Sunday, June 7, 2009

TRUEBEN: Tempeh Reuben at Backspace


Don't ask me why, but I've been downright obsessed with the tempeh reuben at Backspace for awhile now. I guess because it's been out of reach for so long. But residing in North Carolina has not prevented me from obsessively reviewing the all vegetarian menu of this computer geek oriented cafe in PDF form. Finally, on a sunny Saturday morning, B. and I managed to sit down to what is now one of my favorite reubens in town. Truthfully, this reuben almost gained #1 status is my book. Probably the only real hinderance was the pricyness, though I'll admit, the sandwich isn't perfect.

Almost, though. First of all, Backspace happily veganizes this dish (and many others) without any extra charge. Second, though there is no complimentary pickle, I greatly appreciate that there are options for sides other than corn chips (in this case, green salad or pasta salad) again, with no additional charge. True, the fee is $9 for this wonderful sandwich, and with the price of vegan cheese, this seems reasonable to me (however, some of us, i.e. B. would argue that the vegan cheese added little to the sandwich and should probably be scrapped in favor of avocado anyway).

On to the sandwich. The bread: some of the best we've had, I think. A marble rye that manages to be crispy and flavorful and not taste like it came straight from a plastic bag. The kraut, I'm almost ecstatic. Fresh and crunchy and heavy with dill. The tempeh is nothing to be scoffed at either: extremely flavorful (though maybe a tad too salty), with an assertive, delicious presence despite the fact the portion was a bit more modest than we are used to. I was a fan of the dressing. It's on the creamier side, more like a spread. B. seems to have developed a taste for the runnier dressings, and he thought this sandwich was a little dry, but I had no such complaint. The sandwich was plenty grilled, the bread even slightly charred, which gave it a smoky flavor I enjoyed. Though the cheese was a little odd, unmelted as soy 'rella frequently is, I thought it contributed to the sandwich well, though I could probably be convinced that avocado would be better.

As it is, I wholeheartedly give this a 4.5. I would be tempted to rate it higher, maybe even higher than our erstwhile favorite, the Red and Black Reuben, because of the nice green salad side and the fact that service was fairly prompt and obviously thoughtful. Though the Red and Black is more affordable, I've grown less patient lately with their lackadasical service. The Backspace reuben (also found at the Someday Lounge next door) is as gourmet and carefully prepared as Veganopolis, but definitely feels like more bang for your buck.

115 NW 5th, Old Town Portland
Tempeh reuben with house dill kraut, vegan russian dressing, on marble rye. Swiss cheese or vegan mozzarella.

P.S. Stay tuned for our next review, of a reuben which B. argues is even better, drawing into question the 4.5 point assignment! Portland vegan reuben establishments, you have officially raised the bar, giving our modest yet hearty 'lil Red and Black Reuben, the erstwhile champion, a run for its money.


DJ M said...

I just found your blog--amazing. I'm visiting town this weekend and intend to try out some of your revieubens and hopefully truebens.

Incidentally if you're ever in Brooklyn you gotta go to Organic Heights and try theirs. I fear they have ruined tempeh for me forever because it was so good. That said, I'm looking forward to seeing how PDX does it.

TJF said...


I just realized I never said thanks! I did manage to post a few more reviews in hopes you could get a chance to check them out. Hope your visit went well.

Thanks for the tip about NYC!