New from Portland Monthly: The Balance!

The Balance Portland Monthly PDX

When Allison Jones (see bio at end of post) told me that she was starting a new health blog for Portland Monthly I offered right away to feature it, and her, on GFP. She’s gluten-free herself and has been the editor of PoMo’s Eat Beat for years. She knows this city’s GF scene inside and out. What she has to say is worth listening to. You can sign up for The Balance to be delivered directly to your inbox here!

What is The Balance?

The Balance is PoMo’s new health blog where I’ll be sharing health trends, monthly wellness event calendars, health tips from local fitness pros, the best healthy restaurant deals in PDX, workout ideas and gym spotlights, and plenty of contests and gear giveaways to keep my readers plugged in to the world of wellness. It’s the first resource of its kind in Portland—a PDX-centric look at all things healthy—and I’m so excited.

What’s your personal health journey?Portland Monthly Health

I was born with hip dysplasia, a genetic disease that keeps me from a lot of my favorite activities like running and sports, but I’m definitely an athlete at heart. I’m very passionate about finding workouts that fit my body’s capabilities, which has lead me to a passion for yoga, hiking, and swimming. I’m always looking for new ways to move—I currently have a crush on gyrokinesis classes and stand-up paddleboarding.

On the food side of things, I discovered a few years ago that giving up gluten, dairy, and processed foods made the arthritis in my hip so much better, soI went Paleo and never looked back! I’m presently in training to become a yoga teacher and would love to help other folks with physical limitations find a method of movement that fires them up! The Balance feels like a great way to reach out to people who are already passionate about fitness and health and those who think it might not be for them. Trust me—and my creaky hips—this stuff is for everybody!

What can we expect from The Balance?

Everything from the best gluten-free brunches in Portland to new zip-line parks, bike-centric physical therapy, cool athletic shoe and sports bra innovations from Portland companies, healthy recipes from chefs and cookbook authors, gym deals, practical yoga poses for everything from hangovers to lower back pain, fitness- themed board games for kids, and insider tips from health experts specializing in fertility, weight loss, acupuncture, running, and more. I’m always looking for new ideas, so feel free to shoot me an email at with any health events, requests, and questions for our own house ND, Dr. Samantha of Gluten Free Portland!


bio-photo-balanceAllison Jones is a health nut with a passion for yoga, farmers markets, oddball workouts with sledgehammers, spa days, and gluten-free cupcakes. For the past 6+ years, she’s been a voice in Portland’s food and wine scene as the editor of Portland Monthly’s Eat Beat blog, contributor to food cover stories, and chief blind taster of the annual 50 Best Oregon Wines issue. Now, she’s shifting gears and tackling PDX- specific health coverage as the editor of the magazine’s new health blog and newsletter The Balance. (Sign up for free, twice-a-month updates from The Balance here!)

Oba Restaurante – A “Nuevo Latino” Happy Hour: Guest Post

Guest Post by Brandie Kajino of
Editor Note: Oba is not a 100% GF restaurant, cross contamination is a risk.

This little restaurant is in the heart of the Pearl District. I don’t live there, but holy shmoly I sure want to. There are so many options to eat there, and lots of happy hour menus to choose from.


I rounded up the gal pals, including a friend who was visiting from Chicago, and headed out for happy hour in their “nuevo Latino” style. Oba (as we locals call it) has a full restaurant in the back, and a bar and seasonal outside seating. The decorating is thoughtfully sparse, and the atmosphere is lively without feeling like a meet market. (You know what I mean, right?)

One of the best things about Oba’s happy hour offering is the pitcher of margaritas. The Oregon marionberry margarita pitcher is not to be missed. For $27 you can have enough drinks for 4+ people, likely two for each. The pitcher has zero ice in it (ice is the glasses only) so it really feels like you’re getting a great deal. And a little bit of a buzz.

Is it gluten-free?

I’m going to be honest, it wasn’t terribly clear what was and wasn’t gluten-free on the main menu. The dinner menu had some indications that several of the dinner items were gluten-free, but it wasn’t clear this translated to the happy hour menu. Until….

… Wait! There’s a special menu!


There’s a “special” menu with dairy free, vegetarian, gluten-free and another section called “Colin’s Menu”, which is a list of recommended dishes from a local trainer and physical therapist. Confession: I wasn’t aware of this menu until after we left. I’d highly recommend getting it. Luckily, everything we got was gluten-free (as I breathe a sigh of relief.) The chef is happy to accommodate any concerns, so be smarter than me and ask for the special menu. Thankfully there is a lot to choose from!

Allllll the choices.

We ordered numerous things off the menu, and I took the liberty of straying from my dairy-free ways for the afternoon. It was girls’ night out afterall! We made a pretty good dent in the happy hour menu, I must say. Most everything was delicious, as usual.


And the service?

Honest constructive criticism: The service is ok, but a bit inconsistent for my taste over the past handful of times I’ve been to Oba. For example: I asked for coffee, which never came, and wasn’t ever mentioned. The good news? It wasn’t on the bill. Our waitress also kinda vaporized, and we didn’t see her much after we ordered. The bar was maybe half full, so it wasn’t due to being slammed with customers. I’m just hopeful it was a bad night for them. I wouldn’t say we had bad service, we just felt a little forgotten (even being seated in the middle of the bar.)

Tasty beginnings.


We started with the Fire-Roasted Sweet Corn Dip. This is my bestie’s favorite app at this place, and I have to agree it’s creamy and delicious. I don’t know what they do to it, but I clearly didn’t ask questions as I shoveled it into my face. One of the other favorite dishes at our table were the Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos. It’s worth ordering the larger portion and sharing. You might want more. Yeah, they are that good, and not as spicy as you might think. Unless you get a live one!


A dinner side show.

One of the gals had the Chicken Fajita Tacos, I inhaled the Fish Tacos, and we shared a side of guacamole and chips. I must stop here to tell you that at least once, you must try their “Tableside Guacamole” (which we opted not get this time.) It’s divine, and it’s really about the experience of it being made right in front of you. It’s worth the price, and might be the best guacamole you’ll ever eat. It is a large portion, so there may be leftovers… unless you dip into it on the way home (not that I have ever done such a thing.)

One other honorable mention is the Queso Fundido. This is a stringy cheesy bowl of bliss. If you really want to go over the top, add the chorizo (which I believe is gluten-free, but it would be worth asking.) You may be eating smoothies to detox for the day after, but it’s an occasional treat that’s worth it.


A sweet, sweet ending.

While we’re on the indulgent train, I’d like to recommend one of the Semifreddo. It’s one of those desserts that will make you “need a minute”. You know the ones, where you can’t really verbalize how good it truly is, and frankly don’t even want to talk. It’s that good. Oh, and it comes with a silky caramel sauce in case it wasn’t over the top enough on its own.

Overall? Recommended.

If you’re looking for a place to meet for drinks and happy hour, Oba has lots of options. Be sure to get one of the margaritas, or share a pitcher with a friend or three. You can’t go wrong with most anything on the menu, so try whatever suits you (remember to ask for the special menu!) And, if the weather allows, sit outside and enjoy the views of the Pearl District. I’ll see you there. Sometime.


bk-headshotBrandie uses humor & eye-blinding enthusiasm to connect, teach & guide others. She can be found trying new recipes, lusting after copper cookware, frolicking through farmers’ markets and sipping hot beverages at a local coffee shop. She writes about her fab finds, simple recipes and “it’s easier than you think” tips on her site,

Back to Eden Bakery – A Gluten Free & Vegan Slice of Heaven

GUEST POST by Brandie Kajno

Back to Eden Gluten-free PortlandWalking into this adorable shop makes me so happy. It’s the kind of place your grandmother might run if she was vegan… or your coolest, most creative, antique-decorating-loving, amazing chef neighbor. Whichever. The walls are decorated with antique crate vignettes of blue mason jars, vintage baking spice containers and well used kitchen tools. It all hints at real food, made well, with old-fashioned flavor, and that’s exactly what it is. Oh, and have I mentioned tasty, tasty stuff? Ok then.

Friends know the best places.

I discovered this little place after a recommendation from a friend who had eliminated gluten several years ago. She has seen a major change in her health, and not long after that, I found myself in a similar situation. Removing such a major food from your daily life is an enormous undertaking, and can sometimes feel very limiting. (Ok, let’s be honest: It often feels like wanting to have a raging-three-year-old-throw-yourself-on-the-floor-like-a-posessed-devil-kicking-and-screaming tantrum, because you just want a friggin’ cookie that won’t do bad bad things to your insides.) It’s a glorious day when you find familiar treats on a plate, which are not only tasty, but invite you to indulge with abandon. Like a warm hug for your taste buds. Equally awesome sauce when you can go there for lunch with friends, and they can recognize and enjoy the food right along with you. Win.

 No worries. Just eat.

back to eden bakery portland

This is what I found in Back to Eden Bakery: A place I could eat without worrying about finding (after the fact) there was gluten in my food. There is no gluten here, at all. The other amazing thing about Back to Eden is everything is 100% plant based. So gluten-free vegans, rejoice, there is a place for you. (Confession: I’m not a vegan, but I’m a huge fan of plant based foods, and I’m intrigued by it!) Finding one or the other is a happy thing, but finding both in one location is about up there with Christmas morning.

Wait, no eggs?

The first thing I had at Back to Eden was one of their Cashew Tarts, which is really more like a quiche. I was so excited about the place being gluten free, that I didn’t even notice the clearly marked “100% plant based” sign. I cut into the tart flaky tart shell, and took a bite of the creamy middle with some perfectly placed roasted asparagus. I almost cried. Seriously. I asked one of the staff about it, and because I’m sure I was engrossed in what must have been a foodgasm, I completely forgot what she said save one thing: There were no eggs at all. I was stunned. After learning the tart was made with cashew cream, I went home and researched this amazing ingredient. Kids, go use your friendly neighborhood search engine and discover this ingredient for yourself. You’re welcome.

 A fun little place to go with friends.

I’ve brought friends here, raved about it, and sat in the corner window to absorb it’s quaint decor – especially the mason jars, cream and robin’s egg blue overtoned interior. It’s a quiet intimate place to come and reflect, think, and be. This neighborhood has undergone quite a renaissance (I lived here nearly 20 years ago before all that, when you wouldn’t walk down the street at night alone), and I’m so happy to see such wonderful establishments come in and make this a bright spot in Portland. (Another confession: I live across the river, in Vancouver, WA, and I drive 30 minutes to hang out. It’s worth it.)

Also? Espresso.

Recently Back to Eden added an espresso machine. It’s such a great fit for the perky pastries they serve up. So, also, coffee lovers rejoice, and get ready to indulge in a hazelnut milk latte. I started drinking hazelnut milk because of Back to Eden. Before they installed the espresso machine, I had a hazelnut cafe au lait. It was a revelation. It’s so Pacific Northwest, and I just love it. It’s also ridiculously tasty.

back to eden bakery

So, next time you have a lunch or coffee date, consider Back to Eden Bakery, and tell them I sent ya. I’ll be in the corner window, so be sure to say hi, K?



Brandie Kajno PortlandBrandie uses humor & eye-blinding enthusiasm to connect, teach & guide others. She can be found trying new recipes, lusting after copper cookware, frolicking through farmers’ markets and sipping hot beverages at a local coffee shop. She writes about her fab finds, simple recipes and “it’s easier than you think” tips on her site,

Harlow: Gluten-free Restaurant Review

DSC_6490I tried Harlow for the first time the week they opened. It was a bit of an odd experience, I yelped about it but my husband made me wait I wanted to wait until I’d tried it at least one more time before actually writing a review. I’m so glad I did because they seem to have worked out the hiccups.

Harlow was opened by the owners of Prasad in the Pearl and I think that Hawthorne was the perfect spot for this venture. The restaurant is entirely gluten-free except for the beer on tap (no GF beer is on tap so there is no risk of an accidental pour). And given it’s in the old Bridgeport Pub location, it seems apropos to offer it.

The first time I went there were no signs up yet to indicate that you should order at the counter. They have since remedied this. That said, I would prefer that the menus be posted or at least available by the door. I found it a bit awkward to slip to the front of the line to grab one. DSC_6495

The atmosphere is very casual and the food is lovely health food fare. I went with my friend Diane Morgan, the author of Roots Cookbook (not all GF but most of her recipes are easily adaptable.) We had fun dissecting the ingredients, starting with the Lemon Poppy Quinoa Pancakes with blueberry compote and vanilla cashew cream. They were simple (the server was happy to share the ingredient list) and quite tasty. We both found the quinoa flour to have a bit of a bitter aftertaste but when you include the compote and syrup the sweet balances that right out.

Oh, wait, we actually started with a sampling of truffles from the display on the counter (why not?!) and found them good but not fabulous.

I got the Outlaw Scramble.  Farm fresh eggs with roasted garlic, dark greens, spinach, avo, pepitas, scallions,  cilantro and jalapeno served with cilantro cream and quinoa and toast. The serving was beyond generous in size. I think I might even ask for less quinoa next time. The  sauce was just the right balance of sweet and savory. It was warm, satisfying and delicious.

On my original visit I had the melody juice, without question one of the most well balanced juices I’ve had in town so I went for a repeat this round.

Please hop over to Harlow, and enjoy. Let us know what you thought in the comments so readers can get your feedback as well.


Dr Samantha Signature siggy



The Brooklyn House: 100% Gluten-free Restaurant

DSC_6425A girlfriend and I went to The Brooklyn House tonight for dinner. Finally! We sat down and began to peruse the menu. Nothing mentioned about gluten-free on the menu but when we asked the lovely and bubbly Erica she literally jumped up and down and shared that the entire establishment is gluten-free and mostly soy free (except for the chocolate, which they’re working on sourcing,) and peanut free. I have to say I understand her excitement at the premise of being able to order off of a menu and not have to worry.

For those of you who are dairy-free, there is quite a bit of dairy at the restaurant but only 2 items were not able to be adjusted to meet that need as well. As a matter of fact the menu starts out with “We do not list all of our ingredients on our menu, but we are sincerely happy to tell you what is in each dish, where our food comes from and how to modify our menu to meet your needs.” How happy did that make me? Very, very, happy.

DSC_6473The ambiance at the restaurant was laid back and easy. There were a bunch of kids there, and all the tables were full pretty early (Friday night.) We had 2 gentlemen sitting in pretty close proximity to our table who would join in our conversation here and there. Slightly awkward but sweet at the same time. Early on we realized they had no idea the restaurant was gluten-free. We did inquire as to whether they liked their bread and pasta and they were indeed perfectly satisfied with their choices. This made me happy inside. Turns out the restaurant doesn’t mention gluten-free on their menu on purpose.

They simply serve good food. Gluten-free or not.


Ok, now for the meal.

We got the sourdough bread with olive oil. Delicious. My dinner date Janet thought it could be more ‘sourdoughy’ while I thought it was perfect. Crunchy outside, soft and chewy inside. And I don’t typically eat dairy but I did partake in the herbed butter. Heaven.

Our other appetizer was Grilled Leeks with Roasted Pepper Coulis. I thought the leeks could have been cooked a little more but this time Janet thought they were just right. The smoky flavor was bang on and the coulis was delicious.


Her dinner? Edelweiss Grilled Sausage w/Edelweiss cole slaw and grilled sauerkraut. After a few bites and a long savory pause Janet commented that she’s traveled extensively in Central and Eastern Europe and is always “on the hunt” for a good sausage and sauerkraut meal- and that this is one of the best she’s ever had stateside. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten sausage and sauerkraut at a restaurant but I can assure you this is now going to be one of my faves. Can’t wait to bring my 7 year old, he is going to love it! For my main dish I got the Spicy Veggie Paella. It was good. Not particularly spicy, but I ended up taking it home (and can add in a little extra spice) because I ate half of Janet’s dinner. It made the paella seem run of the mill (which it was not, I assure you.)

Please go out and support this lovely new all gluten-free Portland restaurant. Just make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy it. Everything is made to order and it’s not a quick in-and-out type of place. Sit back, relax, and have a lovely and delicious evening. You won’t regret it.

PS I went back the following night with my husband and 7-year old. For appetizers we got the Brussels Sprouts and the Smorgasbord (see photo below) which had samples of a number of delicious nibbles. For our main we had the Pork Goulash pasta and the Spaghetti and Meatballs. Both good. I would prefer whole grain myself but was impressed that they were able to pull off gluten-free al dente. Oh, and the sausage again, of course. We also went for dessert this time. Yum and yum.





Restaurant Review: Teote 1615 SE 12th Ave

DSC_6261My husband left a page open in Firefox for me earlier this week. A restaurant. A gluten-free restaurant no less. One I hadn’t heard of. One that was just a short bike ride from our house. I asked on our Gluten-free Portland facebook group if anyone had been there, and how on earth did I miss it? Well, it’s apparently only a few months old, but still.


Opened by the Fuego de Lotus cart folks.

Venezuelan inspired, traditional Arepas topped with Latin American inspired street food.

I found the following online, though the actual author’s name isn’t attached, he’s a friend of the owner (he?) and helped with the opening…

“TEOTE means the end of the journey. The end is where you are confronted with truth, where you rest and reflect. We are providing a space for community to come together, build and flourish. TEOTE will be hosting storytelling nights, bringing back the oral and ancestral tradition of sharing stories, we also invite you to feed the fire by making an offering of our chocolate to the fire.”



It’s one of those order at the counter places. We arrived at 6pm on a Saturday and it was virtually empty save for a few folks out on the back patio. I assume it will be busier later. The back patio is a bar and has a lovely fire pit. Made me want to make a date with some friends to hang out there. It also appears that a bar is soon to be opening upstairs as well.

The restaurant bills itself as “all allergen and gluten-free, as well as locally sourced.” It is, indeed gluten-free (with the exception of the beer) but not allergen free, if you consider dairy an allergen. They butter the arepas and include queso fresco on many dishes, and cheddar and other dairy products in the Sunday brunch. That said. they were very accommodating when we requested no dairy on anything.

DSC_6273My son started with a blackberry sage agua fresca. Fresh juice with sparkling water. It was served with 2 big fat blackberries floating on top. I wanted to snap a pic but they were already in my kid’s belly before I could turn on the camera.DSC_6297

The menu looked great. I am always particularly happy to see that I can get gluten-free and ethically sourced meat. For dinner I got one of the larger plates, grilled Fino ribs. Painted Hills flanken ribs marinated in a serrano chili and cilantro sauce, served with beans, rice, salad, fried plantains & arepa. The meat was delicious and fatty (a little too fatty for my taste but I’m fussy like that, my husband loved it) and the arepas absolutely perfect. It didn’t show up with plantains but we had gotten them as an appetizer. They were starchy, not sweet, and served smothered with a delicious slightly tart and slightly sweet verde sauce.

My son and husband both got the arepas. I wish I had too because they were absolutely fabulous. Next time.

Smokey Pollo $6 Braised Draper Valley chicken topped with cabbage salad, verde sauce and plantain red chili sauce and queso.DSC_6290

Pabellón $6 Shredded Painted Hills flank steak sautéed with peppers, topped with black beans, verde sauce, plantain red chili sauce and queso.

The best thing though, about the restaurant was the décor and vibe. Everywhere you look there’s something lovely and bright. So glad it’s nearby!

Dr Samantha Signature siggy



Cultured Caveman Review

hawthorne roundedToday was so beautiful that I couldn’t bear the idea of sitting inside for dinner. It was late, after my kid’s soccer class, which was after 2 hours of playing soccer on the playground. He was beat and I needed to get him home at a decent hour. We were in close-in SE for class. Brain churning. Thinking. Thinking. YES! I’ve been wanting to try the new Cultured Caveman cart on Hawthorne. It was perfect. A respite from the headache of trying to make sure that nothing we were ordering might have something in it that we don’t eat. Yes, all the food at the cart is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free!!! No risk of cross contamination, no explanations to give, no questions to ask, no concerns. Easy as meat pie.

We pulled up and there was no line. Good. I read the menu to my son and he lit up when I read bone broth. I asked for a sample for him to taste and she happily obliged, though mentioned that usually they don’t give samples. OK. Good enough. My kid (6) was a bit bummed that it was sour (the chef told us it had vinegar added) so we skipped it. But we did order the following.

  1. Chicken Tenders
  2. Grass Fed All Meat Chili
  3. Ginger Carrot Kale Salad
  4. Beet and Walnut Salad
  5. Brussels and Broccoli (Mash)
  6. French Fries

Well, actually not french fries. I had read about their french fries. I was soooo excited about their french fries. But alas, they’ve stopped serving them. Apparently it was taking too long to get them cooked up, which was fine when it wasn’t busy, but a problem when there was a line up. Seems reasonable. Sad, but reasonable. Maybe en masse we can convince them to resurrect the fries on Monday for happy hour or something.

But we did get the rest. Let’s go down the line, shall we?

1. Chicken Tenders. My child has never had chicken nuggets. We got these and he took a bite and closed his eyes and said “I bet this is what chicken nuggets taste like…” with a giant smile on his face. “Au contraire, my sweet child, I responded, these are sooooooo much better than chicken nuggets. Night and Day.” The chicken tenders at the Cultured Caveman were beyond tender. Melt in your mouth, coconut flour outer, hot, tasty, perfection. There was a lovely aioli served on the side but really they were fabulous plain. I love to cook and often feel like I can reproduce dishes on my own but there is no way I could make this happen at home. Next time it’s 2 orders of these for sure.

2. Beef Chili. Very good. Not too chili-ish, which made me happy. There were only a few large chunks of meat, and mostly sauce, which was a little disappointing but could have been luck of the draw. The beef was tender and tasted as grass fed grass finished beef should taste. Like beef. Really really good beef.

3. Ginger Carrot Kale salad. I loved this. Tangy and yum. My child, who will eat just about anything with kale in it didn’t prefer it because he oddly doesn’t like lemon. 2 thumbs up for me.

4. Beet and Walnut Salad. I wouldn’t think to cook beets and shred them but the beets in this salad were cooked and then tossed with carrots, jicama and walnuts and mixed with a light dressing. I would have eaten more but my child hogged it for himself. Enough said.

5. Brussels and Broccoli. When I arrived this was sold out, as evidenced by a sticker on the board next to the menu item. Fortunately for me, they were making more! Unfortunately for me, the sticker was over the word “mash.” I wouldn’t have gotten it as I’m not a fan of the crucifer mash (wild understatement.) When I mentioned that we didn’t prefer it and that I was surprised at the mash as it seemed to read Brussels and Broccoli, the women behind the counter said ‘oh, yes, the sticker was over mash…’ but that was it. I was honestly a bit bummed they didn’t offer to take it off of the bill I was more bummed to have to throw it away.  Far from a deal breaker, but still…

6. Bacon Candy. Not as exciting (to me) as french fries but a perfect sweet bite. A medjool date with a raw almond in the center, all wrapped in bacon. My little one was over the moon. There were 3 in the order so we had to roshambo for the last one. I won but I let him have it anyway. Of course.

Overall I’d without question give this cart a two thumbs up. Nothing fancy. Nothing gourmet. But very good food. And knowing that everything is gluten, dairy, and soy-free will without a doubt make this a go-to spot for an easy, quick, delicious and healthy meal for me and my family this summer.
Next time I’ll try the meatloaf. And maybe a paleo popsicle.

Go check them out on 4031 SE Hawthorne, across from New Seasons or their original home at 1477 NE Alberta. 11-8 every day!

Oh, and if you haven’t yet signed up for the GFP updates, scroll back up and sign up at the top-left of the page. We’re going to start sending out info here and there when we have new restaurant listings, coupons and freebies, breaking health news for celiacs and GF peeps, and news about living and thriving gluten-free in Portland!

Mi Mero Mole – Guisados in Portland

Gluten Free Tacos at Mi Mero Mole

The Splendid Humble Taco

Mi Mero Mole is a Mexican street food concept restaurant created and run by Nick Zukin (the Zuke in Kenny & Zuke’s). When you enter the SE Division eatery, you’ll find a blackboard with the day’s “guisados”: three choices of meat, a seafood option, two vegetarian options, and one vegan dish. You pick the guisado (which is a stew or filling) and then choose what format you’d like your guisado served in. You can get them in the form of tacos, plates (platos machos), burritos, and quesadillas.

Mi Mero Mole Daily Blackboard

Here a taco is the most basic, consisting of a guisado with rice on a corn tortilla. Platos Machos is about the same except you get chips, rice, beans, and two tortillas. Burritos are off our menu because they use wheat tortillas (sorry). As many of our readers can probably guess, a quesadilla is about the same as a taco, just add cheese and give it some time on the grill. Some examples of guisado choices from the board: Pork in adobo, meatballs in a chipotle-tomato sauce (the meatballs aren’t gluten free), chicken with cactus in a tomatillo sauce, smoked tongue, shrimp in a cream sauce, poblano chiles in a sour cream and cheese sauce, mushrooms and asparagus in a red chile and cream sauce, and the vegan potatoes and cactus in chipotle and tomatillo sauce.

Care has obviously been taken to present adventurous street fare, as the menu includes tongue, blood sausage, rabbit, and even duck. The printed menu is marked for gluten, vegetarian, vegan, and different levels of fire. The atmosphere is an exact cross between a hipster gastro pub and a Mexican hole in the wall. So the seating format screams Mexican restaurant while the music playing is on the hipster/alt side. You order at a counter, but the lighting is subdued.

Maldonado Punch at Mi Mero Mole

We liked the atmosphere, although to me, Mi Mero Mole seems more like a place to grab some tacos on your way to something else. Probably because of the format: You order at a counter and sit down. The food is brought to you very quickly. Besides chips and guacamole, there aren’t really appetizers. The only thing that says “stay a while” to me are the cocktails and beer. Like the guisado menu, the cocktail menu is very interesting. The drinks are strong. There are also aguas frescas, and the horchata is sweet and heavy on the cinnamon.

The staff is very friendly and helpful. As mentioned, the food comes out quickly and is a good temperature. The ingredients seem to be fresh. The times we’ve visited, Zukin himself was bringing out the dishes and talking to people in the restaurant.

Gluten Free Plato Machos at Mi Mero Mole

The chips are awesome and seem house made. The tortillas are fresh and delicious. The salsa choices are good. The guacamole is disappointingly tame, and could benefit from garlic and lime juice. We have tried a bunch of different guisados. The egg ones we found too salty, but everything else we have tried has been great. I’m pretty sure that the pork in adobo is our favorite, but we are also partial to the chicken and cactus, and the vegan cactus and potatoes. Fans of fried plantains will love the Mi Mero Mole version, which is served with a sauce made from Mexican sour cream, sugar, and cinnamon.

Google translate tells me that Mi Mero Mole translates to “My Mere Mole.” Mole is pronounced like “Ole!” but with an M, and means “a mixture.” I’m thinking that in this case, Zukin was thinking “my simple mix” and that is indeed what the restaurant is. If you’re looking for a no fuss, no muss, inexpensive Mexican taste treat on a weekday night, it’s going to be pretty hard to go wrong with a place like Mi Mero Mole.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly but Ask Questions
Times we have visited: 3 (So we feel pretty good about the rating.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: same

Mi Mero Mole
5026 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97215
(503) 232-8226

Veggie Grill Opening Event

Among other Portland bloggers, we were invited to an event to celebrate the opening of a Veggie Grill in Beaverton, Oregon. Both of us have been vegetarian and vegan in the past, and we definitely do our best to add veggie-friendly info to Gluten Free Portland, so we were really happy to be invited. Here is part of the invitation they sent us:

Restauranteur of the year and native Oregonian Ed Casey is bringing Vegan restaurant Veggie Grill to town! Veggie Grill has hearty comfort food that really brings a new twist to vegan and vegetarian fare. The Veggie Grill menu is satisfying food for vegetarians and vegans and traditionally meat loving folks alike. The restaurant is located at 3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd Suite D, Beaverton OR 97140.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the website makes it look kind of like a more pricey vegan American fast food joint. That is pretty much what we discovered when we attended the event. I also heard it described as “vegan American comfort food” but it’s definitely not “comfort food” in the collard greens & grits sense of the word. So yeah, I’m going to stick with more pricey vegan American fast food joint. They are a chain that started in Los Angeles, and there is one in Seattle as well. Comparisons to Chipotle, Baja Fresh, and/or Noodles & Company would definitely be fair.

Veggie Grill - the view from the bar

The place was clean, the help was friendly, and the food arrived very quickly. The decor is slick and the restaurant has an upbeat and energetic vibe. Basically the entire menu is salads and various kinds of veggie burger. And here’s where we introduce the unfortunate fact: we’re not really going to be the core audience for the Veggie Grill. The sandwiches are served on wheat buns and the vegan chickin’ and veggie-steak meat substitutes are made with wheat (among other ingredients). The burgers can be served on a bed of kale, and they do have tempeh, so that opens the options up a little bit, but really, almost everything on the menu needs some fiddling to make it gluten-free.

Veggie Grill All Hail Kale

When asked about the gluten-free options, all the staff were able to make suggestions, and it was obvious that the restaurant took the time to educate everybody about gluten issues (which we always really appreciate). The items on the menu that were suggested were the All Hail Kale (pictured above) with tempeh, the Thai Chickin’ salad (but without the chickin’ and wontons), the Bali Bliss Sandwich (but on kale), and the Papa’s Portobello burger (also on kale).

Veggie Grill Portland Bali Bliss on Kale

We sampled the All Hail Kale, Bali Bliss on kale, and the Portobello burger. We both quite enjoyed the All Hail Kale, which is basically a marinated kale salad with cabbage, salsa, and a vinaigrette. It was fresh, light, and flavorful. The veggies were obviously fresh, and the dish was satisfying. Sienna found the Portobello burger disappointingly bland. The Bali Bliss was basically as good as a tempeh patty can be when served on a bed of kale. I like tempeh, and if you’ve had a lot of tempeh, then you probably know what I mean. The tempeh itself was good but not particularly flavorful. It was served with an interesting lightly spicy aoli-like sauce, which helped quite a bit.

The final analysis: We both left with the feeling that we weren’t really the intended audience of the Veggie Grill. Although they’ve definitely done their homework to be gluten-free friendly, the menu isn’t marked, and I think that there’s enough room for ingredient confusion with fakin’ chicken and beef that it probably should be marked. I will say that if we lived in Beaverton and some of our vegan friends wanted to get something to eat, it would be on our list of possible places to visit. Check out Portland vegan blog Get Sconed for more coverage.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly but Ask Questions
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: same

Veggie Grill
3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton OR 97140
(503) 234-7437