Put it in your mouth

Vita Caf퀌� on N.E. Alberta offers a great selection of meatless dishes. This hip little eatery is bright and friendly and one of the few places in Portland that specializes in tasty vegan treats.

I am a carnivore. I really love meat. I really, really do. I just thought I’d lay that out there now. So reviewing a place that prides itself on its meatless creations is risky business, but I’ll do my best.

I have eaten at Vita Caf퀌� on a few occasions and really enjoyed it. They have some wonderful choices on their large menu and they even serve breakfast all day. They use all organic and local produce, tempeh, tofu, organic grains, free-range eggs and hormone free meats. Also, all of their breads, sauces and desserts are dairy- and egg-free. All of this combined produces a healthy and tasty eating experience that few other restaurants in town can compete with.

Breakfast is my favorite meal and, at Vita, you’ll have a number of choices that will not disappoint. The Thai Corn Cakes with ginger, topped with cilantro, fresh bananas and coconut syrup are very good, and the Country Comfort (listed as a “huge plate-o-food”), consisting of two scrambled eggs, tofu or tempeh served with one piece of sausage or bacon, potatoes and a biscuit with almond gravy is sure to leave you satisfied.

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For lunch, Vita offers a long list of savory salads, sandwiches, burgers, and “modern meals.” Salads range from the cold Asian noodle with buckwheat soba noodles and fresh veggies tossed with a tasty Asian marinade and topped with peanuts, to the pesto salad with cold rotelli pasta tossed with fresh veggies and Vita’s vegan pesto.

The sandwiches include such vegan delights as the Tofurky with lettuce, tomato and orange-cranberry sauce on sourdough and the tempeh Rueben with tempeh, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and vegan sauce on rye. I really like tofurky; it tastes kind of like turkey and it’s more fun to pronounce. Vita also offers a few real burgers for lunch as well. Yes, they are prepared with real beef. Surprising? Perhaps. But delicious? Definitely. Get a basic burger with cheese on a toasted wheat bun. It’s incredible. It really is.

As I just mentioned, I really enjoyed the cheeseburger. I must admit that the burger seemed even better because I was begging my buddy for bites. Why? Because I ordered the faux chicken fried steak. This dish, consisting of deep-fried, batter-dipped tempeh with mashed potatoes, was smothered in Vita’s almond gravy. And goddamnit I’m sorry, but it tasted like cardboard. I was forced to do something I never, ever do. I put ketchup on it. I had to. I guess that I just believe that once you’ve had real chicken-fried steak, you can’t even pretend that a tempeh fried “steak” can compare. It was so bland, so, so bland. And starchy, I mean come on: tempeh and mashed potatoes. I felt like I was in a world devoid of color, I was surrounded by grayness. I wonder if this is how you vegans feel. I hope not.

Other than that, well I really like the Vita. It’s a wonderful place that caters to all diets and does so exceptionally well. Except, of course when it comes to chicken-fried steak. But, as I mentioned, Vita has a ton of really great dishes, so get out there and put the Vita cafe in your mouth.

Cafe Vita

3204 N.E. Alberta