Nothing brings people together like a meal. No matter what’s on the menu, sitting down to comfort food is good for body, mind, and soul. Thanks to downtown Olympia’s new Wayside Café and Deli, the fare is entirely plant-based, handcrafted, and utterly decadent.
Located at 609 Capitol Way South, doors opened at the end of July 2018. The brainchild of Kevin Rainsberry and Jamie Vulva, the Wayside started as a community-funded Kickstarter project to bring plant-based dining to town.
Kevin and Jamie met nearly a decade ago at the iconic Olympia diner King Solomon’s Reef. Jamie focused on service and front-of-house management – not an easy task at all hours of the day and night – while Kevin prepped and cooked in the bustling kitchens.
In their pitch to fundraisers, the overall goal was simple: “We believe that this town is in desperate need of a haven for vegan and vegetarians alike. While most restaurants in the area do offer vegetarian and vegan options, they are often few and lackluster. The meatless community is here, visible, and it is eager for something new and interesting to fill in the gap. Food at The Wayside will be delicious and of a high quality, as many of you already know. Customers will come because of the flavor and quality of food, regardless of whether it is plant based or not.”
“I really want to bring a more awareness to just how indulgent a vegan diet can be to vegans and non-vegans alike,” says Jamie. “You don’t have to make sacrifices or settle for something less than what you want. Even with plant-based diets being more pervasive among humans than ever, I still feel plant-based eating is something that is often pigeonholed as being unexciting and bland. I want to share my idea of what not settling tastes like in hopes that it brings joy to some and awareness to others.”
“Separately we’ve been thinking about opening a restaurant for years,” says Kevin. “We worked together and have similar likes and pickiness. When the spot came open, we decided it was the right spot.”
Their storefront faces downtown’s centrally located Sylvester Park. “From working late nights at The Reef for the last eight years, I have a pretty strong relationship with the community,” says Jamie. “So many of my regular customers have followed me to the restaurant. I have never felt so supported and cared for. Olympia is my home. I love downtown. I love the community. I wouldn’t want to do this anywhere else.”
And thankfully absolutely everything is selling well. Their initial menu features such treats as a Cajun chicken sandwich, rib plate, and mac and cheese. Or stop for a late-night beer and slice of fan-favorite cheesecake. Whether you’re a lifelong vegan or recent convert or just want a plant-based meal, there’s something for everyone. Rich and hearty or light and healthy, the menu offers it all.
Hot sellers – literally – include the red chili jackfruit, a fragrant stew served with green chili pepita sauce, and sizzling cauliflower wings breaded and fried, tossed with buffalo sauce, and served with a side of ranch dressing.
As they find their way, currently all eight staff help with prep and most cook on the line. Recipe creation is split 50/50 between Kevin and Jamie. Some recipes are tried and true favorites from their time at the Reef, others were tested at a community pop-up dinner hosted by the Three Magnets Brewing Company.
Recent customer and local musician Danielle Westbrook can’t get enough. “I entered the Wayside Café expecting great things. Back in February, I’d thoroughly enjoyed Kevin’s fare at the Eye-2-Eye celebration for the Interfaith Works Overnight Shelter. What I didn’t expect was culinary magic. Each morsel was delectable – I kid you not. Collard greens, cauliflower wings, and the five-spice fried chicken with macaroni and cheese…scrumdiddlyumptious and I couldn’t eat it all because the portions were so huge. Bravo! Can’t wait to try the rest of the menu.”
Currently open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., the staff is busy but tired. “Everyone thought we were crazy for not giving ourselves a day off,” laughs Kevin, “and now I see why.” They hope to soon add specials and create their front deli case full of to-go salads, sandwiches, and more.
Despite millennia of history, the BBC, BuzzFeed, National Restaurant Association, and Travel Channel all taut plant-based eating as one of the top 2018 food trends. Join the excitement by experiencing it fresh, local, and close to home. This is one trend you can let fall by the Wayside…Café and Deli.