vegan cheese

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?

Melt in Your Mouth Broccoli & Cheese Soup

“I just couldn’t live without cheese.”

This sentence needs to be obliterated from existence, because this recipe for broccoli and cheese soup (and tons of other vegan “cheezy” goodies out there) will make you a believer. I am nomming on it right now and it is fulfilling every dream I’ve ever had.

Side note: In one of my first posts, I wrote about the effect of opioid-like substances in dairy that cause withdrawals and cravings. I find that I simply do not have cravings for cheese. But I enjoy vegan versions very much and like to incorporate them into my meals sometimes 🙂

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There’s nothing better than a savory soup on a frosty night. Toss some toasted baguette in there and you’ve got yourself an evening fit for a queen.

So what’s the secret to vegan cheese? It’s all about the nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast — or “nooch,” as it’s affectionately termed — can be found at most grocery stores, is inexpensive (get it in bulk), and is a viable source of B12 for plant-based humans. Its cheesy flavor and cooking adaptability make it a surefire way to add umami flavor to your meals. It’s also full of folic acid, selenium, zinc, and other members of the B vitamin family. Nutritional yeast is also a complete protein, and contains a whopping 6 grams of protein in just a 1/4 cup, in addition to 3 grams of fiber, and NO sodium or saturated fat (Bob’s Red Mill).

Make sure the brand you get DOES have B12 added (some don’t) and does not contain whey.

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How cute is this nooch scooped into my hedgehog 1/4 cup?! My dear friend got me a hedgehog measuring cup set for my birthday that I couldn’t wait to photograph for this blog 🙂

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This is what the cheese sauce looks like. You can add more flour if that sauce is all “get me bodied.” I’m obsessed with Beyoncé.

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Best eaten with friends 🙂

VegFest 2013 and the Plant-Based Nutrition Conference

I had the pleasure of attending my first ever health conference as an actual health professional yesterday! The “Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition” conference was organized by Adventist Medical Center and Northwest VEG and was a great learning experience. Registered dietitians are required to earn 75 continuing education credits every five years to make sure we are continuing to learn in our field, and I had a lot of fun earning my first six! And as a vegan RD, I was so grateful that the Academy approved this lifestyle medicine conference for credit.

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Huge props to whoever organized the food for this event. I was fed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with PB. Lunch was a delicious buffet of all gluten-free and vegan items, ranging from cashew cheese spread over millet and tempeh, to tacos with delicious guacamole and salsa. But dessert really took the cake –we were treated to raw raspberry cheesecake. Drool!

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Overheard: “But seriously, how much kale is too much?”

I really enjoyed the speakers at this conference. They spoke on a wide range of topics, from enhancing your brain health and preventing Alzheimer’s dementia with a plant-based diet, to one dietitian’s research in the Marshall Islands working with a population stricken with a diabetes epidemic. After hearing her tales of diabetes reversal and the new life and vigor these people have for plant-based nutrition, I was even more inspired to live my life as a joyful, vegan RD.

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I wrote down a few key points that stood out to me, so I’ll go over them briefly if you’re interested in evidence-based nutrition information:

1. 51% of American calories come from processed foods. It’s hard to remember that outside of the Portland bubble, where everyone seems to care about locally-grown, whole foods, there’s an entire nation of people who are still surviving off of factory-produced or imported food.

2. The average American consumes 12 cows, 25 hogs, and 2400 chickens in their lifetime.

3. Blue Zones, or geographic areas that have been identified as spots where people live significantly longer than the average human and have a better quality of life in their golden years, have specific lifestyle factors in common: strong family ties, non-smoking, plant-based diets, a habit of constant moderate activity, and healthy social engagement. Read more about Blue Zones here. Here are some research articles about how people following a plant-based diet have been shown to live longer and have less incidence of chronic disease (including cancer and heart disease): Adventist Health Study, AHS-2 Fraser, Crowe, & Huang et al.

Some of the specific patterns that have been isolated as promoting significantly higher risk of disease included red and processed meat consumption, refined grain consumption, and consuming foods rich in saturated fats such as sweets, desserts and french fries ( this was from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, with fourteen years of data from over 69,000 nurses).

I was particularly shocked to read about heart disease reversal and diabetes reversal in the Marshall Islands. Type 2 DM is the number one cause of death on these islands, and 50% of the population who are over 35 years old have it. I can’t even wrap my head around that, but I fear that our country may see these numbers someday (right now about 8% of our population has diabetes). Brenda Davis, RD, of the Diabetes Wellness Project traveled to these islands and helped to integrate a lifestyle change of exercise, stress management, and a fully plant-based, low-glycemic load diet. The results? Within two weeks patients who couldn’t walk without pain were starting to walk to the end of the block and back. Blood tests became normal — in fact, one woman’s HbA1C went from 8.7 to 5.7 (if you’re a health professional, you know this is unheard of without medication!!). I was so impacted by this project and the word Brenda Davis has done with plant-based nutrition.

“Diabetes Wellness Program participants have overcome seemingly insurmountable mountains of Spam, donuts, ramen noodles and cola. They have managed to put together low-cost, healthful meals despite the high cost and poor quality of their produce. They have managed to do it with little education and marginal English skills. They have managed to do it with few gyms, no hiking trails and limited access to fitness facilities. These pioneers are providing a powerful example of health and healing for other Marshall Islanders. They are providing hope amid a deep sense of hopelessness.”

4. Curcumin (the extract from turmeric) really is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Check out my post on the turmeric-raspberry iced tea! Combining curcumin with pineapple for its bromelain, an enzyme, increases its absorption. This seems like a great excuse for some  Indian pineapple curry 🙂

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6. Areas of the world that have the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis are also the areas of the world that eat the most meat and dairy (aka, have a higher saturated fat intake). Read more about this here. Dr. McDougall is currently conducting a study through my alma mater, OHSU, support his and the late Dr. Swank’s theory that MS can be halted with a low saturated-fat and plant food based diet.

Phew!

After all the brain-power that went into this all-day conference, I couldn’t wait to attend Portland’s annual VegFest today! I love this event for so many reasons — the people are friendly and informative, the vegan foods and products (books, clothes, kitchen-ware, makeup and toiletries, etc.) are delightful, and…perhaps most importantly…the free samples are EVERYWHERE! I purposefully skipped my breakfast because I knew I would be heartily nourished 🙂 I think my favorite had to be the cashew crème fraîche with fig. I mean.

Of course, I couldn’t walk away without some treats. Apart from tasting about 9058723 samples of soups, kale chips, chocolates, vegan artisan cheeses, kombucha, power bars, popcorn mixtures, teas and coffees, I ended up with organic deodorant and an awesome zip up hoodie from Herbivore Clothing Company, a local and sustainable clothing and accessories shop in Portland. I can’t wait to check out their real location! Oh, and check out all those coupons and recipes!

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That’s all for today! Look for my upcoming post on how to replenish healthy gut flora after a bout with antibiotics (long story) in the next couple of weeks. And remember…

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