Thursday, October 1, 2015

There's a New Vegan Food Cart in PDX - Loving Juniper

Vegan food is everywhere in Portland, and food carts might be as prevalent as coffee places and micro-breweries, which is saying something. Rick and I peruse the food cart pods often, but it can be exhausting to look over dozens of menus on a single street corner in hopes of coming up with something potentially vegan. Hallelujahs happen when someone thinks to combine vegan with food cart, and plops it smack in the middle of a herd of meaty establishments.  I love a good menu as much as anyone, but when it's lunchtime and I'm hungry, I just want to order and eat without having to ask a bunch of (probably annoying to the proprietor) questions.

Happily for me, the latest all-vegan food cart to hit the streets nearby is Juniper, located downtown on the corner of 3rd and Washington, just about a ten minute walk from my apartment. Rick and I dropped by for lunch recently, just a few minutes before the rush hit. As we waited on the sidewalk for our food, we watched a steady line of downtown businessy-looking folks began to form. Although it's fairly new, Juniper is already a hot spot, and for good reason.

The menu is fairly simple. It has to be with such a tiny kitchen, and what I imagine to be minimal storage space (Worse than my own kitchen? Hardly possible! I use my dishwasher as a pantry...). But Juniper offers plenty of variety, with bowls, noodle dishes, and sandwiches, as well as smoothies, tonics, and other beverages. I really don't know how they do it all in that tiny space, but they do it beautifully.

Rick and I shared both the Five-Spice Noodles and The Don. The noodle bowl was hot, comforting, rich, flavorful, and packed with goodies. It was my favorite of the two - not that The Don wasn't excellent. It was! I sheepishly have to say that my own recipe for mac and cheese is very hard to compete with. However,  Juniper's smoky, creamy take on the dish, with the addition of pepper relish and olives was really wonderful, and far superior to others I've tried around town.

Five-Spice Noodles

The Don
On our way to Juniper, we noticed a homeless woman on a corner near Pioneer Courthouse Square, holding a large sign that said (in green ink, yet) "Hungry Vegan." Judgements and speculations aside, I admired her wish to remain vegan, even though she was asking strangers for help. I often sink into (unfounded) fears of homelessness, and can imagine how awful it would be to be at the mercy of kind strangers' personal food choices. I suggested to Rick that we order an extra lunch and take it back to her. Handing over a Harvest Bowl (because root vegetables stick with a girl, greens are hard to come by when living on the street, and dahl is soothing comfort food), her sad face lit up into a beautiful smile when I told her what was in the box. From our seat on the steps across the street we saw her dig in with gusto, but only for a minute or two, before tucking the rest of it away for later. Looking like a well fed Hungry Vegan would be counterproductive to what she was doing out there, but I felt good knowing she had at least one real meal that day, and she appeared to enjoy it. We all deserve good food.

I was really hoping to get Juniper to cater Portland Fashion Week this year. The logistics weren't right, but I'll be working on it for next year! We'll be going back again soon, and often. If you're ever in town, let me know and I'll meet you there! Check their hours before you go (as of this writing they're closed Sundays), and find out more about Juniper on their website,

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