Date: November 7, 2007
Times Visited: Too Many To Count!
Eastside Portlanders are divided by a love for North and South, which includes neighborhood hangouts…and could come down to Vita Café vs. Paradox Café. Both restaurants were formerly under the same ownership, though that’s changed over the years. Both Stumptown Vegans adore Vita, though one utterly loves it, and one has a softer spot for Paradox.
For those veg*ns living near either restaurant, dining there can easily become a comfortable routine. Paradox is about 98% vegetarian, and they will try to make any dish vegan, according to their menu. The diner style room is full of booths, small tables and counter style seating. In the evenings, there’s not usually a wait for tables, but come weekend mornings, you will undoubtedly find yourself waiting, at least a bit, if not for over 20 minutes. Alas, so is the weekend breakfast routine in Portland. Why wouldn’t you wait for a “Number Three”, a hot plate of vegan French toast, potatoes and tofu for $7.10? Or a vegan corn dog basket, corn cakes and a side of veggie sausage, Tempeh Reuben, Sloppy Joseph, biscuits and gravy, mac and cheez with broccoli…the list goes on. And while you’re waiting, spend the requisite time next door in Great Gatherings, flipping through old records, sweaters, and plates.
It’s like eating at a vegan greasy spoon, just what you need when hung-over from those vegan white Russians at The Tube, with some healthier fare – like a Deluxe Green Salad with a house made maple-mustard, lemon tahini, tomato vinaigrette, sesame-peanut, guacamole or vegan ranch dressings or a cup of miso soup. When I lived nearby, I would alternate between the Number Three with a large, buttery corn cake and tempeh, nachos with house made queso, salad with lemon tahini and the Mac and cheez. No other restaurant in Portland gives us so many diner-riffic options, except maybe Vita. Because it’s diner-style, I’ll be honest, now and then, your food may not be served as warm as it should be. You’re hoping for a great meal, but it could turn out to be something you could make at home, so opt for something you wouldn’t necessarily make at home. Sometimes food is overcooked, burnt potatoes are seen, and complaints come out of regular and new diners.
While Vita and Paradox offer many identical menu items, they are not always prepared in the same way, and this can vary at the individual restaurant as well. One day the cook seems to put spices in the mac and cheez that weren’t there last week, etc. On my most recent visit, I ordered the Vegan Benedict ($8.25) for the first time. It contained thick toast, a thin but creamy enough hollandaise sauce with an nice, light touch of spice, salty veggie sausage (storebought), seasoned potatoes and chopped tomatoes. The watery tomatoes did nothing for the dish, but everything else contributed to a tasty dinner. Nothing you couldn’t make at home, but it would have been a few more steps than one might like to do on a normal day. Price wise, it’s debatable if I’d get it again, but I wouldn’t rule it out, as I did have leftovers.
While both Stumptown Vegans miss the rotating seasonal menus and themes and the ‘early’ bird breakfast specials of yore, we still appreciate what Paradox Café brings to Portland, and especially in its immediate neighborhood. It’s a key place to take omnis, as they can order 2% freely (mainly, hamburgers), but they just might opt for a veg*n breakfast burrito. I enjoy going for dinner, as it is usually less crowded than weekend brunches, and reminds me of going to diners when I was younger in the wee hours with friends.
Enjoy some nickel games next door at the Avalon, and then get yourself a corndog and a natural cola, or a slice of cake and a cup of Stumptown, the choice is yours. Your friends in NE don’t have a nickel arcade nearby, do they?
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Address: 3439 SE Belmont Portland, OR 97214
Open Daily, 8am-9pm