The Vegan Athlete’s Guide to Running and Eating in Portland, Oregon

Beautiful Vista of Portland, Oregon

Rose City. Rip City. Bridgetown. PDX. Whatever you call it, it’s all Portland, Oregon.

And people love it.

Portland is an eco-conscious, walkable, bikeable, city with an excellent public transit system. And while it may be better known for its professional sports teams — or perhaps the hilarious cult-classic Portlandia — it’s known locally for its vibrant vegan and active lifestyle community.

It’s a mecca for vegan foodies and athletes alike, and our appreciation for quality vegan food and the outdoors is a major reason for why my fiancee and I were drawn to this city in the first place.

Experiencing Portland as a Vegan Athlete

When you’re planning where to stay and what to do in Portland, it’s helpful to think of the city in quadrants.

Portland is divided into four quadrants by the Willamette River (which splits East and West Portland) and by Burnside Street (which splits the North and South sides). Whether you’re planning a running route or looking for somewhere to dine, consider which quadrant of Portland your destination will be in.

With that in mind, I’ve organized my Portland running and vegan food suggestions in this guide by area of the city.

Northeast Portland

With the airport located in Northeast Portland, it’s often a tourist’s first place to stop. But instead of just gassing up the rental car (which you probably don’t need with public transportation), spend time exploring the area.

Northeast is home to a variety of vegan food options and cuisines, as well as a running route you won’t soon forget.

Where to Run

Rocky Butte takes the crown of running spots in Northeast Portland. The 360-degree views are well worth the one mile and 500 feet of climbing.

Be sure to soak in the spectacular views — especially of Mt. Hood — from the summit before heading down to grab a bite.

Where to Eat

Northeast Portland is a haven within a haven for local veg-heads.

Whether you want to eat clean and green at Blossoming Lotus (I love the Lotus Benedict), go Indian at The Sudra or dive into the cool and hip (one could say hipster) bar scene at The Bye and Bye, this section of Portland has got your ever-varying taste buds covered.

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ will dish you southern-style food that will simultaneously and paradoxically keep you full for days and leave you wanting more, and the Trumpet Mushroom Barbecue and other dishes from Harvest at The Bindery will make you ask yourself: Does it get any better than this?

I don’t think so, but you should keep looking …

Vita Café has some non-vegan options, so this is a fantastic breakfast or lunch spot if you are with others who are not yet willing to go all in.

Looking for dessert? Drop by Back to Eden Bakery on popular NE Alberta Street for gluten-free and vegan baked goods, ice cream, and other delicious treats.

3 Northeast Portland Must-Dos:

  1. Climb Rocky Butte for 360-degree views.
  2. Stop by Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ and make sure you are hungry.
  3. Savor vegan ice cream and gluten-free treats at Back to Eden Bakery.

Northwest Portland

Northwest Portland is great for shoppers, trail runners, and those who don’t want to be overwhelmed with dining options.

Where to Run

Only one place needs mentioning: Forest Park.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the country and it is completely runnable. Races are held on the winding trails of Forest Park and many running groups meet up for a weekly run as well.

With over 80 miles of trails that wind, climb, switchback, and dip, there is a lot of fun to be had while running and exploring in Northwest’s Forest Park.

Where to Eat

The best-known entirely vegan (and gluten-free) restaurant in Northwest Portland is Prasad. Prasad is a cool little café located inside a yoga studio with a second, vegetarian location on the Eastside located inside a rock gym. Come here for breakfast or lunch, or for the delicious fresh juices and smoothies after your morning yoga, bike, or run workout.

If a smoothie won’t get the job done, satisfy your hunger with one of Prasad’s incredible bowls, scrambles, hearty salads, or their waffle. The Mighty Bowl (organic brown rice or quinoa, beans, steamed greens, and choice of sauce) is even offered on a sliding scale starting at $2 because they “believe everyone deserves a warm, healthy, organic meal.”

If you’re deep in Northwest Portland near the Beaverton border, you should check out Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro for some amazing Asian-fusion.

While 100% vegan options are limited in this quadrant, there are plenty of restaurants in Northwest with many vegan options. Check out one of my favorite Thai places to eat at, Thai Smile, which features a picture on their menu for nearly every food item!

3 Northwest Portland Must-Dos:

  1. Hike or run in Forest Park. It’s always more fun with a friend.
  2. Eat fresh and tasty at Prasad.
  3. Hike to Pittock Mansion via the trails of Forest Park for a tour and for amazing views of Portland and beyond.

Southeast Portland

If you find running and eating well in Southeast a difficult task, you must not be in the right Portland.

Where to Run

The Southeast also has a butte …

Powell Butte. This park is further out from Portland proper, but it is nevertheless a popular running route for people in the area or those looking for trails that offer mountain views. With ten miles of trails in the park and connecting to Portland’s 40 mile loop, you can run in and around Powell Butte for hours.

Quick Note: These trails get quite muddy during the rainy season so plan to run here in the summer or early fall if you want to avoid dirtying up your shoes.

Laurelhurst Park is a small park by comparison, but has beautiful grounds shaded by tall trees and approximately two miles of intertwining paved trails perfect for walking with a friend or jogging.

Another route, the Springwater Corridor Trail, goes on for miles and miles and offers the opportunity to escape the city and run near the Willamette River on a quiet and long paved trail. Springwater is frequented by many runners, walkers, and cyclists so just know that you will not have this trail all to yourself.

Mt. Tabor Park is one of the most-frequented parks in Portland and includes three main trails that circle the dormant volcano that is Mt. Tabor. These trails are great for walking, hiking, and running and the 3-mile blue trail loop features a 96-step staircase that will make your lungs and quadriceps muscles question your love for them.

Where to Eat

Southeast Portland has an abundance of vegan options.

Portobello Vegan Trattoria is a popular spot offering 100% plant-based Italian dinner cuisine, a bar, and weekend brunch (a staple in Portland). Included regularly on their rotating dinner menu are the Arrabbiatta pizza, Gnocchi, and Beet Burger Royale; even their Sweety Peps and other appetizers are certain to please.

Don’t miss Portobello’s brunch as their pancakes are divine and excellent things are said about their polenta and scrambles.

Speaking of divine, Papa G’s serves up delicious organic sandwiches, mac and cheese, and southern comfort platters; their made-in-house tofu is quite popular as well.

Harlow is a great vegetarian spot that serves all three meals and has vegan options galore. They also have baked goods, but their No-Bake Cookie is handily one of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

If you are craving Asian cuisine, get to Van Hanh Vegetarian which is slightly deeper into Southeast but well worth the trip. Low prices, great portion sizes, a non-profit and delicious all-vegan food are just a few reasons to check out this hidden gem.

3 Southeast Portland Must-Dos:

  1. Run at Powell Butte Nature Park
  2. Run to the top of the dormant volcano of Mt. Tabor (for best views, run on a clear day)
  3. Get to Portobello Vegan Trattoria for incredible vegan Italian cuisine

Southwest Portland

Home of downtown Portland … and more excellent running and vegan food options.

Where to Run

While you can run on roads and sidewalks, you will want to hit the trails in Portland’s Southwest instead.

Between the trail loops of Tryon Creek State Park, the various route options on the Marquam trails, and Washington Park’s many sights and 15+ miles of trails, there are plenty of routes to take no matter what part of southwest you are in.

Where to Eat

Portland is famous for its food carts. A vegan cart that stands out in the Southwest is DC Vegetarian (has dairy cheese and honey options). DC Vegetarian takes your favorite quick breakfast and lunch options such as breakfast sandwiches, BLTs, burgers, and bagels with the works and veganizes them, making it my favorite cart to support while downtown.

The Southwest is also home to Vtopia, a restaurant and vegan cheese shop famous for their artisan cheeses. These cheeses are a vegan party favorite, and many restaurants and carts include them on their menus. Grilled artisan cheese sandwich anyone?

If you want Asian-fusion cuisine, head over to Loving Hut which features a different menu at each of its international locations and here in Portland you can have dishes such as the Save-Planet Curry or the Sweet and Sour Divine. Oddly enough they also have a spaghetti dish, an Ocean Burger, and a Texan Steak, which are all vegan and sure to please!

For a quick downtown lunch, check out Veggie Grill, you can find American lunch favorites, and then grab vegan and gluten-free desserts at Petunia’s Pies and Pastries.

A bit deeper into Southwest in the next town of Beaverton is La Vida Veggie, a wonderful Latin-inspired vegan spot that will make you go loca.

3 Southwest Portland Must-Dos:

  1. Run Marquam Trail to the top of Council Crest. Then catch your breath.
  2. Treat yourself to the vegan artisan cheeses of Vtopia.
  3. On your way to the headquarters of Nike in Beaverton, eat fresh at La Vida Veggie.

Looking for More? 3 Bonus Must-Dos In or Around Portland

1. Sizzle Pie

The most popular pizzeria for vegans in the area is Sizzle Pie.

Their Spiral Tap is a vegan-take on the classic cheese pizza but of course they one-up the cheese with a creamy caramelized onion spread instead. PETA even voted the Spiral Tap one of their Top 10 pizzas in the US in 2015. Sizzle offers many other vegan pizza pie options, salads with vegan Caesar dressing, and they always have vegan slices ready to go.

2. Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade

It’s not a trip to Portland unless you traverse the esplanade loop along the Willamette River. On the Westside, the route is part of the Waterfront Park and when you cross either the Steel Bridge or the Hawthorne Bridge via the pedestrian paths, you arrive on the Eastside’s Eastbank Esplanade.

On a clear warm day, expect this area to be full of pedestrians either taking in the view, playing Frisbee, running, cycling, or even shopping at the weekend Portland Saturday Market that is open most of the year.

3. Columbia River Gorge

Just outside of Portland you’ll find one of the area’s best natural attractions, the Columbia River Gorge, with its numerous waterfalls, trails, chipmunks, and spectacular views.

You can spend hours and hours hiking or running out in the Gorge or visit the popular Multnomah Falls for a hiking experience on a paved trail. Even legendary vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek loves to run these trails when visiting Portland.

WARNING: Before You Visit Portland …

Before you visit this vegan mecca, just know that you may not want to leave. Trust me, it’s that awesome.

Consider yourself warned.

Hike a forest. Run some trails. Bike some roads. Cross bridges. Eat vegan. Be weird.

That’s Portland, now go explore it.

About the Author: Wilfredo is a marathon and ultra distance runner, high school track coach, and Nutrition Science Master’s student in Portland, Oregon. Read more about Will’s take on running and nutrition on his blog at EatRunandDone and on Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Drat! We just got back from Portland. Where was this post 2 weeks ago…

    We actually had a great time, and there was so much to do, that i don’t know that we could have fit any more in. Time to plan another trip, i guess. So we’re trying to convince our teenage son to go to college there.

  2. La Vida Veggie is definitely our new favorite – everything is amazing, and they have a school lunch program… great community people.

    Blossoming Lotus and Homegrown Smoker are also favorites – as are the Forest Park trails!

  3. I was just thinking that Portland is the next city to revisit now that I am vegan, and along came this post, thanks!! Even better now that I am also a runner 🙂

    • Author here…Hopefully you come visit! It’s truly an amazing place for vegans, runners, and NMAs. Plus, the people here are so nice and Oregon is beautiful! Feel free to connect with me!

  4. Perfect timing! I’m going there next month!! Thanks:)

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