Baby Blue Woodfired Pizza
Best for: Pizzas with housemade faux meat and temporary non-pizza items announced on Instagram.
3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd., babybluepizza.com. 11 am-5 pm Sunday-Monday, noon-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $.
What an exciting new addition to the Portland vegan dining scene. Opened in summer 2019, Baby Blue is a dedicated plant-based wood-fired pizza cart located in the same stretch of Southeast Hawthorne as Matt's BBQ Tacos. Pies here are a solid 12 inches, somewhere between a personal pie and a light lunch for two. Baby Blue makes its own faux meat in house, including the crispy pork belly on the Gringo Starr ($13) with kale, vegan mozzarella and red onions, and the pepperoni ($13), a lovingly traditional take on the Americana pizza shop classic. Watch Instagram for specials like the Krusty Burger ($13), a hamburger pie with "secret sauce" and pickles. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Nachos with pecan chorizo for a meal, a sweet and savory
protein shake for a snack.
Since 2009, before veganism was cool, Blossoming Lotus has been serving dishes sans animal products in this location off Northeast Broadway. It is still among the very best vegan restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, and indeed the country, offering an elevated take on organic cooking. It's hard for me not to get the same stuff every time: Live Nachos ($15) with the best, meatiest pecan chorizo, fresh onions, tomatoes, scallions, guacamole and house cashew sour crema; Green Bowl ($14), with jalapeño-date dressing, edamame, quinoa, kale and much more; and Hot Date ($8.50), which is nominally a protein shake, but in practice is one of the tastiest things on the entire menu, combining deeply sweet and savory items (dates, pecans, banana, almond milk) with a sizable amount of cayenne and cinnamon. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Vegan fine dining. Finally!
Vegan fine dining is a rarity. So when Farm Spirit opened its brick-and-mortar, it filled one of the few voids left in the area's plant-based dining scene. Owner and executive chef Aaron Adams' constantly changing menus have put local produce to clever uses since he launched a pop-up in 2015, and in early 2019, he opened Farm Spirit just a few blocks away, where head chef Scott Winegard plans the bulk of the dishes. I went with the truncated, dining room tasting menu ($89 per person). The first thing to arrive, a platter of spongy, housemade rye bread and a savory beige hazelnut spread, wasn't like other vegan "cheeses," which usually attempt to mask the flavor of the puréed nut base. Instead, it tasted strongly of hazelnuts. The fact that the spread wasn't pretending to be something else became its greatest strength. Richly nutty, earthy and herbaceous, it tasted like an entire forest condensed into a paté. My meal culminated with a dessert comprising two poached rhubarb spears and an oat crumble topped with a dollop of green ice cream flavored with lovage—a leafy herb that tastes like celery. Even seasoned vegans are bound to balk at the idea of celery ice cream, but after a few bites, the saltiness of the oat crumble brought out a light, natural sweetness from the lovage. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Best for: Grab-and-go mixed-grain and bean bowls or a fancy three-course lunch—oh, and fermented stuff.
1414 SE Morrison St., fermenterpdx.com. 11 am-2 pm Wednesday-Friday. $-$$.
At Fermenter, the new restaurant from chef Aaron Adams, the name is literal. Just beyond the counter at this charming, lived-in space on Southeast Morrison, past the lunch menu and list of ever-changing kombuchas, juns and kefirs lurks a custom 6½-foot-tall fermenting locker built from scratch by Adams with an aftermarket thermocouple. "I'm trying to fill the need for myself," he says, "a healthy vegan lunch that won't make you need a nap after." For diners, there are two paths. First, a takeaway option in the form of mixed-grain and bean bowls in refundable-deposit containers ($2), topped with an ever-changing array of fermented pickles and kimchis, along with one of Adams' housemade sauces, which range from peach chile de agua to hazelnut yogurt. For around $8, and taking less than five minutes from order to arrival, it offers a different glimpse of what fast food can be. Then there is the counter, offering a prix fixe, three-course lunch for $23 that changes daily. Across just four seats—at least for now—Adams whirls between dual roles as chef and server, composing each plate by hand, serving and explaining every course and maintaining the restaurant's vast program of fermenting fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins, some of which take days of prep, others years. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Knowing no animals were harmed in the making of this barbecue.
All of us—regardless of age, identity, or dietary inclination—need some good barbecue sauce in our lives. For plant-based Portlanders, there is no finer establishment for that than Homegrown Smoker, which is also a hub for plant-based picnic foods and country classics. For instance, the Mac Daddy ($11.25) is a smoked seitan patty, topped with cheeseless macaroni, shredded vegan mozzarella and slathered in barbecue sauce. You will need a nap after eating this, perhaps in your car directly outside the restaurant. In the mood for a little Tex-Mex? The Macnocheeto ($10.50) will satisfy your craving with smoked soy curls, mac without that cheese again, barbecue beans, sauce, peppers and onions all stuffed into a flour tortilla. Under no circumstances should this be mistaken for health food, but it is meatless, and Lord, is it good. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Gaiwan tea service and DIY vegan dim sum.
Ichiza is a fully vegan pan-Asian restaurant, serving utterly fresh plant-based renditions of classics dishes from Korea, the Philippines, Japan and China. Tea is a big part of the concept here, with a multitude of oolongs—I like the Mao Xie "Hairy Crab" ($5, $10), with flavors of fresh bamboo, apple and honeysuckle, and Ultimate Da Hong Pao "Big Red Robe" ($7), boasting notes of burnt sugar and oak—plus green teas and tisanes available for gaiwan service, served on a lovely tray. Chile oil wontons ($7) and kimchi gyoza ($8) are satisfying and complex; add the mushroom and bamboo shoot buns ($8), or a traditional order of turnip cakes ($7), and you've got unbeatable vegan dim sum. Still hungry? There's plenty of noodles if that's your thing, but I was blown away by Ichiza's Mapo Tofu ($14), an all-day prep of steamed tofu and deep, complex, tingly chile sauce served with cooling rice and cucumbers. Get dessert! The Halo Halo ($9) is among the best in Portland, vegan or not. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Scratch-made curries and nam kao tod crispy rice wraps—your new carryout go-to.
Some of the very best Thai cooking in the city—vegan or otherwise—happens at Nan Chaison and Sarah Jansala's KaTi in the Richmond neighborhood. The menu is dedicated vegetarian, and every item can be made vegan by subbing out the egg in dishes like pad thai ($13.50) and pad kra pao ($13). I've eaten this entire menu on loop over the past two years, so please believe me when I recommend KaTi's excellent scratch-made green curry ($14) and panang curry ($15), the former so wonderfully green and bright, the latter a wonderland of deep, savory flavor, redolent with whole Thai peppercorn clusters and sweet basil. Spicy means truly spicy here, so order with caution. The spicy thai fries ($8) are fun to share and dip in fermented chile paste, and the nam kao tod crispy rice wraps ($11.50) have become my family's takeout mainstay. Get anything here with fried tofu or tempeh, and call in your carryout well in advance: KaTi stays busy. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Maruti Indian Restaurant
Best for: A lager crafted by Indian American immigrants to complement the cuisine.
Maruti was the people's 2019 runner-up pick for Best Indian Restaurant in WW's Best of Portland issue, but for vegans and vegetarians, this place is like a gift from Vishnu. Save for a few dishes using paneer cheese, the menu is stocked with vegan choices, from the coconut cream mango lassi ($5) to garlic naan ($5.50) to vegan tikka masala ($15), in which coconut is used as a substitute for ghee. My favorite dish here is the grilled eggplant ($15.50), which is perfect with a little spicy aachar pickle and roti cooked in the house tandoor oven. Maruti skips the ubiquitous Indian lunch buffet format, and is open for dinner only in a lovely small dining room. If you're dining in, get a 1947 Indian lager ($5)—a beer crafted by Indian American immigrants to complement this style of cuisine. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Secret Pizza Society
Best for: The ultimate munchies for the vegan stoner.
At this small shop—referred to on its enigmatic website as "the Great and Secret Motion Pizza Show"—the motto is "Vegan Pizzas That Don't Suck." Here, the 10-inch personal pies are made entirely with organic ingredients, but don't think of it as "health food." These are the ultimate munchies for the vegan stoner. This is where you'll find some of the city's most crave-worthy plant-based pizzas, like the Chalupa Batman ($13), a mashup of Papa G's taco tofu with vegan chipotle crema, fresh tomatoes and cilantro. It is a glorious little vegan pizza. But it's not the best thing on the menu. That would be the Pyro ($15)—essentially an entire pizza, folded in half and filled with toppings of your choice, alongside soy curls, greens and a tangy-sweet house sauce somewhere between balsamic gastrique and Mae Ploy Sweet Chili. This is bliss, and should be kept from no friend of the slice. Let the Secret Pizza Society be secret no longer. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Best for: Mock-meat breakfast and lunch classics in a renovated roadside diner.
Portland's newest all-vegan restaurant may also be its most beautiful. The thoughtfully restored roadside diner, which used to house greasy spoon Golden Touch on Barbur, serves a menu of American breakfast and lunch classics. All of Vertical Diner's mock meats are made there, from the tempeh bacon on the tblt ($13) to the Tender Tigers ($9, $10 Buffalo style), delicious little nuggets of fried seitan wheat protein served with house ranch dressing. My favorite dish here so far is the pancakes ($3-$7), better than any vegan pancake I can make at home, and available with chocolate chips, bananas or strawberries for $1 extra. It's worth mentioning that the restaurant is spotless and has been packed across multiple visits; it neither looks nor smells greasy like the former inhabitant, and the service is affable. This style of food is perhaps the most commonly veganized in the country, but it's not all created equal. Vertical Diner sets a new gold standard. JORDAN MICHELMAN.