This guest post is by Mandi Hoffman, a vegan blogger and activist hailing from sunny Portland, Oregon. She runs Chicvegan.com, a website for ethical ladies who want to do good deeds while looking hot and feeling fabulous.
Driving across country can be fun – especially when you can have all types of food adventures on your way! My boyfriend and I recently made the long trek from Portland, OR to Charlotte, NC. Admittedly, I did not do much planning for this trip. It came as an unexpected surprise and I hardly had time to get my shoes on before embarking on the journey, let alone strategically plan every stop. As a vegan, this was a bad idea. Since our trip was a rushed one, we had to grab things to eat at whatever place was open during the time we happened to be passing through. While we ended up discovering some truly great places, we missed out on an abundance of others.
Lets quickly talk about the pitfalls of not planning a road trip out at all, when you are vegan. The second night I found myself in a tiny town at the base of the Rockies, eating french fries for dinner at a local diner. That was literally the only veg option on the menu – French fries. Most of the way through southern Wyoming and Nebraska, the only veg-option was bean burritos at chain taco places and bags of nuts from gas stations. Lovely. I grew up in Philadelphia and then moved to Portland, OR so I have always lived somewhere that there are plenty of vegan options that aren’t too hard to find. After this trip, I really began to empathize with those aspiring vegans living in parts of the midwest, or in small towns. Sometimes your only option is to eat at home, FOREVER. And that sucks. Perhaps those people should get out and start an eatery of their own. Trust me – if you build it, they will come.
Oh Portland.. I’ll miss you so. I’ll miss your abundant vegan food. Your eclectic flare. Your hipsters.
Our last meal in Portland was at Prasad, a healthy vegan eatery attached to a yoga studio with myriad raw options. I grabbed a Dragon Bowl (quinoa, beans, sea veggies, avocado and garlic tahini sauce) and a green juice. We also stopped at Food Fight! vegan grocery and got some provisions (and thank god we did!) to supplement during the drive.
Here’s a list of some other great places to eat in PDX. This could be a much lonnnnger list, but I’ll keep it to the crème de la crème.
Blossoming Lotus – My absolute favorite place to eat in Portland. The food is heavenly. The staff is super nice. The atmosphere is great.
Sweet Pea Bakery – An all vegan bakery filled with delectable treats.
Herbivore – Not a restaurant, but an all vegan shop filled with books, shirts, bags, shoes and anything else your heart desires. Located in the famous vegan mini-mall with Sweet Pea and Food Fight!
Outside of places to eat, there are a lot of other cool things to do in Portland. Here are some places worth checking out:
Powell’s Books – The largest independent used bookstore in the world! This place is truly amazing. Over 68,000 square feet of books. Seriously.
Forest park – A beautiful, quintessential Pacific Northwestern forest with a crazy trail system. It’s within the city limits too!
Saturday Market – A crazy whirlwind of adventure that takes over a large portion of the city every…single….Saturday. Be prepared for lots of crafts, street food, street performers and random craziness.
PSU Farmer’s Market – Its like the Saturday Market – but with vegetables! Portland has a ridiculous amount of farmer’s markets, but this on is by far the best.
Columbia River Gorge – The most beautiful place you will ever go. It is about 20 minutes outside of the city and well worth the drive. If you take the scenic route you will pass by a series of falls including Multnomah Falls.
We stopped for lunch the second day at Shangri-la Tea Room in Boise. Shangri-la is a vegetarian restaurant with a ton of vegan options and some raw options. They also have the best tea ever! We had a pot of MateJuana, a delicious blend of Mate and Kava Kava, and as you might imagine – it was exhilarating. I got a simple raw salad and topped it off with some tofu since I wasn’t sure where my next good source of protein would be coming from. The boyfriend got a chickpea salad sandwich, that he loved so much, I might try to recreate it at home!
Salt Lake City, Utah
SLC is a really cool city and I wish I could have spent some more time there. We came through pretty early in the morning and stopped by The Blue Plate Diner for breakfast. I had a monster vegan breakfast burrito! The Blue Plate Diner is not exclusively veg but they have a good amount of options. SLC seems to be very veg-friendly overall.
Most of Nebraska was a vast nothingness, but once we got into Lincoln things started to look up. We stopped at a little Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Nguyen, that we just happened to be driving by (I never pass up Vietnamese!). We shared veggie summer rolls and I got a yummy lemongrass tofu bowl with sprouts, veggies and rice noodles. Most vegans can happily eat Vietnamese as long as they let their server know they don’t want any fish sauce. Oh, and if you are getting Veggie Pho (soup) make sure you verify that the broth is in fact veg-based.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City was another really cool city with tons of veg options! I really wanted to head over to the vegan/raw cafe, FÜD but it didn’t open until 11am and we had to get on the road. Time was not on our side! We ended up stopping at Mud Pie Bakery, a super awesome vegan bakery. I got a giant cupcake and a scone. Yeah, I’m a fatty like that. They were both yummy! It was pouring outside and there is nothing like rain, coffee and a vegan bakery to make a girl feel like shes right back home in Portland.
St. Louis, Missouri
I really, really wanted to go to Pura Vegan but they didn’t open until 5pm. What’s with the weird hours, raw places? Instead, we ended up getting Ethiopian at Meskerem, which was divine! If you have never tried Ethiopian – I implore you to try it. The flavor is unlike any other food you will ever eat. You also get a nice sense of community by digging in with your hands on the community plate. The good thing about Ethiopian food is that they do not use dairy or eggs in their cooking so if you order off the Vegetarian menu, you are totally fine.
Asheville, North Carolina
On the final day of our journey, we stopped in this little hippie city right outside of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville is only about 3 hours from Charlotte and it is such a fun and beautiful place! The city is pretty progressive and with that comes an abundance of vegan eateries. We fueled up at Laughing Seed, a huge vegetarian restaurant right smack in the middle of Wall Street. They had a good amount of clearly labeled vegan items on the menu, along with gluten free and raw fare. Hallelujah! I dined on the Raw Manicotti and a big green juice. The presentation of the food was gorgeous and somehow it managed to taste even better than it looked. I was thoroughly impressed!
Charlotte, North Carolina
So here we are in our new temporary home. We will be making our stay in Charlotte a short one, and then we will be trekking back to Portland and taking the scenic route this time! Unfortunately, Charlotte is a little lacking in straight-up vegan options, which has helped my achieve one of my recent goals to cook more. There is a raw place called Luna’s Living Kitchen that I am really excited to go to. For quick vegan fare there is also ZiZi’s Vegan ToGo. (Funny story about Zizi’s – They used to be located in Merchantville, NJ by my old office and I would go there on my lunch break. Small world!) There are also vegan options at places like Loco Lime and Zada Jane’s. All in all, Charlotte is not the vegan utopia that I am used to but it does have its own share of options. And I guess it could be worse… I could be in Wyoming.