Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vita Cafe

In preparation for our trip to Portland I had read a lot of restaurant/cart menus and food blogs. Vita Café was on my list of definites because of their corn cakes. I love corn, I love pancakes, but I’d never heard of or tasted such a thing. Perhaps they are as rampant in Portland as biscuits with gravy (I’ve never had them either), but Vita’s menu boasted the largest and most varied selection: Thai, Hazelnut, Mexican, and I knew I had to try them.

It was our first full day in Portland and Vita was our breakfast of choice. The restaurant was bright, seemingly clean, and bigger than we expected. Even though they had just opened five minutes prior, there was already a couple seated, so we took that as a good sign. And then-

We were neither greeted nor welcomed by our sour-pussed waitress who asked us for our order practically before our butts had hit the seats. Then she slammed our beverages down on the table, presumably as punctuation to her second order inquiry. Her response to my, “Can the Thai corn cakes be made without cilantro” request was an indecipherable and barely audible grunt, although I am happy to report it was fulfilled.

Oddly, as the restaurant began to fill up and a good 50% of patrons began to order a menu item containing the ubiquitous corn cake batter, we overheard the waitress (who equally spread her sunshine amongst the customers) repeatedly report “There’s no corn cake batter. We had a little, but it’s already been ordered.” Score for me, but what the heck? They had just opened.

In any event, I got my corn cake. It was filled with slices of fresh banana, seasoned with ginger and accompanied by a mild coconut crème “syrup” that was more like a pudding. I tried dipping my corn cake into maple syrup, but the thick coconut sauce really lent itself to the ingredients much better. My companion’s French toast, however, didn’t fare as well. Thick slices of sourdough, they were ultimately only “French toasted” on the outside, leaving a thick, dry, uncooked bread center: ick.

Most important to note, though, is that upon receiving our breakfasts, we were immediately inundated by a family of gnats. GNATS. Now, I eat out a lot and this has never happened. We actually choked down our meals whilst simultaneously waving them away; it was not pleasant. And then, as soon as the plates were removed, so too went the infestation. Creepy.

Under normal circumstances we probably would have left then, but we had not yet spent the entirety of our Merc Perk certificate and the gnats were gone. So, once the peace had been restored to our table, we began discussing what to try from the dessert case. And then- the waitress unceremoniously slammed the check onto the table. When I told her we wanted dessert she snatched it back up again in a fury. I had the further gall to ask what the choices were and she informed me that there were too many for her to say. Really? So I went over to the case myself, where most of the stuff was unmarked. Hmm, must be a secret.

I wound up choosing a slice of Sweet Pea Bakery’s peanut butter chocolate chip cheesecake that I recognized from a blog post, but found it to be quite dry and almost pasty; I've never seen a cheesecake crumble when faced with a fork. I should note that I wasn't a huge fan of cheesecake before being vegan, but Vegan Treats has spoiled me with their creamy, delicious, and multi-topped and flavored offerings so perhaps I'm spoiled. And, to give Sweet Pea the benefit of the doubt, it's possible that Vita's refrigerator was not regulated properly for optimum cheesecake consistency. Don’t know, but won’t be going back to a place where the audible sighs from the waitress are only outnumbered by the amount of gnats swarming your plate to find out.


  1. hey... saw you post on stumptown vegans. vita is a lot bigger now that they've moved across the street. the ceiling used to be a lot lower and felt a lot more crowded (which i liked a lot more). surprised about how you were treated at that place. usually the wait staff is too cool to care, but really nice and the food has always been amazing. been there a few dozen times too, so it wasn't a one time thing :) anyways, hope the rest of your trip goes well!

  2. I know restaurants have bad days, but it really seems to me like Vita has a strong case of the overrateds.


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