Gluten-Free, Vegan Comfort Food at Juniper

Five local women blend social justice with triumphant dishes for everyone at their new downtown food cart.

By Tuck Woodstock April 27, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Like any good superhero team, the women behind the surprisingly delicious new food cart Juniper have an origin story: after Food for Thought, a worker-owned vegetarian café at Portland State University, shuttered last spring, a handful of its student-employees joined forces to create their own co-op eatery. The all-queer, all-female collective boasts a New York–trained raw-foods chef/herbalist as well as a cooking vet who’s worked at top local vegan kitchens, from Prasad and Blossoming Lotus to Pixie Retreat. Their mission? Make wholesome comfort grub for all, regardless of budget, with an international, superfoods twist.

Juniper, the team’s 16-footer parked downtown, spotlights a seasonal menu of rich, plant-based eats, from fragrant samosa bowls to dairy-free grilled cheese and “chicken-fried” tofu. Complex flavors and textures intermingle in a five-spice noodle bowl, which leads eaters on a whirlwind East Asian tour by way of bulgogi soy curls, savory, sake-marinated mushroom “scallops,” noodles (zucchini, yam, and vermicelli), and a silky lemongrass broth. 

Everything is prepared from scratch, including the smoky cashew provolone and fresh-baked gluten-free bread that sandwich a decadent onion-jam-smeared portobello melt. Even the sweet Brazil nut milk for the cart’s malted chocolate is made on-site, blending lesser-known ingredients like mesquite pods, maca root, and Peruvian lucuma fruit for a heavenly milkshake. They also infuse their own tonics, including the
Juniper elixir, with its herbaceous bouquet of rosemary, sage, and citrus.

The radical quintet is just getting started, with plans to add a pay-what-you-can menu in coming months. Eventually, the Juniper crew hopes to build a café-cum-wellness complex, complete with a space for yoga, massage, and other bodywork. After all, superheroes need a headquarters.


SW Third Avenue & Washington Street

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