Friday, September 27, 2013

Dining Gluten-Free and Vegan in Portland, Oregon

This post has certainly been written by plenty of other folks, but I figured I'd just join the bandwagon and share my favorite gluten-free and vegan eats from around the city where I grew up and still live.

Portland's a fantastic city to live in with any sort of restricted diet. Now, a few years ago, that wasn't necessarily the case, and I remember a particularly bad episode where I dined with friends downtown and our waitress didn't even understand what a vegan was. Since that occurred, however, I've gotten better about communicating my needs and restrictions, and, I feel, waitstaff have gotten better at understanding and asking clarifying questions. I've ended up with some amazing meals just because I asked for help in deciding what to eat, instead of complaining about my dish after I received it.

So, here's my list of favorite places to eat in Portland, in absolutely no order...and, as a disclaimer, since places are always closing, moving, or opening, let's consider this a continual list-in-progress.

Natural Selection: Want an amazing, romantic night out with your sweetie? Go here. I'm serious. The food is articulately prepared, served, and created; the ambiance is hip, yet somehow simultaneously classic, and the wine list is ridiculously delicious. It's a bit spendy, and know that not everything is vegan or gluten-free, but many things are both, and the waitstaff and chef are perfectly willing to work with you if you give them a head's up ahead of time.







Papa G's Vegan Organic Deli: This is vegan comfort food at its finest. Meatless meatloaf? Check. Hearty cornbread? Check. Mushroom stroganoff? Check. It's all there, and it's all tasty. Run by the wonderful Grant, who always will give welcome you with a warm smile, this is one of my favorite places to dine because it doesn't feel pretentious or judgey, yet everything is vegan, everything is organic, and everything is delicious.

Los Gorditos: Oh my, oh my, oh my. I've never been to Mexico (although this will be changing as of December this year - more on that later!), but I imagine a cozy taqueria to feel just like this: inviting and warm with amazing smells emanating from the kitchen. There is an equal amount of vegan choices to rival the meat and vegetarian ones, and the gluten-free options are more plentiful than many Mexican restaurants.

Blossoming Lotus: I've gone here for my birthday two years in a row, for a good reason: it's a great place to find gluten-free, soy-free, raw, and vegan foods all at once. It really can feed an entire group with varying tastes at once! The atmosphere is enjoyable, and the dishes (which change with the seasons) are always tasty.

Luc Lac Kitchen: This used to be my favorite hole-in-the-wall pho place, but a few years ago, it exploded into an extremely popular restaurant with seating and a bar. I like the vegan pho, but you might like the papaya salad? They have something for everyone (even the pickiest eaters!); just be sure to get there before or after the busy times (noon and 6 p.m.)!

Mississippi Pizza: There was a time (not too long ago) when D and I would order pizza from here once a week. And not just one pizza; we'd order two LARGE pizzas and then each eat half of one the night we ordered it! Those days are gone, but not forgotten; we're simply trying to eat a little healthier now and save our money (ordering the vegan and gluten-free crusts tacks on a bit of a charge) for once-in-awhile treats.

Dalo's: Now, you might complain about the service (it's not exactly what I would call fast), but the food at this Ethiopian restaurant is spectacular. I recommend ordering the buffet so you don't have to wait for a server to take your order first. Bonus: the injera is 100% teff, so it's also completely gluten-free (a rarity around Portland Ethiopian restaurants).

Vita Cafe: This is a no-frills kind of place, which is one of the things I like about it. You'd never guess that it's the sister restaurant to Natural Selection (see above), but even though it's lacking in artful displays of ingredients, it's not lacking in taste. Their tofu omelets are delicious, and their vegan club sandwich is the best in the city (in my humble opinion).

AND Cafe: The lovely folks who own this used to also own an amazing vegan burger food cart. It was my favorite place in the world (well, practically!), but now that it's closed, I have to get my cravings fulfilled at the restaurant. Their selections of waffles is mind-blowing, and, because their sandwiches can all be made gluten-free, people like me can eat practically everything on the menu - a real treat.

You might notice a few glaring omissions on this list, such as Veggie Grill, Portobello, and Native Foods, three all-vegan restaurants. I haven't had great luck being a gluten-free vegan at the two chains, and the wait at Portobello is always so long that I just dismiss it as an option, so I've only been there three times total. However, please feel free to list your favorite dishes from those restaurants, if you've been to them!

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