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Portland: A Food Vacation

Posted Apr 07 2013 1:05am

Over the past year or so, I found myself regularly drooling over food photos from Portland, Oregon in  VegNews Magazine and my Instagram  feed.  Known for it’s sustainable food scene, Portland looked to me like a Vegetarian Mecca and the city was calling my name!

I knew from previous experience  that my good friend Amy would be the perfect partner in crime for a vegetarian, foodie vacation and lucky for me she agreed to join me for 5 delicious days in Portland.

Amy wrote a great summary of our trip in her blog post , accurately describing our days as “Eat. Walk. Shop. Eat. Walk. Eat. Walk.” with a good mix of both healthy foods & splurges.  Following are just some of the wonderful eats we enjoyed in Portland with more to come soon!

(source: Photo by Amy)

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After taking the train from the airport and dropping our bags off at our hotel, our first stop was at Veggie Grill for a late lunch.  Similar to Native Foods Cafe , Veggie Grill is a 100% vegan, fast-casual chain primarily based on the West Coast.  

After traveling, I always find myself dehydrated and craving fruits & vegetables so it was the perfect time to try Veggie Grill’s infamous All Hail Kale Salad with ginger-papaya vinaigrette.  I had mine with Tempeh though Blackened Chik’n was also an option.  Amy and I shared sides of Quinoa Pilaf (which was just ok) and the Cauli-Mashed Potatoes & Gravy which were so tasty!  I didn’t even notice the cauliflower, they just seemed like very fluffy mashed potatoes.  Somehow, after all of that I was still hungry (I blame the time difference), so I also ordered a side of their vegan + gluten-free Mac & Cheese which tasted like the real thing, complete with crispy breadcrumbs on top.

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That night we had dinner at Portobello , a very popular and very cozy 100% vegan Italian Trattoria. They source local, organic ingredients whenever possible, and they also have substitutions available for my gluten-free friends!

We started out with the Beet Tartare with capers, cashew cheese, and baguette which was very delicious, though quite a lot for 2 people!

For our entrees, we decided to share both a lighter dish (light and lemony Trumpet Mushroom “Scallops” with Sweet Potato Mash & Rapini) and a pizza.  Neither of us could remember the last time we’d had a Pepperoni Pizza, so despite the temptation of a pear pizza, a spicy arrabiata pizza, and a kale pizza, we went with the classic of House-made Seitan Pepperoni, Cashew Cheese, and Marinara.  It was delicious, though I actually enjoyed it even more the next day when I had a cold slice from the hotel-room fridge for breakfast.

For dessert, I was dying to try their Vegan Tiramisu but we both were feeling very jet-lagged and were worried that the espresso in it might make it difficult to sleep.  Regretfully, we skipped dessert.

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Another night, we had dinner at Prasad  which has 4.5 stars on yelp and was even featured on a Portlandia skit.  Okay, so the skit happened to be about a “ Fart Patio “, but I saw past the gaseous comedy and saw a beautiful, upscale restaurant with fresh & tasty looking food and a huge patio.

I called the restaurant asking if they take reservations (they don’t), after which I felt really silly walking in to discover it’s actually a very tiny and very casual cafe & juice bar connected to a yoga studio.  The food was just as fresh & delicious as what was shown in the video, but there was no table-service and nope – no patio either!  I’m glad I went as I really enjoyed the restaurant’s calm atmosphere & healthful food, plus I got a good lesson that things on TV aren’t quite what they seem!

For my meal I ordered the Dragon Bowl with quinoa, beans, sea vegetables, avocado & steamed greens. I was also tempted by their daily special of the Raw Honey Sweet Grapefruit Gazpacho.  I didn’t realize that every soup order also comes with the choice of a side-dish so I got a salad too!  Both the Dragon Bowl and Salad came with my choice of sauce.  I ordered the Garlic-Tahini sauce with my Dragon Bowl and the Lemon Ginger sauce with the salad, but actually wound up switching what I used them on.

The beans in the dragon bowl were a little bland, but they really perked up with the Lemon Ginger sauce.  The Grapefruit Gazpacho was a nice blend of sweet, mellow grapefruit + savory onions – a strange but delicious combination. Everything was really fresh and despite having ordered so much food, I felt light and healthy after this hearty meal. 

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Another day, we popped into the Red and Black Cafe in between shopping.  I didn’t see a menu online, so we assumed it was just a coffee shop and went for a light bite.  In hind-sight, I wish we had brought heartier appetites along with us!

This bright, sunny cafe is Portland’s oldest worker-owned cooperative restaurant – and they too have a 100% vegan menu.  We absolutely loved the food and tea we had here and found it to be very fresh and high quality.  If that wasn’t enough reason to eat here, the cafe also is a huge supporter of the community.  They have regular events such as film screenings and author visits aimed at promoting social justice, and they proudly have a “ Safer Space Policy ” aimed at helping anyone typically marginalized by society.  We noticed a few people who were unable to purchase food using the restrooms and having a glass of water, and it was really nice to see that they were welcome.

Amy and I each ordered the Happy Hour Special of a “Mini Dragon Bowl” for $3.50.  Yes, this dish had the same name as what I ordered at Prasad, but it was quite different, and even tastier.  We both ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the Dragon Bowl’s Sesame-Peanut Noodles that were clearly freshly prepared for us.  I’d love to get their recipe for this perfectly executed dish!  And while the bowl may appear small, it was actually a very generous portion.  We were both too full for anything more than a salad that night.

And just for fun – how awesome is this art work they had hanging on the wall?

(source: Photo by Amy)

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And I’ll end this post with one place we didn’t get to eat at – Pine State Biscuits .  Sadly, we saved this (not vegan/vegetarian) Food Network favorite for our last day in town and wound up getting a surprise when we showed up at the door: They had MOVED!

But I’m happy to have a reason to need to go back to Portland again!

Stay tuned for more sights & eats around Portland.

I’d love to hear from you

Have you been to Portland, Oregon before?

What comes to mind when you think of Portland?

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