Paradox Organic Cafe

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?

“Number 3” French Toast, potatoes and tofu plate
for real, paradox

“Number 3” Corn cakes, potatoes and tofu plate
we went to paradox??

Philly Cheeze Steak with Tempeh
may 2008 early 003

Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Address: 3439 SE Belmont Portland, OR 97214
Open Daily, 8am-9pm


27 responses to “Paradox Organic Cafe

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  2. so one of my complaints (if you can call it that, it’s more like an observation) is why they fuck are they putting the margarine on the citrus slice that comes with each dish?? it makes it kinda inedible….in general i think it’s stupid they put a slice on your plate. i think parsley would do a better job as garnish….
    that said, paradox was the first (almost) vegetarian diner i ever went to so even when their food is less-than i love it….plus the shoulder length brown haired waitress is so great and nice.

  3. The Paradox Benedict makes me all warm and fuzzy inside…and I love their berry smoothie…Still haven’t made it up to Vita Cafe yet, it’s been on my list for a while.

  4. Summer solstice pancakes!!! How could you not mention the summer solstice pancakes? They’re chocolatey perfection.

  5. Christine, I am ashamed to say I’ve never had the summer solstice pancakes! I’m not really a chocolate for breakfast person, but I will consider them in the future, yum.

    KEN – good call!

  6. Paradox was the first restaurant I ever dined at in Portland, so it has a sentimental soft-spot. However–I haven’t been thrilled by anything I’ve had there other than the Nachos, which are a fantastic deal (more than enough food for two) and quite tasty. Anybody got any must-try recommendations outside of the breakfast foods? (Not been impressed by the scrambles, I’m afraid). That said, Vita has tended to leave me even less thrilled–their Mac ‘n Cheese tasted like some Mac’n’Chreese with too much water added.

  7. Ian – Vita’s mac and cheese is their most hit and miss item on their menu, even more than the almond gravy! But when it’s a hit day, it’s fantastic!
    Paradox’s corn dog is always fun – it’s even served in a basket.

  8. As an “omni” I’ve never been too impressed by Paradox, and the folks I took there always shrugged when I asked if they liked it. My feeling is it has sentimental appeal and is dependable to a degree, but I never thought it was great. The vegan stuff at Juniors got me more worked up.

  9. Well said, Paul.

    I’m a big fan of Junior’s. They’re even included on our “Top Ten Best Things We’ve Eaten in Portland” 2007 for Herbivore Magazine’s recent travel issue.

    The Superhero scramble plate and the vegan potatoes with tofu sauce are both fantastic.

  10. So, I hate to break it to y’all, but I believe they took the corn dogs off the menu. boo.

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  12. Finally had something I liked at Paradox besides the nachos: the H.O.G. bread-and-gravy, pretty damned tasty, and not a bad deal at $4.70. They were out of biscuits–are those as good/better? Wouldn’t mind if the gravy had some mushrooms in it. . .

  13. Hey Ian! I’ve also thought the H.O.G. version to be superior to the classic biscuits, though it’s been years since I had the biscuits. I remember them being small and dry.


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  15. And yet I never eat here as they don’t serve beer. Oh, Paradox, you live up to your name, for I live 2 blocks away and cheerfully travel to Vita and further for the same food and a yeasty brew….why can’t you get with the program like all the movie theaters, Chinese restaurants, hair salons and coffee shops? I love you, you silly thing…..I shall sneak a pitcher in ‘neath my shirt for a Number 5…

  16. Janie, you have your prerogative. It’s funny, they had beer before the menu changes 3-4 years ago. I remember ordering sparkling raspberry cider with my dinner a few times…

  17. Went there a few days ago and split two meals.

    The Seasonal Benedict was really tasty with a ton of potatoes on the side. Very tasty, very filling.

    The BBQ Rib & Peanut-Sesame Salad was just okay. The salad part decent but it appears that they’ve changed the “tempeh sticks drenched in our house BBQ sauce” on the menu to a plain ol’ Riblet. Color me disappointed.

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