Restaurant Review: Sweetpea bakery

Beware! Since we published this review we’ve received a lot of feedback about the place, most of it negative. Also, we’ve had a few people say that they’re sure they “got glutened” by eating the baked goods there. We’ve found that when we ask their staff questions, we get different answers depending on who we ask and what day of the week it is, which makes us worry. We’re going to investigate further and will report back what we find, but in the meantime I think the best advice is to be careful and maybe ask lots and lots of questions before you get something there. End Later Note.

Later Note – January 2010 – We’ve corresponded with the owner of Sweetpea. They have done a lot of research on baking gluten-free goods and maintain that their gluten-free options really are gluten-free. At the same time, they stress that they are a bakery that uses wheat in a shared area with their gluten-free products. They say that they are very careful about avoiding cross-contamination, but as an end result, folks who are very sensitive to gluten should probably stay away. we haven’t been by to check them out again, but will post about it when we do. – End later Note

It’s a little premature to call this a “restaurant review” because they’re not on our restaurant list, and they’re more of a bakery, AND we’ve only ever had their muffins, BUT they’re in Portland AND they’ve got gluten-free stuff and thus we’re covering it. Regular readers may remember that we posted about Sweetpea Bakery having a gluten-free brunch on this past Father’s Day.

Sweetpea Baking Vegan Spot

Sweetpea is down on SE Stark on the corner of 12th Street. It’s in a little vegan ghetto right next to Herbivore and Food Fight!. Did we mention it’s a vegan bakery? I don’t know about anybody else, but I love vegan bakeries and here’s why: Vegan bakeries have attitude. Since they’re a vegan bakery, they feel like everything they make has to be awesome so that people don’t think vegan food is terrible. And thus most vegan baked goods are way better than anything you’re going to get at a regular bakery.

Gluten-Free Cupcakes at Sweetpea

This is certainly not as fetching as the case at Pix Patisserie, but the goods are pleasing to the eye. When we went, they had one kind of gluten-free muffin, gluten-free brownies, one kind of gluten-free cookie, and these here cupcakes. In the interest of full disclosure, we didn’t ask them what steps they take to prevent cross-contamination. (It’s a new goal of mine to always ask that and report it here.) We did, however, ask about the gluten-free muffins. The muffins are different flavors depending on the day. This particular day, the muffins were coconut.

Gluten-free muffins at Sweetpea

These muffins were awesome! They were fluffy, moist, and delicious. In fact, they were almost like the perfect love child of a cupcake and a muffin. We plan on going back to Sweetpea on one of their gluten-free brunches and giving a full report.

We want to know: OK so we really want to know, how do you gluten-free people feel about buying baked goods from a bakery that uses wheat? I have to say I feel a little nervous. Have you been to the Sweetpea for their gluten-free brunch? We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments.

Times we have visited: 1 (so your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: kind of expensive.


  1. says

    FYI, I’m pretty sure I got glutenated at Sweet Pea. It could have been something else, of course, but it definitely happened the day I ate cookies there.

  2. Dave says

    Darn! That sucks. We were actually wondering about how safe it is to get gluten-free goods at a bakery that uses wheat.

  3. says

    hey! I went to their first GF brunch a while back (I think it was in april or may?). Anyway, they did GF biscuits and gravy with GF pancakes and scrambled “eggs” and kale. They also had a peach crumble/bake thing that had a GF bready topping. I didn’t review it on my blog because it was pretty bad, but you have to hand it to them for doing vegan AND gluten free. The biscuits and pancakes were really doughy and unappetizing. The topping on the peach crumble was also bad.
    However, I did have one of their GF brownies one night for dessert and it was decent. You had to eat it on a plate or it would fall apart in your hand and the texture was a bit funny.
    On the plus side, I didn’t get glutened either time :)

  4. says

    I’ve only been there once, and they were out of everything gluten-free except a coconut cookie, which was good but not overwhelming. I also wondered about cross-contamination, but didn’t ask. I suppose I’m not as big a fan of vegan attitude as you! I found the server’s stand-offishness a little tiring. She seemed more defensive than anything, but then again I was the jerk asking for whole milk in my espresso in a vegan joint. To their credit, the americano was amazing without any creamer at all.

  5. astrogirl says

    Hello… I also wonder about how “gluten-free” things are at Sweet Pea. I kinda have a beef w/ the way they “Label” stuff; They don’t really “Label” it at all. It’s confusing/frustrating when checking out the “wheat free” german chocolate cake available at New Seasons- which clearly has oatmeal in it and there IS no ingredient list on any of their baked goods there- which I find extremely ironic. I’m pretty certain I got “dosed” at Sweet Pea today- I had a chocolate cupcake w/ what looked like Chocolate frosting w/ a little peanut butter and some peanuts sprinkled on top. The choc cupcake itself was SO dry- and the frosting turned out to be mostly this really sweet whipped peanut butter w/ a thin layer of chocolate… I ate it and slept for FOUR hours. I only went there b/c New Cascadia Traditional only had ONE loaf of bread left in the entire bakery by 4pm. ;( If you need a cupcake there- the white cake ones are the way to go… if NCT is sold out. If I go back- it will be to have them explain how they keep it separate. I feel like crap now. Cheers!

  6. Lo says

    My face was numb (my usual reaction to gluten) within two minutes of eating a “gluten free” muffin at Sweetpea. Not to mention the fact that it was the single worst-tasting piece of food I’ve ever eaten. It’s not a treat if it tastes bad, gluten-free or not.

  7. astrogirl says

    I’d like to ammend my comment. I’m uncertain if it was the cupcake or a sweet chili sauce (which in the past has been fine) which was the culprit. Either way- if you go to Sweet Pea- The whitecake cupcakes are best. I totally support New Cascadia Traditional. They are SO nice over there… peace

  8. astrogirl says

    I’d like to ammend my comment. I’m uncertain if it was the cupcake or a sweet chili sauce (which in the past has been fine) which was the culprit. Either way- if you go to Sweet Pea- The whitecake cupcakes are best.

  9. says

    I’m very sorry to hear about any negative experiences at Sweetpea! To our defense, we are not, and have never claimed to be a dedicated gluten free facility. But we try as hard as we can to provide the GF community with what they want. It’s a very difficult task, I hope you understand. The processes we go through to “de-gluten” our work spaces before we make any gluten free products are as thorough as possible. We unfortunately don’t have any sort of space-age gluten vacuum to suck all of the particles out of the air that are most definitely floating about, and our space is so huge that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to avoid cross-contamination 100% of the time. This is the case, I promise you, for ANY non-dedicated facility. We love our GF customers, and the bakers try their hardest to make sure no one gets sick. But once again, we cannot guarantee it, and we make sure to let our GF patrons know this by verbally stating it, and by the sign on the case that states it.
    As for information available to you, I suggest speaking personally to a baker if you have questions about the baked goods, and speaking to a barista when you have questions about the coffee. Also, “wheat-free” does not mean gluten free. Oats are wheat free, and we would never use oats in a GF item unless they are properly packaged as so.
    We welcome any questions and comments from you, but we most certainly appreciate them more IN PERSON than on the internet. This way we can work faster to try to amend the situation without hard feelings and mean words.


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