As a vegetarian, it can sometimes be difficult to go to more "traditional" date night spots. Many romantic, upscale places feature a very meat heavy menu with only one vegetarian option, if any. Although living in Portland means that many of the restaurants here offer more selection and more options for vegetarians, sometimes I want to be able to go into a restaurant and order ANYTHING off the menu, without having to make substitutions. The list below includes my favorite restaurants in Portland that are strictly vegetarian, or feature a separate vegetarian menu. These are date night spots, so some of my favorites for lunch or a more casual meal aren't included. Enjoy!
Andina is, hands down, one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. It is a Peruvian restaurant in the heart of the Pearl District. Their food is amazing, the atmosphere is intimate yet lively, their cocktails are fantastic, and their waiters are knowledgable and kind. Andina features a full menu for the carnivores out there, but if you ask they have a vegetarian/vegan menu that includes the vegetarian/vegan food from the main menu, as well as some special items. My must haves are the Tres Salsas Con Pan, the perfect appetizer for sharing, the Tortilla De Papa, the Locro Serrano, and the De Betarraga. If you go you also have to try the Sacsayhuaman, their signature cocktail (try saying the name out loud!).
Another restaurant on my all time favorite list is Departure. Before I go into the food, the ambiance and location are literally the best in Portland. Located on the top floor of the Nines in Downtown Portland, Departure has amazing views of the city, as well as one of the few rooftop bars in town. Inside is very futuristic and cool, almost like you are inside of a spaceship.
The food, though, is where departure really shines. It offers modern Asian cuisine in small portions, perfect for sharing. Like Andina, their full menu includes meat and seafood, but they have a large vegan menu that has some of the best dishes they offer. Everything I have had there is phenomenal, but some of my favorites are the Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, the Brussels Sprouts (one of the best foods I have ever eaten!), the Chili Tofu, and the Golden Curry (also one of my favorite dishes ever).
Blossoming Lotus is my go-to restaurant in Portland when I am craving something fresh, vibrant, and healthy yet filling. The menu is entirely vegan, and everything they have is delicious. All of their food tastes very wholesome, like you are eating a farm to table meal, yet they don't skimp at all on taste. They do a great brunch, lunch or dinner, and their vibe isn't "hippy granola" but instead more modern rustic, perfect for a date. For dinner I would order the Cheese Plate to start, share the lotus salad with my date (get the coconut bacon, it is soooo good!), and then share the Ginger Noodle Bowl and Potatoes Dauphne. I've never had desert at Blossoming Lotus, but I have heard their large selection of sweets are out of this world.
I adore Mexican Food, and the great thing about it is that it is so easy to make a hearty, filling vegetarian Mexican meal. However, that can sometimes mean a meal that is overly heavy that leaves you feeling lethargic, not something you want on a date. Verde Cocina offers fresh farm-to-table Mexican food that is lighter than traditional yet captures the flavors even better than most restaurants. I first sampled their food at their food cart at the PSU Farmer's Market a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. I'm in love with their Chile Relleno, and their Quesadilla of the Day is always something delicious. They also have fantastic Agua Fresca, and great cocktails.
Natural Selection is, hands down, the quintessential vegetarian date night restaurant in Portland. The atmosphere is warm, inviting and features a European flair. Their menu is rustic yet refined, and everything tastes amazing. Although you can order anything on the menu individually, their four course fixed-price menu is the way to go. If you want to splurge, add in the wine pairings and you won't be disappointed. Their menu changes seasonally, but you can't go wrong with anything they offer. Bon Apetit!