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Restaurant Review: No Bones Beach Club PDX

Trigger warning:  This post contains more superlatives than a Donald Trump speech. 

It is often said in religious circles that “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”  The vegan scene has had a few doors closing as of late, with Portland staples like Portobello shutting their doors.   But, the vegan heavens soon burst open a giant window upon us all. And it is tremendous.

Bigly tremendous.

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We weren’t sure that they were even open, and after some internet sleuthing we decided to just drive by.  We saw the glowing OPEN sign, high-fived, and parked with a quickness.

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Upstairs decor.
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Downstairs is really colorful.

Walking into the No Bones Beach Club, the decor was a great mix of Waikiki dive bar, and Pier 1 imports.  The bamboo, tiki masks, and surfing elements reassured you this was, in fact, a tiki bar first and vegan joint second.  There was no mention anywhere of it’s vegan roots which I get, and actually appreciate.

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Full service bar.
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Respectable draft list.

The bar was front and center with TVs, a pretty large seating area, and more seating upstairs.  The place is spacious, well designed (I love the colorful sheetmetal wall), and open.  Upstairs they have a small “Tiki Hut” that is available to rent for a small fee and is the only reservable spot.

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The rentable Tiki Hut.

The service was super warm and made us feel comfortable.  Even though we caught them on a soft open, they seemed experienced, knowledgeable, and at home.  They happily accommodated our 18 month old with a cool pineapple sippy cup and a high chair.

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Mojito, water (for the kiddo), and Beach Thyme.

The first choices were on cocktails and I asked our server to just surprise me. She inquired about my love for mojitos and I happily confirmed.  Kristin ordered the Beach Thyme which was a coconut-based tropical drink.  I have never had a mojito in Cuba, but certainly many in various tropical spots (think Hawaii, Singapore, and of course Florida).  I have to put this mojito right up there with one of the best.  The mint was great, the sugar not overpowering, and it was just a great drink.  The Beach Thyme was also really good, albeit a bit different with the coconut milk base.  As far as a winter tropical drink goes, it was perfect.

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Buffalo cauliflower wings.

Next came the appetizers. The Buffalo Cauliflower “wings” (quotes are mine) were absolutely amazing, as was the ranch on the side.  Perfect amount of heat (which for me is minimal), and tremendously fried to crispy perfection.

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Nachos.

The nachos were a great surprise and I have to tell you, some of the best I have had.  The cashew cheese is ridiculous, and the chips themselves seemed almost like won ton wrappers…in strips.  Hard to describe, but amazing to stuff in your face.  Some may appreciate the fresh jalapenos, but this New England-born kid kept them on a side plate, lest they drop a seed somewhere unexpectedly.

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Eggplant fries.

The last app we sampled were the  Eggplant Fries.  Like a bad vegan, I hate eggplant but the fry I did have was perfectly fried and had a great flavor (as did the side of poblano ranch).  These all came home for later.

I was so overcome with the immature excitement of a new vegan establishment of this caliber, I forgot to consider the menu for my actual lunch.  No, we had not yet ordered lunch.  Yes, I was being an absolute fat ass.  Anyway, continuing.

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Crab cake benny.

Kristin ordered the Crab Cake Benedict, with crab cake made of parsnips – f’ing PARSNIPS!  I popped on the Mango and Blueberry stuffed French Toast (I know this is a shocker, but I held the jalapeno syrup and went with good ol’ fashioned maple syrup).

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French Toast.

I know some may think I am being over the top here, but I honestly mean this.  Like to the core of my being.  This was, hands down, the absolute best french toast I have ever had in my entire life.  Period.  It was absolute perfection.  I’d write about the fluffy bread, the delicious fruit, and all the other stuff, but I am just going to leave it at that.  It was just that good.  Period.  Done.

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French Toast with fruit stuffing.

The crab cake Benedict came out and was presented beautifully.  The garnishes, color, and overall design of this plate was impressive.  When I was able to finally taste it (I admit I was a little leery of parsnip-based crab), it literally blew me away. As far as a savory dish is concerned it was awesome.  I think the word “stupid” came out my mouth. It was that good.  I actually ran out of positive words and ended up repurposing negative words.   It was like infinity had wrapped back on itself.  The food was stupid good.

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Non-profit of the month.

I also think it’s awesome they choose smaller non-profits and feature one each month, sharing a percentage of sales with that organization.

So in conclusion….

So I need to say something here after our experience today.  When I think about the cool decor, the awesome service, and the stupid food….No Bones beach Club is THE best vegan food right now in Portland.  And I don’t just make claims like that.  It really is.  Absolutely without a doubt.

You need to go there right now.  Order some amazing drinks, toss back some buffalo cauli, and just soak up the awesomeness of the place.

It’s tremendous.  No bones about it.

Find No Bones Beach Club PDX at 3928 N Mississppi, Portland, OR 97227

Restaurant Review: Lovin’ Spoonfuls [Tucson]

On a recent trip to Arizona, I checked out the Happy Cow app to help me find some local vegan restaurants and was stoked to see a place called Lovin’ Spoonfuls.  After reading a few reviews I decided to head over and check it out.

The location is simple, but nice, nestled into a strip mall off Campbell Avenue.  Parking was simple, and I found a spot right in front.  They have a nice covered outdoor seating area and on this cool evening, I decided to eat out front.

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Once inside, there is a really nice seating area with a dessert case, small retail section, and some information on animal rights and activism.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Lovin’ Spoonfuls [Tucson]

Restaurant Review: VeganBurg [San Francisco]

When I used to travel to Singapore, I always made sure to stop at VeganBurg – a country-wide vegan burger joint that prided itself on healthy vegan options.

So when I heard their first (and only) US location was in the heart of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, I knew I needed to go.

While the menu options seemed  little lighter than I remember, the space itself was really nice, clean, and bright.  I ordered the “Cracked Mayo” burger with seaweed fries (not as hippy as they sound, I promise), and Kristin ordered the Smoked Franks with a side of fries. Landen went with the standard – Chicken Tenders.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: VeganBurg [San Francisco]

Restaurant Review: Next Level Burger [Bend]

UPDATED 9/14/15!  We returned to NLB for an amazing breakfast!  See the new content below!

When it comes to vegan fast food, us vegans miss out on three key elements of the fast food culture:

1. We don’t camp out weeks in advance of an opening.  And, while I would never be one of the schmucks in a $20 Coleman tent sleeping on a sidewalk outside some vegan Chick-Fil-A, the concept of it is appealing.  I mean, how committed do you need to be to artery-clogging, fat soaked food to actually sleep outside for a week?  That is true, foodie commitment.

Camping in the winter for a week. For fried chicken.

2.  We can’t just have a greasy, bad-for-you burger experience.  Most vegan burgers I have seen are typically some malted oregano-kale infused, carrot fiber burger, promising all kinds of health claims. Sometimes, I just want to eat something bad for me too.

3. We don’t have a vegan fast food mecca that beckons us to make multi-mile journeys off major interstates.   We need a vegan In-and-Out kinda place.

So when I heard there was a new vegan burger joint in Bend, I had a chance to do a little of all three.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Next Level Burger [Bend]

Restaurant Review: Gracias Madre [San Francisco]

Vegan mexican food is really nothing special.  I can get an amazing burrito with beans, rice, lettuce and tomatoes (provided the beans are lard free and the rice has no chicken stock).

This guy was all business.

But a fully authentic Mexican vegan experience?  Now that is something awesome.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Gracias Madre [San Francisco]

Restaurant Review: Pingala [Burlington]

I have been complaining about Burlington’s vegan scene for a while now, with only a few places (like Stone Soup) offering anything substantial.

So when I heard about Pingala in the Chace Mills at Winooski, I was really excited to check them out.

Their location is pretty awesome, right on the banks of the Winooski River at the falls.  While the idea of a nice outdoor spot sounded nice, the mercury was hovering around 15 degrees.  So we elected to sit inside.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Pingala [Burlington]

Restaurant Review: Moncai Vegan [San Diego]

San Diego has a pretty decent vegan scene, and Moncai Vegan is a cornerstone.  The nice thing about it, is that it contrasts to the “fast food” nature of other pillars, such as Evolution and Veggie Grill.

Moncai Vegan is more of a take your time and relax kinda place.

A funky/eclectic design felt a little cold at first, but I soon settled in.

While a small space, it is setup very well with about six or seven tables.  The ambiance is a bit austere, but the warm service combined with the scent of fresh baked goodies more than makes up for it. They have an awesome display case filled with donuts , cinnamon buns, and other baked goodies.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Moncai Vegan [San Diego]

Restaurant Review: Root [Boston]

There is a little village outside Boston (right off the Pike) that should be on all vegans’ travel plans – Allston.  Similar to Portland’s vegan mini mall, there is a corner at a major intersection with a vegan chinese food restaurant, vegan ice cream shop, and the newest member – Root.

Root occupies the space that used to feature Peace O’ Pie, one of my staple vegan establishments in Boston.  But they occupy it well, offering something new to the scene.

The branding and space design is beautiful and a respite from the urban environment of Allston.

The menu, while relatively limited to six “big bites” options, is diverse and a great reflection of the spirit of Root. Continue reading Restaurant Review: Root [Boston]

Restaurant Review: Wayward Vegan Cafe [Seattle]

Lunch one day at A.N.D. in Portland and Dinner at Wayward in Seattle!?  It’s a vegan race up I-5 in this week’s restaurant review double header!

This was my second visit to Wayward Vegan Cafe, located in Seattle’s vegan mecca of University Way.

When you first pull up, the outside leaves a little to be desired, looking pretty run down and sandwiched between a couple of sketchy bars.  And, honestly the inside, while clean, is not much better.

But, once you are over the austere decor, you are in for some truly delicious vegan chow!

Wayward Vegan offers more healthy choices, but each time I go, I find myself opting for a more “junk” food experience.  It is also really cool that you can order breakfast or lunch all day.

The first time I visited, I ordered the “Mac Daddy” which is essentially a vegan Big Mac.  Their menu describes it as “Two no beef patties, reuben sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”  It was pretty awesome to eat something so vegan and so bad for you.

The Mac Daddy

I also ordered the peach cobbler which quite honestly was not really that good.  The nuclear fuel rod temperature it came out at might have had something to do with it, as it was waaaay over warmed.  After letting it cool for a long time, I had a couple of bites and left the rest for the compost.

The super hot peach cobbler.

On my second visit I was starving.  I had just raced the clock, trying to make it by 9:00PM (closing time).  I asked the person taking my order what their most popular thing was, and ordered it.  I waited in eagerness while my food was delivered.

It was a beautiful vegan club sammy!

This puppy was huge.  Full of tempeh bacon, ham and turkey, on buttered bread, it was also really filling and probably not that good for me.

The Vegan Club Sandwich

The Club was pretty good.  The tempeh was not very bacony (which may or may not be a good thing for some) and I found it overall just lacking some flavor.  It was still yummy, but surprisingly missing something.

For dessert I ordered the Oreo Cheesecake and it was really good.  Not as firm as some of the better cheesecakes I have had, but still tasty and fresh.

Oreo Cheesecake!!

The Wayward Vegan  Cafe is a good place to stop for some really “good” junk food.  I will most likely check it out once a year or so on my visits to Seattle, but not more than that.

 

Restaurant Review: A.N.D. Cafe [Portland]

As many people know, brunching in Portland is something of an olympic sport.  It is part of our heritage, much like good espresso, grey Winter days,  and cold craft beer.  And, just like never owning an umbrella, people have come to look at standing in a long line as something that actually defines a true Portlander.  

So, when you can find an amazing vegan brunchery (not a word until just now) with not much of a wait, it is like the heavens have opened up and a thousand angels are singing.

This sign beckons me in my dreams. Is that creepy?

A.N.D. Cafe rarely has a long line of hungry souls, but that is not due to the food, atmosphere, or service.  I tend to think it is due to being “farther out” on Burnside than most fixie riders are willing to go.

Let them have the Screen Doors and Tin Sheds of the World.  We’ll fill up the Jeep and barrel her down Burnside for some of the best vegan food Portland has to offer.

A.N.D. Cafe is, by default vegan.  However, upon request, vegetarians and omnis can elect to have eggs and dairy cheese subbed.

Let’s talk food.

I cannot recommend enough, anything with their walnut meat loaf. My personal fav is the Meatloaf Benedict, but the sammy is great also.  On their menu, the MB is defined as “herb tofu or two poached eggs, walnut meatloaf, hollandaise, toast.”

Meatloaf Benedict

The Florentine waffle is an amazing choice, with chicken (Beyond Meat), gravy, scrambled tofu, hollandaise, and tomatoes.  It also is stuffed with cheese (I’m thinking Daiya) and spinach.

The Waffle Florentine

Just today I tried the Buffalo Blue Hoagie, a buffalo chicken (ala Beyond Meat) sandwich with homemade blue cheese and spinach. The soft, velvety bread makes this easy to eat. It is a top contender for possibly being one of my favorite all-time vegan sandwiches.  And I don’t just throw that around all willy-nilly.

The best vegan sammy in ALL of Portland? The Buffalo Bleu Hoagie.

Melanie ordered their special today, which was a fried tofu cutlet with gravy, kale and cheddar jalapeno corn bread.  She liked it, but made the mistake of trying my chicken sammy first.  Once she had that, the bar was set too high for the tofu cutlet to keep up.

Today’s special: The Lucky Plate

Service is short, brisk, and very pleasant which is really what you want in a place like this.  I don’t have time for clingy waiters and waitresses – get my order right, bring me my food, check on me from time to time, and let me free up that table for the next hungry group.

The people at A.N.D. Cafe are always great.

Let’s talk about the BAD parts of A.N.D. Cafe:

….

(there are none)

In conclusion,  this place is a pillar of the vegan scene in PDX and should never be missed.  If you are a vegan in town and have not been here yet, GO THERE.  Make it a regular stop.  If you have out of town guests, take them here and blow their minds.