BY CAROL BANKS WEBER
Cynthia Hesslewood’s Sage & Cinder in Mukilteo is a dream come true for vegans. Winner of K5’s “2019 Best Vegan Restaurant of Western Washington” (“We have loyal fans”), this upscale eatery serves farm-to-table sure to turn even the most ardent meat-eater around.
An ethical vegan, Hesslewood wears many hats, hosting, cooking, reinventing comfort food she grew up with in Kansas and abroad, getting hands-on experience managing restaurants in Germany for 10 years.
Sage & Cinder in Mukilteo is a dream come true for vegans.
“It’s pretty much a requirement there that you do kitchen time. To be effective, you need to know where to fill in, everywhere.”
That multi-level, multi-cultural exposure served Hesslewood well when the Sydney Bakery closed two summers ago, giving her a chance to open up her own vegan restaurant in its place, in a 100-year-old cottage house on a hill overlooking Puget Sound.
In September 2018, Sage & Cinder opened “pure, almost 100 percent farm to fork,” serving small, shareable plates, tapas style, she recalls. “We had some push-back” from both vegans and non-vegans looking for affordable, hearty entrées they loved.
After adding comfort food — “hence, mac and cheese” — more people came around. Even the guys who ask for steak. About 70-80 percent of the menu changes seasonally.
It’s constant creation, a dance. You have to shift with the demands, especially with such a small menu, kitchen, and staff.
“I’ve been lucky, traveling quite a bit when I lived in Europe. I’ve eaten so many different types of food from Europe: Spain, Italy, Greece, North Africa,” she enthuses. “It’s fun to represent food from around that area, fuse it with our Pacific Northwest sensibilities and our produce, and turn it into something maybe similar, but a little different.”
She sources as local as possible, closer to 70-75 percent now, primarily through the Puget Sound Food Hub and Farmstand Local Foods. She also has a microgreens lady over by Paine Field.
“Being an ethically vegan business, we try not to buy from farms that are farming animals. We know that that’s almost impossible in the farm belt in Washington, but there are a handful of organic farms out there, they’re just doing produce. We also keep our restaurant animal-protein-free. It’s our little quasi-safe space.”
Summers = craft cocktails, outdoor seating, Weekend Brunch, Hesslewood’s favorite time of the day. Throngs of dedicated regulars make the pilgrimage over from as far as Seattle. “Brunch is kind of our signature. You get some of the same faces every Saturday. They have their seats. We know they’re coming; they don’t even need to reserve. We know what they’re gonna eat, they eat the same thing all the time.”
Sage & Cinder’s popular ala carte brunch features creative riffs on hearty comfort staples, like berry-inspired chocolate buckwheat waffles and Harvest Tofu Benedict with Hollandaise so creamy you forget it’s good for you.
Sage & Cinder | 613 5th St., Mukilteo
425-374-8355 | thesageandcinder.com