Category Archives: Two Legs

Tediberto’s: Vegan and gluten-free Mexican food in downtown Phoenix

<Note: Sadly, it looks like Tediberto’s has closed as of mid-December. Hopefully they’ll be back! I crave the nachos.>

Tediberto’s , a new vegan and gluten-free Mexican restaurant on Roosevelt and First Street, has a unique vision. The restaurant presents patrons with a club atmosphere, and the late-night hours to match. Tediberto’s offers an authentic craft cuisine that makes it distinctive both as a vegan dining experience and as a Mexican restaurant.

After much anticipation among Phoenix’s vegan community, Tediberto’s finally opened for business earlier this summer. We’ve made it there three times, and each time the menu had expanded and offered new items for us to try. The latest version of the menu has adopted a “tapas” approach, offering the widest variety of dishes yet.

Tediberto's menu

Rather than describing our experiences during each visit, I’ll just run through everything we’ve tried so far. I’ll start by saying that everything at Tedi’s is very spicy – which I love and appreciate, but it may not work for everyone. Items can be made “gringo” style, but even that has a kick to it.

The No Whey Jose Nachos are a must try.

Tediberto's no whey jose vegan nachos

We’ve had them twice, and they’ve been consistently good. The vegan chorizo is robust and spicy. Although I personally prefer a Daiya-style melted cheese topping on my nachos (okay, on everything), the queso provides enough of a gooey texture to satisfy the vegan cheese lover in all of us.

The chips and salsa are also excellent.

Tediberto's chips and salsa

Tedi’s salsa is fresh and full of chopped jalapeno. The chips are a bit generic, but more than substantial enough to support all the toppings.

We were served salads on our first two visits, but for some reason, not on the third.

Tediberto's salad (with chips and salsa)

The salads were different each visit – one was predominantly kale, the other was cabbage-based. The salads weren’t highlights of the meals, but they provided a nice mouth cooler after the nachos or chips and salsa. They also reflect the fact that the restaurant  continues to tinker with its offerings.

We’ve tried two different types of tacos – La Borrachita and La Sirena.

Tediberto's vegan and gluten-free tacos

I highly recommend La Borrachita tacos, which uses the same delicious chorizo as in the nachos. Meant to emulate fish tacos, La Sirena tacos were too bland for my tastes but they might be good if you are looking for something less spicy.

On the first and second visits, the tacos were soft shelled, but on the third, they were fried/hard shelled. I’d recommend fried if you are given a choice!

Tediberto's la borrachita vegan and gluten-free tacos

The Tostada De La Tierra is a lighter dish featuring a mild mole sauce.

Tediberto's vegan tostada de la tierra

This one is probably another good option for the heat sensitive.

Another standout on the menu is the No Pesadilla Quesadilla.

Tediberto's no pesadilla quesadilla

Gooey, rich and chewy (and based yet again on Tedi’s signature chorizo!), this may be my favorite of their creations.

I also tried the enchilada.

Tediberto's vegan enchilada

I loved the unique rich red sauce, but unfortunately I was scared off by the chef’s “triple-Thai heat” warnings and ordered it gringo style. It could have been hotter for me. Next time, I plan to try it at full heat!

Last but not least, Tedi’s touted their onion rings special on their Facebook page so I had to give them a try.

Tediberto's vegan and gluten-free onion rings

Vegan and gluten-free onion rings are not an easy trick to pull off, but these were great. The curried ketchup, chipotle and mustard dipping sauces were a nice touch.

Tedi’s has the ambition and vision to become a staple in our dining rotation, and I’m rooting for them. But if you go in the near future, be prepared for a restaurant still in its growing-pains stage. The atmosphere is quirky, the hours are irregular and they continue to fine tune the menu items. Though they have attracted a dedicated following among the young club scene, they have a lot to learn about how to create an inviting dining experience for the average “off the street” customer. The staff at Tediberto’s has plenty of passion, youthful energy and enthusiasm. I really hope they make the transition from hip late-night hang-out to top-notch restaurant. I’d love to see Tediberto’s survive and thrive.

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Nami! Green! Downtown Phoenix! It’s all happening!

Green New American Vegetarian downtown Phoenix location

This is just a quickie in case anyone hasn’t heard the most exciting news to hit Phoenix in 2011. Both Nami and Green are open in the “downtown” location: 2014 North 7th St. Nami opened Friday, and Green opened today, on “World Vegetarian Day” – how fitting!

Nami features tsoynamis and delicious vegan desserts (cookies, cupcakes, etc.). Green has the same vegan menu as the Tempe location.

Nami vegan treats case

We popped in for dessert after having a Berkley Vegan at zpizza (because we didn’t know Green was open too!) and picked up a few treats to go.

Nami vegan treats

It doesn’t look the the Green/Nami websites are updated with info for the new locations yet, but the Green Facebook page should give you all the info you need. Nami is open Monday – Sunday, 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. but I don’t know the Green hours yet.

Congrats to the Green team for making it happen!

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Where Can Vegans Eat in Downtown Mesa?

There’s one area of greater Phoenix that I still haven’t cracked in terms of finding a decent vegan meal: downtown Mesa. We visit the Mesa Arts Center frequently, in particular for the National Geographic Live! series. The Nat Geo events are on Wednesdays, so we’re always rushing from work to Mesa through traffic, and want to eat close to the venue. But there just aren’t that many places to eat at, especially for vegans!

We’ve tried George’s Gyros (generic falafels and hummus, but not horrible), Inside The Bungalow (has some vegan food, but when we’ve tried going there for dinner they haven’t been serving food – that may have changed though?), Mangos Mexican Café (okay in a pinch, but kind of iffy), and El Charro (classic Mexican food and such a cute place, but no doubt full of lard). There’s also a Subway and a Taco Bell, but that doesn’t count as vegan dining – that’s just emergency food.

During our last trip, we finally made it to a Thai restaurant we’ve had our eye on that looked promising – Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine. We arrived about an hour before our event, and every table was full. That was both a good and bad sign – good because a lot of people liked the restaurant. Bad because it seemed like a lot of people were waiting on service. The menu offered tofu as an option for almost every dish, so that also gave us hope.

We started with an order of Crispy Spring Rolls.

Nunthaporn crispy spring rolls

We would normally get the Fresh Rolls, but they had shrimp in them. That should have been a warning to us. The crispy rolls were fine and perfectly vegan, and ultimately the highlight of the meal.

Our next dish was a Papaya salad (Som Tom).

Nunthaporn papaya salad

The menu described it as “Shredded green papaya and carrots, tomatoes, string beans and roasted peanuts tossed in spicy lime juice with chopped garlic and chili.” What the menu neglected to mention was that the dish also included fish sauce. I took one bite and wanted to wretch. I’ve never had a papaya salad with fish sauce in it before, so it was a total shock.

For our main entree, we ordered the Evil Jungle Princess (Pad Ka) with tofu.

Nunthaporn evil jungle princess with tofu

The dish was tofu sautéed in coconut milk with galangal root, lemon grass, lime leaves, mushrooms (which we had them leave out), onions and spicy lime sauce. Despite being named “evil” it was actually quite bland. I had specifically ordered it with no fish sauce, knowing that most Thai restaurants use it by default in entrees (but not salads!). However, it still tasted slightly fishy to me. It could have been the lingering effects of the salad though. The tofu was either too soft or under-cooked, and there were hardly any veggies at all. I ate enough to quell the hunger, but was really bummed as I said “never again” to my husband.

So, scratch that one from the list of options in downtown Mesa as well. Please, someone, tell me where we can eat down there! We still have two National Geographic shows to go to in the next few months! The other place I’ve had my eye on is the Blue Adobe Grille, but the menu online doesn’t give me much hope for vegan options. Has anyone tried it?

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No Vortex for Vegans in Sedona

I was hoping to avoid ever having to write a negative post about a vegan restaurant in Arizona. However, my recent experience at ChocolaTree Café in Sedona left me with no choice.

ChocolaTree Vegetarian Restaurant

With the demise of D’lish, the only other 100% vegetarian restaurant in Sedona, former raw turned vegan restaurant ChocolaTree became our focus for a day trip out of Phoenix.

The menu online looked promising enough, with a variety of standard vegan food options plus some interesting looking desserts. We arrived at about 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday, well past lunch hour, and found a line at the order counter of about six people. It was pretty clear from watching the not-so-streamlined order process that we’d be in for a bit of a wait. The counter person told the people in front of us it would be about 15-20 minute for any cooked food. Okay, no problem, we’re patient types. When it was our time to order, we selected a raw appetizer since we were hungry, a raw veggie sandwich and a cooked veggie burger, plus two deserts.

The small dining area inside was full, so we went to the garden in the back, which was nicely shaded even if the rickety patio tables/chairs were less than comfortable. It was pleasant enough, but the guy serenading his dining companions with folksy acoustic guitar tunes didn’t provide the type of peaceful ambiance I was after. Our next warning signal that our experience at ChocolaTree wasn’t going to go well came in the form of a seminar taking place on the ground next to us on fasting and cleansing. Aside from not wanting to hear about the importance of “poop” while I’m waiting for my meal, the more they talked about not eating, the hungrier I got. From looking around at the other tables full of people with no food, it felt like the entire restaurant had decided that fasting was the way to go that day.

From what we could tell, there was one person serving all the food, and she was stressed. She brought free appetizers to everyone else in the garden to apologize for the wait, but completely ignored us. We watched as various people got up and went inside to complain, came back with desert before lunch, etc. and then we eventually started to see some food come out. Forty-five minutes later, our raw appetizer of Thai Spring Rolls emerged.

ChocolaTree Thai Spring Rolls

Truth be told, they weren’t bad, but then again, we were starving by that point. The coconut-curry wrap was interesting and different from anything I’ve had before, but the massive amount of sprouts with a few other veggies inside the wrap left me cold (and still hungry). The sprouted nut dipping sauce was intensely garlicky, but palatable.

I lost track of how long it took for our lunch entrees to emerge, but it was probably another 15 minutes. My husband stuck with the safe option of a veggie sandwich.

ChocolaTree veggie sandwich

As you can tell from the picture, sprouts must be on sale in Sedona. There was nothing interesting or unique about this sandwich, other than it being vegan, and I suppose the $9 price tag for $1.50 worth of veggies is worth a comment. The sprouted grain bread was decent enough though.

My choice was the veggie burger.

ChocolaTree veggie burger

That thin red layer at the bottom of all those sprouts and lettuce is the veggie burger. It didn’t taste bad, and it was definitely unique, but all I could think of was “where’s the beef” while I rapidly consumed it.  It seemed to be beet-based, but the sandwich also had a tomato blend on it which added to the flavor. I certainly wouldn’t drive to Sedona for it again, but it was at least creative.

By this time (about 1.5 to 2 hours later), we just wanted to get the heck out of town, so my husband went inside to ask for our desserts to go. This wasn’t a problem, because the desserts we ordered were pre-packed. When we got home, we started eating our slices of double chocolate ganache cake and coconut cream pie. Both tasted horrible. To quote the menu, these deserts were supposed to be “pure vegan nourishment homemade with natural sweeteners.” But, to add insult to injury, we looked at the ingredients listed on the to-go containers and found that both contained honey. Seriously? They weren’t even vegan! Sorry, no pictures. They went straight into the trash. Later, I found a review of ChocolaTree’s chocolate online that asked what I thought was a very relevant question: “It’s not supposed to taste like ass, is it?”

After having so many good vegan dining experiences around the world, going back to a 1972 stereotype of what a vegan is supposed to eat (i.e. sprouts) was an incredible disappointment, especially in Sedona, “town of enlightenment.” I’ll always give a restaurant an initial pass on poor quality service, but given the total bill for our meal was over $50 and the dessert wasn’t vegan, I just can’t recommend going there and will certainly never go back unless someone can convince me that I’m wrong about this place. Other folks have written positive reviews of ChocolaTree, so maybe I just caught them on a bad day. But clearly there has to be some place good for vegans to eat in Sedona. I just haven’t found it yet. I welcome any feedback on other places to try in town.

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Vegan Vacation: Portland, Oregon (part 3 of 3)

The third part of this series on our vegan vacation to Portland, OR (aka PDX) is about the places we didn’t like as much, plus a general overview of our trip including a great We Like Cats record release party. Click back to part one (on Portland food carts) and part two (on 100% vegan restaurants and vegan treats) for more info about Portland vegan food.

Portland Vegan Dining Lowlights

We did have a few less-than-stellar meals in Portland. These three in particular left me feeling like I wasted a dining opportunity.

Pok Pok (barely vegan friendly)

Our friends had heard a lot about Pok Pok, in particular about how authentic their Thai food was. We took a quick glance at the menu online before going to see if there were vegan options, but should have looked closer.

While our friends delighted in the non-vegan options, there were only five “available vegetarian” items on the menu, with half being mushroom dependent (and I’m anti-mushroom). We ordered two of them: Papaya Pok Pok and Khao Soi Kai. The Papaya Pok Pok was a generic papaya salad that wasn’t too different from what we can get at various places in Phoenix. The Khao Soi Kai was a tasty coconut curry noodle soup that reminded me of something I get at Wagamama – yasai itame. It wasn’t too spicy but they provided chili paste on the side so that you could heat it up to taste. I would have liked more veggies in it beyond the few uncooked shallots and mustard greens you could add-in.

I’m not sure what was in their “secret curry paste” but whatever it was messed with my stomach something awful, and I was out of sorts starting from the drive back to the hotel and lasting for more than 24 hours. Truth be told, I’m still not in great digestive shape since that meal! In short, I’d much rather go to our favorite Thai restaurant near our house in Phoenix.

Papa G’s Deli (vegan, 100% organic)

It probably isn’t fair to call Papa G’s a lowlight. I just ordered wrong. Papa G’s offers a traditional/stereotypical “healthy living through vegetarian food” dining experience. They have a rotating daily menu of three or four main hot bar items that can be served as a bowl or plate, plus a few sandwiches, sides and a soup and salad bar. You can try anything before buying, which is what I should have done before ordering their vegetable curry bowl with rice.

Papa G's vegan curry bowl

It was about as bland as it looks. The tofu was fresh and interesting, but overall it reminded me of the free vegetarian meals I used to get from the Hare Krishnas on the Plaza at the University of Florida. However, I had tried the lentil soup and it was great. I have no idea why I didn’t order it, other than a food-fried brain that was past the point of making good decisions.

My husband ordered the Reuben sandwich.

Papa G's vegan Reuben sandwich

It was about what you’d expect from a vegan Reuben – nothing special. At least Papa G’s didn’t leave me in pain like Pok Pok did!

Taqueria Los Gorditos (vegan friendly)

Taqueria Los Gorditos

We had been warned that Gorditos had “gone downhill” but since I live in Phoenix, I had to try Portland’s attempt at vegan Mexican food. The full vegan menu had me overly-excited. Unfortunately the quality of the food was a major let down.

We started with chips and salsa.

Chips and salsa at Los Gorditos in Portland, OR

The salsa was pleasant/fresh made, but the chips were fresh from a bag. Blah.

My husband ordered a vegan tamale and a Soyrizo taco.

Vegan tamale and Soyrizo taco at Los Gorditos

The tamale was stuffed with what seemed to be Green Giant spring mix frozen vegetables and a generic red sauce. The taco was a little better, but still barely worth eating.

Silly me ordered the three enchiladas platter.

Three vegan enchiladas platter at Los Gorditos

I selected one each of cheese, Soyrizo, and soycurls. The soycurls (which is apparently the most popular meat substitute aside from sausage in Portland) one was okay, the Soyrizo one was almost bitter tasting and fairly inedible, and the Follow Your Heart “cheese” one was absolute, unequivocal fail. The cheese didn’t even attempt to melt. It was like thin slices of cold plastic inside a lightly cooked soft corn tortilla. Portland… learn to use Daiya! The beans and rice were actually pretty good. I should have just stuck to a bean burrito like I usually do.

In Summary

We really enjoyed our vegan vacation in Portland. I know it’s hard to believe, but we didn’t spend every second of our visit eating. We went to the coast for a day, and went up the Columbia River Gorge historic highway and over to Mt. Hood. I wanted to make it to Mt. Saint Helens too, but it would have been too much driving for one trip. The rental car place ran out of the cheap compact car I reserved and gave us a VW Beetle instead, so we fit right in with the Portland crowd (and its size made street parking very easy!). My husband posted some random pictures from our explorations in and out of town if you’d like to check them out.

We even got extremely lucky in the music department. A day or two into the trip I connected a dot that one of my favorite experimental/avant-garde musicians lives in Portland – Adam Forkner (of too many bands to list but White Rainbow is the main one now I think). We looked him up and discovered he was having a record release part for yet another new musical venture called We Like Cats while we were in town. And one of my absolute favorite musicians, Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, K Records), came down from Olympia to spin dub discs at the party. It was a great scene, although we were too old to last much past midnight.

The first few days we were there were overcast and slightly rainy, but it eventually turned sunny – almost too sunny for me! From the way the locals reacted, I think it was the first sunny day all year. We did a lot of walking, so I took time out for a reflexology appointment for my bum ankle at The Dragontree day spa. I don’t think I would have made it through the rest of the trip without it!

On the food front, our assessment is that most of the food we tried is “for hipster kids” (street food, junk food, fun food) but it sure would be nice to have at least a third of what’s available for vegans in Portland here in Phoenix. Especially Sweetpea. I also would like to send sample packs of Daiya to every restaurant that wasn’t using it yet.

We didn’t get to try two of my favorite cuisines – Indian and Ethiopian food – mostly because I had to stay away from the heavy spice/gut bombs after Pok Pok. That’s a reason to go back sometime, right?

Ultimately, we didn’t find a true “gourmet” vegan experience of the level of Blossom or Candle Café in New York, Millennium in San Francisco or Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles, but I think Portobello and Blossoming Lotus are headed in the right direction.

Our list of restaurants to try was twice as long as what we were able to do in the time available. Let us know if we missed the best ones in case we make it back some day!

Much thanks goes to the Stumptown Vegans blog for helping us chart our path through Portland’s vegan dining experience.

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Vegan Vacation: Portland, Oregon (part 2 of 3)

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.

The Bye and Bye BBQ tofu platter

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.

Blossoming Lotus 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.

Blossoming Lotus tomato 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.

Blossoming Lotus salad

It came with a light creamy ginger dressing.

For the main entrée, I ordered the four cheese lasagna.

Blossoming Lotus vegan 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.

Blossoming Lotus vegan 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).

Portobello (vegan)

Portobello logo

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.

Sweetpea Baking Company vegan Sunday 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.

Sweetpea Baking Company vegan toasted coconut cupcake

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.

Sweetpea Baking Company vegan 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).

Line at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR

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!

Vegan doughnut options at Voodoo Doughnut

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).

Vegan doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut

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.).

Whole Foods Market in Portland, OR (Pearl District)

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.

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Vegan Vacation: Portland, Oregon (part 1 of 3)

For us, the trick to planning a vacation is to strike a balance between vegan food options and interesting things to do and see. This year we decided to visit Portland, since it is not only surrounded on all sides by beautiful and day-trip accessible scenery, but it is also a very vegan-friendly city. There were far more places to eat than we have time for, but we tried to make it to as many as possible. Our newly expanded waistlines prove it.

Here are the highlights (and lowlights) of what we did manage to tackle, in three parts.

Cartopia

One of the most unique aspects of Portland dining is the plethora of food carts. Think state fair food trailers, but without the cotton candy; or mall food court, but without the mall. Food carts are all over town – in major groupings of 10 – 15, or in stand-alone spots with just one or two carts. Most were in parking lots or on sidewalks, and few had dedicated parking. They are clearly designed for the mixed-use urban lifestyle (which doesn’t really exist in Phoenix, so it was a very foreign concept to me). The cuisines available via cart are predominantly ethnic (Thai, Vietnamese, Afro-Caribbean, Pho, Lebanese, Indian, Mexican, etc.) but you could also find soup, barbeque, crepes, fried pies and even waffles. I think the only thing I didn’t see was burgers and fries but maybe I was too blinded by the variety to notice.

Our favorite cart spot was nicknamed “Cartopia” on SE 12th St. and Hawthorne, which is on the east side of the river.  It’s a nice self-contained spot with the carts in essentially a circle, and picnic tables for diners. Parking options weren’t great, but we could usually park on the street a block or so away. We visited this spot a couple of times and tried these carts:

Pyro Pizza (vegan friendly)

Pyro Pizza

This was our first stop once we got into town, and I’m not sure we ever topped it. We ordered a vegan version of the traditional margarita pizza with vegan sausage. The pizza was perfect.

Pyro Pizza

They have a big wood-fired pizza oven right in the cart, and they knew how to use it. The crust was light and slightly sweet, the sauce was as good as Pizzeria Bianco’s (in Phoenix) and I’m not sure if it was Daiya cheese or not, but it melted well and tasted great. We had quite a bit of vegan sausage on this trip, but Pyro’s was appropriately seasoned for Italian food (a bit of fennel and spice). It was really hard for me to not want to just keep going back there for more pizza every day.

Whiffies (vegan friendly)

Whiffies logo

My constant desire for anything fried drew me to Whiffies. I got lucky and visited on a day when they featured a vegan empanada, which was stuffed with a picadillo-like mixture, but they used vegan sausage instead of ground “beef”. Given my love of Cuban food, this was an exciting treat for me!

Whiffies fried pieWhiffies vegan empanada

Perierra Crêperie (vegan friendly)

While I was devouring my Whiffie’s fried pie, my husband went for the less greasy vegan mole crepe at Perierra Crêperie. I didn’t try it, but he said it was the best thing he had during our vacation. It was light, gluten free, the mole wasn’t overpowering so he could taste the mushrooms, spinach and pumpkin seeds.

Perierra Crêperie vegan mole crepe

Other Portland Food Cart Highlights for Vegans

Homegrown Smoker (vegan)

Homegrown Smoker vegan food cart

Homegrown Smoker is a totally vegan barbeque food cart. It’s one of many carts at SW 4th St. and College.  They styled up the cart with a cute metal roof. While they actually had a (paid) parking lot here for cart visitors, there wasn’t any dedicated seating for diners. Everyone sat across the street in a cement courtyard in front of a college building.

The menu offers Carolina-style southern food that verged on the “I can’t go there” – like the Macnocheeto, which stuffed MacNoCheese into a burrito along with beans, other stuff and vegan sausage or soy curls. Texture nightmare!

My husband was feeling more ambitious than me, and tried the SloSmoMoFo.

Homegrown Smoker SloSmoMoFo

The SloSmoMoFo was a smoked soy curls sandwich with cold slaw and BBQ sauce, plus a side of sweet potato fries. The sandwich was pretty heavy, but the fantastic BBQ sauce more than made up for it. He’s since gone scrambling looking for a recipe to replicate it. The fries were below average – soggy and tasteless.

I went to the comfort food zone and had the HGS Nachos and a side of MacNoCheese.

Homegrown Smoker HGS Nachos

Homegrown Smoker vegan MacNoCheese

The chips for the nachos seemed to be fresh cooked. They held up well under the tons of beans and gooey NoCheese sauce. The MacNoCheese wasn’t as good as my husband’s Daiya-based vegan mac and cheese, but was tasty in its own right. The portion was huge, so I barely cracked the surface of it!

FlavourSpot (vegan friendly)

What’s there to like about eating a waffle sandwich from a cart on the side of a road in downtown Portland? Everything! Waffle vendor FlavourSpot has three locations in Portland. We went to the “Old Town” location on SW 3rd and Ash. It was a walking/street car day so I didn’t check out the parking situation, and there were two benches for diners.

FlavourSpot

The vegan options on the menu were limited, but no worries. Two vegan waffles with sausage please!

FlavourSpot vegan waffle and sausage

The waffle was perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, firm enough to hold the sausage. The most exciting part was the maple butter. I always put maple syrup on my sausage (pre-vegan and vegan) so having sweet buttery maple flavored goo all over it was beyond awesome. Best of all, even though the syrup dripped to the bottom of the sandwich, it stayed tidy so there was no need for wet-naps!

The Grilled Cheese Grill (vegan friendly)

The Grilled Cheese Grill

The vegan grilled cheese at The Grilled Cheese Grill, at 1027 NE Alberta Ave.,  was a properly prepared grilled cheese with perfectly browned bread that wasn’t too greasy.

The Grilled Cheese Grill vegan grilled cheese

I would have liked more “stringy melty goodness” quality in the vegan cheese. Like all vegan cheese dependant food, it would have would have been far better if it was made with Daiya cheese (c’mon Portland, get with Daiya).

In line with the “remember your childhood” theme of the food cart, they offered dining tables inside an old school bus.

The Grilled Cheese Grill dining bus

It reminded me of my favorite (now gone) bar in Orlando, The Go Lounge. It also had a bus in the back where we could have our own mini party.

That’s it for part one! Part two (100% vegan restaurants and treats) and part three (lowlights and trip summary) are online now!

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