Restaurant Review: Portia’s Cafe
Portia’s Café is the perfect place to take your most neurotic control-freak-friends. It’s organic, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, plus it serves lots of stuff for raw-food-only-eaters. Portia’s accommodates every possible food fear –and it does so in a cute, fun way.
To be clear, unlike many places where vegan food or gluten-free is an option, Portia’s is a place where almost everything on the menu meets the obsessive avoidance standards.
Well, it mostly meets the standards. There are a few qualifiers on the menu: because of a commitment to wheatgrass and sprouted things, Portia’s won’t make the claim it is 100% gluten-free. It also discloses that the kitchen uses honey as a sweetener, which might not be cool in some vegan worlds. But honestly, Portia’s sets an incredibly meticulous norm for itself.
And, for what it’s worth, the owner herself (Portia) provides a great visual endorsement for the avoidance lifestyle: she works the restaurant with lean, muscled arms that Linda Hamilton would kill for.
Inevitably, it comes down to this: once you eliminate dairy, meat and wheat; what’s left besides carrot sticks and apple slices?
Turns out, lots of stuff, as Portia’s menu has several pages. You can get a feel for things in the first section of the menu: Dippers. It’s a collection of complex dips served with (diners’ choice): blue tortilla chips, rice crackers or carrots and celery.
While the Dippers are priced at $6 each, you can try all four in a sampler for $12.
The Guacamole is good. That’s not a shocker, as it’s hard to mess up an avocado. The version at Portia’s uses lots of cilantro, so it has a distinct flavor to it, and all the rich texture anyone could want.
Beyond the Guacamole, the other green dip, Spinach-Collard-Artichoke-Dip, is the standout in the assortment. It’s a mix made with a finely-cut collection of its namesakes, plus caper and some sort of miso-lemon sauce that gives it a chunky and squishy texture. Sublime.
The Hummus didn’t really have a flavor, so that one was abandoned quickly. And the Sunny Walnut Pate tastes exactly like it sounds –like a walnut paste with a little accent from sunflower seeds and pickles. Neither the pate nor the hummus dippers could compare with the greenies.
Portia’s serves soups too: there’s a Raw Broccoli Soup ($3.50) that is a freak of nature. It’s cold, which is fine. It’s also insanely creamy –like a nice french onion chip dip, but with the flavor of raw broccoli.
Red Lentil Soup ($3) is also a tasty offering – it’s warm and actually fairly traditionally appealing.
The Wraps often feature the dippers as fillings. So, the Sunny Walnut Pate is born again inside the the Notuna Lettuce Wrap ($8). The mixture is more likable there, as more pickles and tomatoes are involved, on a giant sheath of crunchy lettuce.
There is also a Tex-Mex section, featuring Quesadillas in gluten-free tortillas. The Cheeze ($5) version is perfectly serviceable -the dairy-free cheese substitute is better than fake cheese was 10 years ago. The Quesadilla uses a gluten-free wrap that has little flavor, and so the dish is mostly a vehicle for cheese. The Black Beans & Cheeze ($6) versions is better, as the beans add variety. Both versions come with a salsa that is terrific.
Portia’s is definitely worth some more exploration – especially the soups and green dips. You can find it at 4428 Indianola Avenue. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11am until 9pm, and Sundays from 10am until 3pm.
More information can be found online at www.portiascafe.com.
Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com.