The vegan brunch menu at Bird & Co. in Portland’s Woodford’s Corner includes vegan churro French toast and a vegan chimichanga. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Most Portland brunch places worth their avocado toast can supply customers with an oat milk latte, a fruit salad, or a bowl of oatmeal. But others – Tex-Mex Bird & Co. among them – take vegan breakfast to another level.

The churro French toast served on weekends at the Woodford’s Corner restaurant is now made with a vegan batter. The switch happened after the restaurant added a full vegan brunch menu a year ago, and the cooks discovered they preferred the vegan batter.

“At first, we had two separate egg washes for the two French toasts,” said Wills Dowd, who opened Bird & Co with Jared Dinsmore in 2019. “Eventually, we felt that the vegan French toast was a better product and started using it with our non-vegan French toast. We use vegan whipped cream on both.”

It’s a discovery that highlights Bird & Co.’s strategy of keeping its dining room full on weekends in part by offering substantial vegan brunch dishes, including plant-based huevos rancheros, vegan breakfast chimichangas, and vegan hash. The vegan churro French toast comes to the table golden brown and crispy, dusted in cinnamon sugar and plated with fresh berries, maple syrup and Coffee Brandy vegan whipped cream.

Neither the batter nor the bread that Bird & Co. originally used for its churro French toast was vegan. Both contained eggs and cow’s milk. Now, the restaurant starts the vegan dish with thick slices of vegan white bread made at Big Sky Bakery across the street. (The non-vegan French toast uses non-vegan bread.) The restaurant’s universal French toast batter is a mixture of Just Egg (which is made with mung beans), oat milk and seasonings.

“The Just Egg is more expensive, but it makes a better sear and it soaks better,” Dowd said.


Other restaurateurs in the city have also found a successful formula with a heavily plant-based brunch menu. At LB Kitchen, the plant-forward menu draws a sit-down and take-out crowd with its brunch-y, vegan-heavy menu from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day.

“We do seasonal specials, but we don’t stray too far from our original menu,” said Bryna Gootkind, who opened the restaurant with chef Lee Farrington in 2017. They moved into a larger space last year. “The majority of our menu items are plant-based to start, and we allow customers to layer in proteins,” she said.

All but one of LB Kitchen’s smoothies are vegan; the exception contains bee pollen. The restaurant offers four types of plant milk (oat, almond, pistachio, coconut) to add to coffees and teas. Most of its savory bowls start with plants. Vegan baked goods are offered daily, and a tofu fried egg can be substituted for a chicken’s egg in any of the sandwiches, toasts or bowls.

The plant-centric menu at LB Kitchen on Congress Street is loaded with vegan brunch options, including the breakfast sandwich with a tofu fried egg and carrot bacon. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

“The vegan breakfast sandwich and the avocado toast, which is vegan, are both our top-selling toasts,” Gootkind said. “Lee and I are of the belief that the optimal diet is plants, and that’s what we’re offering as a baseline.”

LB Kitchen also serves coconut yogurt, cashew cheese, carrot bacon and vegan pancakes.

I last wrote about Portland’s vegan breakfast scene in early 2019, and a lot has changed since then. Five years and a pandemic later, many of the restaurants I wrote about have closed, changed ownership, or altered their menus. And new restaurants have opened.


The Friendly Toast in Portland’s Old Port serves many vegan breakfast items, including pancakes. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Like Bird & Co, The Friendly Toast is a relative newcomer. It opened in 2022 on the corner of Fore and Franklin streets in the Old Port with a huge menu that includes vegan pancakes (the size of a dinner plate!), vegan sausage, tofu scrambles and a vegan pasta.

“Our vegan dishes are very popular with our brunch guests,” Friendly Toast executive chef Justin Fischer wrote in an email, “the best-selling of them being our vegan breakfast burrito.”

In its 11 locations across New England, The Friendly Toast kitchens have designated vegan prep areas to reduce the chances of cross contamination with animal-based foods.

If it’s not too cold, The Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck sets up for its signature 420 Brunch on Sundays at the corner of Bolton and outer Congress (check its Instagram account for details). TotallyAwesome’s brunch menu includes a Brekky Entelechy breakfast sandwich, which uses a marbled, maple-hickory bacon that chef Tony DiPhillipo makes from chickpeas.

Bagel bakery Forage on Washington Avenue continues to sell its popular vegan breakfast sandwich, featuring housemade tofu eggs and housemade vegan Canadian bacon. The Bayside American Cafe on Portland Street offers a vegan version of a BLT made with seared tempeh, while the Sinful Kitchen on Brighton Avenue serves a vegan tofu scramble with a side of BBQ jackfruit. Artemisa Cafe on Pleasant Street includes vegan hash and an Impossible burger on its brunch menu.

Ugly Duckling on Danforth Street makes vegan English muffins and can slather them in vegan cream cheese, while the brand-new Novel Book Bar & Café on Congress Street makes a vegan pumpkin bread to complement its oat milk lattes. Every day, the two Holy Donuts in Portland serve half a dozen or more vegan doughnut varieties.


Back at Bird & Co., Dowd said that adding a full vegan brunch menu to the taco restaurant has attracted more families and large parties. “I’ve noticed that most of the big groups of four or more all came because of the vegan menu,” Dowd said. “That’s because the one vegan in a group always gets to pick the restaurant.”

This phenomenon has been called the Vegan Veto Vote, since restaurants without vegan options get vetoed when a diverse group of eaters is looking for a place to gather.

Non-vegans often order off the vegan menu, too, Dowd said. “The vegan chimichangas are more popular than the chimichangas with meat,” he said. “One of my best friends likes the vegan rancheros better than the regular rancheros.”

Gootkind at LB Kitchen sees similar crossover appeal, which is exactly what she and Farrington are aiming for: “Our bigger mission is to make it easier for people to be part of the plant-based lifestyle, whether that is every meal or just one meal on one day.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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