When it comes to finding the best local fresh veggies, there is no one we’d rather trust than the owner of a top vegetarian and vegan restaurant.
Nat Stratton Clarke is the owner of Cafe Flora in Madison Valley. With multiple ‘best of' awards from locals, Cafe Flora is heralded as one of the go-to spots for legitimate vegetarian and vegan food in Seattle.
Clarke started there as a buyer in 2004, working with small local farms to get the freshest and highest quality foods on their tables. After only a couple of years he became restaurant manager, and then purchased Cafe Flora from the previous owners in 2008.
“We’re one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the country,” said Clarke. “Almost 23! We’ve been sourcing from farms since the beginning.”
We decided to steal some of Clarke and Cafe Flora’s local produce knowledge – and find out which farmer’s markets (and which booths) he frequents to get the goods that makes Cafe Flora so spectacular.
Clarke’s three favorite farmer’s markets are Columbia City, Broadway and University District.
“I’ve been to every market in Seattle,” said Clarke. “But these are the three I go to every week. I try and find markets that cater to smaller farms who maybe can’t afford to do deliveries, and just count on the once a week markets to haul out their produce.”
Columbia City on Wednesdays ( 3 - 7 p.m.)
"This is a really unique market,” said Clarke. “It’s the only market some farms come to. One of the main reasons I go is to get these great pie cherries from Little Wing Farm, which you really can’t find anywhere else.
Clarke also gets his goat and sheep’s cheese (including the only locally made Hallumi) from Tieton Farm & Creamery, all his basil and edible flowers for the entire restaurant from the Whistling Train Farm booth, and a wonderful fresh apple cider from Rockridge Orchard.
“Another tip – get there early!” said Clarke. “Even though you can’t buy anything until the bell rings, you can browse and decide exactly what you want."
Broadway / Capitol Hill on Sundays (11 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
“Of course the Broadway Farmer’s Market doesn’t start until 11 a.m.,” said Clarke. “It’s Capitol Hill! People can’t be bothered to get out of bed before then.”
Regardless, Clarke heads out there every Sunday to get most of his greens from Local Roots Farms: lettuce, cabbage, turnips, kale, chard and collards.
“They’ve got the greatest variations of cucumbers too,” said Clarke. “The mini-white cucumber, lemon cucumber and the salt and pepper cucumber."
University District on Saturdays (9 a.m. - 2 p.m.)
“I get all my foraged mushrooms from Foraged and Found,” said Clarke. “It’s also huckleberry season, and there aren’t many places you can get that perfect huckleberry to make a great pie. Isn’t huckleberry pie just a sign of the best of the Northwest?”
Clarke also visits the Alm Hill Garden booth to get his berries, sunflower sprouts, English cucumbers and radishes – and stops by the U. District counterparts of Whistling Train Farm and Rockridge Orchard booths if he needs more basil or apple cider.
Now that you know how and where to get the best veggies, straight from the mouth of the owner of one of the top vegetarian spots in town – our next question is simple. What’s for dinner?