Friday, March 28, 2008

Portland: Food & Sights + The Inside Scoop

Hello everyone! As you can tell, CH and I have finally returned from our AMAZING Portland trip (boo hoo!), and I can't wait to share all of the details with you...

First of all, let me just say that Portland was so laid-back and vegan-friendly that I felt like I was on another planet. Almost every restaurant and pub had at least one vegetarian option on its menu, and there were tons of places that were exclusively veg!

The coolest thing was that it actually seemed as though veganism/vegetarianism were completely accepted there (unlike in the Midwest), which made me feel right at home. I highly suggest visiting Portland if you haven't already - even if you're not vegan or vegetarian - it's worth it for the food alone!

Anyway, I have tons of pictures (of course), so I'll try to keep this post about food as much as possible, but please don't hate me too much if I stray from it a bit...

Above is a group of pictures of the first "Vegan Strip-Mall" in the country! It contains four stores: Sweetpea Bakery (with coffee and vegan goodies); Food Fight Vegan Grocery (with everything your little vegan heart desires!); Herbivore Magazine & Clothing Store (with cookbooks, mags, t-shirts, stickers, cotton bags, etc.); and Scapegoat Tattoo Shop (this one's pretty self-explanatory).

And yes, I nearly hyperventilated when I saw it! I mean, a vegan mini-mall? Seriously? Who'd-a-thunk it?!

Anyway, the first picture (going from the top L) shows some of the cool veg-themed t-shirts that were in Herbivore's store. The second one is of the door to Food Fight Grocery, which proudly proclaims that the store is "Open Every Fucking Day!" The third shot is of the Herbivore sign that sits outside of the strip-mall, and the fourth one shows the inside of the grocery store.

Hmm? What's that you said? Show us some of that yummy food already? Your wish is my command...

First stop: Veganopolis, a 100% vegan cafe, which offers cafeteria-style breakfasts and lunches, as well as a diverse menu of tasty vegan vittles.

Pictured, below, is my meal from Veganopolis. It's a quinoa burger, which is made from quinoa, tahini, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas.

On the side is colcannon, which is a potato dish (minus the gravy) that's popular in Ireland. (We ate there on St. Patrick's Day - go figure.) I also ordered a side of avocado, which I actually ended up adding to the top of the burger, and eating it more like a cutlet than a sandwich. Yum!

The next picture is of CH's Veganopolis meal. It's a Chik'N Pesto sandwich, which is a "chicken" patty, topped with pesto (it was delicious!), spinach, onion, and "rawmesean cheese," all on a ciabatta bun. As you can see, CH had the colcannon, too, as well as a bit of cucumber salad.

Second stop: Nicholas Restaurant, a delicious Lebanese eatery that offers vegetarian and vegan options, and is open late!

I ordered the Vegan "Mezza Platter," which consisted of falafel, hummus, and a deliciously lemony tabouli salad. And, as if that wasn't filling enough, it also came with the following "side dishes."

(FYI: a single "Mezza Platter" can definitely feed more than one person - trust me - I tried my damnedest to prove that statement false and failed miserably.)

Above is the "garbanzo plate," and below is an amazing lentil and rice dish called "mjadra." Although both of them were terrific, I loved the mjadra so much that I've been working on replicating it, myself. When I get the recipe worked out, I'll post it so that you can try it, too!

Third stop: The Alameda Brewhouse, which is a brewery/restaurant that brews its own beer and features several veg meals on its menu.

Here I ate a scrumptious veggie burger that was made from veggies as well as "spent" grains, which were left-over grains that were used to brew beer! (Talk about recycling!)

CH and I also shared an unhealthy, but delicious, plate of onion rings, which were accompanied by a cilantro + avocado sauce. Oh, and we had a huge beer-sampler, too, of course!

So, after all of that food, you're ready to see a few non-food pictures, right? Well, at the risk of venturing into boring "family vacation slide-show" type of territory, I'm going to post a few pictures of the beautiful things that we saw on our trip.

CH and I were fortunate enough to visit some gorgeous places in Portland and the greater Oregon area, including Silver Falls State Park (which contains 10 waterfalls!), the Columbia River Gorge, and the Japanese Gardens. Following are a few shots from those places...

Thanks for humoring me - now let's get back to the food!

Fourth stop: Old Wives' Tales, a veg-friendly diner-type of restaurant that also offers a small salad and soup bar.

I ordered the salad/soup bar. Pictured below is the soup that I selected (Curry Cauliflower) as well as the salad that I threw together. I really enjoyed the soup, but the salad bar was kind of limited, so it ended up being just so-so.

Fifth stop: coffee and dessert! Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the bakery that we stopped at for cupcakes; however, the name of the coffee shop that we visited was Albina Press.

Despite my lack of memory regarding the name of the cupcake bakery, I can definitely vouch for the fact that it churned out some yummy cupcakes!
The one pictured at the top is called "The Pearl," and it consisted of vanilla with some kind of filling in it (CH's pick). The bottom two are mini-cupcakes - one is Apple Pie Spice (my pick), and the other is Chocolate Stout, which was made with beer from a local brewery.

And, although coffee shops are ubiquitous in Portland - saying that they're at every corner is almost an understatement - the strange thing is that CH and I had a hard time finding espresso that was as strong as what we're used to. (Even when we tried Starbucks). Luckily for us though, we finally found Albina, which had fantastic lattes and a cozy, relaxing vibe. Yay!

Sixth stop: The Whole Bowl, a vegetarian food cart in downtown Portland. (Note: there are multiple other locations as well.)

Alright, I'll be honest, I saved the best for last here. The thing is, the Whole Bowl quickly became an addiction of mine (as well as CH's), and we ended up coming back to it more than once.

And, although it struck me as a little odd that Portlanders seemed to patronize "food carts" for lunch - I had a hard time disassociating them from the funnel cake and "elephant" ear stands at the State Fair - I quickly discovered the natives were on to something: cheap and delicious food!

A Whole Bowl consists of brown rice, red and black beans, Tali Sauce, salsa, black olives, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. (Vegan = without the cheese and sour cream.) The secret - and I do mean secret - to the bowl is the Tali Sauce.

In fact, that's what that yellow-looking sauce is that's visible in the picture below. Apparently the ingredients are very closely-guarded; all that the Whole Bowl crew will say is that the sauce contains lemon, garlic, and other "spices," and that it's both vegan and wheat-free.

(It's also referred to as "crack sauce" quite often - 'cause it's so very, very addictive.) Hmmm...

Not surprisingly, I've been driving CH crazy trying to replicate the sauce here at home. And, when (if) I do manage to get it right, I'll post the recipe here - if you're really nice to me that is! Hahaha! Just do me a favor - if you're in the Portland area, send me one of those bowls, okay? I'll pay cash, and you can even have this elephant deliver it to me.

PS I almost forgot to share "The Inside Scoop" from the title of this post with you!

Here it is: While CH and I were eating at Veganopolis, the owner started up a conversation with me because of the law school sweatshirt that I was wearing. She asked if I was from Chicago, and we started chatting a bit. She was really nice and told me some cool stories about when she used to live in the Midwest, and then she shared a little secret with me...

She's planning to open up a Veganopolis in Chicago within a year's time! Now if that doesn't excite you, you either don't leave nearby (sorry!) or you haven't seen their menu/website yet. Check it out
here, and start planning your trip! Just don't forget that you heard it here first!


  1. I *love* PDX

    so jealous

    thanks for the quick trip back there... ahhhh....

  2. oh man...i can't believe there's a vegan strip mall!! i must move to portland....

  3. This sounds like a great trip full of wonderful eats and beer! Yummy! Portland is definatly a destination for people that love food. I was just talking about it in my post today.

    Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll! :)

  4. I feel like I am still on our trip!!! Thanks for taking me back to the best vaction we have taken to date. Many more to come! Especially if they involve Tali sauce, but especially if they involve good beer :)

  5. Thanks for sharing - now I realize I need to go to Portland! The "crack" sauce at the vegetarian stand sounds awesome - I do hope you can churn out an imitation recipe! It looks like you had so much fun... It must really be a drag to back to the normal routine after that trip!

  6. did an awesome job highlighting your portland trip! the mini-mall is a blast isn't it? i'm glad you had fun here. maybe the cupcake place you visited was st. cupcake? i know they have some vegan cupcakes...

  7. wow, that looks amazing! I want to get over their before herbivore goes out of business :( Its so sad. I will miss them.

  8. Welcome home! A Veganopolis in Chicago? Are you teasing me?!

    I'm so jealous of the PDX'ers! Vegan street cart vendors? Really? Is that just to rub it in for the rest of us who are forced into iceberg lettuce and spaghetti marinara when we go out to eat? :P

    Put up more pictures so we can live vicariously for a little longer!

  9. I wish they'd open a veganopolis here in Dallas! (Hey, I can dream, can't I?)

  10. Wow, that looks like a fabulous vacation! The food looks fantastic, and I shouldn't be looking because I'm hungry for a snack...

  11. Gaaaah- head exploding from awesomeness of this post!

    I can't believe you got to go to the vegan mini-mall! I've literally had dreams about it! It must feel so indulgent to go somewhere so veg-friendly. Like a kid in a candy store, I say.

    The quinoa burger sounds like a suspiciously perfect version of all my favorite foods. Yum!

    And the non-food pictures are gorgeous too- especially the bridge one. You should be a vegan travel writer/ photog for Vegetarian Times or VegNews.

    Glad you guys had such a good time and shared it with us!

  12. oh dear, you are making me *so* jealous! i wish i were in the pacific northwest right now.

  13. Sigh... so many of your pics reminded me of my trip to portland almost a year ago...except at that time there was no vegan mini-mall yet! Dang! I need to head back. I loved veganopolis as well, and I'll have to remember about the lunch carts, don't think we hit up any of those.
    It's so overwhelming visiting such a veg-friendly city when it's different from where you live. I just got back from seattle, experienced that same thing. Thanks for posting your photos and giving us a glimpse of your trip!!

  14. I have to comfort myself with the fact that it's a GOOD thing I can't afford to fly out to portland, because I would get SO FAT from eating all the good food out there...

    thanks for sharing our pics!

  15. wow ~ thanks for the great detailed post....I have always wanted to go to Portland and you gave great insight on places to start...that curry cauliflower soup looks great.

    thanks for your comments earlier and am glad you did, will plan to stop by again to read your veg adventures!

  16. wow. i am speechless. i think i need to move to portland.

  17. any luck with the Tali Sauce? I'm trying to nail it down too -- it's a tough one!!

  18. glad you enjoyed Portland so much, such a great place to be vegan!

  19. For the Tali sauce, try starting with a moroccan charmoula, heavy on the lemon, and add a little tahini. I've been thickening mine with corn starch, but there's something else giving it that slightly eggy texture. Still, the saffron-lemon-garlic taste of the sauce comes straight from the venerable charmoula, so starting there is the way to go. Message me if you need a recipe.

  20. Hi Ted and Spencer!
    Any luck with the Tali sauce?
    I NEED it!


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