5026 SE Division St.
Sat/Sun 9 am–10 pm
Tues-Fri 11 am–10 pm
By Nancy Tannler
The immortal words of a Beatles tune, “We all wanna change the world,” come to mind when thinking about the vegetarian food Becky Leonard and her husband Damien Gill are serving at DC Vegetarian on 5026 SE Division St. What better way to change the world than to capture more carnivores taste buds by preparing tasty vegetarian proteins in traditional comfort food recipes.
Not that Becky and Damien are trying to preach or convert anyone – they just made the choice to go vegetarian a long time ago and happenstance led them on the journey to open a brick and mortar restaurant on Division St.
Becky is a native of the great Northwest and Damien is from Washington DC. They met in DC while they were both working at their professional nine-to-five jobs. The desire for change hit and that motivated them to move to Portland to try something new.
Unfortunately they landed here in 2008, just as the mini-depression was making job hunting next to impossible. “This is when I learned to cook because I had a lot of time to experiment while looking for work,” Damien said.
At the time they were living in Goose Hollow with other eclectic entrepreneurs who were figuring out different ways to make a living. “Some of our neighbors were doing food carts in downtown. This idea was new to us but we really liked to eat this way,” said Becky. They decided to get going and try a cart of their own.
“We didn’t know a thing about running a cart, but thanks to the other people with more experience, we quickly learned what we were doing,” Becky said. It was a success and allowed them to make the move to a brick and mortar restaurant with confidence. They have created food the people like to eat.
Damien wasn’t always a vegetarian. Like many Americans, he was raised with traditional meat, starch, vegetable and beloved comfort food. Once he decided to go vegetarian, he wanted to capture the delicious flavors that protein lent to his favorite comfort foods in his recipes.
He learned to make his own seitan, a textured wheat gluten that can taste just like steak or chicken and is available wholesale at the restaurant. Soy curls are a product made in Grande Rond that replicate meat flavors and textures. Soy curls are particularly delicious in the chicken salad. The Cajun chicken po’ boy sandwich is fabulous and Becky’s favorite.
Tempeh is bought in sheets locally and marinated to simulate bacon in the breakfast menu, BLT and on burgers. Tofu can be a substitute for eggs for the vegan eaters, otherwise the restaurant uses cheese and eggs in their menu. See the full menu at dcvegetarian.com
DC Vegetarian features a full service bar where the bartender can whip up any of today’s mixed drinks along with specials of their own like the Royal Buffalo buffalo trace bourbon topped with Royal Crown soda or Modern Girl–cucumber infused gin topped with lemon-lime Jones Soda.
There’s something for everyone in the non-alcoholic beverage selection: tea, coffee, soda, floats, juice, kombucha. For dessert, they serve housemade peanut butter cups, Black Sheep brownies, Coconut Bliss ice cream and with the recent hiring of a baker, they serve homemade cookies with other delicacies coming soon.
Fortunately Portland has plenty of people in the vegetarian choir who will be happy to find a new place in SE to satisfy their tastebuds and nutritional needs. To the carnivore devotee, DC Vegetarian might just persuade you that eating a meatless meal can be a tasty, delectable alternative.