Portland, Maine, welcomes vegans and vegetarians with open arms. Not only are they not forgotten on the menu, but many are also favored, with Portland’s celebrated chefs embracing the creativity that comes along with vegetarian/vegan fare.
Even narrowed to a niche, any list of Portland’s best restaurants is bound to exclude contenders. Almost any restaurant will have a few vegan and vegetarian options, but the following grills, cafés, bistros—and even a church—are among the best.
Local Spouts Cooperative
Cafe, North American, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Pad Thai at Green Elephant | Courtesy of Green Elephant
Seasonal vegetables from local farm suppliers are the focus at this casual café and bakery. As the name suggests, Local Sprouts is worker-owned, which eliminates what they call the top-down hierarchy prevalent in other kitchens. Whatever the case may be, the food does not suffer: many of the wraps and sandwiches are vegan or at least vegetarian, including the grilled ginger-tamari Heiwa tofu wrap, made with sauerkraut from a German farm along the Mid-coast. They also serve breakfast and have an array of local craft beer.
Deli, Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Hot, filling, steamy—and that’s just the soup—Kamasouptra
dishes up bowls made with local ingredients for just over $5. That simple formula has made it a Portland mainstay since 2009 and kept patrons lined up outside this Old Port soup mecca, waiting for the likes of maple-roasted butternut squash, jalapeño beer and cheddar, and veggie chili.
Bistro, Thai, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Portland has no shortage of inventive and delicious Thai joints, but Green Elephant
is where veg lovers can enjoy meat-free curries, noodles, and stir-fries. The desserts are award-winning, and vegans aren’t forgotten; chefs can add tofu or faux meat to the entrées. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and fills up fast, especially on Fridays and weekends.
Restaurant, North American, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
This ramshackle restaurant
at the foot of Munjoy Hill in the city’s East End is quietly known to have one of the best burgers in the city. However, it also offers plenty of variety for vegetarians and vegans, such as white bean hummus loaded with pumpkin seeds and roasted garlic, veggie burgers, and sandwiches with curried greens. The milkshakes are worth the trip alone (soy, rice or almond milk, of course), and its bar next door serves good craft beer and wine in beaten tin mugs.
Pizzaria, North American, Vegetarian, $$$
This pizza place
on Portland’s waterfront serves up some serious, and seriously good, meat and vegetarian slabs made from local and organic ingredients. Paper-thin pizzas are cooked quickly in a wood-fired clay oven, and the large salads with toasted sesame seeds, seaweed, blue or goat cheese, and ginger-tamarind vinaigrette are best eaten with a local microbrew.
Bam Bam Bakery
Bakery, North American, Vegan, $$$
is the go-to bakery for Portland’s celiacs, and vegans will find a number of treats—from ginger snaps to chocolate crinkles to vegan breakfast bombs (a ball of quinoa, rolled oats, peanut butter, cinnamon and cherries)—specially made for them.
Bistro, Thai, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Look no further for your late-night needs. This Congress Street Thai restaurant
has a small late-night menu of street-style tapas and skewers—the latter including tofu, shitake and portabella mushrooms—served until 12:45 a.m. Not in the mood to stay up late? Not to worry, as the curry, also vegetarian, is made with seasonal vegetables and is available on the dinner menu.
Restaurant, Dim Sum, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Portland’s popular dim sum and noodle joint, Empire
, is a secret vegan gem. About one-third of the menu is vegetarian or vegan, including steamy vegetable ramen, Szechuan cold cucumbers in a garlic-chili vinaigrette, and Chinese eggplant in a tangy garlic sauce. Go early or make reservations as tables fill quickly (the bar is a first come, first serve spot, and full menu service is available). After your meal, head upstairs for local live acts (there may be a cover charge).
Bistro, North American, Vegetarian, $$$
Food is like a religion at Grace
. The restaurant, set inside a former church, can stun and astonish with vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, exposed beams and pointed arches around the doors. Vegetarians can partake in the mass with English pea risotto and large, heirloom tomato salads. The desserts, such as fig crème brûlée and blueberry krantz cake, are the stuff of wonders.
The Holy Donut
Bakery, Vegan, $$$
Vegan donuts? What more would you expect from a donut shop that turns sweet potatoes into a morning delicacy? This Old Port favorite (there’s also a location alongside the park) bakes more than a dozen different flavors of dense, moist standbys such as cinnamon sugar, but if you give notice ahead of time, they’ll do a batch of chocolate-frosted, vanilla, ginger and lemon doughnuts too.