Tucked above the NW 23rd shopping district, The Clearing Café is a welcome addition to its neighborhood. Just a few blocks north of Food Front Coop on NW Thurman between 27th & 28th, this café is owned by the same people as the adjoined Dragontree Spa, who obviously follow the mantra that Portland can’t have enough coffee shops.
It’s been open for less than 2 months and this café still has a clean, new vibe. With a focus on ‘organic’, the shop is much more vegan-friendly than you’d probably even expect. If you’re like me, you quickly hope the label ‘organic’ has to do with the veg*n food scene, and in this case it certainly does. Not only is the food menu packed with organic vegetables but there’s a full juice and smoothie menu that features wheat grass shots and some vegan-friendly supplements. They use Ristretto Roasters beans, and all non-espresso coffee is made by press pot. You heard that right – they don’t serve Stumptown. Latte art is often practiced and who doesn’t enjoy that? Their teas are from Tao of Tea, another high quality, local-based favorite. Quite a few of their baked goods are vegan, and come from Crema; they offer soy and almond milk for drinks (50 and 65 cents extra, respectively), and two vegan paninis. The staff is vegan-friendly, too, and willing to turn that formerly chevre-stuffed panini into a vegan one. The made-from-scratch soup of the day is often vegan, and nearly always vegetarian and will be labeled as such on the menu board. Embracing seasonal produce, the soup is often vegan, and always vegetarian.
On one of my recent visits, I ordered a hybrid of the vegan Constantine and the (not vegan) Lincoln paninis. The employee was happy to tell me if their tapenade and pesto were vegan (yes! although pesto was out this day) The paninis are freshly grilled, or panin-ered if you will, to order, and served on local artisan breads. My sandwich was on a perfectly chewy and crusty ciabatta roll with kalamata olives, balsamic vinaigrette, dijon mustard, spinach, tomato, walnuts and pear. Each bite had just enough tear to it, and such a pleasant, almost fancy flavor. The Constantine panini ($6.50) typically comes with onions, tapanade, tomatoes and spinach. There is also a warm and gooey Bambino Panino ($3.75) with peanut butter and jelly that is vegan by default. I hope that if this shop gets enough vegan support and feedback, they’ll start stocking a vegan condiment or two as well. Just imagine vegan mayo or cream cheese on the Constantine!
The best dessert is the banana chocolate chip bundt cake. A slice of that and my delicious, almost decadent almond flavored soy latte in this quiet, cozy and local-art filled cafe are enough to make me want to return, and I live across town. Hopefully their vegan sandwich options will one day match their range of desserts and juices, and I’ll have more of a reason to.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Address: 2772 NW Thurman St Portland, OR 97210
HOURS: 6am-7pm Mon – Fri, 7am-6pm Sat, 7am-5pm Sun