The second part of this series of posts on vegan dining in Portland, Oregon is about 100% vegan restaurants, plus vegan treats. Part one was about Portland’s food carts, if you missed it.
Full Vegan Restaurant Dining
When it comes to 100% vegan sit-down restaurants, Portland delivers as well. The three below were the highlights:
The Bye and Bye (vegan)
Although this is predominantly a bar (note: no minors allowed after 8 p.m.), all the food is vegan. I had the BBQ tofu platter and was completely delighted. Sorry, I had already eaten half of it before I remembered to take a picture.
It was the best BBQ sauce I’ve had in ages. It was slightly spicy, didn’t have too much vinegar and I think it had a hint of peanut butter. The greens weren’t worth the effort, but the baked beans were great.
My husband had the BBQ tofu sandwich, which included avocado, red onions and jalapeño slices. He ate it before I remembered to take a picture. He also kept picking at my tofu so I think mine was probably better. If we had more time, I would have gone back to further explore the menu and the drink options!
Blossoming Lotus (vegan)
Blossoming Lotus was probably the closest to a Millennium-style vegan dining establishment in Portland. It’s located in the “historic Irvington District” at 1713 NE 15th Ave. We were a little grubby going in, having traveled through the Columbia River Gorge and over to Mt. Hood all day, so the quiet, relaxing atmosphere of Blossoming Lotus was appreciated!
The menu was a mixture of raw/live items and cooked entrees.
We started with the creamy pesto & white bean dip.
The bean dip was drizzled with pesto, which used an excellent light olive oil and lots of fresh basil. It was a great combo of flavors.
I also had the soup of the day, which was a tomato basil soup.
It was slightly creamy and not too acidic, as some tomato soups can be.
My husband ordered a side salad with his entree, which gave him his serving of beets for the day.
It came with a light creamy ginger dressing.
For the main entrée, I ordered the four cheese lasagna.
Similar to other Portland vegan creations, the homemade cheese-like products struck me a bit as “why bother when there’s Daiya?” The herb tofu ricotta was actually very good, but the lemon-basil cashew cream was oppressive. It was too much of a distraction from the well seasoned pasta sauce and just ended up being scraped to the side of the plate so I could get to the “good stuff.”
My husband was on a BBQ binge, so he went with the BBQ tempeh platter.
It was not so much a BBQ tempeh as it was tempeh cooked in a vinegar, tomato, red onion reduction sauce. The chili was of less interest since the tempeh was delicious, so it was barely touched. The corn bread was a great complement – slightly sweet and served with Earth Balance margarine on request.
The deserts didn’t hold much interest for us, mainly because we had Voodoo Doughnuts waiting for us in the hotel room, but they had an interesting raw key lime pie that I would have tried if the waiter hadn’t told me it was made of puréed avocado (see previous posts about the wrongness of vegetables as desert).
The place I was most interested in trying was Portobello due to the solid-looking Italian menu. We seriously lack decent vegan Italian food in Phoenix so I was looking forward to a nice experience. We went with friends, which meant we could try a wide variety of the menu (which is rarity for us). I didn’t take any pictures because the wait was long and we were starving by the time the food came. My “must eat now” instincts overwrote my “take blog photo” instincts.
We went with four courses for the meal: starters, pizza, pasta and desert. I now firmly believe every meal should come with a pizza course.
For starters we had the beet tartare with carrot aioli and cashew cheese; the olive plate and the arugula salad with chao cheese, beets, walnuts, apples & moscatel vinaigrette. Out of these three the only one I tried was the salad. The “chao cheese” was great – like a light ricotta. Everyone else at the table loved the beet tartare but I think I had hit my limit with cashew cheese at that point in the trip.
The pizza course reunited me with my addiction for Daiya cheese, so “hooray” all around for that! We had a basic Daiya, red sauce, basil pizza while our friends tried the mushrooms, herbed black olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, and Daiya cheese pizza. They were impressed with the cheese (and one of our friends used to work at Millennium, so she’s hard to impress with vegan food!). I think the Pyro food card pizza was probably a bit better (less rushed) but it was still a quality pie that I would gladly have again.
For the main course, we ordered the smoked tomato sausage and cheese ravioli with tomato-basil sauce and cashew besciamela. Our friends ordered the fettuccine alfredo and the tempeh-walnut agnolotti with lemon & sage. Out of the three, the agnolotti got the biggest raves. They looked like over-stuffed pierogies and had a nice, delicate lemon sauce. I preferred the ravioli because I’m not a fan of walnuts. At one point I had to stop my husband from handing it over to our friends since it was “mine.” The alfredo got a thumbs down, but I wasn’t surprised by that. Out of the three I’d think that would be the hardest to vegan-ize.
Desert options were more limited than I expected. We were almost tempted by the raw chocolate tart but decided it might be too heavy after everything we had just consumed. We went with the apple tart with streusel topping and vanilla coconut bliss ice cream. It was good, but not stellar.
Overall I think the restaurant may be suffering growing pains after its recent expansion. We had a lovely time and were not in a rush, but they need to do some tweaking of service levels and food delivery timing as some of our items seemed to have sat for a bit before being served. And the food prep needs just a bit more TLC. For instance, there was no salt on the table. The reason we were offered for this was that the chef felt the food wouldn’t need salt. We all agreed that they aren’t quite ready for that affectation. They are ambitious, and will probably improve over time into a premier vegan dining experience.
Portland Eats Vegan Treats
Portland did not lack for fine vegan sweets to eat! I know we didn’t make it to all of the local vegan-friendly bakeries, but here’s what we tried:
Sweetpea Baking Company (vegan)
If I could take one Portland dining establishment, pick it up and drop it in Phoenix it would be Sweetpea Baking Company at 1205 SE Stark Street (and the two shops next door to it – Herbivore Clothing and Food Fight vegan grocery).
Sweetpea is the only restaurant that we visited twice. The first time was for Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch.
Brunch was set up as a buffet. We had vegan pancakes with fresh blueberry compote, tofu scramble, seitan with gravy, kale and potatoes. It was all well-prepared and a fun experience.
For desert, I had a toasted coconut cupcake, which was absolutely the best cupcake I’ve ever had in my life.
Before we left town I had to have another cupcake, so we went back on our way to the airport. The 2nd cupcake was just as excellent as the first. We also had a nice cup of Stumptown coffee and a slice of chocolate cake.
We grabbed a hummus sandwich for the flight home but I forgot to take a picture. The thick homemade bread kept the hummus in good shape for eating four hours later.
Voodoo Doughnut (vegan friendly)
No trip to Portland would be complete without standing in line for 45 minutes to get a fancy doughnut. I sent my husband off to Powell’s Books while I endured the fellow tourists and doughnut hecklers (yes, there were hecklers).
I was a little worried when I saw a bacon doughnut go by that I might be wasting my time. However, once inside, their selection of vegan doughnuts was impressive!
It was hard to choose! After a lengthy negotiation with my husband over the phone, I went with a cake chocolate, a raised chocolate, an old dirty bastard and a Portland cream (counterclockwise from top left in photo).
I don’t think I would have gone wrong with any selection. I don’t remember the last time I had a raised doughnut, so it was a true treat! The raised doughnuts were light and not glazed. An added bonus was that the people working there were very nice – which was a big surprise given how intolerable it must be to have to put up with non-stop customers (who probably all complain about the wait).
Whole Foods Market (vegan friendly)
Of course it’s not unique to Portland, but we stopped at the Pearl District Whole Foods at 1210 Northwest Couch St. to do some essentials shopping (soy milk, coffee, hummus, etc.).
I was beyond exhausted so I went straight to “The Mezz,” the coffee bar upstairs in the store. Humorously enough, it also had a real bar in it with beer and wine. I’ve always heard WFM is a great singles pick-up spot so Portland’s just taken it to the next level I guess! Even though I hadn’t had dinner yet, I eyed a piece of vegan chocolate cake and thought “what the heck.”
I forgot to take a picture, but take my word for it – it was awesome (and my husband’s favorite treat out of all we tried in Portland). The cake was moist and the frosting didn’t have that “fake” butter cream taste that sometimes comes with vegan treats (or even non-vegan treats).
Part three, on lowlights and our overall experience, is online now.