What do vegans eat in Portland? This is what I asked myself while preparing for our upcoming trip and started looking for vegan options in Portland. You might be wondering, why a vegan eater go to Portland, Maine, the city of lobster rolls? Well… I’m a flexitarian who eat mostly vegetarian and I was not planning on eating full vegan when I planned our second weekend getaway to this wonderful and quirky northeast city in late April. You see, we are leaving the East Coast for good in August to move to Hawai’i and we knew we wanted to visit all of our favorite east coast cities to eat all of our favorite foods before the big move. Portland was obviously on the top 5 since we both loved our buttery lobster rolls so much. So before we left for our trip to Korea in late March, we booked our AirBnB in Portland for the first weekend in June. I booked marked all the top rated lobster shacks but what we didn’t plan for was us being on our vegan diet in the beginning of May. Needless to say, our second trip to this wonderful Northeast city was dramatically different than our first lobster filled trip in 2015.
We decided to eat a vegan diet after visiting the Catskill Animal Sanctuary a month prior to our trip to Maine. After we decided to take a break from eating animals, we wondered… What will we eat in Portland now that lobsters are out of our diet? I went to the Yelp community and after a quick search, I found many vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. I even discovered a highly rated Mediterranean restaurant that had a vegan tasting menu! The weekend finally came and we packed up our belonging, loaded our two furry babies in the car and made the 6-hour drive for our weekend food tour.
// an Asian inspired vegetarian bistro //
Green Elephant was probably my favorite meal in Portland, Maine-ly (har har) because my favorite cuisines are those of Asian varieties, crispy textures, and mushrooms. What I loved about Green Elephant is that they had so many choices for us to pick from and the vegan items were clearly marked on the menu. Many of their vegetarian fares could also be made vegan upon request. All of the dishes we ordered packed a lot of flavors, was savory and deliciously filling, proving that plant-based eaters don’t “miss out” on all the good stuff.
The Holy Donut
// everyone’s guilty pleasure //
We first discovered The Holy Donut during our first visit to Portland in 2015 and I remembered there being vegan options on the menu, but we didn’t get them at the time. I don’t remember which one I got but Simon got the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and when I told him I was going to walk over and get some donuts for breakfast, he asked me to get him the same one. Simon sometimes wonders whether he would like all the foods he used to eat and whether the guilt would affect him or not so I obliged and got three flavors. The non-vegan chocolate sea salt (not pictured), a vegan cinnamon sugar and a vegan coconut glaze (don’t mind the butchered donut. I was starting to eat it when Simon reminded me to take a picture. Breakfasts are always the most difficult to document because I’m so hungry when I wake up). He took 2 bites and said, “yea, no… I can’t eat this. It’s not as good as I remember but I think it’s because I feel bad eating it.” and ate half of my cinnamon sugar (which tasted like a churro! Yum!) and half of the coconut glaze. I personally couldn’t tell the difference between a non-vegan donut and a vegan donut, which makes me wonder… why do donuts have eggs in them anyway?
Local Sprouts Cafe
// local food – seasonal menu – community cafe //
“Local Sprouts is a worker-owned cooperative that provides local and organic food and holistic learning through cooking food for our community. We strive to be leaders in a more just and sustainable food and service economy with the intention of creating a non-exploitative workplace by hosting an anti-oppressive, accessible space for our community and our workers.” -From their own website.
Isn’t that an amazing business concept? They are not a vegetarian place, however, they do have vegan options and almost all of their menu items can be made vegan. We were taking our pups to the Eastern Promenade for some morning exercise before we go off to explore the city, so we got our food to go and ate at the park.
Evo Restaurant + Bar
// local produce with a Mediterranean flair //
We love a good chef choice tasting menu and almost always opt for it when the option is there. We once did a tasting menu at High Street on Market in Philly which ended up being mostly vegetarian and I remember Simon not being too thrilled about it. When I told him that I found a place in Portland that offers a vegan tasting menu, he immediately jumped online and started researching the restaurant and said, “Oh, it’s Mediterranean. It should be good. Make a reservation.”
Mediterranean food is one of our favorite cuisines and we were familiar with many of the offerings but even with the familiarity, something deliciously pleasant stuck out about all of the dishes. The pickled tomatoes and the white bean salad were my favorites of the meal, while Simon practically finished the yucca fries and hummus by himself. The meal also included a green salad and housemade raspberry sorbet (not pictured) and at $50 a person, this is definitely a great value for the quality of the meal.
// dog-friendly diner with vegan junk food //
It was our last day in Portland before driving home and didn’t have a place to leave our dogs while we eat (leaving your dogs in the car while you eat even with a cool temperature of 70 degrees like this day is no-no!!). I read an online review that Silly’s is pet-friendly and called the restaurant to confirm. They did indeed allow pets on their outdoor patio which is open when the weather allows, and lucky for us, the weather was completely agreeable. The place was packed with people having brunch but we were able to get seated right away. Our dogs sat perfectly still on our laps despite all the commotion and the enticing smell of food around them and we were able to enjoy our breakfast without worrying about our babies thanks to Silly’s. Oh yea, the food was pretty good too.
Overall the vegan food scene that we got a taste of was great! We have zero regrets about coming to the city of lobster rolls and not eating any. Oh, wait… nevermind. I just remembered that Simon had one of his “I just have to know if I still like it” moments and DID get a lobster roll (hey, we never claimed to be vegans, just those that explore and eat vegan options). I got a fruit smoothie at Maine Squeeze to drink and read some articles on my phone quietly while he ate in peace.
And speaking of fruit smoothies, can we thank the juice shops all over the world that provide us with guilt-free meals when all hope seems lost? And when you find yourself in Portland, stop by Maine Squeeze and get one of their delicious smoothies for a quick afternoon pick me up!