With our mid-west and southern jaunts impending, and the wasteland of vegan options we imagined would come with them, I tried to make the most of Portland had to offer by way of treats. You can read that as, “I went overboard and ate as much sugar-salt-fat food as I possibly could fit, and sometimes more than I could really fit”.
Here’s how it went:
The second best sandwich in the USA and the world ever (see Red and Black for the very best) came from a food cart called DC vegetarian.I don’t remember much about it, except that the one I ordered was really good and had veganaise, and Mr liked his, too.
Home Grown Smoker
On K’s suggestion we tracked down the Homegrown Smoker food cart on our last day in town. Unfortunately it was closed due to plumbing work, but luckily the staff still had some food left over, which they let us have for free on account of us being from so far away.
We got two huge servings, each weighing about a kilo, made up of mac and cheese, some sort of smoked BBQ mock, some baked beans, slaw, salad and cornbread.
Like K and Toby, we didn’t really take to the molasses corn bread – too sweet. Mr adored the BBQ and liked the beans, I adored the mac and cheese and the slaw. I didn’t really take to the mock BBQ, but I’m not generally a BBQ fan, so its no surprise. We had so much food that it served for two meals and we still didn’t get through it.
If we ever get back to Portland, I definitely intend a second run at this place.
Back to Eden
Back to Eden is an all-vegan bakery/dessert joint in the North East of Portland. We went twice, and it was great both times. We tried the Chocolate Cream Pie with vegan soft serve the first time, and a lemon cake with cream cheese icing and chai flavoured vegan soft serve the second.
The soft serve was the big standout – so creamy, so flavourful, so soft! The chocolate cream pie was good, but not my cup of tea. The lemon cake totally exceeded expectations, it was tangy and tasty and almost drowning in cream-cheese icing, which in my opinion more cakes should be drowning in.
If we had stayed a little closer to the area (we were way down in the SE area, about an hour away by bus) I would have insisted on a daily visit.
I found this doughnut shop via some internet search along the lines of “things you must do in Portland”. It just so happens it serves vegan doughnuts along with the icky dairy-filled ones.
The place is supposedly a local institution (story goes they began by selling doughnuts with legal pharmaceuticals sprinkled on top, but had to resort to selling normal ones when forced to by the authorities), and the line is proof enough of its popularity. I think we waited outside the building for about 25 minutes, and that was the shortest line we’d seen during the trip.
I don’t actually know which kinds we got, I just pointed at some doughnuts on the vegan display until I came across some they hadn’t run out of. One of them was a chocolate one, one tasted like cinnamon, and one of them had a filling. I do remember that they were all totally delicious though! Number one thumbs up for yummy vegan doughnuts.
Portobello is a fancy-pants Italian restaurant, and I made sure we played our part and ordered all three courses to do it justice.
We had the white truffle and mushroom rillette, small sizes of the eggplant ravioli and the arancini, the chocolate rosemary tart and the trio of ice creams, and an orange blossom drink. Everything was fully wonderful, except the arancini, which was kind of bland.
The mushroom and truffle thing was a dip with crusty bread, the best I’ve had since going vegan. The orange blossom drink was really, really nice and smelled like spring. I like the rosemary tart, and as K and Toby reviewed, the salted caramel ice cream was heavenly.
A little shout out also has to go to the waiter for the evening, Jeremy, who was awesome, and who we actually met a few times around town at various anarchist things and who helped us find vegan food a few days before we ended up at Portobello.
We actually found the Sonny Bowl by accident, after wandering past it hoping the DC Vegetarian would be open late on a Saturday night on the way home. By the time we got there they were serving only one option, so we ordered that.
It was a noodle bowl type thing, full of veggies and tempeh (or was it mock?). It tasted healthy and good, but it was a little uninspiring. That said, for last minute, late night vegan food, it was a warm, filling, and reasonably long lasted feed, so we have no complaints 🙂
Given its late-night-ness, I didn’t get a photo.
Sweetpea is a bakery on Portland’s famed vegan strip mall, and it serves all the obligatory bakery things – brownies, cupcakes, cookies- as well as lunchables of the sandwich variety. We had lunch around the corner at the Red and Black Cafe, so just picked up a few treats to eat later at the Rose Test Garden.
We got a Charlie Brown and GF Brownie. The Brownie was great, but pretty crumbly (I ended up licking bits of it out of the bottom of the bag like the classy lady/anteater I am). The Charlie Brown was a kind of peanut butter slice with chocolate on top. It was very tasty, but the huge serving proved a bit much even for me!
I enjoyed our Sweetpea treats, but I have to say it doesn’t have anything on Back To Eden.
The Bye and Bye
We were pretty excited about the Bye and Bye, it having come highly recommended by every vegan we had met in Portland, so it was with much anticipation that we ordered our chilli dog and crying tiger burger and broccoli.
I really wanted to enjoy our junk food and salvationary vegetable side-order, but I am sad to say we were really disappointed.
Maybe we ordered the wrong thing, maybe we were too hyped from all the hype, or maybe the food just tastes better after you’ve sample a beer or three (Mr drinks never, I drink rarely), but the food just wasn’t very good.
The Crying Tiger Burger seemed like it could better have been called the Whimpering Kitten Burger. It was quite mild on the chilli side, but it was tasty-ish. The Chilli dog was rubbery, the bread was kinda stale, and the chilli wasnt very flavourful. The broccoli was great though. We were a bit sad, and I’m hoping we just caught them on a bad day.
Red and Black Cafe
The Best Vegan Sandwich in Portland/America/The World award goes to Red and Black Cafe! We ate here twice because it was so good it needed a return trip.
The Red and Black is a collectively worker-owned cafe which serves fairtrade coffee and cocoa along with a huge menu of bagels, sandwiches and bowls and some cupcakes. Something I loved about Portland was the number of organisations which are collectively operated- great model for providing service (and yummy food) to the community without the shitty conditions and exploitation that usually goes with the food service industry.
Mr ordered the BBQ burger on both occasions. He loved it, and I liked it, which is a thing in itself, as I don’t generally like BBQ sauce at all (sweet just doesn’t belong on a sandwich). I ordered a BLT with tempeh bacon, daiya and avocado on the first occasion, and a hot cocoa and grilled cheese with tempeh bacon on the second occasion.
It was all perfect, wonderful food. The cocoa was home-style, so not too rich, but lovely and warm and sweet. The BLT/Grilled cheese were both enormous, melty and tasted so good. Had we stayed longer, and nearer, we probably would have eaten here even more. Two thumbs up.
All in all
All up, Portland really was a vegan wonderland. Vegan groceries, vegan-friendly co-ops, multiple vegan bakeries, vegan soft-serve, vegan doughnuts, vegan mac and cheese… the list goes on. I had an awesome time eating my way around Portland, and was very well stocked with a little more heft for the metaphorical winter I am now enduring in Utah/Nevada/Arizona/Lousianna/Oklahoma/Arkansas/Mississippi/Texas.
For more Aussie-eye reviews of Portland vegan eats, check out In The Mood For Noodles here.
See you next time for an update of whatever we get up to next.