As many of my readers know, I am a strange blend of liberalist, centrist, and conservative. While I voraciously support equality – marriage equality for one, I also advocate strongly for second amendment rights and smaller government.
I also believe unequivocally – that without our second amendment, we cannot protect the others. That single right – to keep and bear arms – allows us, the citizenry, a poker chip against a future government that steps too far. It was baked into our rights from a group of founders, that had just recently witnessed an armed citizenry resist an oppressive government – and succeed. It is core to our nation.
That all boils down to the fact I am a staunch believer in concealed (and even open) carry.
Today we ventured down Broadway in Portland, looking for a spot for some lunch goodness. The only problem? I wanted something new. I remembered hearing about Blackwater Bar in Portland, an all-vegan bar.
Blackwater is a punk-rock themed bar, that teeters on the edge of dive status for me. Once you walk in, the space is on the dark side (not sure if deliberate for the punk theme) and has a good mix of booths and chairs with tables. The place is pretty good size, with a full sized stage for live music shows, a bar in the back, a couple of pinball machines, and ample seating.
I have never liked cheese. Only as a slice on a cheeseburger, or on a plain pizza. All the fancy cheeses just grossed me out. The thought of moldy, fermented cow milk was never anything I really wanted to try.
But now, as a vegan, I am really excited to try out all these new cheeses! They are not gross at all, and, ironically I’m learning all about different cheese now that I am vegan.
What does all this have to do with Vtopia? Well, for starters, it is Portland’s first all vegan cheese shop. For seconders (is that a thing?) they have an incredible deli that let’s you try all their cheeses in their glory.
Kristin and I pointed the Jeep at Vtopia, and headed to NW Portland for some lunch.
When it comes to vegan sin food, look no further than a steaming chinese buffet to quench your carby-starchy-salty cravings. And, no two Chinese vegan joints are ever created equal. There are upscale locations and, well, downscale too. Which was honestly what I expected as we pointed the Jeep to Portland’s “felony flats” to try out a new Chinese place. And boy was I wrong.
Yuan Su is located in a large building at the corner of 112th and Powell with ample parking. Once inside the huge wooden doors, the place is well lit, clean, and very spacious. I was surprised to see a stage there, but figured it was just part of the building’s history.
The service was warm and humble and quickly brought us water, house soup, and discussed the new business. As we pored over the immense menu (I honestly do not know how they can sustain such a huge menu) we decided on some options.
I know this post isn’t directly related to Jeeping, or even veganism for that matter (I did have a vegan driver once). But it is an issue that has been in the Portland-area circles, as the city decides how to “handle” ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
The first time I used Uber was during a business trip to San Diego. I took a cab ride from the airport to the hotel, for a whopping $37 (it was like 4 miles). What is even worse, was the driver’s attitude about accepting my corporate AMEX card (“you don’t have any cash?” he pestered). As he was grumbling about swiping my card, he didn’t even help me with my bags from the trunk. As he sped away, I just about swore off taxis.
On the other end of the spectrum, on my return trip to the same airport from the same hotel, the cost was just over $11. And the courteous driver offered me complimentary water, set the music to whatever I wanted, and was incredibly polite and conversational.
Believe it or not, we have so many vegan establishments in Portland that it is still a possibility to explore new ones. And this is exactly what happened to me recently when visiting Sweetpea Baking Company in SE Portland.
I had been there before, but usually only to pick up a special order cake, or for a coffee emergency.
In my opinion, there are two titans of the vegan “fast/casual” restaurant market: Veggie Grill and Native Foods.
Fortunately for us vegans, they both take a different approach on their food so we truly get to enjoy the strengths of each.
Veggie Grill uses purchased meat analogs where Native Foods makes all their own stuff. Both options are great, but with Native Foods you can enjoy food that you just can’t make at home. Another plus? Native Foods has ventured further inland than VG, with locations in places like Boulder, Washington D.C., and Chicago.
There was a study (er, an article I saw on the internet, so it MUST be true) that there is a certain color of red that instinctively makes humans hungry.
Think about one fast food brand that does not have this same red in it: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., In ‘N Out, etc.
It just so happens that the vegan meatballs at Brass Tacks are the EXACT same red. That must be the reason I am drooling like a Pavlov dog each time I walk into the place.
Brass Tacks is in a non-descript building facing Vancouver at Fremont. The interior is austere and a bit cold, attributed mostly to the huge glass windows along the front that make for great people watching.
While BT is very accommodating and knowledgeable about veganism, they do serve meat, so keep an eye out on the menu.
But what a menu.
What the menu lacks in quantity (there are 4 options + 1 special), Brass Tacks makes up for in quality. The white bean meatballs are housemade, and they are some of the best I have ever had. The housemade “ham” is also amazing.
I have yet to try the Salamigeddon, as the word “spicy” scares off this New Englandah. Their new Curry Chicken Salad will be my next choice for sure. But those meatballs are just amazing and I find it hard to order anything else.
Melanie tried the Velveeta Underground along with the potato salad, claiming to love both. The sammy looked really good, but paled in the sloppy beauty of my meatball sub. I tried the potato salad and it was good, but I am not a huge potato salad fan, so take my criticism with a grain of salt. Or paprika, as there was a metric ton of it on the salad.
Brass Tacks is an in-and-out place with not much in the way of comfort. But that is part of the allure of the joint. It’s utilitarian yet the kraft paper tray liners harken back to a 1940s lunch bell place, where lunch was scarfed and you went back to riveting the bridge together before your 20 mile uphill walk back home to milk the cows.
And that is why Brass Tacks will be on my fav lunch spot list along with the Veggie Grills, Homegrowns, and DC Veg’s of the world. They offer enough difference to make it awesome. In Portland, no two lunches are ever created equal.
Next time you are craving a great, hearty lunch that is relatively inexpensive and delicious, hit up Brass Tacks.