Like flowers in spring, new restaurants are blossoming in Seattle. We have nearly 3,000 restaurants now, up more than 25 percent from a decade ago. Not many of them were around 28 years ago. And of those that were, few still feel as contemporary as Cafe Flora, the beloved Madison Valley ode to fresh Northwest produce. Cafe Flora was farm-to-table before that phrase became ubiquitous.
A couple of years ago, Cafe Flora’s owner, Nat Stratton-Clarke, became interested in opening a second location. He looked at Capitol Hill and Ballard. But then an intriguing and unusual opportunity arose: Sea-Tac Airport. In February of 2018, Nat opened Floret by Cafe Flora. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant is located by the Delta lounge between terminals A and B. There is a full-service restaurant that seats 80 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those on the run, it offers coffee, pastries and healthy grab-and-go options, including hot meals. Floret has been busy since day one.
Floret: New Challenges Arise
Even though it’s in the airport, Floret is in a beautiful, light-filled atrium, making it reminiscent of the conservatory feeling one gets at Flora. “I wanted it to feel like Flora—and natural light is a big part of that,” says Nat. “When the space became available, I really felt like it was the right one for us to bid on.”
Like Cafe Flora, Floret serves vegetarian and vegan food, much of it made from produce freshly delivered from local farms. Nat says, “So many people are excited about good food. Most of our guests aren’t vegetarian. They’re just excited about something delicious to eat that happens to be vegetarian.”
Because it’s the airport, all employees and vendors must go through security. “We had to get our farmers badged,” Nat says. “Fresh deliveries are so much a part of what we do at Flora, and we weren’t going to change just because there are a few more hurdles.”
There have been logistical challenges, besides security. The airport is open 365 days a year—rain, sleet or snow. During the snows this past February, many employees stayed at an airport hotel so they could be there to prepare for the 4:30 a.m. opening. “Macrina was right there with us delivering bread and getting everything out there no matter how much snow was coming down,” Nat says. “Folks who were delayed stayed for breakfast, lunch and dinner—which was amazing. We had to close at Cafe Flora. There’s no option to close at the airport. That was new to us and we rallied together to find solutions.”
Nat is an avid Farmers Market shopper and market produce always finds its way onto the menu. “I love it in Seattle this time of year, when the city embraces nettles and fiddlehead ferns,” Nat says. “Other cities might hold out for asparagus and strawberries, but we get excited early. Ready for that fresh green. As much as we all love a root vegetable, by March we’re ready to say farewell to butternut squash for a couple of months. We love that bright green flavor you get from nettles. We were just talking in the kitchen about nettle pesto to go with gnocchi. Things like that are one of the really cool things about spring in the Northwest.”
Whether you’re on your way somewhere or looking for a great meal in the city, Cafe Flora and Floret are great dining options. You’ll enjoy exquisitely prepared meals made with produce delivered fresh daily from farms such as Local Roots in Carnation, Tonnemakers in Woodinville, Whistling Train Farm in Kent, and Hayton Farms in Skagit Valley. It’s no mystery why Cafe Flora is still going strong after 28 years and Floret has found such a following at Sea-Tac.