Harlow

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Can we all just admit for a minute that breakfast in this town has gotten ridiculous? Don’t get me wrong — I love it, and when I’m on vacation in another city, I miss the incredible options we have here. All I’m saying is, we are seriously lucky.

Since we’ve been in love with Harlow’s sister restaurant Prasad (in the Pearl District’s Yoga Pearl building) for quite some time, we wanted to try the one across the river and it has wedged its way into our hearts for those Sunday mornings where we want to take our time over breakfast.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Prasad focuses on raw, vegan fare, but at Harlow the focus shifts to more gluten-free food. You can still get raw and vegan stuff though. I’m head over heels for the quinoa pancakes with blueberries, and Eric hasn’t yet stopped ordering the huevos rancheros (pictured below) exclusively.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

The beverages are also sublime, from fresh juice concoctions that will start your day right to the dreamy Peruvian hot chocolate I enjoyed last weekend, complete with malty maca and melted dark chocolate.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Harlow is located at 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd., right in the heart of that lively district. Go for weekend brunch or make a day of it and take in a bit of the neighborhood.

a n d Cafe

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

My family all lives nearby, and we get together a lot. There are 11 of us now (just from my immediate family of my sisters and parents) and between us, we have a hilarious grouping of food allergies, intolerances and preferences. We’re also always in flux.

For awhile, one of my sisters was paleo while we were vegan and my other sister’s family was gluten-free and dairy-free (except for one kid). By the next gathering, it was plant-based for a few of us, flexitarian for others. My parents then went vegan for awhile but are notoriously flexible. But recently, we’ve had my mom stumped. She has resorted to telling us all to bring our own dinner when we come over. It’s just too much to keep track of.

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

I’m pretty amazed in Portland at how many options we have. I don’t see a menu very often that doesn’t include something for the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/paleo/what have you among us. And I think that’s a part of what makes Portland’s restaurants so cool and enjoyable and unique.

We ended up on a recent Saturday morning at the a n d Cafe on E. Burnside. Tons of options, including a special hash with vegan gravy and herbed tofu mixed with brussels sprouts.

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

a n d Cafe is located at 5420 E. Burnside. They make breakfast and lunch, the service is snappy and friendly and they have lots of options for those of you with, let’s say, needs.

Boke Bowl

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

I’m still totally unsure as to why they’d need to do this, but when I was in elementary school, they marketed school lunch to us with “cool” magnets featuring brightly colored flamingos and slogans like “It’s cool to eat at school!”

They didn’t have to sell me — most of the time, my mom didn’t let us eat hot lunch at school because it wasn’t very healthy. Instead, she’d pack up fresh fruit and veggies alongside sandwiches and skim milk for us. But on the rare occasion that we got to buy lunch at school, it was awesome — especially on chicken fried steak day. I find it weird that I’m an adult who has been vegetarian most of my life now, but I could not get enough chicken fried steak back in elementary school. Pair it with tater tots and over-boiled grayish green beans and you’ve got a classic early 90s school lunch.

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

Absolutely nothing about Boke Bowl resembles school lunch, except for the long table running the length of the restaurant. Something about eating in the company of strangers takes me back to my cafeteria days. The food here is far more complex and wonderful than all that business. My favorites at Boke Bowl are the vegan rice bowl and the caramelized fennel ramen (try a side of rice tots!) Most days, this is exactly what I want for a complex and yummy lunch.

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

Boke Bowl is at 1028 SE Water Ave. in SE Portland’s industrial district, just a short walk from the waterfront and Eastbank Esplanade. Stand in line — it’s worth it.

Cupcake Jones

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

The way the story goes, my sister Emily was to be delivered via scheduled caesarean section. The doctor looked at his schedule and suggested September 13, 1985. The problem with that date, though, was that it was my second birthday. So even though the doctor had to move his Saturday tee time, she insisted that we have our own birthdays and my baby sister emerged on September 14.

The convenient solution to having your kids just one day apart is that you can combine their birthday parties! This was a revelation for my parents. Just one big mess, one huge herd of small children in the house, one day of chaos. They were sold.

This worked really well the first couple years. Until the year when we were 3 and 5. That year, we had each invited probably 8-10 friends and they all sat around us on the floor of the living room in their party dresses. The five-year-olds gathered around me, and the three-year-olds gathered around Emily. It was time to sing. The problem, of course, is that three-year-olds are such followers. They get confused easily; they’re little. So instead of doing the proper thing and singing to Emily, they followed the lead of the older kids and everyone in the room sang to me only. Emily burst into tears. Birthday ruined.

That was the last time we had a joint birthday party for awhile.

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Everyone gets their own cake at Cupcake Jones — no sharing required. You can get a jumbo or a mini cupcake in flavors like peanut butter cup or chocolate mint. They even offer some vegan and gluten-free cupcakes so no one has to go without. My favorite is the vegan, gluten-free chocolate. Happy birthday to us, sister!

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Cupcake Jones is in the Pearl District at 307 NW 10th Avenue. They tweet too!

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

The first time I discovered that my Spanish friends didn’t eat peanut butter, my mind was blown. How could anyone not eat peanut butter?! It was a time in my life when my eyes were opened to a new thing called a cultural difference. I was just sure that if they tried it, they wouldn’t be able to resist. So I tried feeding it to them.

First, I tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was too sweet, then just too weird. I was disappointed, but I didn’t give up hope that easily. So we invited another pair of matched Spanish-American students over to Conchi’s house, and our goal was to bake peanut butter cookies.

They were certainly not the best peanut butter cookies, by the time we had calculated the correct recipe with foreign measures and found some reasonable peanut butter to work with. But they did taste a lot like home, and in the end, our Spanish friends humored us and tried a cookie, but it was us who ate them, late at night in a kitchen in Barcelona, because sometimes a cookie has the power to take you home.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

They must know that everyone appreciates the taste of a delicious cookie at Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar. This spot, on tree-lined Thurman St. in the Northwest District in Portland, is practically a time capsule. It’s a charming little place — a cookie bar — where you can walk in, order a really well-made cookie in flavors like dark chocolate with salted caramel or chocolate chunk, and enjoy a simple, well-made treat.

The bustle of the baking behind the counter is something to observe — all that bustle is preparing these lovely cookies to go out in shipments to local stores like New SeasonsZupan’s and Market of Choice. But the freshest ones are right there in the cookie bar, waiting to be eaten fresh out of the oven. Sit in the window seats and watch the bakers work for awhile — it will most definitely remind you of home, no matter how far away that is.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, 2390 NW Thurman St. in Northwest Portland. Buy a dozen and share them with your friends.

Tell me you’ve tried them — and if you have, which is your favorite? For me, it’s definitely a toss-up between the chocolate chunk with sea salt and the vegan peanut butter banana.

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

We’re a real estate family, and as such, every year we visit the Street of Dreams. These houses are absolutely crazy visions for fancy lifestyles, and usually located on big plots of land far away from the city. You can walk through bedroom after bedroom, admiring high-tech home gadgets and over-the-top interior design.

The one that put it all to shame was the Tiffany nursery. It was at least five years ago, and in one of the houses, there was a bedroom. It was designed for a little girl, and the walls were Tiffany blue (matched exactly, I’m sure, to that signature shade). In the middle of the room hung an elaborate chandelier.

“I want this,” my sister Emily said, as she entered the room. She shuffled us all into the room and imagined it as her one-day nursery for a far-off twinkle in her eye. We looked, and then we moved on to the other houses. But not Emily. She kept that room locked into the vault of her mind for years and when I remodeled my house last year, a look came over her face as she walked through one day.

“What are you going to do with that chandelier?” she asked. I shrugged. “Can I have it?” And I saw the look — she was taking the first step to building a Tiffany nursery with a chandelier for a twinkle in her eye that might be a reality someday soon. I know she’ll create a room that’s sweet and perfect.

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

That kind of sweet, girly charm is what I found at Petunia’s Pies and Pastries. What started as a farmer’s market stand a few years back has now snagged a prime location sandwiched between two of the cutest shops in the West End district and has made a soothing and seriously adorable little spot. Pink walls, vases of fresh flowers and gorgeous vegan and gluten-free pastries abound.

It’s a great place to take a decadent little afternoon break. Sit by the window, enjoy a salted caramel cookie bar (one of the shop’s best sellers) and an iced tea and dream about what the future might bring.

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries, 610 SW 12th Ave., in downtown’s hip West End district.