You know what’s better than visiting Portland, Oregon for your birthday? Visiting twice! My husband planned a pre-birthday weekend in Portland, and just over a week later I returned with my parents! All the details of Kyle’s and my visit earlier this month are in Portland Part I. It was a food-centric weekend, partially due to rainy, cold weather, but mostly because the list of vegan-friendly places in Portland is really long! If you haven’t read Portland Part I, I suggest you start there.
If you just want the abridged version, we were introduced to Woodblock Chocolate by our AirBnB host, checked out The Bye and Bye for drinks and snacks, started one morning with A. N. D. Cafe, then visited Herbivore Clothing, and Sweetpea Baking Company. We went for a run in Marquam Nature Park and had dinner at Homegrown Smokehouse, then caught the end of a street festival with live music in St. Johns. On our last day in town, we grabbed breakfast at Nectar Cafe, took a walk at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and stopped at Back To Eden bakery on the way out of town.
In addition to celebrating my birthday with this “foodcation” as Kyle dubbed it, we were also scouting out places my parents would like. They came to visit us in Seattle days after our return from Portland, and after a few beautiful days in Seattle, they were heading to Portland with their own personal tour guide (me). So that brings us to…
Portland, Part II
My plant-based parents live in an area with a fair number of restaurants that have a vegan dish or two, but all-vegan restaurants just don’t have the same traction there as they do in Portland. I knew my parents would enjoy taking a break from reading labels to avoid dairy products, or asking for substitutions to menu items. It’s nice to feel mainstream, while still sticking to what’s important to you! Here’s the tale of how we ate our way through vegan Portland (again).
In contrast with our Friday afternoon departure for the weekend trip, my parents and I had the luxury of hitting the road on Monday morning. Most people were heading into Seattle while we were driving out, so traffic was much better.
We took our time getting down to Portland, and arrived in time for lunch. We were staying in Southeast Portland, and I decided Harlow would be good for some light fare. My mom had tomato soup and a side of greens, while my dad and I had Mighty Bowls with quinoa, beans, and greens, and a choice of sauce. I tried the avocado cilantro sauce; I just got a cilantro plant for my birthday, so I needed some recipe inspiration! I thought I should have gone with a more complex bowl (more textures and flavors) but my parents were happy with their meals.
When my husband and I visited a few weeks ago, our AirBnB host left us a bar of Woodblock Chocolate with a welcome note. It was so rich and delicious. I figured a trip to their storefront was in order, and we had a chance to meet one of the owners. He explained the different cacao they use from Trinidad, Peru, and Madagascar, along with their blends. The salt bar I loved so much is a house blend of chocolate, so instead of intense notes from a particular region’s cacao, it has a more balanced flavor. Not only did we get a few bars; we bought a bag of drinking chocolate for homemade hot cocoa. The price point is higher, but for small batch chocolate with carefully selected, high quality ingredients, it’s worth it.
Just around the block is Herbivore Clothing. While my parents have seen this vendor at assorted vegfests, they certainly hadn’t been to the store. My mom, the queen of tote bags, found something new. It was an unusually hot day, in the low ’90s, so soft serve ice cream was on my list of priorities. Next door, at Food Fight, we got cake cones with soy-based vanilla/chocolate swirl. That really hit the spot. I think every grocery store should have vegan soft serve by the check-out counter.
As the day cooled off, we went to the Portland Japanese Garden within Washington Park. Just a few days earlier, we had been to Kubota Garden in Seattle, so it was interesting to compare. While Kubota is a free 20-acre park run by the city, Portland Japanese Garden is a bit smaller (12 acres) and requires an entrance fee or membership. The park is kept in beautiful condition, and the cool tree covered paths next to ponds and waterfalls were perfect on such a hot day. There were eight different types of gardens, and each had wonderful qualities. After sitting by the tranquil sand and stone garden, we walked up a bit higher, and had a beautiful view of Mt. Hood.
On the last trip, someone from A.N.D. Cafe told us about Off the Griddle. Owned by the same people, this place was supposed to have good veggie burgers, so we headed there for dinner. This started as a food truck, so even though it’s only been open a few weeks, I think they have quite a few fans already. After this meal, they have three more! While the vegan burgers get all the hype, the rest of the menu is just as amazing.
The O.T.G Cheeseburger is a patty made from leeks, mushrooms, wild and brown rice. It’s served on a bun with mayo, vegan cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions, and a side of fries.
The Tuna Melt combines savory seasoned jackfruit, vegan Swiss cheese, spinach, and tomato on slices of really good French bread. Served with a pickle and some chips, this sandwich was awesome.
We also had the French Dip, also served with chips and a pickle. Off the Griddle uses soy curls steak, mushroom, onions and Swiss cheese on a big hoagie served au jus. Never being a steak person myself, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this, but it was really good!
To top it all off, I had an Oreo milkshake made with Coconut Bliss ice cream! Off the Griddle will get plenty of repeat business from us when we are back in Portland.
In search of a light breakfast, online reviews led us to Southeast Grind. This coffee shop is open 24/7 and has an ‘anything goes’ vibe to it. My favorite piece of art on the wall is a platypus asking, “Why am I?” We got three Veggie Bagels – with Tofutti cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and spinach. After clarifying ‘Tofutti’ cream cheese for all three orders, we were offered everything, whole wheat, or cheese bagels. I wonder if anyone gets Tofutii on a cheese bagel…
On the way to our big event for the morning, we stopped at Dave’s Killer Bread World Headquarters and checked out the factory store. It was nice to see more varieties than most stores offer, but let’s face it, 21 Whole Grains and Seeds is really all you need. All their breads are vegan, except for one with honey, and I love their mission.
Next stop on our carb-lover’s tour of Portland’s suburbs, we went on the Bob’s Red Mill Factory Tour. When you enter, you see signs and merchandise that say “Bob says: “Eat wisely. You’re irreplaceable.” in the store. Our very animated tour guide walked us through the gluten free factory first, and then along the windows of the main factory. Because Bob’s works hard to source non-gmo and organic grains, they are keeping the little farms in business. Go underdogs!
The tour ended with samples to-go, and then we headed to the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store. Aisles and aisles of the recognizable packaging, along with cooking tools, and a restaurant. Not too shabby!
For lunch, we drove to the closest of the two El Nutri Taco locations. It was a beautiful day, and we were excited to eat outside at the picnic tables by the food truck. While the truck serves meat, the signage made it very clear that they cater to plant eaters as well.
The parents opted for Simple Burritos with beans, rice, grilled onions, and lettuce with a choice of ‘meat’. I opted for the Fajita Burrito, with beans, rice, grilled onions, mushrooms, red & green bell peppers and a choice of ‘meat’. These weren’t the largest burritos we’ve seen in Portland (thank goodness) but they were damn tasty, and quite filling.
With a belly full of Mexican food, we headed east into the Columbia River Gorge for some hiking. We were able to ditch the Interstate and take the Historic Columbia River Highway that runs parallel for a more scenic route. If we had planned better, we could have made a day of it. A little more than 60 miles outside of town, there is a point where you can see Mt. Adams to the north, and Mt. Hood to the south on a clear day. We got so caught up with the waterfalls along the route, and spent our time exploring Multnomah Falls, Wakeena Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Crown Point.
For dinner, we went to a Lebanese restaurant my parents spotted earlier that day. TarBoush Lebanese Bistro is in a beautiful restored Victorian home, and had traditional fare with clearly marked vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. I love it when they make it easy! We started with TarBoush Zaatar – oven-baked dough topped with dried thyme, roasted sesame seeds, tomato, onion and olive oil, then had Mousakka Batinjan with baked eggplant, chickpeas, tomato, onion, garlic, and olive oil; Artichoke Hearts cooked in white wine with garlic, onions, capers, carrots and green beans; and a large Fattoush Salad. Everything was delicious!
On the way home, we happened to pass the Back to Eden food cart, and picked up a Snickerdoodle and Celebration Cupcake to eat at home. Back to Eden is one of the best gluten free bakeries. Their flour mix must be just right – so baked goods are moist, cookies are chewy, and cakes are fluffy.