How Lifelong Vegan Makini Howell started a vegan food empire in Seattle


It’s been almost a year since we started to move away socially, staying at home to make mountains of sourdough, Korean smoothies, and the art of focaccia bread. But for all the home delight we have mastered, we’re ready for our favorite restaurants! So while travel is still not on the agenda, we’re celebrating with a tantalizing tour of the stories and recipes from some of America’s most beloved black vegan restaurants. From soul food in Detroit to Ethiopian fare in Brooklyn to a stoner-inspired burger restaurant in Wisconsin, brace yourself, because it’s time to eat.

From NYC to PNW

In the land of rain and coffee, comforting vegan food is practically a way of life. From a hot dog truck to a family-run Thai restaurant to the country’s oldest vegan pizzeria, there’s no shortage of pleasures in Seattle. But when longtime vegan Makini Howell quit her job as a fashion designer in New York City to return home to Washington, where she grew up working at Quickie Too, her mother’s all-vegetarian restaurant in Tacoma, she decided to create the restaurant she dreamed of having. but had not yet found. The result, Plum bistro, is a gastronomic institution that has attracted clients, both local and international, since 2009.


On the menu

Howell was not named one of the The New York Times‘”16 Black Chefs Who Are Changing America’s Food” For No Reason, And Her Customers Know Why. Among guest favorites is the Mama Africa salad – a bed of baby leaves topped with avocado, seasonal fruit from local farms, tempeh, almonds and seasoned quinoa, all drizzled with mustard aioli and lemon vinaigrette – a masterpiece of contrasting textures and flavors. For brunch, the peach and cream French toast (a breakfast classic reinvented with a generous serving of grilled peaches, caramel sauce, coconut whipped cream, maple syrup and an ingenious coconut whipped cheesecake butter) is another must-try.


Why we love Plum Bistro

Coming from a family of restaurateurs and agribusiness professionals, Howell’s CV has enough to make your mouth water. When she’s not hosting “Makini’s Kitchen” – a monthly cooking segment on the local Seattle King 5 station – Howell is dealing with not one or two, but five food concepts as part of her Plum Empire in booming. Keep it fresh and healthy? Visit Plum Chopped for a range of hearty and filling salads. Fancy some lunch? Stop in for a burrito or sandwich at Pantry by Plum, and don’t forget a dessert from Sugar Plum. And as you explore the Emerald City, keep your eyes peeled for the Plum Bistro Truck to stock up on burgers, wraps, and tacos.

Read the full Great American Black Vegan Restaurant Tour in the the latest issue of VegNews on newsstands now! For even more stories on nationwide black-owned vegan restaurants, follow our Black-Owned Restaurant web series. Don’t miss our coverage on Seasoned Vegan, Mattie’s Foods, Chi Chi Vegan, Vurger Guyz, Souley Vegan, Ras Plant Based, Spoiled Vegans, and Dirty lettuce.

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Tanya S. Norvell