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17 Vegan Eats You Must Try in Portland

It’s no secret that Portland is a vegan mecca. It’s renowned as one of our country’s prime destinations for plant-loving persons young and old. The reputation is well-deserved — with offerings ranging from local mix-your-own salad bars, to late-night dives dedicated solely to vegan comfort food, to four-star rated vegetarian establishments that you’ll need to call ahead for a month in advance (seriously), Portland has it all.

I’ve lived in Portland for nearly three years, and when I first moved here from the D.C. metro area, I was overwhelmed with choice. “Choice” — that’s a word that can be pretty foreign to vegans. We’re usually pretty happy if one item on the menu is certified vegan, and resign ourselves to whatever it is, even if we really wanted a pasta dish instead of more roasted vegetables. I’m all for simplicity, but I really enjoy the luxury of poring over a menu rife with plant-based options before I pick a winner. This is why Portland is such a hotspot! Yes, the food is stellar. The people are friendly. The vibe is laid-back. But what Americans really love is choice, and Portland offers something for everyone.

I can’t dream of covering all of Portland’s vegan offerings — it seems like every time I take a walk around my neighborhood something new has popped up. But over the past three years I’ve honed in on a few of my favorite spots, so I’ll give you something to lick your lips over — that is, until you come to visit and give the wild and wacky world of vegan food a spin!

1. Blossoming Lotus / Prasad / Harlow
1713 NE 15th Ave. / 925 NW Davis St. / 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Each of these spots fall under the same overarching management, and serve some of the best raw, whole food I’ve ever had. Let’s just say their Vitamixes are on…ahem…constant rotation. The offerings aren’t cheap, but who can resist their “Bumblebee Shake” — a mouth-watering mixture of pb, cacao nibs, cocoa powder, coffee, and banana — after a yoga class?

A bowl, juice, and smoothie with goji berries from Prasad

Prasad is more of a light-lunch post-workout joint, whereas Blossoming Lotus and Harlow are more established sit-down restaurants. Their filigreed menus promise decadent and unique vegan treats, including Butternut Squash & Sage Penne, Raw Golden Beet Ravioli, and Pumpkin Empanadas. Blossoming Lotus is excellent at satisfying gluten-free requirements, and Harlow offers some absolutely decadent granola breakfast bowls. Call ahead for a reservation at Blossoming Lotus.

2. Vita Cafe
3023 NE Alberta St.

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(c) Vita Cafe.

This is one of my favorite brunch spots. Complete with local artwork (last time I was there, the most detailed mandalas I’d ever seen fully occupied my attention until my food arrived) and attentive servers committed to making sure your coffee cup is never less than half full, this is vegan comfort food at its finest. Biscuits and almond gravy? Check. Hash browns, grits, and corn cakes? Absolutely. Some of Vita’s finest selections include Chicken Fried Steak, Sloppy Joes, Thai Corn Cakes, and the Comfort Breakfast (my personal favorite). Breakfast is served until 3 pm — what more could you want?!

“The Vita Cafe is not your standard raw beet and rabbit food kind of vegetarian place. We specialize in huge servings…come hungry.” You may have to brave a bit of a line on a weekend, but Vita Cafe is well worth the wait.

3. The Bye & Bye / Sweet Hereafter
1011 NE Alberta St. / 3326 SE Belmont St.

These are two sister bars, one located in NE and one in SE, because Portland is convenient like that. I live within walking distance of The Bye & Bye, and find myself there a little too often! The Bye & Bye is an unassuming all-vegan bar — most of its patrons don’t even realize every food product served is completely plant-based. The best part? It serves vegan grilled cheese, meatball subs, and pretzel knots until 2 am. If a vegan meatball sub isn’t part of your late night plans, what are you doing with your life?

Meatball sub, (c) quarrygirl.com

4. The Waypost
3120 N Williams Ave.

This unassuming bar is one of my neighborhood favorites. This is the place I was served the best Old Fashioned of my life, so it holds a special place in my heart! The Waypost serves an array of vegan items, including plantain and mango tacos, taco salads, and vegan chili (are you sensing a theme?). You’ll probably run into a trivia night or a local band performance if you come by on a weekend. It shares a space with a community garden, so post up at a picnic table outside if you can!

5. Homegrown Smoker BBQ (food cart)
4237 N Mississippi Ave. (The Mississippi Marketplace)

I won’t lie to you: I have a punch card for this place. I first discovered it at the Mississippi Street Fair back in 2012 (now one of my favorite yearly events, and also one I featured on this blog). As food carts go, Portland doesn’t have much to want for — there are pods all over the city, and no lack of patrons for each cart. The Smoker BBQ offers some of the most intense meals I’ve ever laid eyes on — the “Macnocheeto Burrito” combines soy curls, vegan mac ‘n cheese, beans, and maple-bourbon BBQ sauce into a burrito bigger than my head.

mac n cheeze and a sloppy joe. (c) luminousvegans.com

6. Santería
703 SW Ankeny St.

You won’t find this place by wandering around.  Santería is tucked away behind the esteemed Mary’s Club, and shares a bathroom with this iconic Portland strip club. Go here for the Plato Vegan Tinga and bring your friends because the portion sizes are hefty.

7. Tin Shed
1438 NE Alberta St.

You better get to Tin Shed early, and not just on the weekend. This place fills up fast and waits are at least 45 minutes. Luckily, you can leave your cell number at the counter and go shopping on Alberta while you wait! And if you don’t want to mosey, pour yourself a mug of coffee from the bar inside and start waking up. Tin Shed serves some delectable vegan breakfast options, and you’ll definitely walk away satisfied. Furry friends are welcome so bring them along (just don’t forget to sneak them some treats!).

(c) mindofmako.blogspot.com

8. Canteen
2816 SE Stark St.

I wrote about this spot when I first started this blog, but it hasn’t lost its spot in my heart. If possible, Canteen has more Vitamix action going on than Prasad, Harlow, and Blossoming Lotus combined. They love their smoothies, and it shows! Canteen also makes a kimchi to die for, which is great news for those of us bolstering up our gut flora.

9. Portobello
1125 SE Division St.

Pro tip: take a date here. In addition to the absolutely decadent food, service, and drink selection (who doesn’t love a good wine pairing suggestion, or a specialty Italian liqueur to pair with dessert?), this is the only place in town I’ve found that serves vegan tiramisu. Enough. Said. And if you want the noms without the ambiance, you can get take-out pizza.

Potato Gnocchi at Portobello. (c) pdx.eater.com

10. Natural Selection
3033 NE Alberta St.

Confession: even though this is on my list of favorites, I haven’t actually eaten here. I put it on the list because this is the gourmet, four-star restaurant perfect for celebrating your birthday, or a new job or house. You’ll want to make reservations well in advance for this gourmet hub. The chefs opt for seasonal produce for their meals, and will happily make vegan options. A prix fixe meal is $45 and wine pairing another $25, but I could see this being a fantastic special outing. (Any takers?)

11. Hungry Tiger Too
207 SE 12th Ave.

If you know me at all, you know I love dive bars. I personally think that the dive bar is becoming a lost art, as we make way for the classier things in life. But I especially love dive bars that offer good vegan late night options. HTT is one of these — choose from nachos, “Tiger Fries” (garlic, rosemary, and cheeze tossed hand-cut fries), “Vings,” corn dogs, and mac & cheeze to nosh on while you play some pool.

12. Fire on the Mountain
1708 E Burnside St. / 4225 N Interstate Ave. / 3443 NE 57th Ave.

Say it with me now: Vegan. Wings.

No matter how mild of sauce I specify, halfway through a six-piece plate of “drumsticks” I always feel like I mistook Cholula for mouthwash. Make sure you order a beer (or non-alcoholic refreshment) with these babies cause you will need it! This is also a great spot to watch a basketball, soccer, or football game with friends.

13. Blue Star
1237 SW Washington St. / 3549 SE Hawthorne Blvd. / 3753 N Mississippi

Blue Star is Voodoo Doughnut for the locals. They only stay open until all of the fresh doughnuts are sold, so you better get there early in the day! I’ve sampled the Vegan Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Hibiscus glaze doughnut many a time (I mean, even the name is dripping in sugar) and always been transported to a magical, sugary land full of happiness.

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(c) @bluestardonut instagram.

 

14. A N D Cafe
5420 E Burnside St.

This is one of my favorite brunch spots in Portland, hands down. And yet every time I visit, I’m faced with the quintessential conundrum….sweet or savory? A N D offers an assortment of Belgian waffles (Pumpkin Cheesecake Waffle, anyone?), breakfast scrambles, biscuits and gravy, and always has something special on the menu, which tends to change weekly. GF friendly. It’s a tiny spot, so expect intimate service from your server and quick coffee refills.

(c) neighborhoodnotes.com

15. Dove Vivi
2727 NE Glisan St.

A lot of people think that pizza for vegans means grabbing a frozen Daiya on the way home from work. No offense to Daiya, but this local cornmeal crust pizza place blows those frozen pies out of the water. My favorite is the Corn Cashew: a roasted tomato, corn and caramelized onion delicacy swimming in cashew cheese. I wrote about the science behind our “umami” taste sensation, and Dove Vivi exemplifies it perfectly. I suggest you grab a pie to go and bring it to one of our many parks for a summer movie screening.

(c) foodmtn.com

16. Black Sheep Bakery
PSU Farmer’s Market

Black Sheep is a vegan-only bakery that sadly closed its storefront doors in 2012. Luckily for you, it still operates as a wholesale bakery and provides muffins, cookies, and other pastries to vendors around the area. If you’re at the PSU Farmer’s Market, I would recommend a cranberry coffeecake to pair with a latte as you peruse the vendors’ stalls. You can also find Black Sheep goods at New Seasons, a local grocery store chain in town.

Yum, yum, and yum. (c) stumptownvegans.com

17. Junior’s Cafe
1742 SE 12th Ave.

I hesitate to even include this on my list of best vegan spots in Portland, because it’s my secret, cradled and dearly loved breakfast place. It is here that I tasted the most delectable, caramelized, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside vegan French toast of my life. It is here that I see the same two waitresses every time, who kindly and quickly refill my coffee and call me “honey” or “babe” (or both). I don’t want to give this little-known spot away, but — alas — you would probably find it anyway.

Other quintessential Portland spots serve vegan options — Salt & Straw recently started offering a coconut ice cream delicacy which is perfect for hot summer days. Like I said, I can’t cover all of the wonderful plant-based choices we have here in Portland. I certainly hope our offerings continue to grow and that other cities in the country — and the world — see how easy it can be to make vegan choices when you’re out and about, at a restaurant, or sitting down for an afternoon coffee break. If you have a favorite vegan spot in Portland that I didn’t mention, feel free to give it some love in the comments! Now, are you hungry or what?

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The Weekend Edition: Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach: home to the iconic Haystack Rock, and one of our nation’s most spectacular shores. It’s two hours from Portland, and you should be there right now.

Along with these pretty pictures comes the sad story of how I royally ruined a to-be camping trip by not making campsite reservations in advance. What was going to be a sunset on the beach and s’mores roasting over beach-side driftwood became, instead, a late-night rush to find a motel because there was no (legal) place to pitch a tent. After getting the boot by one Wright’s for Camping, which had promised to hold us a last-minute spot (do not go there), the lady and I decided to call it and were lucky enough to snag a discount rate at the McBee Cottages, where we slept soundly just a block from the beach. Bonus: they are pet friendly if your furry friend is taking a weekend trip with you!

Pro tip: finding a place to camp on the North end of the coast is hard! Most of the campsites that are actually on the beach are closed due to the dangers of old-growth trees falling down and injuring campers. We had planned to stay at Nehalem Bay, and then tried Camp Lookout after driving up to a full campground. No such luck. Everything was full, save for the RV parks–yeah, not happening. Take my word for it and make your reservations.

Nevertheless, waking up right in Cannon Beach was a surprise treat for these campers who were ready to rough it, and we spent the rest of the day exploring this and Smuggler’s Cove (located in Oswald West State Park, just a bit south of Cannon Beach), which has a plethora of hiking trails surrounding the beach. It might just be my favorite west coast sun spot. Here, take a look!

Just do it: Trail Running

It seems like everywhere I look, I see runners. Women, men, kids (at my last event, I might have been nearly outrun by a child of no more than ten), teenagers, old dudes, groups and independent trotters, all out in the heat and cold, rain and sun. And I’ll say it–there’s nothing like peer pressure to get you out there and running.

I usually run on the Willamette River Waterfront Park, which, aside from being flat and open, gives me a stunning view of the bridges in Portland and is simply gorgeous at any time of the day or night. You can run all the way down to the OHSU tram, or cross the Steel Bridge to the east side and run towards Sellwood.

But sometimes it’s nice to get out of the sun and reconnect with nature. Since our temperatures have been reaching the 80s recently, being under tree cover is also easier on the eyes and skin (but don’t forget to spend your 15 minutes outside to get some vitamin D!). Portland’s extensive Forest Park runs up and down the west side of town. It’s only two miles from where I live, and the trails cover over 70 miles! That’s a lot of running. I hit the Wildwood trail — it’s probably the most popular out of all of them, but at 4 pm on a Friday, I had the park nearly to myself.

Running in the forest is cool because you might find a slug that is bigger than your hand.asd2

I also discovered that I’ve been doing it wrong — instead of maintaining a steady pace, it’s much easier to take advantage of the natural ebbing and flowing of a park trail. Sprinting the downhills and then using that momentum for the inclines was a much more efficient way to run the trail. And it was exhilarating to run that fast without worrying about other people being around. That’s because what I call running is, for me, mostly stumbling around.

Nevertheless, I highly encourage you all to check out your local park or forest and try a trail run. Bring water, watch out for rocks and roots, and be prepared for some delayed-onset muscle soreness (trail running works stability muscles that aren’t as necessary on a long, flat course). If you live in the Pacific Northwest, trail running will make you feel like you are living in Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest.

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Go run!

Sweat, don’t fail me now

Last weekend I hiked to the summit of Silver Star Mountain, an awesome Lord of the Rings-esque peak that gave me and my buddies a shining view of five (FIVE!) mountains in the area–Mt. Rainier, Mt. St Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and tiny little Mt. Jefferson. It was only about three miles up to the top, but the 4000+ ft. elevation gain coupled with the 85 degree heat made the trip something to brag about.

As a future RD, I’m obligated to promote water and electrolytes on excursions like these. We were all sweating like water faucets and most of us ran out of water by the end. (Note to self: buy a camelback.) Water will usually do the trick for anything under an hour. But….

Gonna be out for longer? Braving exceptional heat? Pack some salty snacks! Sodium is the most-needed electrolyte for endurance events, but potassium, chloride, and magnesium are important too. Salty trail mix, bananas, dried fruits, and peanut butter (magnesium fights fatigue!) are great snack choices when you’re out on the trail. I’m not necessarily opposed to things like Gatorade and Gu gels, but it is possible to get what you need from whole foods without some of the added sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners that come with commercial electrolyte-replacement products.

The most important rule? Drink more water than you think you need. Make a conscious effort to take a swig of water every fifteen minutes. Believe me, you don’t want anything holding you back from that summit view!

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The Merry Marionberry

Ah, marionberries. Succulent, sassy, and the state berry-hopeful of Oregon itself. What a pleasure it was to pick all of you little suckers off your vines on this fine 97 degree day!

But really. 97 degrees.

I could eat these right off the computer screen.

Sauvie Island, Oregon offers several U-Pick opportunities through the many farms and gardens on the island all through the summertime. I visited the Bella Organic farm because they use organic principles and accept WIC vouchers, which means that low-income women and children are welcome to pick their own delectable fruit, even while on a budget. As a future dietitian, I love the fact that low-income households can still get their fill of this nutrient-rich produce, and that Oregon supports WIC participants and local farms.

As for me? I ended up with over five pounds of berries, at just $3/lb. You do the math!

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U-Pick is kind of a win-win. It allows people to choose their own personal harvest and it’s cheaper than buying produce at the store. It supports local farms, and U-Pick can be a great activity to do with friends or family. It saves the farm money because they don’t have to pay to pick, package, and ship that produce.

I’m trying to figure out what to do with all these berries. Any suggestions? Leave a comment with your marionberry best!

It’s the Great Outdoors

Things to do in your lifetime #594: Go camping.

Boulder Lake, Oregon is one of the best places I’ve ever camped–and I say this after spending the entire night and day fending off a steady freezing rain. But look, how could you not like this?

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Rule #1 of camping is that you must have a dog. Dogs provide security, fun, and general adorableness. That’s Seven down there, lounging about!

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Rule #2 of camping is that you must have good food. Hearty and delicious food will keep you warm and fend off the low blood sugar grumps on your extreme hikes and other explorations around the campsite. Seriously, load up. Some vegan camping fodder I live by are KIND bars (almond coconut, specifically), PB&jelly sandwiches, and any of the vegan fare from Backpacker’s Pantry. I sampled the Katmandu Curry this trip, which was delectable and oh-so-easy to make. Just add boiling water, let it sit, and fuel up! This one was filled with veggies, rice, some potatoes, and mouth-watering spices.

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Rule #3 of camping is to be spontaneous and have fun. As my friend Ashley demonstrates, this might mean hopping in an inflatable raft and using a cutting board to tour the lake even though it is raining and cold. This was one of those moments in my life where I realized that keeping a smile on your face and having some fantastic friends makes life joyful.

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Rule #4 of camping is that you must always, without exception, have ‘smores and a roarin’ campfire. Be sure to get enough firewood right off the bat so you don’t have to go trekking around in the dark looking for dry branches. This, and the tarp that my friends and I ingeniously tethered to the trees above our heads, provided a pretty comfy shelter.

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I had to bite the bullet after this trip and get a seriously warm sleeping bag for myself. My criteria were for it to be cheap, synthetic (no down feathers here, please), cute, and lightweight. After some contemplation at REI, I settled on the Marmot Sunset 20. Weighing in at just 3 lbs 9 oz, rated at 23 F, and cute to boot, I can’t wait to break it in!

Until the next camping trip!