Sage & Cinder’s beluga lentil soup with charred sage and coconut cream. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Sage & Cinder’s beluga lentil soup with charred sage and coconut cream. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Vegan restaurant in Mukilteo appeals to meat-eaters, too

Sage & Cinder on Fifth Street hopes to draw diners, including non-vegan ones, from Snohomish County.

It doesn’t take long after being seated at Mukilteo’s new Sage & Cinder vegan restaurant to figure out this is not, as they used to say in the TV commercials, your father’s Oldsmobile.

Let’s start with the drinks. If your assumption of a vegan restaurant is a place where your choices will be green tea or kombucha, buckle your seat belt and get ready for a surprise.

There’s a page full of drinks to choose from, including reds and whites — wine that is. There are classic cocktails, like a gin and tonic ($10), and forged and found, smoked Zopopan tequila bitters, dry vermouth and homemade pickling juice ($12).

The beers include one that is gluten free, as well as seasonal beers on tap.

There are nonalcoholic drinks, including lemonade, bottled water and French press coffee. And then there was my choice: A mocktail. We’ll return to that in a minute.

The mocktail, a nonalcoholic drink with watermelon juice, lime, basil and soda. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

The mocktail, a nonalcoholic drink with watermelon juice, lime, basil and soda. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

So a few introductions. I am a vegetarian, or more specifically a pescetarian (I eat dairy and on occasion fish). Count me among those who don’t choose veganism as a daily practice, but welcome dabbling in its dairy- and meat-free dietary palette.

But for the real test of this restaurant’s chops, I brought along a true blue meat eater, coworker Evan Thompson. Let’s classify him as “vegan curious,” or as he more specifically said, game to give it a try.

Looking over the menu, we were both separately — and immediately — taken with the description of the soup: beluga lentils with charred sage and coconut cream ($6.50 for a bowl).

As we both took our our first spoonfuls, I waited for Evan’s reaction. He called it the best lentil soup he’s ever had. “My favorite part was the creamy texture with a smoky aftertaste,” he said.

Evan briefly debated his next choice, but finally settled on the cashew blue cheese (a cheese substitute made from cashews) stuffed dates wrapped with vegan prosciutto ($10) recommended by our server.

“It did not disappoint,” he said “The vegan prosciutto was a worthy substitute to bacon, while the dates were delicious.”

The cashew blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped with vegan prosciutto is part of menu aimed at being approachable to non-vegans. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

The cashew blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped with vegan prosciutto is part of menu aimed at being approachable to non-vegans. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

I choose the stuffed baked pears with cashew blue cheese, grilled fennel bulb and rainbow carrots ($12). It, too, was delicious.

The menu includes kids’ items, such as mac and vegan cheese ($6.50) and desserts, such as salted caramel ice cream with wild berry topping ($5.50).

Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I had the advantage of doing a little homework before I came, talking with Cynthia Hesslewood, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Sean.

I learned that part of the restaurant’s name came from her lifelong love of sage, an herb that when charred is added to some dishes.

The restaurant is housed on Fifth Street in the building formerly occupied by the Sydney Bakery & Wine Bar. Hesslewood said she used to go into Sydney’s as a customer and loved its location. It sits on a hill with a view of the nearby waterfront, ferry terminal and Whidbey Island.

The restaurant business is one where many successful people try concepts that end up being shipwrecked on the shoals of an ultra competitive field with everyone trying to be the new “it,” hip place.

Did she and her husband wonder if a vegan restaurant could financially succeed in Mukilteo, a city of about 21,000 people? “Of course,” she said. “You have to think like that as a business owner.”

But she said she thinks the restaurant will draw diners not only from Mukilteo but throughout the area. “We want our food to be approachable to non-vegans as well.”

Chef Akram Ziada previously worked in three restaurants in Australia. Despite it being his first vegan restaurant, Hesslewood said the blend of flavors he brings to food is unlike anything else she’s known.

Stuffed baked pears with cashew blue cheese, grilled fennel bulb and rainbow carrots at Sage & Cinder, a vegan restaurant in Mukilteo. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Stuffed baked pears with cashew blue cheese, grilled fennel bulb and rainbow carrots at Sage & Cinder, a vegan restaurant in Mukilteo. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

A few more points about the restaurant. Part of its charm is that it is so different. You just have to be prepared for a distinct dining experience.

And now to the mocktail. Its mix of watermelon juice, lime, basil and soda was delightful. Do know that at $9, it is near cocktail priced.

My coworker Evan Thompson told me he had some initial reservations about coming.

He wasn’t the only person in the restaurant in that situation. A couple was seated near us, and a woman who had a somewhat nervous look on her face said she had never been to a vegan restaurant.

Evan said he hadn’t either, but assured her that he loved the food.

“I assumed the ingredients would need to be top notch and full of flavor, which they were,” he said later, “but I was surprised by just how much of an impact these ingredients made.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

What: Sage & Cinder

Where: 613 Fifth St., Mukilteo

When: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

More: 425-374-8355 or www.facebook.com/Sage-and-Cinder-725368724519121

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