Cheap Eats 2015: Vegan/Vegetarian

Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | African Food | American Comfort Food | Breakfast/Brunch

Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Indian | Island/Ocean | Japanese | Korean | Latin American

Mexican | Middle Eastern/Mediterranean | Old World European | Pizza | Sandwiches

Thai/Laotian | Vegan/Veg-friendly | Vietnamese | 21 Delicious Bites For $7 or Less


2816 SE Stark St., 922-1858, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

The vegan bowl is a Portland staple. Is that because of vegans? Maybe, but I don't think so. Actually, I'm not sure I've ever seen a known vegan eating a vegan bowl.

Vegan bowls are for the rest of us, people who spend a week eating various forms of pizza-based foodstuffs and end up craving a nutrition-dense, one-plate meal that's got lots of good stuff, and barely any bad stuff, in a well-balanced assortment of protein, fiber and fat, hopefully with a tasty sauce to sew things together.

There's a fine line to walk in a vegan bowl: You want it to be filling, rewarding and maybe even a little rich, without overdoing it. You want a symphony of textures, without chopping everything into a slurry or requiring endless mastication of the greens. Canteen, which grew out of the the Sip juice carts, nails it. In a recent survey of vegan bowls in Portland, this sparse "Shaker inspired" space on Southeast Stark—they play drone music and have gallon jugs of amino acid—was the clear winner. They make the best bowls in town. My favorite is the Southern bowl, which uses a heap of barbecue-flavored soy curls that have the consistency of slow-smoked pork butt plus soul-warming collard greens, black-eyed peas, coleslaw and an earthy cashew ranch dressing. The Portland bowl is also tasty, a base of quinoa and hearty black beans plus maple-kissed tempeh and a bowl of rough-chopped local hazelnuts. 

As an outcropping from juice cart Sip, the little box on Stark Street also serves up juice blends and smoothies with an unlikely preponderance of kale. In the morning, the impromptu wood tables outside fill with neighborhood sippers.

The best-tasting smoothie of them all is the Maca and Friends ($5/$6.5), a creamy mix of banana, almond butter, dates, vanilla, almond milk and maca that we're pretty sure isn't healthy at all despite its inclusion of Peruvian superfood. 

At least, it doesn't taste healthy. It tastes like a guilty pleasure, except that guilt is impossible at Canteen. The entire place is designed to make people in the throes of an eco-hipster-lefty shame-spiral feel that they're doing the right thing. They are. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Ash Woodfired Pizza

7875 SE 13th Ave., 941-0196, Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Saturday, lunch Sunday.

[S'MORE?] Ash's meatless pizzas are easy to like, with wood-fired sourdough pies made with attention and forethought from luxe ingredients, brushed with garlic butter after they're removed from the oven. Even for the omnivore, concoctions such as an oyster mushroom and Castelvetrano olive pie can summon that same rich, salty-savory combination found in fine cured meat without, you know, actually being meat. Nothing in Sellwood—or in any nearby neighborhood, among them Moreland, Brooklyn and Milwaukie—comes close to Ash's best-made pies, which cost between $9 and $11 for a single-serving 10-incher, baked to a light char on the crust. That crust can be touchy, but at it's best, it's great. Oh, and get the s'more. It is rich, crisp, sweet and so much better than you'd ever expect a vegan, gluten-free dessert to be. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Proper Eats

8638 N Lombard St., 445-2007, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

[GROCERY VEGAN] This broken-in grocery-slash-restaurant brings serious organic, vegan fare to blue collar St. Johns. The dessert case is stocked with cannolis with coconut cream filling and the back counter has housemade cranberry kombucha in jugs. Everything here is mindful, down to the Portland-made Thai and True hot sauce. Proper's tabouli bowl is sort of a reverse of the familiar Lebanese recipe, with a base of bulgur accentuated with bits of parsley. It's all topped with a ladleful of hummus and a few olives. The pesto bowl on the other hand, has big chunks of tempeh, carrot strips, leafy kale and pesto made with hazelnuts. Have either and feel less guilty about getting dessert—they're stocked as well as any vegan bakery in town. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Sizzle Pie

926 W Burnside St., 624 E Burnside St.; 234-7437; Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.

[MEAT, BEATEN]  The metal-happy, late-night pies of Sizzle are enough of a Portland trademark by now it even threw down in the Moda Center this year, bringing wrist tattoos, vegan cheese and gluten-free crust to the unheard-of arena of basketball concessions. But for the most part, this is what you'll be doing: You'll be a lot drunk and a little tired, sometime after midnight, and this pizza will save your life on Burnside, whether east or west. The best pies are almost always vegetarian or vegan—meat's an add-on or an afterthought here, a sop to the masses. I mean, seriously: red sauce blended with aardvark, tofu cheese, seitan chorizo, tomato, jalapeño, red onion, and cilantro at 3 bucks a slice? Beats the crap out of that slice of pepperoni with a couple peppers on it for the same price. It's like a starter kit for junk-food greenery. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.  

The Sudra

2333 NE Glisan St., 971-302-6002, Lunch and dinner daily. 

[MORE CASHMERE THAN KASHMIR] To call the Sudra authentic Indian food would certainly offend many an Indian person. Rather, the vegan restaurant offers a Portland take on Indian-inspired dishes, like a Bollywood film directed by Gus Van Sant. Silver platters heaped with vibrant yellows, oranges and greens tantalize both visually and aromatically and will make you forget there's no lamb vindaloo on the menu. Instead, fluffy chickpea cutlets with brown basmati rice, ginger-molasses root vegetables and a zippy kale tahini salad are more than enough to satisfy ($9 for a "small" plate, or $13 for a large, which could easily feed two). But the time to go is during the generous daily happy hour (4-7 pm, 9 pm-close), when slightly smaller versions of everything on the menu are available for $5—whether potato masala or the kale-infused dosa. It's still Portland, after all. PENELOPE BASS.

The Whole Bowl

Restaurant location at 4411 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 753-7071. Carts in the Pearl, downtown and on Northeast Sandy. Hawthorne: Lunch daily, dinner Monday-Saturday.

[IT'S THE SAUCE] The secret to Tali Ovadia's mini-empire of bowl spots is the dark yellow mustardy, garlicky, lemony, yeasty sauce that bears her name. That Tali sauce ties everything else in these perfectly appointed bowls together. There is but one recipe—two if you count leaving off the dairy to make it vegan instead of vegetarian—with hearty helpings of mostly inexpensive and totally nutrition-dense foodstuffs. Other than the sliced avocado, this is peasant food: rice, black beans, red beans, cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and some shaved Tillamook cheddar. It's pretty much perfect for what it is, which is why there are four locations serving one Tali-topped bowl in town. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | African Food | American Comfort Food | Breakfast/Brunch

Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Indian | Island/Ocean | Japanese | Korean | Latin American

Mexican | Middle Eastern/Mediterranean | Old World European | Pizza | Sandwiches

Thai/Laotian | Vegan/Veg-friendly | Vietnamese | 21 Delicious Bites For $7 or Less

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