Vita Cafe – 5/26/13

4stars

Vita Cafe
503.335.8233
3023 NE Alberta
Portland, 97211

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Vegan with a hint of carnivore…

This weekend our friend Megan was in town visiting from Phoenix and participating in a gathering of Vegans that were holding a conference in downtown Portland. As we drove around town during her brief visit we kept making suggestions for Sunday brunch before Megan helpfully picked Vita Cafe. I was a bit wary at first knowing that it was billed as a “Vegan destination” and assumed it would be just buckets of sprouts with fair trade seasoning but after she emailed me the menu I was put at ease. We would be dropping her off at Portland International afterwards so we planned to brunch a few hours before hand and then walk around Alberta street for a bit before heading out. The wait was a little longer than I would have expected considering there were open seats but there was enough activity and interesting things to look at to make the time fly by. We were seated in a massive booth/bench in the corner that was well lit and let us take in the entire restaurant scene. The girls ordered carrot-apple juice while I got a cup of coffee and a raspberry-apple cider to sip on as we looked the menu over. I had seen mention of their huevos rancheros and “corn cakes” as being must trys but I elected to get the carnivore version of the Country Comfort which came with all my favorites of potatoes, sausage, eggs and biscuits n’ gravy while Megan chose the Vegan version of the same and Carly went with the breakfast sandwich, I also requested two of their corn cakes for us to share. The interior of the restaurant was much larger than the outside would lead you to believe and as filled as it was with patrons it never really got all the loud making conversation easy. Our meals arrived after about 13 or 14 minutes and the waiter apologized as he set down the plate of corn cakes that one of them was too small and he would bring a couple more to make up for it, but I hardly noticed as the massive amount of food on our plates made me feel like half a corn cake would never be missed. My first bite of the biscuit and gravy was sweeter than expected which was followed by a flavorful surprise of the potatoes that were super crispy and highly seasoned if not a bit salty. The chicken sausage I also got with the eggs was sweeter than expected but went well with the poached yolk of the two eggs. Carly and Megan both mentioned that their meals seemed a bit salty but overall were satisfied with their selections. We each took a few more bites before tearing into the corn cakes that were studded with nuts and came with a few ounces of syrup. They weren’t really pancakes in flavor and not quite cornbread except perhaps in texture but they were incredibly tasty and we easily gobbled up the 1 1/2 rather large cakes between the 3 of us just in time for the waiter to bring out two more that were almost larger than the plate they sat on. It was an easy decision to get a box to take them home since I had pretty much cleared every morsel from the big oval plate I was presented with. We left very full and satisfied with the meal and I would love to try the huevos rancheros if we find ourselves there again.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Decent and helpful in making a selection but I can always use more coffee.
3.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Nice cafe style setup with huge booths & tables as well as a breakfast bar in front of the kitchen.
3.5 stars

MEAL
Large Vegan/vegetarian selection and a few meat eater classics as well.
4 stars

Pine State Biscuits – 3/7/13

4stars

Pine State Biscuits
503.477.6605
2204 NE Alberta
Portland, 97211

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You bet your sweet buttermilk…

This place had been on our list for awhile and I assumed we’d make it to Pine State biscuits eventually but today became the day since 3 of the other places we tried to go were either not open yet, closed permanently or we just simple couldn’t locate the entrance. Originally we found ourselves right next to their Belmont location or rather their former location since it was now closed and under construction but luckily their mainstay on Alberta street was easy to find and had only modest traffic at 9am allowing us to order within a few minutes of arriving. One thing to note upon entering the front door is that you’ll have a very short time to determine what you want to order since you place it at the counter then wait for your name to be called a short time later. We frantically scanned the board and picked out 4 plates to order since everything is a side and they also charge for hunny. We took a seat on two of the stools on the far side of the restaurant just next to the restroom at the end of the cook station which makes up 1/4 of the interior of the rather small restaurant. For the next 20 minutes we watched a frantic ballet of biscuits, gravy and chicken fried this and that be slapped onto plates and shuffled off the counter at break neck speeds. Finally our name was called and our position gave us easy access to retrieve the scalding hot platters topped with steaming gravy soaked biscuits. Along with my “Moneyball” I also ordered a side of hashed browns which completely covered the 10″ plate as well as a side of hush puppies for both of us to share, Carly selected a more mundane biscuit egg sandwich. The first few bites of my gravy soaked biscuit were heavenly and the hash browns were among the crispest I’d ever experienced, the hush puppies while tasty were not the normal cornbread style I had expected and id be unlikely to order again. It became clear after a few minutes that while an empty plate for my meal was achievable the has browns were jut too plentiful to eliminate more than half of. Carly put in a valiant effort for her breakfast as well but bits still remained after the smoke cleared. We both agreed that we would make an effort to return for lunch at some point to the try the much balleyhooed “Reggie” a giant chicken fried steak on top of a biscuit with egg and cheese oozing all around it. We bussed our own table and cautiously shuffled our way through the elbow to elbow traffic that had filled the interior while we ate. Upon exiting we saw that the 6 or 8 people that were waiting when we arrived had quadrupled and wrapped around the corner into a side street. Apparently our early foray worked out in our favor as a 8 minute wait to order is all we had to deal with.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Get your own order and bus your own table
2.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Simple efficient cafe style with a few benches
3 stars

MEAL
Nothin but biscuits…n gravy…. n eggs
4 stars