Portland’s food movements are united by one thing: magnetic personalities who think big and possess a Warholian ability to create mystique, inspiring others to the cause. Think about it: 17 years ago, with secret suppers and communal tables, Ripe upstarts Michael Hebb and Naomi Pomeroy set the table for Portland’s thriving pop-up culture. Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker turned a deep passion for Chiang Mai street food into a national sensation. Today, the city percolates with idiosyncratic Asian cuisines: Han Oak. Langbaan. Nodoguro.
Now, Portland’s vegan/gluten-free scene, already one of the country’s largest, is poised to bust out from its earnest, soy-curl-loving ways. Holiday, opened in May on SE Division, is a jungalow of ambition, bohemian chic, and vinyl music. The food is a car wash for the body and soul but looks like Instagram bait. Excitement is in the air, but political dogma is nowhere to be found. It adds up to a v/gf experience rarely found under one cool roof: sophistication, excellent gluten-free breads (four kinds to boot!), better-than-usual baked goods, farm ingredients, color-saturated juices, and bona fide latte art, with everyday hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The vibe is open arms, so vegans, retract your claws: heretics can indulge in an egg or cow’s milk.
It came out of nowhere. Holiday springs from the culinary compulsions and impeccable taste of Portland’s latest juice-swigging convert: hard-charging coffee legend Duane Sorenson. The last time he went this far down a rabbit hole was in 1999, just up the street from Holiday. His crazy idea: a Portland coffee shop with hand-roasted beans, an indie record store vibe, and better pay for farmers. We all know how Stumptown Coffee Roasters turned out. Now, free of Stumptown (and his party animal lifestyle), Sorenson is Holiday’s barista and plant-based poster boy, high-fiving customers, pulling shots, and busing tables like a guy bucking for Employee of the Month. His energy is infectious.
What to eat? Don’t laugh: the avocado toast is terrific, with colorful vegetable shards shooting out of nearly four inches of creamy green. Another option juggles mushroom art, flowers, and caramelized onion schmear. Chef Ryan Kennedy has nailed the toast movement. Meanwhile, a smoothie bowl blends green tea and coconut yogurt, seedy granola, and kaleidoscopic fruit. Sounds weird, tastes indescribably delicious. The Buddha Bowl, a mingle of pea tempeh, vegetable complexity, and cashew cream, will make your chakras vibrate.
Still, the kitchen needs more consistency. (Gluten-free pancakes, for one, have all the personality of Al Gore.) But Holiday has just scratched the surface. Sorenson envisions all-ages punk rock shows, like the ones that influenced his youth. “I want teens jumping up and down in here,” he says, his eyes wide. This summer, industry chefs, vegans, and carnivores converged en masse when NYC vegetarian sensation Superiority Burger popped up at the café. This winter, Sorenson is tapping big names like Matt Lightner and Andy Ricker for unexpected, plant-based dinners. Is this the beginning of the next chef-driven chapter in Portland’s vegan revolution? (Gregory Gourdet and Joshua McFadden, we’re looking at you.) As Sorenson puts it: “You know me. It’s gonna get freaky.”