Saturday, March 29, 2008


UPDATE: Sadly, Veganopolis closed its doors on September 24th, 2008.

Veganopolis is a joint downtown that styles itself like a cafeteria. You order at the cash register and bus your own table afterwards. There is an extensive vegan sandwich and salad menu, and a hot brunch buffet on Saturdays. The space is clean and airy, with big street-facing windows. You can also pick up a few vegan grocery items over by the cash register. The staff in my experience has always been real friendly. It's one of those places that, if it were in another city, you'd expect to be some sort of mecca for vegans. In Portland, it's sort of just another cool place we can go to eat. There is some novelty to it. They make a number of things, like vegan chevre or ricotta, in house. And it's only one of a few places in Portland where you can go and know that everything is vegan. But I think their hours (closes at 5 every day), the their location (downtown), and the fact that they at least appear a little overpriced, gives them less of a draw. But I gotta say, they win hands down for the best sandwich presentation I've experienced in this city thus far.

And their food is good. And not that expensive for what you're getting, really. We got proof of this today. B. and I split a modest plate of their brunch buffet (a little under 8 bucks a pound) while we were waiting for our sandwich, and it was damn tasty. We passed over the typical brunch stand-bys of tofu scramble, french toast, biscuits and so on for a helping of savory bread pudding with asparagus and mushrooms, a little bit of potatoes and a sort of cabbage seitan sausage mixture and it was all delectable. I was glad we went that route as well, because, at 1 pm on a Saturday afternoon, it was pretty busy in there, and Veganopolis is the kind of place where your food takes time even with less customers. So the brunch held us over 'til the purpose of our visit arrived.

Like I said, pretty, huh? The Veganopolis reuben is "braised corned vegan ham," sauerkraut, your choice of dijon mustard or thousand islands, and soy mozarella (is there a vegan fake Swiss out there?). For a side you can get coleslaw, potatoes or a cup of soup -- we went with the soup, which was a tasty tomato bisque, very flavorful with big chunks of tomato. As you can see, the sandwich came with a couple pickle spears arranged on a small bed of baby spinach, with fresh chopped herbs dusted over the plate. The bread was a "rustic rye," and not a stand-out on its own, but it did the job well and was nice and crunchy. This sandwich met the bar in terms of temperature and textures, though the bread was more on the thin toasty side versus dense and absorbent, so this is one of those sandwiches you'll want at least one extra napkin for.

I liked that we got a side and a generous garnish with the sandwich. I think it was probably worth the extra 1.95 over the Vita Cafe's tempeh reuben, which came with no accompaniments at all. Another way in which this sandwich differed from the Vita's was that I could really taste the fake cheese -- and I liked it. Over all the sandwich's flavors were great, though there was a sort of not-unpleasant sweetness that I couldn't figure out the source of, maybe the Thousand Islands? B. thought there could have been more of the dressing and found the sandwich a little dry. We both wished that some of the sauerkraut had been swapped out for more of the corned seitan. The sandwich filling was easily 80% sauerkraut, and I could barely taste the seitan at all. I found myself picking up a fragment off my plate to eat just so I could see what it was like. I was impressed, which made me even more disappointed that my sandwich wasn't meatier. I understand that the seitan is probably the most expensive ingredient, but at 9 bucks, I'd like to be able to savor it.

Those were our only complaints really -- more dressing, and much more seitan. I love sauerkraut, and I didn't find the quantity overwhelming, but I wouldn't have missed some of it in exchange for the other ingredients. The cheese amount was probably perfect. I would probably get this sandwich again -- or maybe just come for the brunch buffet, now that I'm in the know.

3.5 out of 5

412 SW 4th
Mon. - Sat. 9:30 am to 5 pm.

Corned seitan reuben, $8.95. Choice of coleslaw, potatoes or cup of soup. Also comes with pickle spears and a tiny salad. Many other sandwich and salad options available, as well as various beverages. Buffet everyday from 11am to 3 pm (think it tends towards lunch during the week and brunch on Saturday).

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