May 27, 2010

No meat or dairy? Vegan-friendly options abound

- phone, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, the question is always the same: Where's the best place to get a vegan meal in Portland? Sure, sometimes it varies, with queries about kid-friendly spots or places that offer both gluten-free and vegan eats. But at least once a week, and often more frequently, this question comes my way.

So, I decided it was time to answer it formally.

The list that follows represents my favorite places to find vegan food, but it's by no means a definitive directory of all eateries in town offering plant-based meals. Instead this is a go-to guide of your best bets when hunger strikes and meat and dairy just won't do.

2 VEGAN ALL STARS

These eateries only serve vegetarian meals:

Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro, 608 Congress St., 347-1551

Since it opened in 2007, this stylish eatery has become a hot spot for vegans and non-vegans alike. The menu is all vegetarian, mostly vegan and offers a number of gluten-free selections. All the eats are Asian-inspired and many come with tofu or faux meat additions. Top off dinner with one of the award-winning vegan desserts. It's open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Beware that the restaurant, which doesn't take reservations, fills up fast on Friday and Saturday nights. However, the host will give you a buzzer if you want to pop next door to Downtown Lounge for a drink while you wait.

Little Lads Cafe & Bakery, 482 Congress St., 871-1636

A cheap eats lunch spot that features all vegan comfort food and sandwiches. Many of the offerings are clever remakes of meat- and dairy-based meals, such as Crafty Macaroni, Chick-in Alfredo and Linguini & Meet Sauce. You can get the all-you-can-eat lunch special for $4.99, with soup or salad. Known far and wide for its Little Lads Herbal Corn, the cafe also offers bags of granola and grab-and-go pastries. It's open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Make sure to bring cash or checks, as they don't take credit cards.

10 VEGAN FRIENDS

These restaurants offer vegetarian meals on their regular menus:

Binga's Stadium, 77 Free St., 347-6072

I know what you're thinking: How can a wings joint be vegetarian-friendly? offering a great selection of salads and both a falafel wrap and the Buffalofu, which features tofu and hot sauce, that's how. This is the place to go if you have a party of vegetarians and meat-eaters who want to watch the game, since the restaurant and bar has an insane number of big-screen TVs. It's open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Emilitsa, 547 Congress St., 221-0245

A handful of this city's white tablecloth restaurants will make vegan and vegetarian meals on request (most notably, Five Fifty-Five, Hugo's and Caiola's), but this contemporary Greek restaurant is the only high-end eatery that always offers a vegetarian dish on its regular menu, which changes daily. The dish is usually easily modified to become vegan and is always a celebration of whole food flavors. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday.

Federal Spice, 225 Federal St., 774-6404

A counter-service shop that always has lots of vegetarian and vegan options, this restaurant is the perfect spot when you need your meal fast. Veggie items include wraps with black beans and rice and ginger lemongrass rice with Asian slaw. You'll also find vegetarian soups, falafel wraps and salads. It's open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Flatbread Co., 72 Commercial St., 772-8777

Ordering a cheese-free pie may elicit comments and strange looks at other pizzerias in town, but not here. There's always a vegan flatbread on the menu and the organic salad with a touch of seaweed is one of the best in town. This is a kid-friendly space and the harbor views can't be beat. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Kamasouptra, Public Market House, second floor, 28 Monument Square, 415-6692

When only soothing soup will hit the spot, Kamasouptra is the place to go. This counter-service eatery cranks out a changing assortment of soups every day, including a number of vegan offerings. These range from vegetable minestrone and chili to Thai green vegetable curry and gazpacho. Hours vary, but the soup slingers show up seven days a week.

Mesa Verde, 618 Congress St., 774-6089

This Mexican restaurant and watering hole serves up the standard fare of tacos, burritos and quesadillas. But unlike other south-of-the-border joints, you can choose beans, veggies, tempeh or tofu as a filling, in addition to the more standard meaty options. Each dinner comes with a side of organic beans and brown rice. In addition to the margaritas, the drink menu includes a long list of smoothies, all of which can be made with soy milk. A revamped menu offers lots gluten-free choices, including the mole sauce. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to close.

North Star Music Cafe, 225 Congress St., 699-2994

A casual spot that attracts moms with toddlers (who appreciate the toy corner), college kids with laptops (who appreciate the free Wi-Fi) and live music fans (who appreciate the stage's nightly entertainment lineup), it's also a favorite with health-conscious eaters. Vegetarians appreciate the locally sourced vegan eats, which include rice and bean bowls, bagels with tofu cream cheese and the Reuben, with marinated tofu and ruby kraut. Local beers and wine are on tap. The cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to close and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pepperclub/Good Egg Cafe, 78 Middle St., 772-0531

The Pepperclub is Portland's longest-running vegetarian-friendly restaurant and offers a number of vegetarian and vegan choices each night. These change often, but can include Indian curries and a vegan burger. There are always vegan desserts and plenty of gluten-free eats, too. In the morning, the space becomes the Good Egg Cafe, where the vegetarian tempeh hash is a perfect way to start the day. Dinner is served seven nights a week from 5 to close and breakfast is dished up Tuesday through Sunday from 7 to 11 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends.

Pom's Thai Taste & Noodle House, 571 Congress St., 772-7999

People like to joke about Portland's abundance of Thai restaurants, and most all serve up vegetarian eats. But this one takes the prize for most vegan-friendly with a special vegetarian menu and a garlic sauce made without the standard fish sauce. The menu here is enormous, and includes the signature noodle bowls, and the service is quick. Get your Thai fix here daily from 11 a.m. to

9:30 p.m.

Silly's, 40 Washington Ave., 772-0360

A beloved Portland institution with a decor and a menu that lives up to its name. There's a full vegan menu, including such fun-filled offerings as the Tempeh of Doom Dinner and Rest in Pizza. The vegan chocolate cake is a popular way to cap your meal, as are the famous milkshakes, which can be mixed up with soy or rice ice cream. Get a laugh with your meal Tuesday through Sunday.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

akamila@pressherald.com

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