I recently had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon for a week on a work trip. Full disclosure, I went for a work conference but I was mostly excited to check out the food scene. I know! I'm terrible. I mean I did a search on…damn near all of PDX. I wanted to know what the best trucks were, which breweries to go to, vegan options, vegetarian options, donuts, coffee. You name it. I researched it. Turns out Portland is a HUGE foodie town and they are big on vegan and vegetarian food. There was an option on pretty much every menu I’ve seen and not just sides. Like full on meals! I loved it!! I had a mission and nothing was going to keep my from accomplishing said task.
Now anyone who has ever been to Portland will tell you that you have to go to Voodoo doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. So naturally, the first stop I made had to be a donut spot. So I hopped in an uber and headed to Blue Star Donuts. Blue Star is a gourmet donut shop with locations in Portland, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
They have unique donuts flavors from horchata to blueberry bourbon basil. But you know what was so great about this place? They have vegan options! The day I went the only vegan option they had was the orange olive oil cake donut. So in true Ciara form I bought three donuts. One blueberry bourbon basil, an orange olive oil and a pina colada. I know! I’m so bad. But pizza and donuts are my absolute weakness. I swear they will be the only things that keep me from being strictly vegan. I’m working on it (sigh). But damn if it wasn’t worth it! The blueberry bourbon basil was good but OH…MY…GOODNESS! That Orange olive oil was so damn good!! It was slightly warm and crispy on the outside but the inside was so soft and just melted in your mouth. It had a hint of orange and fennel. I will definitely be trying to recreate that recipe. I gave the pina colada to my coworker and she said it was delicious.
I also, had the opportunity to check out Voodoo doughnuts. Unfortunately I didn't have an opportunity to take any pics because...well...because I'm greedy and I happened to go at 11:30 at night. Voodoo also has vegan options. Actually they had a few more options than Blue Star did. I got a vegan chocolate glazed donut with boston cream filling. I have to tell you I'm not 100% sure it was vegan. It was scarily a little too close to the real thing. Buuuut that's neither here nor there. It took care of my 11:30pm sweet tooth craving. If I had to choose Blue Star or Voodoo it would most definitely be Blue Star.
Sadly, I didn’t make it to many food trucks because there were just so many places I wanted to visit. I did however make it a point to stop by the DC Vegetarian Truck. The reviews on yelp were enough to make me go check it out and the pictures...well…the pictures just solidified everything for me.
DC Vegetarian is an all vegetarian and vegan food cart located on SW 3rd (& Stark) in downtown Portland, OR.
I got the #2 sausage, (not)egg & cheese. The sandwich has homemade vegan sausage, seasoned organic tofu patty, Chao cheese, avocado, tomato and roasted red pepper sauce all on ciabatta bread. The homemade sausage was good. I don’t know what they seasoned the tofu patty with but it was done perfectly. It was actually my first time having Chao cheese and I wasn’t disappointed. You have the option of either Daiya or Chao cheese at no extra cost. I haven’t been too crazy about Daiya so I opted for Chao. The red pepper sauce brought everything together. For only $5 it was worth the price and so filling. Probably the best thing I ate in Portland. I wanted so badly to go back and get the Italian sub but I just didn’t have the time. Ugh! Next time.
One of the other places I came across that had amazing reviews was Portobello Vegan Trattoria. Pretty much every review was raving about the portobello steak. So off I went in an uber across the river to Portobello. I initially made a reservation but just decided to sit at the bar. I ordered the Portobello steak (of course) and was pleasantly surprised by the portion size. I was starving and thought there was no way this dish could fill me up but man was I wrong. The Portobello steak was served with roasted potatoes and braised greens with a red wine reduction and fried shallots. It really was delicious. I washed it down with some local beer (of course).
For dessert I had the peach beignets. They were pretty good but I’ll admit the Portobello steak was the star.
As I was enjoying my meal at the bar, I made friend with the bartender and she told me about a little gem on the west side. She told me I had to go to Food Fight! Grocery. Apparently there is a tiny strip mall in Buckner that is nothing but vegan stores/restaurants to include Sweetpea Baking Company, Herbivore Clothing, and Scapegoat Tattoo.
How could I have missed this in my research?! So off I go in my Uber to SE Stark Street. I’m so excited I can’t contain myself and then I look inside and…the lights were off. Nooooooooo! They were off at a retreat so the shop was closed down for the day. But no worries…I knew I was NOT leaving Portland without checking Food Fight! out. So the NEXT day I set out an agenda to basically eat my way around Portland and I did just that. First stop, Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai.
Pip’s is a little café that specializes in fried-to-order mini-donuts, chai and espresso drinks. Disclaimer: These donuts are NOT vegan. As a matter of fact earlier this year Pip’s landed themselves in a bit of controversy for putting out a job ad for a barista with “no non-medical, non-religious dietary restrictions”. His reason being, those dietary restrictions, “would stop you from tasting, accurately representing our treats and maintaining quality control.” Makes perfect sense to me but many took this as discriminating against vegans and were not happy. I’m assuming this has all been cleared up. I clearly didn’t give a s***. I read the reviews and there was no way I wasn’t going to Pip’s. Did I mention pizza and donuts are my weakness? Anyway…all that aside. Pip's is known for their donuts and chai. I didn’t order any chai as I’m not really a huge fan but they have five custom blends to choose from. I think the reviews raved more about the chai than the donuts. I mean yeah that’s all good and well but I know what I went there for. I think they had about five or six different donut varieties to choose from. I went for the cinnamon sugar, raw honey and sea salt, and blueberry wild rose. The donuts remind me of the ones you get at fairs and carnivals. Crispy on the outside and they just melt in your mouth when you bite into them. My personal fav was the raw honey and sea salt.
So after I left Pip’s, I walked around Fremont Street and visited a few of the local shops. Then I was on to my next location…A.N.D. Café on E Burnside Avenue. This was another recommendation from my bartender friend. A.N.D. is a cozy café with inventive vegan, vegetarian and gluten free breakfast, lunch and cocktail options.
I wasn’t terribly hungry so I opted for a biscuit with gravy and 3 nests. Now the nests are basically 3 hash brown nests with veggies and herbed tofu. I kind of wish I had more of appetite so I could have tried the pumpkin cheesecake waffles. Had I known the portions were so big I probably would have just gone for the waffles but I’m definitely not complaining. I was pleased with the meal. The herbed tofu scramble was really good and the gravy was perfect.
So! After A.N.D Café I headed back to Food Fight! and I am so glad I did. I was in vegan grocery heaven. Everything in the store is vegan so you don’t have to worry about reading the labels for animal ingredients. I really had to stop myself from buying most of the store mainly because I didn’t have the space in my luggage. Ugh!
I did, however, stock up on several local products like Soy Curls, Sensei Sauce, Thrive Special Sauce and Vegan Fish Sauce because I wasn’t sure how available these were back home. I also grabbed a few other items that looked interesting. They also have an online store which is also great because I LOVE Soy Curls and I’m trying to ration to the two packages that I bought. Speaking of Soy Curls that brings me to my last food stop…Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ.
Homegrown Smoker is an all vegan BBQ established in 2009. Basically they are known for their southern style BBQ free of animal products. Their goal is simply to, "promote veganism and community through delicious meals that appeal to vegans and omnivores alike".
Homegrown Smoker has two locations, the food cart on N Mississippi Avenue and the vegan deli on SW Jefferson. I opted for the food truck location because I was told Mississippi Avenue was one of the places I had to check out while I was in Portland. I ordered the Slosmomofo. Yes you read that right. The Slosmomofo is smoked soy curls basted in their in-house BBQ sauce, topped with chipotle slaw. It usually comes on a bun but I ordered it without the bun and added a side of fries. Listen to me when I tell you the soy curls were soooo good. Up until that point I had no idea what soy curls even were but I am so glad I ordered them. The texture was so much like chicken that at one point I took a bit out of piece and carefully observed. I was so sure they had given me chicken. Now you see why I bought two packages at Food Fight!. All I’m going to say is, if you can get your hands on some soy curls DO IT! The sauce was nice and tangy and the chipotle slaw brought the perfect amount of cool creaminess to balance it all out.
Homegrown Smoker happened to be in a small lot with a few other food carts and the good thing is you can take your meal and head over to the bar a few steps away. You can enjoy your meal with an ice cold beer. I’m not even going to get into how much beer AND donuts I had while I was there. The amount of breweries I went to that week was ridiculous. But I mean...when in Portland, right?
The City of Portland has so many great things to explore, from the unique mom and pop shops to the huge food truck scene. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I strongly recommend it. You will not be disappointed. A little fucking weird but they own that and I personally think it's all part of the charm. I'll be back soon PDX!
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