I used to think Disneyland was truly the happiest place on earth. I was haunted with dreams of the sugary sweetness that hung in the air like morning dew, the hopeful music drifting through the crowds, and the pastel scenery. I was so completely infatuated with Disneyland as a child, I somehow convinced my parents to take me not once, but 13 times. I never thought I'd find another place that made me feel at home like Disneyland did.
And then I went to Portland.
The streets were filled with bikes, the stores filled with tax-free finds like records, vintage clothing, and rare books. We stayed in the Ace Hotel, a pleasantly pretentious spot complete with Pendleton blankets on frame-less beds, record players in each room (accompanied by a well balanced vinyl collection) and murals by local artists everywhere and anywhere. It was a sort of hipster haven, and we made ourselves right at home among the mason-jarred cacti and vintage photobooth. The glory of Portland didn't really sink in however, until I asked the hotel concierge where to find tasty vegan food and was met with the reply, "Well in Portland almost every restaurant has vegan options." I had died and gone to heaven. It was just like my Portlandia-laced dreams; and it got better.
The city itself is a labyrinth of galleries, independent shops, and tiny food carts peddling every international food imaginable. The main portion is split into two by a river flanked by parks, and joined by a number of bridges that each seem to have their own distinct personalities. We wandered from early morning to late night, determined to see everything this dreamy city had to offer. With a little help from Abi at Vanilla and Lace, we found great coffee at Stumptown, a vegan strip mall, and gorgeous little streets like Mississippi Avenue that would've otherwise gone unnoticed. Here's the best of what I saw:
An amazing stuffed mushroom loaf on fluffy mashed potato with greens and salted caramel ice cream from Portobello, a well-loved vegan Italian spot. We also tried walnut cheese stuffed sweet peppers.
One of the four shops in the vegan strip mall, Sweet Pea Bakery offers $10 all you can eat Sunday Brunch. When I visited, the special was biscuits and gravy; it was probably the best breakfast I've ever had.
This may look like your average alfredo, but look a little closer and you may be able to see its brilliance. It's a vegan raw pasta dish with zucchini noodles, tomato, broccoli, greens, and cashew cream alfredo sauce. All for under $10 at Prasad, a tiny restaurant located inside a massive yoga studio.
Probably the highlight of my visit: a plethora of vegan donuts from Vodoo Donuts, which is probably the busiest and most awesome donut place ever. They also offer vegan cream-filled "cock and balls" donuts... I'm sure you don't need a photo to get the picture.
Overall, Portland was like visiting a grown up, vegan fairy tale. The people were as friendly as huge stuffed characters, and although there was no castle, I found the same giddy feeling in Portland that I had once felt walking into Disneyland as a child; I'm already dreaming of going back.
Between Shoe and I