Restaurant Guide 2013: Portobello Vegan Trattoria

1125 SE Division St., 754-5993,

[VEGAN ITALIAN] Noted carnivore Anthony Bourdain once described vegans as a Hezbollah-like splinter faction of vegetarians, "enemies of everything that's good and decent in the human spirit." This opinion would come as a surprise to patrons of this small, charming establishment on the bustling corner of Southeast 12th Avenue and Division Street. Choose one of the cozy booths, lined with softly gleaming wood, and enjoy a glass of their excellent sangria, nearly overflowing with ripe fruit. The pillowy gnocchi, tossed in kale and walnut pesto and served with zucchini and peppers, is justly famous. Their cheesey pie, or margherita pizza, less so—only a long-time vegan could possibly mistake the taste and texture of the crema for real, gooey mozzarella cheese. On one visit, the lobster mushrooms were undercooked, possibly in an attempt to mimic the meaty heft of flesh. But save room for dessert, and don't be put off by the fact that all of them seem to be dairy-based. Not only is the salted caramel sundae perfectly cool and sweet, it's also gluten-free. Take your time and try to ignore attractive but superfluous waitstaff that attempt to clear your dishes every 10 seconds. 

Ideal meal: At $38 per person, the four-course tasting menu would be the perfect vegan Valentine's date.

Best deal: The $11 namesake portobello burger comes with pommes frites and homemade ketchup.

Pro tip:  Portobello is located next to two of the best beer bars in town—Apex and the BeerMongers—if you're looking for a post-dinner digestif.

5:30-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $$.


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