Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exploring the Alberta Arts District

This is a special edition post, requested by RelayRides, as part of their Hidden Gems page on Pinterest. I have to admit that I'd not heard of RelayRides until they contacted me. I'm so glad they did, because I think it's something Rick and I might be able to make use of! It's a peer-to-peer way of sharing cars, and it makes a lot of sense. Whether you own a car and want to rent it to others when you might otherwise just leave it parked, or if you don't own a vehicle, but want to rent one affordably from time to time, this could be a good way to go. We've actually considered selling our car since we moved to Portland, since public transit is so easy and efficient. But now we have another option! With RelayRides we could have our car when we want it, and let it earn its keep when we don't need it. Pretty brilliant plan.

While we're happily going about our urban downtown life in SW Portland, a whole other world is turning on the other side of town, and the other side of the Willamette River, in the NE Alberta Arts District. The fun and funky neighborhood revival that's taken place there over the years has created several blocks of homegrown, shops, and galleries, and of course restaurants - many of them vegan or very vegan-friendly. While Alberta St. is well known by Portlanders, visitors might easily overlook it if they're staying in a different part of town. We're still new in town, but we've made the drive up there several times now, specifically for the food! We'll be going back often to explore the other businesses, and to graze our way from one end of the street to the other.

Every restaurant we've visited in the Alberta neighborhood has been one we want to go back to. The Tin Shed Garden Cafe is a dog and human friendly eatery with a big, covered outdoor patio, complete with a livingroom-style fireplace, lots of water bowls for the pups, an inventive varied menu with lots of vegan options, and even a special dog menu. We loved it, and even though we didn't have our dogs with us, there were at least seven others dining near us, which just seemed like the way it should be.

We really enjoyed the Fungus Among Us - a rich, gooey, toasty portobello sandwich, and the Baby Beluga - a rich bowl of tiny black "beluga" lentils, sweet potato, jasmine rice, fresh spinach, and yellow curry sauce. There were other dishes we will go back for soon, maybe next time with the dogs.

Vita Cafe is destined to become one of our favorites, with many vegan options, and most menu items easily customized. The welcoming atmosphere is enhanced on warm days by large open windows across the front, the service is efficient and friendly, and the food is really good. We popped in for a late breakfast, and sampled the Faux Turkey Florentine and the Country Comfort. Both meals were like a party on a plate. What's not to love about vegan hollandaise or gravy? I mean, really.

The Bye and Bye is a popular vegan bar. Yes, a vegan bar. Who would ever guess? They don't make a big thing of the vegan-ness, but rather let the coolness of the place, along with the goodness of the food and tasty bevs speak for themselves. Going with friends is a good idea, so you can all order something different and share bites. We did just that, and everybody loved everything. It's regular old good food like you might cook at home, only better, and way more fun. Our group had the Chili Pie, Spaghetti, Samurai Bowl, and Grilled Cheese with tomato, avocado, and fresh, hot jalapeƱos. While the rest of them sipped sodas and beer, I indulged in a great big pink drink, aptly called the Bye and Bye, and served up in a mason jar big enough to swim in. Woo! That was fun!

If you can even think about food at this point, be sure to visit the wonderful Back To Eden Bakery. Everything they offer is vegan, and gluten free, which will make a lot of gluten sensitive non-vegans happy too. They offer lots of delightful looking pastries, as well as lunch, smoothies, and un-dairy ice cream. We only had a couple of cupcakes on our first visit, but we'll absolutely be going back to explore the menu further.

I think you have the idea. Alberta Street is a happening place for anybody interested in good food and a good time. I have a long list of places we need to try, and will want to spend days there just strolling the sidewalks and poking into shops and galleries. The area may not be exactly hidden, but you're sure to find a few gems of your own when you take the time to visit on your next trip to Portland.

Discover more hidden gems from other bloggers around the world on the RelayRides Pinterest page!

1 comment:

Hazel50 said...

Great food photos and I certainly think I should visit Portland and the surrounds, even if it wasn't high on my list before!