With September upon us and the season’s end drawing near, there’s still time to squeeze out a few more magical drops of Maine summer before the leaves turn and the apple festivals emerge. What better way to do so than by eating al fresco?
Vegan-friendly Portland offers plentiful opportunities to sample plant-based eats while enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Some of these places supply their own decks or patios while others require some picnicking ingenuity.
Here are 10 spots in Portland where you can pair plant-based eats with breezes and the last rays of warm summer sun. Just be sure to confirm opening times before you go.
1. Make your way to the Portland Food Truck Park on Cutter Street inside the Eastern Promenade park and pick up a Godfather or Mobster falafel pita with shawarma fries at Falafel Mafia. Then spread out your picnic blanket or unfold your chairs and eat overlooking Casco Bay.
PRO TIP: In the late afternoons and evenings, much of the grassy hill above the Portland Food Truck Park is in the shade, and there are a handful of picnic tables available closer to the water.
2. Head to the Western Promenade when the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck is parked outside Maine Medical Center and order a jackfruit pastrami reuben or a Baconator burger to enjoy on the picnic tables by the hospital or on a picnic blanket further down the prom.
PRO TIP: The Totally Awesome truck is usually at this spot at least one day a week, typically for lunch, and often toward the end of the week.
3. Go to Canal Plaza, with plenty of outdoor seating, where Copper Branch offers copious plant-based choices including nachos, smoked maple tempeh sandwiches, Copper deluxe burgers, tacos, spicy Buffalo wings and grain bowls.
PRO TIP: This restaurant serves vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it always has a tempting selection of vegan desserts, including New York style “cheezecake” and s’mores cookies.
4. Order takeout at Green Elephant (garlic and ginger tofu or Siamese dream curry noodles) or Empire Chinese Kitchen (garlic green beans or ginger vegetable fried rice). Both are located on Congress Street near Congress Square Park, where the tables and Adirondack chairs make a perfect picnic spot.
PRO TIP: Congress Square Park hosts many events, both during the day and in the evening. Check the park’s schedule on social media to avoid a time when all the tables might be taken.
5. Head to the Old Port and grab a smoothie, juice or a to-go salad (such as Thai peanut noodle) from The Juicery or pick up a Ya Baba pizza or a fried Brussels sprouts pita at Olive Cafe. Enjoy the eats in the pop-up park on Milk Street or in Post Office Park further up the street.
PRO TIP: The Milk Street pop-up park has picnic tables while Post Office Park only has park benches but more shade.
6. Pick up a salad (such as Curry Cat sunflower or The Promised Land) with a smoothie or juice at The Grateful Cup on Veranda Street, and then head to nearby Payson Park for a picnic.
PRO TIP: The Grateful Cup also offers hot coffee, cold brew and smoothie bowls.
7. Head to Blake Orchard Juicery on Forest Avenue and pick up a smoothie bowl along with a housemade nut milk, juice or iced raw latte, then swing over to the Baxter Boulevard trail and enjoy.
PRO TIP: Avoid the area near the Baxter Boulevard parking lot by Hannaford, since the massive construction site (where the soccer field and demonstration rain garden used to be) will spoil the outdoor vibe.
8. Find a plant-based breakfast on Cumberland Avenue at Union Bagel (where toppings for the organic bagels include vegan cream cheese, Earth Balance butter and avocado) or on Congress Street at LB Kitchen (where options such as a chia oat Bircher bowl or the vegan breakfast sandwich are plentiful) and then head to Peppermint Park to enjoy a picnic.
PRO TIP: There’s a small splash pad in Peppermint Park should you need a final dip of the season.
9. Go to the Public Market House in Monument Square and order a jerk tofu meal from Yardie Ting or a vegan banh mi from Pho Huong or head across the street to Slab and order a vegan hand slab. Take the eats to the Longfellow House garden and eat in the shade by the fountain.
PRO TIP: The Maine Historical Society, which oversees the garden, is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
10. Head to Monte’s on Washington Avenue and order a vegan pepperoni or vegan BBQ corn pizza, or opt for a vegan slice from the slice bar, and enjoy whichever pizza you chose on the patio.
PRO TIP: Monte’s offers vegan Italians and vegan grilled asparagus sandwiches, plus vegan grocery items and fresh vegan baked goods.
Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at [email protected]