Backspace Cafe

Update: Stepping into one of our very first reviews with some sad news: Backspace Cafe in Old Town is no longer all vegetarian. They have added hormone free meat sandwiches onto the menu. Please let them know your thoughts. The new Winter 2011 menu is available here and here. Will this affect your choice to dine there?


Date: April 13, 2007
Times Visited: 5

Vegan Gamers, Rejoice!

A few months back, I heard about a new vegan and vegetarian menu at Backspace Cafe, an internet cafe, art gallery and gaming spot downtown. It’s a bit of a long walk for me to go for lunch, and I already have a default coffeeshop, Red & Black cafe, so I didn’t prioritize my visit. However, once I had read the online menu after hearing a glowing review from a friend, I had to go. You see, the menu features multiple field roast sandwiches, a grilled tofu sandwich, vegan Hot Lips pizza, quesadillas and perhaps best of all – no substitution price for vegan cheez!

My dining partner and I both ordered the ‘Steak’ sandwich on my second visit. Served on baguette, it contains pepperocini, wild mushroom field roast, grilled onions & peppers with rosemary and basil vegenaise. First off, if you haven’t tried field roast yet, give it a go! It’s based out of Seattle, and is not meant to be a ‘bologna’ substitute, but a herb, vegetarian and grain based variation on seitan. It’s something that’s featured on many Seattle menus, but I can’t think of anywhere else in Portland that offers this.

Back to the sandwich: though I had mine without onions and my partner left the pepperocini off of his, we were both immensely satisfied by this meal. Every bite of this sandwich is flavorful – tangy, savoury, herby, and on great bread – even at $7, I could not ask for more. We also shared an order of the basic cheez quesadillas ($3.50). If you’re not one for soy cheese (Follow Your Heart, I think in this case), you may want to skip it, or at least upgrade to the black beans and spinach variation. However, if you’re into soy cheese, don’t pass these up. They’re cheap, melty, filling and the salsa is just spicy enough.

I think the food is top notch for a cafe, the atmosphere is nice and spacious, plus there are multiple boards games as well as computer stations, yet I have one issue with Backspace – I’ve gone 4 times now, and there is always quite a wait for food. At a cafe, you might not expect to wait 20+ minutes for your sandwich, so it’s something to keep in mind. -JD

The Hot Lips Pizza is “single serving” (though it was two pieces too many for me) pizza cooked on site. The pizza changes daily but I was lucky enough to have one packed full of roasted garlic (almost a full bulb) caramelized onions, fancy mushrooms and other wonderful flavors. The price of the single ingredients of the pizza were well worth the $9 price. On top of that we were in an entertaining cafe with Stumptown Coffee, Viso and other great Portland drinks.

My favorite sandwich by far is the sausage and pepper sandwich, minus peppers. They use Field Roast apple sage sausage, cut in half and cover with grilled onions (and peppers if you swing that way). It was so tasty that even my animal-sausage-loving dining companion was impressed by the taste. The sandwich alone was $7, a true deal for such expensive, tasty vegan sausage.

It’s important to note that Backspace neighbor, Someday Lounge, has similar choices in food options. -WB


The backspace menu is Seasonal and may change. The 2007 Summer menu includes The Grinder and the Club, plus many more.

Vegan Jack and Cheddar Cheez Quesidilla with salsa verde
march 2007! 183

Steak Sandwich with Pepperocini, minus the onions
march 2007! 185

Steak Sandwich minus the Pepperocini
march 2007! 184

Sausage and Pepper Sandwich, minus the peppers:
Backspace - Sausage and Peppers

The Grinder
Backspace - Grinder

NEW – Club Vegan
Backspace - Vegan Club

NEW – The Caesar with Spinach
Backspace Cafe - Ceasar

NEW – BBQ Setain Wrap
BBQ Setain

Rating: 4 out of 5
Address: 115 NW 5th St. Portland, OR
Food Served Daily, 11am – 11pm


11 responses to “Backspace Cafe

  1. Pingback: Voodoo Donuts « Stumptown Vegans·

  2. Pingback: Someday Lounge « Stumptown Vegans·

  3. hey, we’ve changed our menu a few times since you came in last. You should totally come try the vegan reuben! Anyhow, just thought I’d let you know, I work at Backspace…hence the “we”

  4. Soo they closed the kitchen for about a month and revamped the menu; buncha new stuff, including some awesome avocado thing I had yesterday, a hot dog with a roasted carrot as the dog, warm artichoke dip, and mac n cheese…They added little V’s to all the vegan items, but really, of the 23 things on the menu, the 6 that aren’t marked with a V say ‘make it vegan for 1.00!’. So really the whole menu is vegan now. And they’re 200 yards from my office. Aaaaand they rock.

  5. Pingback: The Stumptown Vegans Present: 25 Great Vegan Foods for $7 or Less « Stumptown Vegans·

  6. Wow, this is bizarre. I worked in the Backspace kitchen August 2008-April 2009, in the kitchen, and nothing is the same. Everything that was amazing is gone! I am very disappointed that they are serving meat now.

  7. Wow. This is so disappointing. My boyfriend loves Backspace so much the name is like his mantra. It’s the first place he insists we have to go whenever we’re in town. The meaty grossness will for sure affect my wanting to eat there (could there be rogue meaty bit in my sammie?!?) I hope this doesn’t mean fewer vegan options. Our 2009 visit was amazing, but last year wasn’t so stellar. Let’s hope 2011 gets better.

  8. so for $9 i get a BBQ tempeh and daiya cheese sandwich and some tortilla chips? blimey! yeah…no. maybe if you added some veggies, like a salad, that would seem reasonable.

    but, no, that wouldn’t make me not eat there. but the loss of the Philly would. it did disappear, right?

    i’m not in that area much, but if i am and i’m hungry and it’s past 5pm, i’m going to Tube.

  9. In my opinion, Backspace never had that much going for them besides the decent, mostly vegan menu in the first place. The coffee is ok but not great and the atmosphere isn’t too exciting unless you’re a gamer. So I won’t be going there anymore now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s