Between Via Chicago’s vegan deep dish slices, Dove Vivi’s cornmeal crust, Pyro’s wood-fired offerings, Sizzle Pie’s brunch pies and Rudy’s epic list of vegan combos—not to mention dozens of other meatless options around town— you might think that Portland’s plant-based pizza market is fairly saturated. Jim Vesal disagrees.
“I’ve eaten just about every vegan pizza you can get in Portland, and I think we’re doing something that no one else is doing,” says Vesal, the executive chef at Virtuous Pie. Founded by Vesal and Lia Loukas, the plant-based pizzeria debuted at Portland’s 2016 Vegan Beer & Food Festival before opening its first brick-and-mortar eatery in Vancouver, BC. This Saturday, June 10, Virtuous Pie returns to Portland to open a second location—one that, fittingly enough, is located directly across the street from the building that once housed Portobello, which served as Portland’s only all-vegan pizza spot for several years.
“We wanted to go to Portland because we knew it was competitive. We didn’t want to go somewhere where we can phone it in,” Vesal explains. To stick out in Portland’s plethora of plant-based pizza options, Virtuous Pie offers two housemade doughs (regular and gluten-free), three signature cheeses (cashew mozzarella, tofu feta, and truffle almond ricotta), and creative toppings like spicy buffalo cauliflower and Baerlic Brewing chorizo meatballs. “We can’t just put bacon on something.” Vesal says. “We really have to push our limits.”
In addition to 10-inch personal pizzas and a few fresh, seasonal salads, Virtuous Pie offers beer, wine, and Happy Mountain kombucha (plus still and sparkling water on tap—tres chic). Lunch service starts at 11 a.m., but hungry customers can arrive as early as 8 a.m. to snack on Heart coffee and Shoofly Bakery pastries. Whatever you do, be sure to save room for dessert—the shop takes as much pride in its ice cream as it does in its pizzas.
“A lot of vegan ice cream sounds a little healthy,” Vesal explains. “We definitely like to put the caramel in, put the chocolate in…. all the things that vegans miss. [Vegans] don’t want an avocado ice cream or a spinach ice cream.” To that end, expect a rotating assortment of pints and scoops that might include turmeric & black pepper, peanut butter cookie dough, or coffee & donuts made with pastries from Back to Eden Bakery. Also in the works: affogato, ice cream flights, and ice cream sandwiches.
The counter-service eatery eschews traditional restaurant seating, instead offering a long communal table, several sets of bar stools, and a mezzanine with a plush couch and coffee table. Folks in a hurry can grab salads, drinks, pints of ice cream, and bottles of housemade sauces (think blue cheese and chipotle aioli) from a grab-and-go fridge near the entrance. But you’ll probably want to stick around to order a pizza—where else, even in Portland, can you get a pizza topped with hoisin crema, kimchi, roast broccolini, and gochujang-braised jackfruit?