This quaint vegetarian-vegan cafe is aptly named, due to its proximity to the bustle of Powell Boulevard's speeding thoroughfare and, also, the up-and-down quality of its newly debuted fare.
A goddess mural adorning Chaos Cafe's entrance hints at the feast of colors inside: Funky, decoupaged tabletops, cozy booth seating and bright art on the walls lent a DIY touch to the small cafe that made me want to have my daily dinner there…where everyone would know my name and give me tips on how to knit beanies and make collage journals and stuff. Even the menu (mini photo albums with lovingly scrapbooked pages) gave me the urge to bust out my collection of zigzag scissors and glue sticks.
That menu, packed with local, organic produce, also made my mouth water. I was tantalized by the thought of a "build your own" wrap filled with warm quinoa and seasonal veggies in a sesame-ginger sauce, and lured by a housemade Nutty Beat Burger ($7.50). Instead, I kicked off my meal with two different types of freshly made juice ($4 each). The Red Zinger (ginger, lemon, apple, beet, carrot and garlic) refreshingly mingled sweet and tangy in my happy mouth, but the Go Green (apple, lemon and greens) never made it through the malfunctioning juicer. Bummer. Next up, Yo Yos (sautéed potato slices with tahini dipping sauce) swam in too much oil for my taste, and were served in a portion too meager for a $4 appetizer. However, the Cascade sandwich ($7.50) could make a diner forget about limp potatoes (and meat altogether) with a perfect blend of hearty tempeh, fresh tomato and creamy avocado, stacked thickly between slices of salty, crunchy sourdough.
But then I slipped up and ordered the nightly special: vegan macaroni and cheese ($7). I know, I know—a tempeh sandwich, sure, but vegan mac? From a newly opened kitchen? It's like testing the fates, practically asking them to make you yearn for the banished blue Kraft box. To be fair, the super-friendly server did warn me that it was "really wheaty." And it was; dusty, brownish pasta the color of old cardboard lay limply under a wheat-flour, nutritional yeast sauce with all the taste of…well, old cardboard.
Thankfully, dessert made up for the wheat-on-wheat action. Chaos' Midnight Madness chocolate mousse ($5) wasn't any ol' bowl of the fluffy stuff, oh no: This was super-smooth decadence. It was as if dark-chocolate candy bars had been melted down, poured into a cookielike crust of cashew, chilled and cut into a thick slab of pie. OK, so the server forgot the raspberry-ginger coulis topping mentioned on the menu, but still—it was by far the richest, densest, chocolatiest vegan dessert I have ever had. And I've been looking for a good few years.
So, yeah, there's a few kinks to work out in the kitchen, but this friendly, funky cafe manages to provide quality amid the chaos—and end things on a very sweet note.
Chaos Cafe, 2620 SE Powell Blvd., 546-8112. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. $