Category Archives: travel

Lessons Learned from Traveling Across the Country

We recently moved from Atlanta, GA to Eugene, OR. These are a few lessons I learned from traveling vegan-style with two greyhounds in a Buick for nearly 3500 miles.

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1. Pet friendly hotels are not hard to find. Our daily driving schedule was not rigid, so we ended up in random cities for the night. But we were always able to find a room in the following pet-friendly hotels  (in order of niceness): La Quinta, Best Western and Motel 6.

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I think the only one that charged an extra pet fee (which was pretty low) was Best Western but it does vary by location. A helpful pet friendly site that we used was bringfido.com.

This guy was always the last to get up.

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2. Although I am in awe of the dark, almost black rocky sand and huge rocky shores of northwest coast beaches, it is intense and scary if you’ve never seen a beach before (like Miles).

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We drove along Highway 101 towards the end of our trip and had to pull over frequently to enjoy these scenic beaches.  They made me wanna yell…’Heeeey, yooouuu guuuyss!’ because Goonies.

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3. It’s nice to have generous and kind friends who will give you a place to stay along the way (even when they think you’re part of some vegan army stuff).

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We enjoyed the momentary break from hotels and the pups enjoyed running and meeting new friends.

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4. Despite how soy-cheesy it may be, stop at the tourist areas. They’re tourist areas for a reason.

Outside the Trees of Mystery, Nikko and Paul Bunyan.

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An elk at one of the elk viewing areas about two hours outside of Eugene.

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5. When driving west, the end of the day becomes a perpetual chase of the sunset.

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In Joshua Tree National Park.

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6. Traveling across the country by car with two greyhounds, it IS entirely possible to eat well vegan-style even when we didn’t research restaurants before hand (because ain’t nobody got time for dat).

Most mornings we grabbed as much fruit as possible from the continental breakfasts (served at many of the places we stayed). I also had oatmeal and tea that I packed which just required hot water from the coffee maker.

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And while we certainly ate our fair share of Subway sandwiches, we managed to throw in some unique all vegan or vegan-friendly places along the way as well. Thank goodness for cell phones and Happy Cow! A few eats…

Chopped BBQ sandwich with grilled seitan and an El Paso Burger with chipotle vegan mayo and guacomole from Spiral Diner in Dallas, TX.

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A Mediterranean picnic in the park from International Delights in Las Cruces, NM. The server knew what “vegan” meant and happily accommodated us.

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The “Vegan Caper” bagel with an amazing tofu spread, capers, red onions and a sweet sauce from Los Bagels in Eureka, CA. They had seats outside so we brought the pups.

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Wonton Soup from Noble Veg in Sacremento, CA. I grabbed a menu while Neal stayed with the pups in the car. We decided what to get. Neal went to order and the kind people at Noble Veg brought the food out to the car. In retrospect, eating hot soup on my lap probably wasn’t the best car food. But I was really craving soup.

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A vegan barbecue “Chicken” pizza from Tomato Joe’s Pizza in Valencia, CA. This was dinner and breakfast the next morning.

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I think had this road trip been taken more than ten years ago, it would have been much more difficult to find places to eat good vegan food without meticulous planning ahead of time. But nowadays, its like my phone and the internet gives me super vegan powers. Or at least the ability to find vegan food easily…..unless of course we’re talking about Pecos, TX….now that’s a different story….

Have a Happy New Year!

TruVeg International Vegan Cuisine in Eugene, Oregon

I love that feeling I get when I happenstance on something wonderful when or where I least expect it. Like that time I found a crisp twenty-dollar bill in the back pocket of some jeans before I did the wash.

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Or that time we were driving around Eugene exhausted from searching for a place to live and found a vegan food truck tucked into the parking lot of an auto mechanic shop. The owners of the TruVeg International Vegan Cuisine were some of the nicest folks I have ever met. Even though we were outside on a drizzly, cold day I felt like I was being warmly welcomed into someone’s home.

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The menu is 100% vegan and they also offer many raw dishes. I ordered the Bi Bim Bap which was sautéed carrot, onion, mushroom, spinach, and spring onion served over brown rice with their own spicy kochujung sauce.

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I had never had a Bi Bim Bap prior to this so I didn’t know what to expect. But I fell hard and fast for this dish. The combination and ratio of well cooked veggies was perfect and there was plenty of their spicy, flavorful sauce to coat every single bite. Shortly after this meal we drove up to Salem, Oregon and every twenty minutes or so I blurted out — gosh, my lunch was soooo good…I can’t stop thinking about it. That’s how delicious it was.

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Neal ordered the Singapore Noodles which was mung bean noodles with sautéed onion, carrot, mushrooms, spinach and spring onion seasoned with their special curry spice blend. While full of flavor and very delicious, it didn’t compare to my preciousss Bi Bim Bap bowl. Or perhaps I just wasn’t in a curry mood.

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What I like about TruVeg, aside from the insanely delicious and filling meal I got from them, is their commitment to caring about people, animals and the environment. All their containers, bags and eating utensils were completely compostable.

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What’s more is that when I talked to the owners they mentioned wanting to have a brick and mortar location. And it looks like that is slated to happen in January of 2014! It doesn’t matter to me if they are in a truck or in a building. I definitely plan to go back for the Bi Bam Bap bowl and to try other things on the menu.

Have you ever had a Bi Bam Bap bowl? What is your favorite vegan food truck?

Cornbread Cafe: Vegan Comfort Food in Eugene, Oregon

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Back in early November we took a mini-trip to Eugene, Oregon (to find out why, keep reading). Cornbread Cafe was the first place we ate while there. This cozy, diner-like restaurant serves 100% vegan comfort food made in-house. Not only was the food and friendly staff amazing here, but Cornbread Cafe really makes an effort to keep things local and sustainable. You can read all about their mission here.

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Their menu is an indecisive person’s worst nightmare because there are so many tantalizing things to decide between from eggfu benedict to nachos and phish & chips.

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Since we went early on a Sunday morning, we selected dishes from the breakfast menu. Neal went with their Chik’n & Waffle – breaded and deep-fried seitan atop a large Belgian waffle served with country cashew gravy and maple/agave syrup.

Neal says it was THE best vegan chick’n and waffles he has ever had. The gravy was rich and savory and was perfectly complemented by the sweet syrup. And the seitan was the right kind of fried- moist on the inside and crispy on the outside.

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I went with the build-your-own-omelette served with home fries and a fluffy white biscuit. The omelette comes with Daiya cheese and a choice of 3 items to stuff it with. I chose to get mine stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and salsa.

I don’t know how they did it, but they have created the most eggy vegan omelette that I’ve ever tasted. Every bite was full of flavor. And most importantly, it was nice and moist. Nobody wants a dry omelette. I don’t think I could make an omelette at home that even comes close to how lovely this was.

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I so wish that I could have tried more dishes but we were only there for a short time. Luckily I’ll be able to eat there as much as I want in several weeks because we’re moving to Eugene!

We’ve been dreaming and scheming about moving to the Pacific Northwest for a looong time. So when we saw our friends Kenn and Jeanette pull it off, we were inspired to finally go for it ourselves. The trip in November was our scopin’-out-places-let’s-make-this-happen trip.

We were able to secure a place to live and come the end of this week, we’ll be loading up the car and driving from Atlanta to Eugene. If it sounds cray-cray, I assure you it is. But I’m excited (and nervous, scared, anxious, etc.) about our new adventure! And I can’t wait to have another one of those omelettes…

What is your favorite vegan comfort food?

Wayward Vegan Cafe in Seattle

As Neal prepares for the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, I am reminded of the last time we were there which was after Vida Vegan Con.  We could only hang around for one meal because our final destination was Whidbey Island and we had a ferry to catch.

So of course we had to make our Seattle meal epic, which is why we chose Wayward Vegan Cafe. This place has a menu that is FIVE full pages of diner comfort food. They have everything from Belgian waffles to Country Fried Steak….talk about tough decisions. wayward-0772-2

At one point, I had so much trouble deciding that I was going to employ the “waving finger and random stop” method to help me. This is where I wave my finger randomly all around a menu and then have Neal randomly say “stop”. Wherever my finger lands when he says “stop” is what I order. This method is also good for choosing vacations, movies, what to wear, etc.

Given the sheer quantity of menu items I wanted to try, I’m impressed that I didn’t have to resort to this primitive decision making app. I chose the Crunch Wrap Supreme Master–Ground “beef”, refried beans, diced tomatoes, diced red onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and crispy lettuce on a crunchy tostada round and wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.

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It was served with cilantro sour cream, salsa fresco and my choice of a potato salad side.

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Neal got Suns Over Seattle–Grilled ham slices, American style cheese, and their signature tofu scramble sandwiched between golden buttery sourdough slices and served with hasbrowns.

wayward-0776-3So. Good. All of it. This is the kind of place where you discreetly leave with one button undone (I hope I’m not the only person who does this).

Neal is going to be pretty busy working the festival this weekend. But hopefully he will get a chance to drop by Wayward Vegan Cafe or perhaps some other vegan eats. If you’re gonna be at the Bumbershoot festival, he’d love for you to drop by and visit him (Epic Problems) at Flatstock in the Armory.

Vegan Eats in Olympia Washington

When we went to Portland, we also drove up to visit Neal’s parents in Washington and made a pit stop in the capital, Olympia. Did you know that Olympia is a pretty vegan friendly city? We didn’t get to explore many of the vegan offerings because we only stayed for two meals worth. Doesn’t everybody measure time in meals?

The first place we visited was Narai Asian Cuisine. This place is very vegan friendly. On the Happy Cow website, it was mentioned that the owner is veg and therefore very accommodating to veg*n. And indeed, when we asked if the dishes we ordered could be made vegan they said–absolutely! It’s always nice when your server confidently knows what the word “vegan” means.

We got the Fresh Rolls (with tofu) – fresh green leaf, cucumber, shredded carrots & Thai basil wrapped in a soft rice skin, cut in half and served with peanut sauce & sweet chili sauce sprinkled with ground peanuts.

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Neal got the Pad Thai (sans the egg and fish sauce) – thin rice noodles stir fried with green onion, ground peanuts, pad Thai sauce & bean sprouts and garnished with shredded carrots, bean sprouts, ground peanuts and a wedge of line.

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And I got the Pad Wooh Shen (no egg) – veggies stir fried in garlic sauce with clear noodles, white & green onion, cabbage, napa, snow peas, bok choy & mushroom. This dish was smoky and garlic-savory goodness!

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We were tempted to eat there again for a second meal, but we decided to try another Asian restaurant called Saigon Rendevous. They have an extensive veg*n section on their menu.  There are some non-vegan items in the veg*n section to be aware of like eggs and mayonnaise, but a quick check with the owner was all we needed to make sure the dishes we wanted were a-ok.

We got Tofu and “Pork” rolls (served on top of pickled cabbage!)

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wonton soup

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and we split the Mongolian “Beef”- spicy stir fry of bamboo shoots, carrots and green onions over a bed of crispy rice noodles.

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Would I eat at these two places again? For sure. The food and service were both great and there were definitely more things on the menu I wanted to try.  I’m a sucker for tasty vegan Asian food.

Canteen in Portland: There’s a bowl for that


What better way to end the series of Portland posts than with the dish that, to me, defined Portland…bowls! They were such an iconic dish there that for two weeks after getting back to Atlanta, I just made bowls and only bowls.

We had these two lovely bowls at a small neighborhood joint, Canteen.

Neal got the Bangkok Bowl which was avocado, curry and red curry peanut sauce, long brown rice, aduki beans, broccoli, red cabbage, kimchi and black sesame seeds.

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I got the Walnut Taco Salad which was walnut taco crumbles with mixed greens, pico de gallo, avocado, curry sauce, carrots, cashew ancho spread, sliced avocado and green onions. While not technically classified as a bowl it had all the bowl qualities- lots of different elements layered separately that come together nicely when mixed.

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Portland vegan food, It’s goodbye for now…until we meet again..

Breakfast in PDX

I can’t believe I have more food posts from Portland. No wait, yes I can—it’s a vegan wonderland (like that John Mayer song but way better). And to think that we only scratched the surface!

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I had the “Faux Tofurkey Florentine” which was two English muffins topped with local tofu, homemade faux turkey, spinach and vegan hollandaise. I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, but I did.

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Neal got the “2+2+2” which was tofu, vegan sausage and French toast. I ate some of his French Toast…delish!

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Hungry Tiger Too

Neal got the  “Chicken’ and Waffle”, which he kindly let me take generous bites of.

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I got, two vegan corn dogs with a side of slaw. I know corn dogs isn’t breakfast-y, but vegan corn dogs!! While they weren’t mind blowingly amazing, I enjoyed eating them again after not having had one for many years.

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Both of these places were pretty casual, but Hungry Tiger Too had more of a classic diner feel. Both meals were delicious and if we had more time, I would have liked to eat my way through both menus.

Fine Dining in PDX

Ever eat food so good that it made you close your eyes with every bite? Or made you dig deep to find that last empty reserve in your stomach so you could eat all the goodness that lay before you? This happened to us a lot in PDX, but embarrassingly noticeably so at The Blossoming Lotus and Departure.

Though Blossoming Lotus is an all vegan restaurant, I had no trouble picking out what I wanted. Neal wanted it too. No way were we both gonna order the same thing at a new restaurant. So instead I went with the “Carribean Phyllo Roulade”- sweet potato mash and jerked seasonal veggies wrapped in phyllo dough and served with a carrot Habanero sauce and mixed greens with a pickled onion and hazelnut vinaigrette.

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And Neal ordered the lasagna off the specials which was seitan bolognese, cashew basil cream, heirloom tomato, sorrel pesto and olive.  I know the food is beyond delicious when I end up closing my eyes and moaning in pleasure with each bite and I don’t even care that other patrons think we’re doing kinky food stuff. Throw in some picture-taking while muttering, “oh yeah baby” under my breath…hello crazy lady!

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We made room for dessert and got the raw cheesecake a la mode with the soft serve flavor of the day, orange creamsicle. More blissed out moans of pleasure.

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Though Departure is not a vegan restaurant it offers a complete vegan menu as well as a gluten-free menu (many non-vegan restaurants in PDX do this).  This restaurant is located directly downtown on the top floor of a hotel giving fabulous views of the city. Enh, are ya sure we’re dressed for this? Yes, hoodies and sneaks are a-ok.

Up first, dim sum! And because I love buns, we got two! “Steamed Onion-Ginger Buns” with a maple chili glaze (gobbled up before a pic of the inside was taken)

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and “BBQ Tempeh Buns” filled with Korean bbq sauce and spicy slaw. I wonder if they can freeze these and mail them to me so I can have them for breakfast.

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Next, we had the “Grilled Shiitake Roll” with scallions, avocado, butter lettuce and carrot sauce,IMG_0748 _Snapseed

and “Sweet Potato Tempura Roll” with spinach, ginger and spicy miso. I love that, one, I got to eat tempura because tempura usually has eggs in it and two, that these rolls broke out of the normal vegan humdrum of avocado and cucumber rolls.IMG_0749 _Snapseed

And for dessert, a “Departure Banana Split” with banana tempura, cherry compote, miso butterscotch and peanut brittle ice cream. Let the eye closing and pleasure moaning commence, onlookers be damned.

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Portland Food Trucks

You know how when you visit food trucks ya feel lucky if you find a couple of vegan options.  If you find a whole truck dedicated to vegan food, then it feels like you’ve hit the vegan jackpot.  Ok, so now imagine finding TWO completely vegan trucks right by each other offering over 15 hearty vegan meals! That happened at the Mississippi Marketplace when we were in Portland.

The food trucks were Homegrown Smoker and Native Bowl. They turned two already indecisive vegans into two crazies standing in front of both trucks scrutinizing their menus, comparing the specs of each mouthwateringly described dish against one another and saying “Oh no, you go ahead…we’re still deciding” to every person that walked up.

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We finally did reach some important decisions without resorting to coin tosses or reciting “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” rhymes. We ended up just following our guts. That and we went back to the food trucks the following day.

On the first visit we both ate at Homegrown Smoker. Neal got the SloSmoMoFo- apple wood smoked soy curls on a bun with chipotle slaw and maple bourbon bbq sauce with a side of their Mac-nocheese.IMG_0586 _Snapseed

I got the Macnocheeto – a grilled flour tortilla filled with Mac-Nocheese, sweet baked beans, grilled peppers and onions and the maple bourbon bbq sauce.IMG_0588 _Snapseed

On the second visit, Neal ate at Homegrown again and got the Smoker Sammich- smoked soy curls on a bun with grilled peppers and onions and that sweet smoky maple bourbon bbq sauce with a side of STFU puppies-crispy fried corn fritters with remoulade sauce.IMG_0636 _Snapseed

I got the Mississippi Bowl from Native Bowl- jasmine rice, house-made ranch sauce, barbecue soy curls, two kinds of barbecue sauce, fresh crisp slaw, and scallions.  This is the Mississippi Bowl not stirred.IMG_0630 _Snapseed

And here it is all stirred up- this is how ya supposed to do it!  I’ve been craving the perfect blend of sweet, savory, cool and crisp captured in this bowl ever since we left.IMG_0634 _Snapseed

This fantastical corner of the food truck park was like hitting the vegan jackpot on steroids. Next time we go (and there will be a next time) I definitely want to get the Mississippi Bowl again. Or maybe I should try the Hollywood Bowl. Then again, the treuben sounds good too…as do the chili cheese fries..

Vida Vegan Con 2013

We just got back from our little tour of the Pacific Northwest and I’m dying crying a little inside as I scan through my pictures. Oh Portland, how I miss you already!

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There’s no way to capture this magical fantasy-land all at once so I’ll start with the main attraction, the Vida Vegan Conference 2013.  Most of which took place in the Mark Building of the classy Portland Art Museum.IMG_0622 _Snapseed

Right outside the art museum was a large span of green space where I could sit and chill with Abe while basking in the Portland sun (yes, the sun did come out!).IMG_0624 _Snapseed

I could probably write a tome about all the wonderful talks that took place at Vida Vegan Con, but I’m just gonna highlight a few of my favorite tidbits. For a full play-by-play, visit Sews Before Bros.

  • To take vegan ethics beyond the plate, it’s good to seize intersectional opportunities. For example, the fire at the Bangladesh factory was a good way to introduce the idea of ethically sourced products.
  • There’s always something I can do better in my veganism. The point is to do the very best that I can.
  • I gotta stop using palm oil (see above).
  • Filter amazon searches for vegan cookbooks by “publication date” and request review copies in advance…who knew?!
  • Be authentic! There’s only one me who can tell my story in my voice. This tidbit came from Cadry from Cadry’s Kitchen who I got the pleasure of meeting. She is just as luminous in real life as she is on her blog and videos.
  • Do the things that bring me joy and my passion for these things will translate easily to readers. More words of wisdom from Cadry.
  • I gotta get Adobe lightroom, which surprisingly works with jpeg files, to post process my food photos. Susan Voisin from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen gave a real time lightroom demo and wowee! Her entire presentation on food photography is here.
  • When reviewing a recipe, put a twist on it to show it’s adaptability. This came from the incredibly talented Hannah Kaminsky from Bittersweet who I also got to meet! I didn’t get to see her first talk on food styling, but she put a recap on her blog.
  • Stop self editing myself while I write blog posts. That is what second and third edits are for. Free writing is where the magic happens. This advice came from none other than Isa Chandra Moskowitz herself in an intimate writing workshop.

In addition to the treasure trove of talks, I got to hobnob with other vegans like Kylie from Life of Kylie and of course stuff mah face silly with all the vegan foods. Everyday the exhibitors in the ballroom tempted me with their vegan eats. And I succumbed to the temptation. every. single. time.vvc2013_vendors1vvc2013_vendors3vvc2013_vendors2

Veggie Grill fed the VVC participants the first night of the conference with a kale salad marinated in their ginger-papaya vinaigrette, chickin’ wings and a chicken’ wrap served with ranch and buffalo wing sauce.

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It was so tasty that Neal and I ate there later that night. He got the Chipotle BBQ burger and mac and cheese.IMG_0560 _Snapseed

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I had the Baja Fiesta salad which had papayas and was served with that delicious ginger-papaya vinaigratte.

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Portland, I may not be able to live with you just yet, but the dream is still alive.
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Viva la Portland! IMG_0692 _Snapseed