Portland excels in vegetarian cuisine

In recent years, vegetarian cuisine has become a respected cooking art form. Gone are the days when vegetarians had to settle for a salad when dining out. Now, even hybrid restaurants (those with meat and non-meat based dishes) have discovered the appetizing varieties of going vegetarian. Portland has done much to ride the crest of this meatless wave. Not only does it feature a welcome offering of vegetarian restaurants, but many of these eateries also specializes in specific traditions such as Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and even Ethiopian meal preparations. Each of these restaurants has something special to offer when it comes to going without meat. So go ahead, put down that steak knife, and enjoy your own taste of going vegetarian in Portland.


Whole Foods
Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Natural foods retail giant Whole Foods also features a comfortable, casual cafe that features creative vegetarian and vegan cuisine. The cafe's Mexican grill menu frequently gets high marks for its fun and festive approach to non-meat fare with south of the border flare. Their version of the classic burrito, for instance, is stuffed with organic black beans, savory Mexican rice, sauteed peppers and onions, salsa, sour cream and cheddar jack cheese. Their Vegan Burrito is also a standout with steamed sweet potatoes and apples, spinach, roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, black beans and guacamole. More traditional sandwiches are also available, also with vegetarian options. Be sure to also check out the cafe's assortment of baked goods for that after-lunch, early dinner taste treat.

Local Expert tip: Whole Foods also features the same quality in their takeout menu.

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The Works Bakery Cafe
Photo courtesy of The Works Bakery Cafe

The Works Bakery Cafe has quickly become a favorite with Portland's breakfast and lunch time crowd. This restaurant features a diverse array of hot, grilled sandwiches with a vegetarian focus. Menu standouts include its Fresh Mozzarella sandwich with mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach, pesto all on ciabatta bread; Hearty Hummus with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, and spinach on a flour tortilla; and Farmer's Veggie and Cheese with lettuce, sprouts, shredded carrots, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh Vermont cheddar cheese on nine-grain bread. This modern eatery also features hearty soups, baked goods and smoothies for a varied and fun dining experience.

Local Expert tip: The Works has one of the best sandwich menus in Portland.

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Silly's is an above average burger joint that has a surprising number of offerings for vegetarian diners. This favorite neighborhood eatery has two offerings, in particular, which are a consistent big hit with those who favor meat-free diets. Their Blue Mango Veggie Burger and Papou's Falafel Burger have won fans for many years. Both feature fresh ingredients and come in single, double and triple sizes. And, like traditional burgers, they come complete with lettuce, tomato and onion for a delicious meal. Several of their wraps, made with large 12 inch tortillas, are vegetarian focused, as well. They include the charmingly named Tempeh Thru The Tulips with spinach, tomato, fried tempeh, and saut�ed vegetables in a creamy basil sauce. For quick, tasty and memorable quick vegetarian items, be sure to keep Silly's in mind.

Local Expert tip: Silly's features a diverse offering of lunch time specials for which to choose.

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Local Sprouts Cafe
Photo courtesy of Local Sprouts Cafe

Local Sprouts Cafe is part of a food cooperative that specializes in fresh, organic fare utilizing local Maine ingredients. The cafe is relaxed, intimate and funky. A nice place to relax and enjoy a variety of creatively prepared dishes. A significant portion of their menu is vegetarian or vegan-focused and covers a wide range of cuisine. Their Sprouts Bowl is a customer favorite and features a nice mix of rice, veggies, beans and a choice of tofu or tempeh. Also a dining pleaser is their Sesame Tofu Stirfry with seasonal vegetables over rice. Rob's Vegan Moonburger is local legend and comes with lettuce, tomato and tofu mayo. Be sure to also check out their diverse array of organic-baked goods as well as teas and beer.

Local Expert tip: Local Sprouts makes Tempeh based dishes an art form.

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Photo courtesy of Boda

Boda takes its inspiration from the lively food vendors that offer tasty and inexpensive fare on the streets of Bangkok. While this eatery's menu does have meat dishes, their specialty is vegetarian fare with a zesty flare. Try their Kee Mao Noodles with tofu that includes a lively mix of onion, tomatoes, peppers, bamboo shoots and Chinese broccoli. Another standout is their Yellow Curry Jay with organic tofu, asparagus, summer squash, peppers, carrots, snow peas, and cauliflower expertly mixed together in a yellow curry sauce. Their Woon-Set Pat Thai brings together glass noodles with chopped tofu, shallots, bean sprouts, salted daikon, and Chinese chives wrapped in a Thai egg omelet. The atmosphere is friendly, wait service is efficient. Enjoy a taste of their Thai cuisine at Boda.

Local Expert tip: This restaurant specializes in making tofu dishes to order.

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Photo courtesy of Asmara Restaurant

Asmara should be high on any vegetarian diner's list among choice restaurants in Portland. This intimate restaurant focuses on East African food traditions and, as such, offers an expansive menu of dishes featuring healthy grains and vegetables. Of particular note is their Tsebhi Hamli with a tantalizing combination of kale and collared greens in a curried, mild yellow sauce. Also high on the list of favorite offerings is Alitcha with carrots, potatoes and cabbage in a sauce that resonates with turmeric and garlic. Most of the dishes contain a mix of bold spices and herbs – although it is also possible to find menu items with milder flavorings. Be sure to also check out their honey wine – a nice complement to any dinner at Asmara.

Local Expert tip: Ask your waiter to prepare your meal according to your spice preference.

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Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro
Photo courtesy of Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro

The Green Elephant Bistro specializes in Asian cuisine where vegetarian dishes are an art form. Even die-hard meat eaters will willingly take a break to indulge in the exotic, expertly prepared dishes offered by this distinctive eatery. The menu features a wide selection of vegetable, tofu and curry-based items. Menu highlights include Stir Fry Asian Vegetable and Tofu featuring Chinese broccoli, napa cabbage, snow peas and bok choy is a delicious brown sauce; Spinach Noodle and Vegetable with bok choy, snow peas, tofu, and carrots stir fried in a spicy shitake-ginger sauce; and Char Guay Teow, a hearty concoction with Malaysian stir-fried wide rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallion, Sambal Oelek (red chili paste), tofu, and soy ham all topped with shredded lettuce and cilantro. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner. It is closed Mondays.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to indulge in this elegant eateries lunch specials – good value for the money.

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