A swarm of people in bright green T-shirts filled the main room of the 520 Bar and Grill in the Old Bellevue neighborhood with noise. Some were longtime vegans, while a few were carnivores looking to try something new. Altogether, the group was participating in the first Vegan Food Crawl, organized by Bellevue-based health coach and blogger Kirstin Wuhrman.
“I just noticed, on the Eastside, there’s not a lot of vegan-advertised restaurants, but there is actually a lot available,” she said. “My goal was just to expose Bellevue as a vegan-friendly city.”
After finding many clients, friends and others were interested in learning more about the vegan options available on the Eastside, Wuhrman organized the food crawl at four Bellevue restaurants: 99 Park Restaurant, 520 Bar and Grill, Moksha Indian Cuisine and Suite Restaurant and Lounge. More than 60 people from Bellevue, Redmond, Bothell, North Bend and Seattle quickly filled the available spots in the event.
Many participants echoed Wuhrman’s sentiments that it can be difficult to discover restaurants with vegan options in the Eastside.
“It’s hard for local restaurants to promote vegan menus. A lot of people have a set idea of what they can expect from that,” said Betina Finley, a polling and social media specialist who has worked for Moksha Indian Cuisine and attended the food crawl. “I’m thrilled that (Wuhrman) is doing this — marketing places like this and exposing it to people.”
A recent transplant from Los Angeles, food crawl participant Gail Goldman said she and her daughter Marley haven’t found as many options here compared to Los Angeles, and tend to eat at home more.
“There’s not a lot of vegan restaurants that I know of on the Eastside, so when we do eat out, we usually end up going into Seattle,” she said.
Others like Evan Davis said they do eat at restaurants regularly, but have to do research beforehand or, as a last resort, try to order off of the menu.
“There definitely are not vegan options on the menu at any given place,” said Davis. “Occasionally I’ll try to order off of the menu, but I know it’s an inconvenience for the restaurant.”
During the four course, chef-guided tour, participants sampled an array for vegan dishes from different types of cuisine. Dishes ranged from spinach pakoras to heirloom tomato and cucumber gazpacho.
For Wuhrman, vegan eating has become a substantial part of her life and her health and holistic living coaching business over the last few years. She turned to dietary coaching after years of working in the corporate field and becoming vegan herself.
“The tough thing is that when you go vegan for health-reasons, it’s really important to educate yourself on what that looks like,” she said. “It’s not a fad thing, but a healthy diet around all food groups.”
The final 2015 vegan food crawl in Bellevue will take place on Saturday, Aug. 1, but with the positive response and good ticket sales, Wuhrman said it’s likely she will go on to make it an annual or bi-annual event.
Find more information at Wuhrman’s blog: http://www.missbellevuevegan.com/