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Monday, July 19, 2010

Vegans at OSCON

This week O'Reilly's Open Source Conference, or OSCON, is happening in town. There will be a few parties and events around town, but most of the action takes place at the Oregon Convention Center (OCC). I was lucky enough to win a ticket to all of the sessions from the Linux Fund and will be attending events most of the week. It is a great chance to talk to several companies about jobs as well as connect with other Open Source professionals.

I'm really excited, except for one thing... The OCC and the neighborhood around it is pretty lame as far as vegan options and good coffee go. In general the mediocre coffee issue and lack of interesting food options pretty much affects everyone, just for vegans it is somewhat of a hassle. The OCC itself is a pretty nice place to be, but the food/beverage issue requires some planning.

I did contact O'Reilly and asked abut vegan options. They said that there would be buffet lunches and I should be able to get something. This kind of response always leaves me personally a little dubious since food often isn't labeled clearly and/or it means some hummus and pita. It also can quite often mean an assortment of raw veggies. All of those things aren't bad, but sometimes I find I'm still hungry!

My awareness of this really played into what suggestions I made for the catering for Open Source Bridge. Yes, we had hummus & pita, but as part of a really nice mezza plate clearly marked as vegan. We also were sure to offer soy milk as an alternative to dairy milk as well as vegan cookies and doughnuts.

Anyway, back to this week and being a vegan at a big conference in the OCC. I can say that closer to Lloyd Center (a mall) there is a Chipotle, which is a vegan option if you stick with the black beans (the pintos are cooked in beef stock). A little further away on NE 15th is Blossoming Lotus which features a fantastic all vegan menu with many raw options.

Another option to finding something beyond the conference buffet is to take MAX across the river into downtown (free from the OCC) and check out a food cart. Since we get 90 minutes for the lunch break, this option is possible and is a lot of fun. If you walk 2 blocks west up Stark from the First & Oak stop there are 3 food carts with very tasty vegan options: Just Thai (will be closed this Monday & Tuesday - they offer a vegan Thai Iced Tea made with coconut milk - yum!), DC Vegetarian, and Sonny Bowl. There are also food carts ("pods") at SW 5th & Stark and SW 10th & Alder. Many of the food carts in Portland have vegan options and offer excellent food.

That said, check out Stumptown Vegans for reviews of mostly all local places. They have a map on the site with restaurants indicated, including those food carts I mentioned, and it is a great resource for vegans in PDX. Also, just in time for OSCON, The Portland Vegan 100 a great list compiled for Try Vegan Week that mentions many, many tasty restaurants and dishes around town.

Really though, Christie and I are actually planning to bring a lot of food. We find that eating out all week tends to leave us feeling a little blah, so having food along really helps. This means that a recipe for my raw kale and garbanzo salad with pesto is forthcoming! We're also making up some tofu salad and my garbanzo & nori salad (mock tuna-ish). I may even write down what I did for those and post recipes too!


  1. Thanks for the post! I'm coming in from Albuquerque, and though I'm not vegan, I'm a little anxious about finding good food, too. What about coffee? Where will you be getting your caffeine fix?

  2. Oh dear... coffee. No, I didn't address the coffee issue.

    You see, I am a snob about coffee. I'll admit it and I've been told as much. I started drinking espressos and cappuccinos in my teens at a small Italian restaurant. The sight of vanilla soy milk being used will cause me to forgo coffee rather than be forced to have a sweet, flavored coffee.

    Since I'm in town, and a snob, I'll probably hit up Fresh Pot on the way in. This is roughly our "neighborhood" spot. I'm currently a big fan of three shops in town: Water Avenue (no where near the OCC, but fantastic), Barista (there's one in the Pearl District, not far from Powell's), and Public Domain (downtown, on Broadway, not far from Pioneer Square & close to MAX).

    The Anne Hughes Coffee Room inside of the main Powell's store is also pretty damn good. Most places that offer Stumptown Coffee (a small, local craft roaster) are decent. Courier Coffee is very good and they now have a small shop about a block from the main Powell's on Stark.

  3. Hey Sherri. My husband works for food and beverage at the OCC, and he tells me that they are incredibly careful about labeling foods vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, etc. He doesn't know how many options you'll get in the buffet, but at least you can be sure about the food :-)

    As for coffee, I really can't help!

  4. Hey, thanks for letting us know that the OCC does a good job at labeling food clearly. Many times that doesn't happen, especially when food is put out buffet style. Still not be many options, but at least people will know what they are!

  5. I'm sorry to hear you'll be stuck in my neighborhood this week. I agree, the food options are scant. There's a teensy little cart at the corner of Multnomah and 9th that sells tasty burritos over the lunch hour, but I've never asked if his beans are vegan. The cafeteria in my building (800 NE Oregon St., about three blocks east of OCC - the one with the dome on top) has a decent salad bar, french fries, and a soup of the day that's vegan 50% of the time. Better than nothing, anyway.

    As for coffee, there's J Cafe on Holladay (which I think serves Portland Roasting, but I can't quite remember), City Coffee directly across the street from that, and there's a little espresso stand in 800 NE Oregon, as well as in the cafeteria proper. The stand and cafeteria serve two different roasters, but I only remember one of them: Capitol City from Salem.

  6. Thanks for the added ideas around Lloyd Center, especially the coffee ones :)

  7. I'm up for my first morning of OSCON, and this post and the resulting comment thread are invaluable. Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Andy (, a longtime OSCON participant reminded me of a few things I missed via Google Buzz.

    The big miss... Nicholas Restaurant. This is a stand-by for good Lebanese food for anyone. It is south down Grand Avenue (via walking, you cannot drive south down Grand, must drive down MLK and turn back towards Grand) and has some of the best hummus in town. Seriously. Also the best mini spinach pies anywhere. Great falafel, baba, dolmas, mjadra, ful.... really, seriously, the food rocks and is worth standing in line for. They are at: 318 Southeast Grand Avenue

    Andy also noted there's a Vietnamese place a few blocks from there, but I can't speak to it from personal experience. She also pointed out that OSCON is pretty good with providing snacks - just check the ingredients if you're worried.

  9. Lesley - I'm really happy this has been a good resource! Come find me during the conference and say hello :)

  10. Gosh, I nearly forgot! Today and Thursday there's a farmer's market in the parkish-type-area just south of the NE 7th and Holladay MAX stop. There's breads and fresh veggies, and one stand that has vegan pasty/empanada-type-things, soups and salads. Highly recommended.

  11. Hi Sherri! I haven't thought of a clever way to run into you during the conference, so I'll throw this out: tomorrow (Thurs) at lunch, I'll be at the women's networking table. Look for the pink balloons. I'm @eckandgrumble, walking around the conference with a ridiculously loaded namebadge. :)