2333 NE Glisan St., 971-302-6002, thesudra.com. Lunch, dinner and late night daily.
The Sudra doesn't serve Indian food, whatever they try to tell you. Nowhere that cheerily offers a sweet-but-sadistic strawberry habanero sauce with your "calabacitas" kofta is an Indian spot.
It is instead a lovely take on pan-vegan cuisine informed by the cultural interests of sociology students and yogaphiles: Latin America, India, the Middle East. Luckily, the Sudra eschews the cuisine's customary bowls in favor of varied platters ($12 large/$8 medium) whose sides range among potato masala, kale with tahini dressing, lime-cilantro sauces, pickled Anaheim peppers and earthy anasazi curry beans.
Those calabacitas balls subject the Indian malai kofta dish to the fajita treatment, pairing hearty zucchini-squash nuggets with bell peppers and onions and a note-perfect, sweet-spicy tomatillo chutney. The terrific plate of pakora—cauliflower and broccoli that's been pickled, breaded and fried—comes with a startlingly jammy blueberry-mint chutney, in a sweet-savory mash-up that makes no good sense. Still, I kept coming back for more chutney.
The cocktail list, meanwhile, is formed to the palates of those accustomed to juice-bar fare—drunks with a health-food fetish—offering tongue-needling ginger mixed with whiskey and cider, tequila with beet juice, and drinks containing blueberry or blackberry puree.
But of all vegan places in Portland, the Sudra is the one most likely to lure those whose diets range as free as a Portland chicken: One simply doesn't miss the meat or milk. And with its cozy, tasteful bar décor, one might happily meet there for a novelty cocktail—or more likely a beer. Though the bar takes its name from the lowest of Indian castes, allow me to be the first to say: Untouchable, my ass. I'd eat off their dishes anytime. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-255-0138, harlowpdx.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, breakfast and lunch Sunday.
Bowls, that staple of vegetarian dining, are often maligned. It's too easy, detractors say, to slop together grains, beans and vegetables and douse it with Bragg's. But airy, gluten-free Harlow, like sister-restaurant Prasad, elevates the bowl to something special. All bowls start with rice or quinoa and then pile on steamed kale, perhaps steamed sea vegetables, maybe kimchi, or, in the rightly popular Betty Bowl ($9), in-season roasted vegetables. Add a sauce or two—lemon ginger, peanut, garlic tahini—and you've got a gorgeous medley of flavors and textures. (Although, granted, not everything lands as successfully, such as a barbecue tempeh that tasted sour rather than smoky.) Want your vitamins in liquid form instead? Harlow also offers smoothies and juices to load up with echinacea, spirulina or liquid chlorophyll. REBECCA JACOBSON.
2314 SE Division St., 235-0244, papagees.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Papa G's recontextualizes the reuben sandwich. Normally, you're kvetching about the bread (too much caraway!) or the corned beef (too salty!) or the cheese (what, they can't melt it?). This little vegan deli on Division—it looks like a Tongan auto body shop from the outside and is all warm wood inside—puts the emphasis on the sauerkraut, here a rich slaw of al dente cabbage with bite, which goes well with lightly toasted Dave's Killer rye and the house's dense, toothsome tempeh. It's not all soy-bombed Western grub at this deli where the kombucha selection bests the beer. An Indian curry special ($13.50) with jasmine rice, tofu hunks in coconut curry, bahl and sweet tomato chutney demonstrates a knack for subcontinental fare—how about opening Babu G's next door? MARTIN CIZMAR.
925 NW Davis St., 224-3993, prasadcuisine.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
"I just don't want anything that tastes like bird food," says my meat-loving companion in line at Prasad, causing me to blush at the look we receive from the skinny, Spandex-clad woman who has just finished a class at the conjoining Yoga Pearl and is now re-upping with a Bliss Salad ($9) loaded with beets, quinoa and figs. Prasad's nutrient-packed bowls ($7-$9.50) and smoothies ($5-$8), laced with flavors like garlic tahini, carrot habanero and cayenne pepper, are anything but bland. In fact, the challenge at Prasad is to find a food and drink pairing whose vibrant flavors suit each other best. GRACE STAINBECK.
Proper Eats Market and Café
8638 N Lombard St., 445-2007, propereats.wordpress.com, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Strolling through the tiny market space at Proper Eats in St. Johns to get to their much larger vegetarian/vegan deli gave me a brief flashback to the first time I walked into the Daily Grind, the Hawthorne natural-food stalwart that closed back in 2007. While the sights and smells of Proper's well-curated dry goods, produce and bulk bins may be eerily similar (if writ small), having one of their tempeh-bacon sandwiches ($8.00) in their bright, airy dining space is an admirable step up from the gloom of Daily Grind's old deli. Breakfast is available all day, and the menu of soups, salads and sandwiches are nicely bookended by entrees and veggie bowls. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
4411 SE Hawthorne St. and other locations, 971-753-7071, thewholebowl.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday; Hawthorne location open weekends.
Tali Sauce is an acquired taste. On my first encounter with the pungent lemon-garlic-mustard-nutritional yeast sauce that makes this local chain's bowls different from all the other vegetarian rice bowls in town, I found it to be too much. I even considered opting out of "everything" in my next $6 bowl. But Tali gets to you. Before long, you can't imagine spooning into cilantro, rice, beans, avocado and cheese without that bright yellow sauce. At least a half-dozen bloggers have attempted to retro-engineer the recipe, cornering up to 16 different ingredients. Seems crazy now, but maybe I'll change my tune and try it at home. MARTIN CIZMAR.
926 W Burnside St.; 624 E Burnside St., 503-234-7437, sizzlepie.com. Lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Sitting in the West Burnside Sizzle Pie must be the closest one can get to experiencing Portland as River Phoenix did in 1991. That sordid, cult version of the city is barely alive as you take your $3.75 slice of vegan "Drugs Benedict" pizza from the tatted, disinterested guy at the counter, the Scorpions blaring in your ears. Admire the Steel Bridge mural painted on the Joyce Hotel (commissioned by McDonald's), and enjoy a slice covered with crunchy Baco Bits and hash browns. Tourists walk by just a foot outside the floor-to-ceiling glass, looking at you like a museum piece on display. You can almost hear them: "Oh, wow, it's really Portland in there." AARON SPENCER.
3312 SE Belmont St., 235-0146; 704 NW 21st Ave., 206-5916, dkportland.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Portland's best spot to get a Paleo fix, the diner-style Dick's Kitchen lets you go caveman by simply putting your patties on a salad. But these are no ordinary burgers: Low on salt and high on gaminess, the goods are served up rare with the choice to go even healthier with elk, bison and turkey. You can forgo the excellent Classic Burger ($7.25) for a trio of hockey-puck-thick sliders ($11) that allow you to sample the entire farm. Just save room for the lentil-based venison chili ($4.50-$5.50) and air-puffed "not-fries," which afford you the easy opportunity to make "eat a bag of Dick's" jokes in a restaurant full of toddlers. AP KRYZA.