Being new to the area means we have a great deal to explore. For my husband’s birthday in April, we went to Vancouver. With my birthday just around the corner, Kyle planned a weekend in Portland, Oregon for us!
We’ve been once before in August 2015, and loved it, so we were excited to return. When we told my parents our plans, they asked for our recommendations as they will be visiting soon as well. I took that to mean “try everything so you can report back”. We had a decadent, food-filled weekend and loved every minute of it.
We left Seattle on Friday afternoon. Apparently everyone else with a car wanted to get somewhere Friday afternoon as well, so the first 60 miles were really slow. By the time we were half way to Portland, we needed a pit stop. We saw signs for Burgerville, and while I’m usually vehemently against chain restaurants, we pulled over.
On the first adventure, we went in August, and we kept seeing signs for Walla Walla Onion Rings. A friend even recommended them, so we stopped at one of the many Burgerville fast food joints, and the Walla Walla Onion Rings were amazing! On this most recent trip, we gave it another shot, and this time of year, they have Yakima Valley Asparagus and Fresh Strawberry Lemonade as their seasonal treats. We ordered the Anasazi Bean Burger (hold the mayo and cheddar, and it’s vegan) with tomato and lettuce. It tasted more like it was from a friend’s backyard bbq than a chain restaurant. We got a real slice of flavorful tomato and a crunchy green leaf of lettuce. The asparagus was battered and fried, and the fried part actually kind of fell off as we tried to eat it. We really didn’t need anything battered and fried, so maybe that’s for the best. The asparagus even without the fried exterior was good though, and this is high praise, since we had asparagus like 3 other times last week. The strawberry lemonade with real chunks of fresh strawberries was so refreshing! It was definitely a sugar bomb, but with only about half the sugar of the recently famous Unicorn lattes, it doesn’t sound as bad.
We finally made it to our AirBnB for the weekend in Portland. After checking out our weekend digs, we went for a walk around the Alberta area, and stopped in to The Bye and Bye for drinks. It was probably a little loud and a little dark for my parents, but the cocktail list was creative, and the menu is all vegan. With a round of drinks, we ordered the Pretzel Knots. They are bigger and doughier than I anticipated, and I was happily surprised with how much I liked them. They came with a cashew cheese sauce and mustard. Kyle liked both dips, and I stuck to the plain pretzel. A bit later on, it must have been time for second dinner, so we ordered the Grilled Cheese with added jalapenos. Although the sandwich was served with mediocre tortilla chips, the non-dairy cheddar sandwich itself was really good, probably in part thanks to the local artisan bread from Grand Central.
For brunch, we returned to a hit from our first trip, and definitely recommend it again! A. N. D. Cafe probably only seats 20-25 people, so we had to wait a few minutes for a table to open, but it’s worth it! The place is actually vegetarian, so some items have eggs or cheddar cheese. The staff is wonderful with helping to navigate the menu, and are great with making dishes vegan, gluten free, or free of other allergens. Kyle ordered Poutine Hash, and got a bowl full of roasted potatoes, garlic, onion, kale, plant-based mozzarella, and covered in gravy. I got the Full Nest; three hash brown “nests” with vegan sausage, layered with fresh tomato and arugula, and topped with two scoops of a flavorful herbed tofu mixture. The meal came with housemade vegan hollandaise and a biscuit, and because I’ve never had hollandaise, I asked for it on the side to make sure I liked it before committing to it all over my food. It was amazing. It was one of those meals you are sad to eat the last bite because you’ve really enjoyed it. We usually have fruit and cereal for breakfast, so a big hot breakfast is a nice treat. The server mentioned that the owners recently opened another restaurant called Off The Griddle, and it’s reviving a vegan food truck from a few years ago. We didn’t get here on this trip, but I want to check it out next time I’m in Portland and craving a burger!
After breakfast, we went to a few places that make up the infamous “vegan mini-mall” and shopped around Herbivore Clothing for a bit. We’ve seen their “Eat Like You Give A Damn” stickers around Seattle, and recognize some of their stuff, so it was about time we pay a visit. This also goes in my list of recommendations for my parents. I think they will get a kick out of the fun shirts, socks, cookbooks, etc. We got a few things here, and walked next door to Sweetpea Baking Company. It’s a funky space and they handle some pretty big orders (weddings and such) but it seems like they do a ton of business from people just getting a pastry or two. The display case had lots of goodies like scones, donuts, and muffins, and they also have a menu of bagels, sandwiches, and salads if you want to sit down for a meal here. Considering we just had breakfast, we really only had room for breakfast dessert, and Sweetpea makes sky high vegan cronuts! They also offered a donut with chocolate glaze and a smashed homemade peanut butter cup on top. I figured my Reese’s-loving husband would want one of those. The cronut was so buttery and the layers just peeled apart – it was amazing. Both treats were delicious.
After this, we were walking around the block, and saw Woodblock Chocolate. I wasn’t familiar with this local Portland brand until this trip. Our AirBnB host wrote us a welcome letter and left a bar of Sea Salt Woodblock Chocolate. It was divine. I read online that Woodblock only uses cacao and sugar, so it wasn’t just luck that we had a dairy free bar. If I hadn’t just eaten a cronut and chocolate peanut butter donut with Kyle, I would have checked out the little shop. Next time!
All this eating was making us tired, and reminding us we should keep moving to put a dent in the caloric damage we’d done. We drove over to Marquam Nature Park for a scenic run. At one point, a gondola sailed zipped by, and learned later about the Portland Aerial Tram. It goes between the waterfront and Oregon Health & Science University. If you are cool with heights, and love aerial panoramic views, check it out. At certain points as we ascended a long gradual incline, we had great views across the river and of a few of the bridges. Portland is beautiful. We were out for about an hour, and just as we got back to the car, it started to rain. On the drive home, it even hailed. I guess that run ended just in time!
By the time we started to get hungry again, we knew exactly where to go for dinner. I’ve read about Homegrown Smoker and seen plenty of pics on Instagram…and even though I don’t remember ever eating BBQ in my short-lived animal-eating days, I was drawn to this place. They have a vegan BBQ cart closer to our AirBnB, but we opted for the farther-away Homegrown Smokehouse and Vegan Deli so we could eat inside. As we neared the entrance, we saw a friendly squirrel munching on some food, and the woman standing nearby introduced us to Earl the Girl Squirrel. Who can’t love a place with a friendly squirrel? The menu isn’t overwhelming, yet I still had trouble deciding between three items. I went with the SloSmoMoFo Sandwich made with smoked soy curls in their housemade BBQ sauce topped with chipotle slaw on a grilled bun, with a side of creamy Mac No-Cheese. My husband ordered the Macnocheeto Burrito; smoked soy curls, grilled peppers & onions, creamy Mac No-cheese, BBQ beans & HGS BBQ sauce wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla, and a side of potato salad. A few minutes later, the largest burrito I’ve ever seen was brought to the table. Like, bigger than my husband’s head, and weighing more than an infant, big. The food was SO good. I couldn’t really find a good starting place for my sandwich, and ended up with BBQ sauce all over my face; I hope that’s compliments to the chef. The BBQ and chipotle slaw complimented each other so well, and the creamy mac helped to cool me off a bit since I’m a spice wimp. The potato salad Kyle ordered was the first potato salad I’ve ever liked! I never liked the idea of warm mayo at summer picnics, and this salad was so light and refreshing, it belongs at every summer event! The person working told us that a new, third HGS location will be opening in St. John’s. I wasn’t familiar with that neighborhood, and she recommended we check it out.
After Homegrown Smokehouse, we stopped next door at Vtopia Artisan Cheeses. We were obviously way too full to eat – this was just recon for my parents. Vtopia has a nice space with a fair number of tables, and in addition to cheese, they have wine and sandwiches. My parents are big fans of Miyoko’s Creamery and I hope they enjoy coming here for wine and a cashew cheese plate!
On the recommendation from our server at HGS, we went to St. John’s and caught the tail end of the St. John’s Bizarre. The craft vendors were gone, and the Biergarten was being broken down, but the punk band, The Thermals, on the big stage was still going strong. They were great!
After waking up far too early on a Sunday, we went for breakfast at Nectar Cafe. This little coffee shop in a strip mall had a small bakery display case, some funky art on the walls, a solid drink menu with tea, coffee, smoothies, and more, and some breakfast food. After the decadent day we had on Saturday, I kept it lighter with a Veggie Bagel Sandwich; a plain bagel with Tofutti cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and avocado. The bagel was breadier than I like my bagels, and from my limited bagel knowledge I assume these guys might not be boiled before they are baked. That said, Tofutti cream cheese and cucumber taste good on anything.
My sweet tooth must be rubbing off on Kyle; he ordered the Apple Pie Waffle. A big Belgian waffle was topped with baked apples and cinnamon, and some maple syrup made sure nobody confused this for a savory dish. I got a few bites of this, and it was so sweet and delicious! Eating a whole serving would have put me into a sugar coma, so stealing a few bites was all I needed.
Speaking of sugar comas, we wanted to make sure we had a snack for the long drive home, so we snagged a peanut butter brownie on the way out. We made it home without eating this (entirely) but I had a sliver, and it’s just as fudgy and wonderful as it looks. The peanut butter isn’t overly sweet, so the flavors balance nicely together.
To fight off the food coma, we went to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and walked around for an hour or so. Even though it was misting a bit, there were probably a dozen dragon boats out practicing, and countless runners. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite things is that people don’t make excuses for exercise; gray skies and a little rain never hurt anybody!
We drove around a bit more, and returned to Hawthorne Blvd, where we had been during our first trip to Portland. Kyle remembered a video game shop he liked (it was closed today), and I remembered the almost black smoothies at Harlow, rich with spirulina. The color scared me, but our smoothies tasted great. I also really liked menu with lots of gluten-free options, and enjoyed the Mighty Bowl last year. Just a few blocks off Hawthorne, we found Back to Eden food cart. Despite the sign saying it was open, it certainly looked closed. I was disappointed, because I felt like I was failing on the bakery recon. We went back to our AirBnB to pack up our stuff, and on the way out of Portland, we passed Back To Eden‘s storefront, and just had to stop for some of their all-vegan, gluten-free treats. It was nearing lunch time, so we grabbed a Pizza Roll and some shakes. We got one orange creamsicle shake, and although it didn’t have the chemically cartoony orange color, it tasted more on point that most things that claim to be “orange” – this is the way it should always be! The other was a cookies and cream shake. This was a bit thicker and harder to drink. Maybe the bits of cookies also slowed us down, so this shake lasted a while. The pizza roll was a great concept, and I want to try making this at home. This was a fun twist on pizza, and the biscuit-like texture of the dough made it easy to break apart as we ate it. This may be due to the gluten-free flours used, or maybe it’s just coincidence. Either way, it works, and I plan to make them in our jumbo muffin tins.
The last item in our indulgent birthday/recon trip was a banana peanut butter whoopie pie from Back to Eden. This was a few chocolate chips and some vegan vanilla buttercream frosting away from being our wedding cake! The banana make the cakes so moist, and the filling was amazing. This didn’t make it all the way home. We hit traffic somewhere along I-5, and the whoopie pie distracted us from the gridlock for a few minutes.
Kyle and I covered a lot of ground in a weekend! There is always more to do, so instead of giving my parents recommendations, I will just join them on their Portland trip. If you are planning a trip, take a look at my Google Map for ideas. Just like my other maps, I’ve included more than what we covered in this trip, so we know where to start next time!
Want to read more about my second trip with my parents? Portland, Part II is up!