Portland may be a vegan paradise, with fully dedicated plant-based bakeries, barbecue joints, sandwich shops, divey diners, and bars, but the sushi-loving vegan's options have been limited to a few token rolls alongside fish-powered plates at local sushi bars.
Sure, Departure's Gregory Gourdet rolls up a slammin' grilled shiitake roll, Hokusei's "Beet It”
roll mixes grilled asparagus and roasted beets, Masu's "Green Machine" takes locally made Ota tofu to the next level, and Bamboo's handful of vegetarian offerings can certainly satisfy, but there's something pretty special about being able to order anything (or everything) on an eatery's menu. To make things even trickier, a growing number of vegans are making the gluten-free jump, leaving the soy sauce-laden marinades and mock-eel sauces off the table.
SushiLove, chef Kelly McCormick's new cart on SE Belmont and 26th, is aiming to satisfy everyone's needs with his fully vegan and gluten-free sushi menu stocked with six house specialty uramaki rolls (dubbed "inside-out" rolls because the sushi rice is packed around the nori instead of inside) priced $5-$7 each, four simple $3 one-ingredient rolls (cucumber, avocado, tofu, or pickled carrot), and a few side salads.
Every uramaki roll is available as a hand roll for half price, so there's plenty to love here for every budget, and come fall, the menu is set to expand into comfort food territory—think yakisoba and complementary cups of miso soup.
McCormick earned his sushi wings under chef Masayo Onuki of Venice Beach's Hama Sushi, one of the first authentic Japanese sushi restaurants in the United States—but the creative veg-only rolls are his own invention.
Not sure what to order? Here are the three bold rolls that stood out on our first visit:
1. Avalon, California Roll: This one is a miracle of textures. Creative vegan cooks have long known to sub jackfruit for meats in everything from carnitas tacos to pulled pork sandwiches, but who knew the fiber-packed tropical ingredient could do a killer krab impression? McCormick combines a creamy jackfruit "crab salad" with cucumber, avocado, and black sesame seeds to magically replicate that classic Cali roll taste.
2. Bok Bok Roll: Riffing on Pok Pok's fish sauce-powered flavors, this fresh roll stars tofu braised in spicy "fishless" sauce with pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and Thai basil.
3. Full Kitchen Alchemist: Oddly reminiscent of a Taco Bell meal—complete with tortilla chips and that mysteriously addictive hot sauce packet flavor—this fusion roll combines soyrizo, cilantro, corn chips and "sin queso cheeze," a saucy kitchen accident that McCormick is adorably proud of.
The ambiance of the infant cart pod on a sketchy stretch of Belmont certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but word on the street is that McCormick's rolls will be joined by Pi's wood-fired pizza, Neue (a "globally influenced Southern" food cart), and two more mobile kitchens in the coming weeks. The new apartment buildings likely won't be far behind.
2623 SE Belmont
Wednesday- Sunday 11:30am-7pm