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Counter Culture Resturant Review

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While in Austin Texas a couple weeks ago,  I made it a plan to stop into the Vegan restaurant Counter Culture. The restaurant is located just east of down town at 2337 E Cesar Chavez St Austin, TX 78702  If you are looking for James Beard award-winning fine dining, this is not your place.  But if you want down home comfort food that will knock your socks off (and your cowboy boots), this place is for you. (The food looked much better in person than in the pictures below, lighting for pictures was not the best for my camera phone)

The restaurant is in an old brick building, the owner has done a nice job of creating a comfortable diner restaurant feel with an option of eating outside on the patio if you like.

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We were greeted immediately upon entrance by a very pleasant young lady. All the staff there are friendly and make you feel at home. Up front they have the daily specials nicely scribed on a chalkboard. They also have a board that continually thanks the customers.

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All their food I was told is made from scratch. They even make their own faux meats and all their own sauces and dips, even the ketchup. Also, most of their desserts are sweetened with dates, not sugar.

Their menu is a comfort food extravaganza as it would be in any diner. Also, every item on the menu if applicable, is marked with a designator indicating a special dietary needs category. An (R) means it is at least 95% Raw. A (GF) indicates it is gluten free. A (SF) means it is soy free and a (E2) indicates it is Engine 2 diet friendly. This makes eating here on a special diet easy.

The first day I visited. (Yes, it was so good I came back for breakfast the next day.) I ordered the Philly Seitan Sandwich with a side of Curry Quinoa Salad. The bread was soft and fresh, the cheeze sauce was warm and had a nice cheesy flavor everything on this plate was great.

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Philly Seitan Sandwich with a side of Curry Quinoa Salad (You get your choice of one side)

My companion ordered the Mac & Cheeze. I was told it was their best seller on the menu and one day I was there they sold out of it. It was also cheesy and had a great flavor. It was topped with a bread crumb topping. I was told by my companion that it was one of the best vegan Mac & Cheeses she had ever eaten. My other companion ordered the Sausage Sauerkraut Sandwich. She was also very very happy with her meal. The sausage is made in-house.

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Mac & Cheeze with a Ceaser salad and potato salad (You get your choice of two sides)

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Sausage Sauerkraut Sandwich with a Ceasar salad. (Your choice of one side)

We ended that day’s lunch with desert. I had the Brownie Sundae. it was out of this world good. The brownie was soft but not too soft. I am not a big sweets fan and the brownie was not real sickening sweet like brownies can be. I believe that this is because they use dates to sweeten their desserts, it was outstanding. We also had their Coconut Cream Pie, OMG another home run!

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Brownie Sundae

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Coconut Cream Pie

The next morning we arrived just before they opened to try their breakfast/brunch. We enjoyed a nice conversation with a local gentleman that was waiting to pick up his pre-ordered Christmas Dinner.

We ordered the East Side Quesadilla, Breakfast Burrito, and Seasonal Omelet.We also ordered two sides just so we could taste. A side of potatoes and one Egg Nog pancake.

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East Side Quesadilla and Roasted Potatoes with homemade ketchup

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Breakfast Burrito and Orange, Kale and Ginger juice.

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The Seasonal Omelet and Egg Nog Pancake with Cranberry Drizzle

All the food we had was outstanding!

The flavors were right on and presented well. The fruit was fresh and full of flavor. The breakfast burrito was huge and just as big on taste.

I was told by my companion that the Quesadilla was the best breakfast she had ever eaten, including non-vegan breakfast.

The omelet was light and fluffy full of fresh vegetables. Everything was so good that there was talk about driving up from San Antonio where we were staying later in the week just to get some more of the Counter Culture fare.

In a state that is known for and runs on Texas BBQ, Counter Culture is a breath of fresh air and a mouth of fresh food.

If you are ever in Austin Texas and in need of some good old Vegan comfort food then Counter Culture is a must eat at destination.

Counter Culture on Yelp

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Portobello Vegan Trattoria Review

This last 4th of July weekend I traveled to the most Vegan friendly city in America, Portland, Oregon. While I was there I was determined to sample some of that cities great Vegan fare.

I ended up at the Portobello Vegan Trattoria, an Italian Vegan restaurant. It is located at: 1125 SE Division ST Portland OR 97202

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When we arrived with no reservations on a Friday night around 6pm. We asked for a table and were told that they were all booked up and the wait would be about an hour and a half unless we wanted to dine at the bar. My party and I where hungry and so we agreed to sit at the bar.

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The menu offered a limited amount of plates but this is a Trattoria which in Italy is larger than a cafe but smaller than a full restaurant and so the menu reflected that nicely.  The offerings hit some of the traditional Italian fare. Gnocchi, ravioli, manicotti and much more.

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They have a tasting menu, for $38, where you choose any three items from the menu and one desert. What else would any self respecting food blogger do than to order the tasting menu while reviewing a restaurant? I was there with two other people, so we all ordered the tasting menu and snuck tastes from each others plates, you know… so I could review a wide variety of their offerings.

We started with a basic kale caesar and an order of roasted rainbow carrots. Both were very good. The ceasar salad dressing was outstanding, they sell it there by the bottle. We were told that the portion sizes where a little smaller because it was the tasting menu size.

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In my Italian family gnocchi is the king, the dish of all dishes, served only with pesto and not red sauce, so one of the first things I look for on a menu at an Italian restaurant is the gnocchi and if its served with pesto or red sauce. Portobello serves a gnocchi that is the best I have had this side of my grandmother’s homemade gnocchi. They add a few wonderful twists by first pan crisping the gnocchi leaving it a bit caramelized and crispy on one side as well as adding some finely chopped broccolini and a few cherry tomatoes, wow! It was so good I ate half of it before remembering to snap a photo. (This happens way too often to me it seems).

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Seeing manicotti on the menu was a surprise to me because manicotti is mostly cheese and in my opinion is hard to make Vegan and still have that rustic Italian flavor and mouth feel. Well Portobello has done it well. Filled with spinach creamed cauliflower topped in marinara sauce and sprinkled with walnut parmesan.

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I also ordered the breaded abalone mushroom with potato celeriac gratin, wilted spinach and dill lemon dressing. It was good but reminded all of us of a piece of English style fish & purple potato chips.

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On to the desert.

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One of us had the salted caramel sundae. It was salted caramel ice cream, caramels sauce, hot fudge, coconut whipped cream and candied walnuts. It was so good. All the flavors worked so well together and was not too sweet as to make you want to put down the spoon for a break.

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We also enjoyed a s’more baked alaska.  It was a meringue (made from aquafaba) covered chocolate ice cream with a graham cracker bottom. (It is not on the website menu pic above). Again, another outstanding desert. Spot on!

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My understanding is that they change their menu items occasionally. While on Yelp looking at the reviews for Portobello I saw photos (290 of them) of plates that some of which were not offered the day we were there. All in all I will be back again. It was high quality food with friendly service and the only all Vegan Italian restaurant I have seen. 4 and a half stars out of 5.

Allie’s Vegan Cafe & Pizzeria – Review

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As I travel the country I try to sample the areas Vegan restaurants and sometimes I find the most outstanding Vegan restaurants, and some times not so outstanding Vegan restaurants. But when I find those outstanding ones I like to tell everyone about them and so it is with Allie’s Vegan Cafe and Pizzeria. Opened March 2015

“Allie’s is a family owned, born out of passion to share delicious, healthy food. The entire menu is vegan, locally sourced and organic whenever possible, with many gluten free options.”

All cheeses are made in house.

“Cheeses are made by hand in small batches. This yields a firm cheese that can be grated and melted onto pizzas.”

The plant-based meats are Gardein brand. The Ranch & Caesar dressings are also made in house and soon the ranch will be bottled for sale due to the demand.

Allie’s to my knowledge is the first Vegan Restaurant in Spokane Washington! Congratulations, this town really needed some Vegan options. Spokane is a large hunting hub for the northwest. Allie’s had a lot of bests for me. Best vegan pizza, Best vegan sausage gravy and best chocolate chip cookies.

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How did I find Allie’s? Well, the story goes like this: It was dinner time as I drove into the town of Spokane. And, so I did what any self respecting Vegan does when they are hungry and in a unfamiliar city, I Goggled “Vegan restaurant in Spokane Wa”. I was not really expecting much to come up because I had been there before and had not found any Vegan restaurants. But to my stomach’s wonderful surprise I saw a listing for Vegan pizza. It was not only a listing but a listing with 5 stars from 19 reviews, you hardly ever see that! This led me to quickly go to Allie’s Pizza on Yelp and look them up, finding a average of 4.5 stars from it’s 31 reviews.

The Pizza / Food

So of course I quickly called in an order for a half Italian “sausage” and half BBQ “chicken” pizza. 15 minutes later I was sitting down eating one of, if not the best Vegan pizza I have ever eaten. And I have eaten a few Vegan pizzas in my life. It struck me soon after I had devoured the pizza that I should have snapped a quick picture of the pizza, but it was too late. (Check out the food photos on Yelp)

The crust on this pizza was wonderfully, thin but not too thin, golden and delicious, a quality product.

“Dough is made daily and allowed to cold ferment for two days for best flavor and texture. Hand tossed then baked in a brick oven”

The sausage was so close to the real thing that if I did not know it was Vegan I would swear it was the real thing. The BBQ “Chicken” pizza had a smokey sweet BBQ sauce on it and the Gardein chicken was warm & tender. And for all of you who want a gluten free pizza they have that also. I will have to get back soon to try all their other Pizzas they offer like the Mac & Cheese pizza and Thai pizza along with a few others.

They also offer salads & bread sticks. Beverages include, fresh organic juices, lemonade & iced tea as well as espresso using almond, soy, hemp, coconut and rice milks. They also offers local craft beer on tap as well as wine. Oh! And don’t forget the desserts! Homemade cheesecakes & fresh baked cookies. The chocolate chip cookies are to die for! I must say that they are the best tasting vegan chocolate chip cookie I have ever eat’in.

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Sunday Brunch

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On Sundays between 10 AM & 3 PM they only offer a brunch menu. I went back two days later on my way back home and ate brunch there.

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We had the fried “chicken” with sausage gravy accompanied by rosemary potatoes.

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Pumpkin Pancakes topped with a fruit compote and whipped “cream” accompanied by tofu scramble. (not shown)

The food again was very good. The sausage gravy was so naughty good! Yes.. I said naughty.

The Cafe

The cafe is located at 4803 N Nevada Street in Spokane Wa. 509-321-7090

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                                                                                        Atania Gilmore

Atania Gilmore is the owner of Allie’s. As Atania and I talked she explained her passion for healthy vegan food and her hopefulness of helping people become more educated and healthy eating and living a vegan lifestyle. She also talked about the benefit to the earth and animals.

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She even has a small book store on one wall of the restaurant where she sells vegan cookbooks and books on health.

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The main seating area is bright and inviting with wooden floors and local art that is for sale displayed on the walls.

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So if you are ever in Spokane Washington and need to fill your stomach with some great vegan food, stop in and say hello to Atania and family. They will take good care of you and your taste buds will thank you.

AND Cafe – Portland Oregon

AND Cafe http://andcafepdx.com/ Yelp Link: http://www.yelp.com/biz/a-n-d-cafe-portland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andcafepdx

5420 E Burnside

Portland, Oregon

503-233-4550

And Cafe

While visiting family in Portland we visited the AND Cafe. Everything here is vegan unless ordered differently.

Upon entering we where greeted and asked to sign in on a waiting list located on a clip board that was leaning up against the back of a small bar. (seen in the above photograph center far right side)  We where also asked if we would like a cup of coffee while we waited. There were only a few folks ahead of our party of three.

The entire seating area contains 5 tables inside, all of which where full and there where three or so tables outside of which only one was occupied. We wanted to sit indoors so we waited about 10 or 15 minutes before we where able to be seated.

While we where waiting to be seated I had a chance to check out the kitchen. The kitchen area did not contain any professional cooking appliances, as a matter of fact as I remember it had a small counter top oven the size of a large microwave. There was a hot plate and two table top gas burners. As you can see in the above picture the only fan was a residential fan with a small light.

Even with these primitive appliances they are able to put out top notch food in this little kitchen.

More on the food a bit later.

After we where seated the waitress, one of two, took our drink order and then our food order, for we had looked over the menu while we waited and knew exactly what we where going to have.

I ordered a decaf coffee which they made fresh in a french press behind the bar, the coffee was a local roaster but I cannot remember the name, it was real good coffee served in a manly sized coffee cup.

We ordered the MEATLOAF SANDWICH walnut meatloaf – choose lettuce, tomato, pickle & mayo. With a cup of the soup of the day for $2.00 more which was a curried lentil. This meat loaf almost tasted like real meatloaf, if I had not known it was vegan , I would have thought it was real meat, it was awesome!

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I ordered the REUBEN “corned-beef” seitan, apple kraut, Russian dressing, vegan mozzarella all on marbled rye bread, also with a cup of the curried lentil soup. By far the BEST vegan Reuben sandwich I have ever eaten!!!! And this is coming from me, someone who had eaten meat for 40+ years of my life, I know what a real Reuben tastes like.

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We also ordered the PORTLAND BBQ SANDWICH espresso bbq chk’n, (Beyond Meat Chicken) organic greens, tomato, red onion & mayo. Great flavor and texture of real chicken and the BBQ sauce was outstanding.

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And to top it all off, to be sure we got our greens, we ordered to share the small size KALE SALAD with outstanding, in house made ”honey” mustard dressing, kale, apple, carrot, sliced almonds and avocado. I have eaten a few Kale salads and I normally don’t care for them but I would order this one again and again, it was good!

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Our over all experience was great and the food was outstanding.

There was only two things that I would say is a minus, one would be the fact that because they did not have a professional kitchen fan the restaurant did get a bit hazy with smoke. It was not so bad that it bothered you but you could still see it in the sunlight clouding the room.  Secondly the place is small, not allot of seating. Those are the only two negatives I can come up with, well except the parking was a bit limited, although we found a parking spot with no problem, but hey we where in Portland so it is expected.

This will be a place that when in Portland I will eat at again. Friendly staff, outstanding food and fair prices add up to a 4 out of 5 star rating from the Vegan Gourmand.

Grilla Bites Restaurant

Grilla Bites – Snohomish WA

1020 1st Street, Suite 104
Snohomish, Washington 98290
(360) 568-7333 

Hours

Monday: 10am – 5pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm
Sunday: 10am – 5pm (Breakfast served until 1pm)

I just love little towns don’t you? They are so quaint and full of fun shops and restaurants.

Well the city of Snohomish is no exception.

I had heard about this restaurant named “Grilla Bites” that serves up their famous Grilla sandwiches and burgers, along with organic soups and salad, while featuring local specials and flavors. They also serve local produce and products as much as possible and the water is always filtered I am told. So I had to give them a try.

Their Mission statement says this:

“Supporting our environment and community while maintaining a healthy responsibility to our customers through the food we serve”

The atmosphere is a mix of trendy and a bit of granola. The seating area seemed a bit crowded with tables and chairs, in my opinion they could have surplussed a table and four chairs which would have relieved the cramped feeling a bit. It was clean and well kept. The employees were pleasant but seemed a bit discombobulated at times.

Grilla Bites is not a vegan or even a vegetarian restaurant but does have plenty of vegan and vegetarian fare on their menu not to mention the huge organic salad bar. They have 19 vegetarian items and 3 Vegan items on the menu but you can veganize almost any item on the menu. They told me that they use Vegenaise in all their sauces that are “Mayo type” based sauces & dressings. You can also ask for vegan soy cheese & vegan bacon as a substitute on any menu item. They also have pesto, BBQ or curry tofu sandwiches.

I ordered their “Portobello Burger” $9.75 which is chopped portobello mushrooms marinated in shiitake vinaigrette and topped with grilled red onions, tomato, spinach and blue cheese spread. I asked them to hold the blue cheese spread and asked for garlic aioli made with Vegenaise. It came with your choice either fresh vegetables and garlic hummus or organic blue corn chips and garlic hummus. For desert I had their vegan and gluten free brownie.

The mushrooms had good flavor, and where packed between what looked like a sprouted bun. The bun was soft and yummy. (technical foodie terms) a slight vinaigrette flavor wispered that the mushrooms had been marinated and the garlic aioli had a punch with a strong garlic flavor.

The hummus was very tasty with also a strong garlic flavor. The combination one two punch of the garlic aioli and garlic hummus left me swimming in the vapors of the garlic gulch I called my mouth into the next morning.

The vegan and gluten free brownie was really moist, may be a bit too moist but the flavor was fudgie (another foodie term) it had a thin layer of chocolate frosting on top and had a bit of an orange flavor to it.

Over all, my experience was good.

The prices I felt were a bit on the high side. (but organic & healthy does cost more)

The food was fresh and flavorful.

Variety was great and flexibility with substitutions was great.

I would eat there again but I would not do the double punch of garlic, like a big “Grilla” I wrestled with it all night.

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