Blossoming Lotus (Portland, OR)

When selecting a restaurant for our first breakfast in Portland I didn’t take kids—especially non-vegan kids—into account. Turns out, it didn’t matter.

The serene dining room at Blossoming Lotus did not immediately seem kid friendly. But without promoting, the waitresses dropped off a plastic cup of water with lid and straw along with our glasses. Maybe this is common, but because I’m not around kids often this move really impressed me. The Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll was his first choice, but the young man’s nut allergy preventing us ordering him one. Instead he ordered the Belgian Waffle ($12) topped with blueberry syrup, coconut whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, and powdered sugar. It was a kid pleaser! Even without maple syrup, dairy whipped cream or butter, he practically licked the plate clean.

I rarely pass up a vegan biscuit despite being constantly disappointment by them. But no disappointment found in the buttery Lotus Benedict ($13). A tender biscuit split in half and topped with tofu scramble, sausage patties, sliced tomato, wilted spinach, and hollandaise. Served with steamed kale and a slice of grapefruit to balance out the complexity of the Benedict.

When handed the menu, the Fig and Brie Sandwich ($10) immediately caught my attention. A ciabatta roll stuffed with creamy house made cashew brie, tempeh bacon, and arugula, spread thickly with fig jam and a coarse mustard. The sandwich was neatly stacked, with no fillings spilling out as I chowed down on this dish. Smokey and sweet, this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

Even the side of Roasted Potatoes ($3) is excellent. With enough salt and char to not require any accouterments.

For those lucky enough to have traveled to Kapaʻa, Hawaii on Kauai, yes this is the same restaurant you’ve encounter there. It’s a little slice of paradise in the PDX.

Blossoming Lotus
1713 NE 15th Ave.
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 228-0048

Bragg’s Factory Diner (Phoenix, AZ)

During an absolutely horrible job interview, my potential boss mentioned that he was vegan. I smiled and said “Oh yeah! I’m vegetarian…”

“That’s not the same thing at all” he stated dryly. Ouch.

Well, for reasons besides my eating inclinations, I didn’t get the job. But I did get jolted into thinking about the stark differences between vegetarians and vegans. I guess I always believed we were part of the same team—and we are teammates in a lot of ways! But as I attempt to delve deeper into the vegan lifestyle I’ve discovered difficulties with something I’ve always taken for granted: Breakfast.

For vegetarians, breakfast/brunch is a smorgasbord of benedict, pancakes, waffles, quiches, parfaits… and so on. It’s a egg and dairy farmer’s delight. But I’ve quickly learned that finding vegan friendly breakfasts, especially on a road trip, is shockingly difficult. Before heading to Phoenix, I was sooo thankful to stumble upon Bragg’s Factory Diner on Instagram!

As an architecture nut, the Frank Lloyd Bite ($10) beckoned me. It comes with 2 pancakes, hash browns, eggplant bacon and a biscuit smothered in gravy.The pancakes were stunning—the real vegan at the table gleefully devoured them. They are thin, with a crisp buttery shell, reminiscent of everything wonderful about the McDonald’s breakfast menu.  The hash browns, a fried tangle of noodle-like potato threads, is light in texture and taste. A heavy pour of hot sauce quickly remedied the situation. The eggplant “bacon” was the riskiest element on the plate. As is visually obviously, it is not attempting to mimic pork. The soft slabs of smoky eggplant offer a bacony flavor, but none of the pungent fat or chewy texture. I found them quite addicting. Overall, the deliciousness of the Frank Lloyd Bite was marred only by it’s monochromatic appearance.

I found the biscuit, drenched in mushroom and corn gravy, too gummy for my tastes. But considering how rare it is to find vegan biscuits and gravy, I must applaud the effort.

To balance out the beige, we ordered the King Kale Salad ($8). Topped with medallions of grilled zucchini and a sprinkling of quinoa and walnuts, it’s all tossed in a creamy lemon dressing. I found the size of the kale leaves difficult to eat, so I attacked it with fork and knife. It seems silly and simple, but the barely dressed grilled zucchini slices were the best part of this salad. It’s a lot of roughage to eat, but all that kale was the perfect counterbalance to the carb-fest of potatoes and pancakes!

Overall, the food is neither groundbreaking or outstanding. It’s well executed, explorative and made with heart. It’s the ideal stop for any road tripping or local vegan crossing through the desert of breakfast-ville.

Bragg’s Factory Diner
1301 NW Grand Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85007

La Note (Berkeley, CA)

There's never enough room for all the good eats!

When you visit Berkeley, you’re faced with many tempting options, from South Indian chaat at Vic’s to Michelin-rated California cuisine at Chez Panisse. Be sure, however, to reserve at least one morning for my absolute favorite brunch spot in the East Bay—La Note. In my college days, I spent leisurely hours between classes nibbling on baguettes with raspberry jam in the dappled light of the garden patio. Today, their provincial French breakfast plates are just as I remember them…easily worth the 500 mile drive from Los Angeles.

The colors are not accidental! It's as delicious as Christmas morning!

My favorite dish is the elegantly simple Tartine Mistral ($7.5). A skinny toasted baguette—slathered with *just enough* goat cheese—then  topped with mounds of basil chiffonade and slick roasted peppers. Despite its minimalism, every mouthful is an event. With each bite, the crisp baguette crust crackles in your mouth, followed by a clingy pull of wooly white bread. As the sharp goat cheese prances over your tongue, sweet peppers burst between your teeth and your nose fills with the fragrance of fresh basil. It’s an edible symphony! Continue reading

Loading Dock (Brooklyn, NY)

Oh sweet fire, keep me warm these winter days

Although I detest these New York winters, nuzzling up in a fur-lined chair (let’s not debate over that, ok) next to the wood burning hearth at the Loading Dock is one of my few snowbound pleasures. This food cart, parked in an actual loading dock of a downtown live-work industrial loft, is flush with all the pomp of the hipster allusion (complete with an art gallery), but none of the dickery.

Makeshift greatness

The working loading dock elevator

My sensible friends let me select our downtown brunch location before embarking on the totally rad Atlantic Tunnel Tour. A perfect chance to show off my “what’s hot now” knowledge, I mean, what’s the point of obsessing over all those food blogs if I don’t get to dazzle people by dragging them to obscure industrial corners of our dismal downtown, secure in my promise of awesome Mexican breakfast!

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