are echoed by the decor of the restaurant - a 1917 craftsman home with some of the original windows and moldings still intact.

"And the tabletops are made from bamboo hardwood. The paint on the walls is low VOC, so again, everything's kind of tying back into making sure we're taking care of our natural resources."

Maria says while certified organic restaurants aren't a trend yet - she hopes they will be soon.

"I really think that it would be beneficial to the health of the community, for peoples general health and for the health of the environment."

Places Maria likes to Go Eat!: Sitka & Spruce, Harvest Vine, Cafe Juanita, La Carta de Oaxaca.

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