The Stumptown Vegans Travel!
|Name of Establishment:||The Mirkwood and Shire Cafe|
|How Vegan-Friendly is it?||100% Vegetarian, with easy substitutions of Daiya vegan cheese|
117 E Division St
|What’s comparable in PDX?||If the Hungry Tiger Too and Three Friends Coffee House were merged by geeky friends and moved into the church down the block.|
|Recommended Dishes:||The Misty Mountains menu|
|Why it’s worth the journey:||It’s a laid back, entirely vegetarian Lord of the Rings themed cafe, located 30 minutes north of Seattle.|
Thoughts from a Stumptown Vegan:
The Mirkwood and Shire Cafe is not only a multi-purpose establishment inspired by the classic trilogy, it’s a funky, vegetarian, and vegan oasis in small town northern Washington. Once you head north of Seattle, vegan offerings are very limited until you hit Bellingham, with a few exceptions. The Mirkwood and Shire is one of those worthwhile exceptions, and I’d say it in Elvish if I could. Now, before you go expecting lembas and ent-draughts, I’ll give this warning: it’s not as decked out as you may expect. No one’s in costume, the film soundtrack isn’t playing round the clock, and the doorways aren’t miniature. However, the independent, crafty spirit is clear from the beverage menu and special touches, like a coffee beverage served in a handcrafted Shire mug, and the location itself – an old church building renovated with character and plenty of comfortable seating.
Inside this old church, one can continue onto the following:
- a show at the Mirkwood stage
- gaming supplies (are you catching onto the geek-love?)
- a tattoo or new piecing at the amazingly named Mordor Tattoo & Piercing
- a bang trim upstairs at the Paul Mitchell licensed Rivendell salon
- most importantly, sustenance at the Shire Cafe and the Misty Mountain Pub (which are alongside in the building)
Although on our visit, my friends and I did not sit on the side of roped off Misty Mountain Pug, we glanced over often, perusing the wooden bar, its taps of PBR, local microbrews, and an extensive and exciting menu of custom shots and cocktails. Specialty drink names include the Eye of Sauron, Morgoth, Butt Pirate, Transylvania Tea, and the Wrath of God.
The matter of their food is last. While it was an enjoyably wild, vegetarian find, the food itself was decent. Maybe if someone with hairy hobbit feet had presented it I would have overlooked it, but I didn’t. The vegan BLT ($7.99) with Smart Bacon I quickly smelled cooking in the kitchen was tasty, but the multi-grain bread was very over-toasted and my few pieces of lettuce were nearly all short pieces of the inner lettuce rib. It’s obviously edible, but I would pick on my friends for serving me this, and I’ll do the same for a restaurant. The side salad with vegan Caesar was very fresh and served in a cute bowl on the same plate, but the tangy sauce could have been thicker.The french fries ($3.99) were clearly from the freezer, which is fine for the price, but good to know. And another shared appetizer, the veganized Artichoke Dip ($6.99), seemed to rely solely on the creamy dairy substitutes, while lacking artichokes and any other flavor. That being said, I liked how it was served with a mix of soft pita triangles and a few stray tortilla strips. It was mildly zany and kept with the character of the place. Speaking of vegan cheese, as stated on both menus, there is no problem veganizing most dishes on either menu with the substitution of popular Daiya cheese.
It pains me to say negative things about a fantastically themed vegetarian restaurant, but I can easily see this place receiving even more critique if it was in Portland, both theme and meal wise. Laid back vegetarian food in a funky coffeeshop is totally appreciated, I’d just like to see some more enthusiasm in the Lord of the Rings inspired setting and menu.
The promise is there.
Now with Pesto Avocado Burger that my dining companion raved about (see comments!):