Last weekend Jud and I visited my sister and her boyfriend (both vegan) for some serious vegan food tourism in Portland. Even though I get down there a couple times a year and try to hit new places each time, Portland’s got so darn much going on in the vegan realm that I’d gotten behind. Trying to catch up, we hit well over a dozen businesses in a visit that was barely over 24 hours, and bought home so many treats that I’ve had to keep eating this week just to get through them all. The things I do for you!
Of course, we had a blast and discovered all kinds of wonderful things, which I will share with you in a series of posts. For starters, I’ll take you to a mile-long stretch of NE Alberta Street, which is so chock-full of vegan and vegan-friendly businesses that you could spend a long weekend there and not hit them all, assuming you’re eating like a sane person and not a manic blogger on a short timetable. And probably even then.
Want to patronize only veg*n businesses? No problem:
Dovetail is a cute, cozy little shop with lots of tempting choices in the case. Their scones are buttery, flaky without being dry, and not too sweet. Their cookies are large and soft, with just a bit of crispness. The Molasses-Ginger cookie was my favorite, though the sweet-salty cookie Jud tried, and the Double Dutch chocolate cookie I also got were plenty good as well. There’s a bit of sidewalk seating if the weather’s nice and tables inside if it’s not. Dovetail also wholesales extensively throughout Portland, so watch for their cakes at places like New Seasons.
A case full of vegan cookies, scones, muffins and more at Dovetail
Blackberry jam scone with vanilla glaze
Large, delicious cookies: Double Dutch on top, and still-warm Molasses-Ginger underneath
A Dovetail cake in the bakery case at New Seasons (this was in the Sellwood neighborhood of SE Portland). I was so sad I didn’t have room to try a piece of this!
I learned the hard way that you should not take for granted seating at Natural Selection on a weekend. Even trying a few days in advance for a Saturday reservation, I was out of luck. So I can’t tell you much about this place except that I’m still dying to go there. The menu consists of two groups of four courses each, which you may mix and match. Everything is vegetarian. One group is all vegan; the other is mostly not, but tends to be gluten free. The space is elegant and tucked right between Vita Cafe and Dovetail Bakery. You can see pictures of the restaurant and some of their incredibly tempting food here. Next time, next time!
Sip Juice Cart
I’m still wishing I’d gotten a juice here, but alas, I did not. This cart, tucked into a lot on the south side of the street, sells juices, milkshakes, all manner of smoothies, and a lone granola bowl if you’re determined to chew something. Everything is vegan, and if I had tried something from their menu, I would have had a hard time picking just one.
Back to Eden Bakery
I’m starting to feel that a trip to Portland isn’t complete without a visit to Back to Eden. The space is bright, airy, comfortable and full of interesting (and delicious) things to look at.
A room full of treats at Back to Eden, where everything’s vegan.
In addition to soft serve, scooped ice cream from Luna and Larry’s, locally made truffles, cookbooks and a few dry goods, there is this spectacular case full of things you will want:
Savory and sweet on offer at Back to Eden. The Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (far left) were damn near perfection, and the Chocolate Rosemary Sea Salt Tart (far right), odd as it may sound, is also amazing.
See that empty spot in the case above? We got the last Boston Creme Pie. Rich and delicious, with balanced vanilla and chocolate flavors.
I also picked up a lip balm here from Crazy Rumors, which was one of my favorites of the seven vegan lip balms I recently tried.
The Bye and Bye
The Bye and Bye apparently believes in minimalism for its website, so I’m sorry I didn’t grab a photo of their menu. Fortunately, the Stumptown Vegans did a nice write-up a few years ago, with descriptions of much of their food and some good photos. It’s been more than a year since I was there, but I thoroughly enjoyed the food I had then and would gladly go back for a meal, a drink or both.
Vegan options at omni places
If you’re not wedded to going only to veg*n businesses, you’ll find even more places to enjoy on Alberta since it seems nearly everyone there caters to vegans, even if not exclusively. Here are just some of the places I spotted:
Vita Cafe is so vegan-friendly I often forget that they also serve meat. But with an extensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you could eat many, many meals here and never have the same thing twice. I’ve especially enjoyed the Thai Corn Cakes, the Fishwich and the Vegan Club Sandwich. They also have a large case of mouthwatering cakes right up front, many of which are vegan.
Suzette is, as you might guess, a creperie, with a few vegan options. I haven’t been there, but the offerings for both sweet and savory crepes sound great. Suzette also serves wine, beer, hard cider and assorted hot and cold nonalcoholic beverages.
El Nutri-Taco Truck
A taco truck with the entire hood painted brightly with the word “Vegan” tends to catch my eye. And so it did on the south side of Alberta, near 19th Ave. NE. Sure enough, this omnivorous taco truck has an extensive vegan menu. If you’re looking for something quick, inexpensive and filling, this might just be the answer.
What’s this? Made to order mac and cheese with an option to veganize? Sure enough, at Baked!
Not to be outdone, the Grilled Cheese Grill just down the street, a converted school bus selling more grilled cheese than you can shake a stick at, also offers an option to veganize their sandwiches.
Looking for something other than a restaurant or food cart?
You might stop in at the Alberta Co-op Grocery or shop for vegan shoes at Pie Footwear, which carries a nice selection of men’s and women’s shoes and clearly labels those that are vegan. There are also plenty of little boutiques to browse through as you wander. Or if a mile isn’t enough walking to work off all the food you eat, you could head a couple blocks north to Alberta Park, which has lots of trees and an off-leash dog area.
In short, if you just have a limited time in Portland I’d strongly recommend focusing on Alberta. For a super short visit, you’ll probably want to hit the four-business vegan mini-mall in Southeast, but for a pleasant area to stroll and explore and enjoy a wide range of eating, drinking and shopping, I don’t know of anywhere on the planet you can go for more places that cater to vegans.