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CLOSED: The Red and Black Cafe

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 34 reviews )


Contact 503-231-3899

400 SE 12th Ave (at SE Oak St, Belmont District), Portland, Oregon, USA, 97214

100% vegan, worker-owned and collectively managed restaurant is located opposite Vegan Mini-Mall. Menu includes sandwiches, salads, soup, chili, bagels, and sweets. Most food made in-house with local and organic ingredients. Drinks include espresso drinks, house-made chai, local beer, juice and kombucha on tap. Hosts live music, radical films, book readings, and craft nights. Popular with the young crowd. All vegan since summer 2008. Free Wi-Fi, 2 free internet terminals. ATM on premises. REPORTED SHUT LAST MONTH WAS MAR 2015.

Category: Vegan, American, International, Organic, Beer/Wine, Take-out

Reviews (34)

First Review by michal

ever seen something die - Edit

This was my second visit to this restaurant. The first we had a great experience good portion sizes for the money, slightly limited menu but hey it's a vegan joint so what else do you expect.

Today's visit was a sight into the after life of a restaurant or it's dying breath. Prices the same but portion size down significantly. When we walked in it was almost full usually a good sign until you sit down and realize no one was eating just enjoying what I assume was their heroin highs. Service was friendly as usually food came out at a rate consistent with being freshly prepared. The menu has shrunk a little further as well.

Sad to see this place die but oh well I guess.

Pros: foods good

Cons: limited menu, prepare to be the only paying customer in a full h, portion size vs price

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Update The Menu! - Edit

I wanted to like this place and give it a chance but we went there three times and two of the times it wasn't even open when it said online that it was going to be. And the third time we went in it was a disaster. The kitchen was a mess, the resturant was a mess and they were literally out of half the menu. On top of that they haven't updated their menu in months so every time we asked for something we were told it wasn't available. The man who helped us was neither helpful or polite. What a shame, really wanted to like this place!

Pros: Good Location, Vegan

Cons: Bad Service, Menu Needs Updating, Dirty

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Nice atmosphere, questionable coffee - Edit

Popped in here quickly with my girlfriend to grab a coffee, and it seemed like a nice enough place with some decent sandwich options. Unfortunately, they're in the process of removing their espresso machine (permanently, from the sounds of it), and their subsequent attempt at a cafe au lait was described as 'tasting like standard crappy American coffee'. I don't actually drink coffee, so who knows?

Anyway, I can't be too harsh on the place for one second-hand coffee report, especially as it seemed pretty cool and we should all be supporting worker's co-ops. Maybe just get a tea instead though.

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Adorable! - Edit

I loved this place! Even seen a movie with an activist group chilling at a cool café style place and wished it really existed? It sure does, this is the place!
The first time we tried to go, it wasn't open. Their hours were posted as Wed-Sat and we showed up on a Tuesday. I was a bit bummed at first but we tried again. I'm glad we did.
It was super laid back inside and the person working was chatty and helpful.
I ordered the black dragon noodles because, really, why wouldn't I? They were filling, fresh, and super tasty. My son had a bagel with tofu and apple. Also amazing. My husband decided to go with the chef's creation for the day and helped him name it after a Wayne's World reference.
The atmosphere made me feel right at home and I loved there was a mix of local activist literature and free information. Pretty neat.

Pros: Good food, Great activist space, Worker owned co op

Cons: Weird hours, Not very big so could get busy

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Interesting restaurant - Edit

I really enjoyed the culture of and the whole idea behind the Red and Black Cafe, along with all of the literature available about so many different social issues. I was, however, put off by the service. The people working were not very friendly at all (despite both by husband and me having smiles on our faces and tipping them at the register right when we ordered), and I felt almost as though we were being judged.

In any case, the food was okay. I got the black dragon noodle bowl-- it could have used a lot less sauce and a lot more tofu.

May return next time we're in Portland just to give it a second chance, especially on one of the event nights. Hopefully the experience will be better.

Pros: Cool atmosphere, Awesome cafe idea

Cons: Rude staff, Mediocre food

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Love it, love it, love it! - Edit

I've been here twice during my weeklong stay in Portland during the late afternoon. It has a nice, unpretentious, laid-back feel to it. The first time I was here I ordered the cheesesteak sandwich which was truly amazing. I would definitely recommend this sandwich to anyone considering givibg the Red and Black a try :) The second time we visited was on Christmas, and I was soooo relieved to find a place that served vegan food open on Christmas! This time I had the avocado melt, and took a reuben sandwich to go for later consumption. The cheesesteak remained my favorite, although I found the other sandwiches delectable as well. The reuben had a nice tang to it, thanks to the stoneground mustared, and was filling enough for two meals. The salsa that arrived with the chips, while not as spicy as I'd like, was very flavorful. My omni bf developed a liking for the grilled cheese (he loved it!) and seemed to enjoy the hummus sandwich despite refusing to admit he likes any vegan food. Unfortunately, they were out of the tempeh tuna salad needed for "the insurrectionist," so I'll have to wait 'til my next trip dow here to try that. I liked their chocolate chip cookies too, although whoever wrapped them must've had some chili powder on his/her fingers from another food.... No issues with the staff, they all seemed quiet but not snotty and took our orders down correctly the first time. I'll make a point to stop here whenever I'm in town :)

Pros: Cheesesteak sandwich, Vegan cookies, espresso

Cons: don't have any place like it in my city

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Evening at Red and Black Cafe - Edit

I had read about this place on happycow, and here's my The Red and Black Cafe review.

For my last trip to Portland I had mapped out a string of restaurants I'd want to visit while here using the happycow restaurant guide, and this was one of them.

Well, it was not what I had expected or a place I am accustomed to eat at. It's kinda grunge, very basic set up, with lots of young people hanging out. On the night we visited, a young woman played the guitar and sang songs while a young crowd (full house) sat around listened, at their food, drank. We met up with a couple of friends from Canada who had just finished up their meal when we arrived. One said their ginger noodle was his favorite food when in Portland. I thought it was okay.

Not a place for fine sit-down dining with family but a good place to meet with young people and listen to young musicians.

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Black Dragon Noodle Bowl. Sigh. - Edit

Oh how I love thee (with added ginger tofu.) After 4 years it's still my absolute favorite.

I did try the steak and cheese recently. Super trashy, but in a good way.

Pros: Good energy, free computers, nice waitstaff

Cons: Slow service, Fragrant customers

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Worth trying a couple times - Edit

I went to Portland to explore the food carts, and I ended up having dinner at The Red and Black Cafe. I was intrigued by its fully vegan and cooperatively-owned status and I had a feeling they would have delicious food.
I ordered a "big" bowl of the vegan chili because it is near impossible to find a vegan chili without soy or gluten meat substitutes. It came with organic blue corn chips that I used to dip in it. The chili was VERY acidic and I figured they must have used lots of canned tomatoes. I personally would not order the chili again.
I also ordered a "side salad" for a dollar. What I got was worth 50 cents (and probably cost the restaurant 15 cents for the [organic] ingredients on my plate). I ate it in one bite. It was delicious, and the dressing-to-salad ratio was perfect, but I'm a salad lover and that was NOT enough salad for a newborn.
My friend ordered the quinoa/kale bowl with added beets. That totaled $7.50 because the beets were a dollar to add on. I was hoping for a very big bowl. Her food came on a regular dinner plate and the only reason it filled up the whole space on the plate was because they spread the kale-and-black-bean mixture almost flat across half the plate. I admit the side of beets for a dollar was a fair price, but the $6.50 base price for the whole plate was just silly for the amount of quinoa, kale, and beans. The sauce on the kale-and-beans was delicious. The quinoa looked to be cooked in turmeric to get a nice yellow-orange color, but they did nothing for the flavor at all, so it was dry. Quinoa is a sensitive food to serve, and a food establishment needs to be careful to offer enough herbs, spice, or sauce to enhance it properly. If there had been more of the white sauce they had on the kale, it would have mixed awesomely with the quinoa, but there wasn't even enough for the kale to have, let alone to share.
On the drive home, I got hungry just 30 minutes after I ate there... and I wasn't starving when I got there to begin with. I'm also a small woman.

Pros: overall prices, creative menu, healthier than most vegan options

Cons: portion sizes, lack of flavor balance

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Red and Black Cafe Rocks! - Edit

We loved this cafe. We had a beautiful bean salad & grilled cheese sandwich. Also tasty Chai. Great atmosphere and a very neat idea behind this place. The prices are wonderful. We are definitely going back when in Portland again.

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Great food, but bring a book......... - Edit

I really enjoyed the food and the culture found at The Red and Black Cafe. This was probably one of the tastiest vegan meals I have had so far! Only caution would be to bring a book because the service was VERY slow, but it was worth the wait. Check it out for yourself!

Pros: Great Food!, Excellent Selection!, Good Beer!

Cons: Slow Service...

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Enjoyed my visit - Edit

I'll try to limit this review to food matters alone, leaving everyone to decide on their own whether the police ability to visit a cafe is good reason to enjoy Red and Black.

I thought it was a great little place - loved the vibe and atmosphere, especially. The food was a bit hit and miss. We weren't enamored with the Reuben we had, feeling the sour taste from the sauerkraut overwhelmed the sandwich, when a good Reuben requires more of a balanced flavour. The tuna sandwich, by contrast, was the highlight of the visit. Absolutely delicious. The accompanying braised kale was less yummy. Good cupcake from portobello to finish it off. Would give this somewhere between 3 and 4 cows on the whole, and will opt for generosity because of the fully vegan approach!

Pros: good value, interesting menu

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Fly the Symbol of Freedom - Edit

Ok, I know I am biased (I am a vegan anarchist-socialist)and I only got to go to this cafe once but it is my favorite place in Portland and maybe the world, I so wish I lived closer then a three hour drive. If you are looking for fine dining, this is not the place for you, but if you are looking at getting a IWW Calander with your diner, then COME HERE! This is a worker run, vegan cafe that my little anarchist heart can get behind. The food is simple and good, the live music we heard on Saturday night was great, local events and lectures and lots of information on local happenings. The food isn't bad either, I had some nice Nettle tea and a reuben that reminded me of a big mac, kind of unnerving and my sister had the special, curry over rice with a side of zucchini and jalapenos, very tasty. Don't let the place scare you off, my sister is a meat eating democrat and she still enjoyed her meal and didn't get converted by the evil red meanace. Not only did they have wi-fi, they have computers there that you can use. It was crowded when we went, and smelled a little like "hippies" (insert joke here) and this won't be everyone's cup of nettle tea but it will be an experience and I have never felt better about buying a meal from people in my life. The only thing I didn't like about this place is that it makes me feel worse about the cafes in my town.

Pros: I heart, Red and , Black

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Reviewer Avatar

favourite place in portland - Edit

i loved it here- cornmeal waffles for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and noodles for dinner. free wi fi, friendly people, cool events, comfortable space.

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awesome food - Edit

red and black is one of my favorite stop while in portland. The food is pretty good. Be forewarned though, depending on who is working or what you order may take a while...

Pros: great prices, good food

Cons: not a family friendly resturant

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good idea - Edit

The idea is fantastic. The staff was superb. The garden out front was beautiful. The space was clean. The breakfast we had was good. I had coffee, they use Cafe Mam which is very likely the best coffee or among the very best coffee out there, but it had a spice to it, both my mocha and my partner's house coffee. Also, I love when places have Silk Creamer, it blends w coffee more than Soy or other milk that separates in coffee... The bagel I had was good. The hummus was def homespun (which I prefer ~ always better that way, imo). My partner loved her olive tapenade.

I would come back again and try another meal. Breakfast was limited. The waffles were done for the day, so they must be good. Love the idea of the place and thought everyone there was super nice.

Sum up, all good except I prefer unspiced coffee and Silk, but we all have coffee preferences so I guess you can't please everyone.

Good and suggested to y'all

Pros: Staff, Clean, Garden, Good Bagels and toppings

Cons: spiced coffee, no silk

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I want more! - Edit

I ate at the Red and Black for the first time recently and it was delicious. I had the TLP sandwich, and have been craving another one ever since! Some kind of garlicky vegan mayo made this possibly the best sandwich of its kind ever. I was there at lunch time on a week day, and it was quiet, relaxing, cheerful atmosphere. Thanks.

Pros: Yummy food, Friendly staff, Nice atmosphere

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Ace! - Edit

My boyfriend and I visited the Red and Black Cafe when we visited Portland. We had the Reuben sandwich and the Dragon noodles and they were delicious. Service was friendly and ambience was good. They had a good selection of books for purchase as well (cookbooks, animal liberation etc).

Pros: Friendly staff, Delicious food, Good vibe

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Reviewer Avatar

Great Place! :) - Edit

Conveniently located just around the corner from Food Fight, Herbivore clothing, etc. I had the special -- Spanish Rice + Mix of Seasoned Beans, Tempeh, & Veggies served with House-Made Faux Sour Cream, Salsa, Avocado, & Corn Tortilla. Really good! I had a peppermint tea that hit the spot, too, and my son had a strawberry almond-milk steamer (which he loved). He got a cupcake to go, but found it had a lot of ginger in it (that was burning his mouth) -- we didn't think to ask what all was in it, and it wasn't labelled. Great atmosphere, "free geek" computers to cruise the Internet (no sign of printers, but hey -- it's free). The wainscotting all around was chalkboard paint -- great idea! :) Clean, vibrant colours, friendly staff. Just don't be in a hurry -- very laid-back. Got to listen to some Dead Kennedys / Jello Biafra while there, too. :)

Pros: All Vegan, Good Energy, Great Food

Cons: Not fast, Lack of kid-friendly items

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Smash Divisions - Edit

This place rules! If you're in inner southest portland you can't go wrong with some affordable, fast and good vegan food. Not only that, but the woman who took our order was playing Disrupt! which is cool if your into that stuff, so I might be biased, but the second time was just as good.

Pros: Affordable, Fast, VEGAN

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100% Vegan and rocking - Edit

I think this is my favorite place in Portland. We saw a great acoustic show here Friday night and were in SHOCK at how good the TLP was. Tempeh Lettuce and Peppers. Also, there are these coconut bars on the counter which are off the hook. Great place right around the corner from Food Fight. Public Computers to surf the net, plenty of seating and overall wonderful! Wish I had time to write more!

Pros: TLP, Vegan Desserts, computers

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surprisingly good - Edit

i was here about two weeks ago while in town for a conference. Even though the menu at first seemed pretty plain and without much variety, the food was good. I ordered the guacamole with chips and the hummus sandwich. Everything was flavorful and very good, at first i figured i would still be hungry because the sandwich was a regular sized sandwich.......but it was definitely filling. The tea i had there was very good too, the atmosphere is definitely portland, very laid back and relaxed. The only thing i would suggest is to increase the menu a bit, with a total of like 8 sandwiches and a few salads, there isnt much to choose from but i was definitely happy with my visit.

Pros: great food, relaxed atmosphere

Cons: small menu

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Wish I had gotten more! - Edit

I stopped here a couple months ago and only got a bagel sandwich but it was delicious and exactly what I was craving. And sometimes when you are traveling, it's hard to pick up on things happening in the area you're in but it was way easy here with all the fliers for shows and workshops and other events.

It was also nice to see several Free Geek computers available for everyone to use! Seemed very well organized!

Pros: tasty food, reasonable prices, free geek!

Cons: I didn't have enough cash to spend here!

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Good food - Edit

My boyfriend and I went to Red and Black Cafe to get some good vegan food -- and we got it! The location is great (right around the corner from other vegan shops) and great selection of food. We wanted to use a credit card, but they didn't take them at that time (they said they would be getting a credit card machine in a few weeks) but they did let us write a check because we didn't have enough checks! That was nice!

Pros: Great location, Good food, Good selection

Cons: Didn't take credit cards

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Red and black , never go back - Edit

Warning, this cafe is run by a worker collective. So while all workers have a vested interest, no one person is in charge and will not take control to correct a bad situation. As such, when the counter girl gave my reuben to another patron without asking their name, and another patron that had 1st patron's reuben did not speak-up when his name was called, i was left reuben-less for 30 minutes. I talked to the cook once and he said it was coming. Another reuben came out to another patron. 5 people that ordered after me were eating. I stepped two feet into the kitchen to discuss with the cook where my food was. I was told blatenly and impolitely to "get out of the kitchen" and "that other guy took your reuben". Alas, no consulation except for a fleeting "sorry 'bout that" from the counter girl because the cook was too embarrased to bring out my reuben to be personally. I know its a collective so they may not have be able to afford to comp me my food, but at least offer me drink or a day old pastry while I wait. What would have cost them less than 50 cents wholesale has lost my business for the foreseeable future.

Pros: all vegan, resonable prices, good location/atmosphere

Cons: not enough tables, 2 employees = SLOW, bad service

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Cute Cafe with Good Food and Great Mocha - Edit

A quiet little place for studying or chilling out. Very, very tasty Peanut Noodles. I tried their mocha based on a review below--they were right, it is excellent. You can actually taste the mocha (not too sweet). It is just sooo smooth. I also loved painting which adorn the cafe--they are just so peaceful and full of love. It is just a very cozy, warming place.

Pros: Best Mocha

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Yum! - Edit

The mocha I had here was the best I had in Portland: it was rich and frothy with just enough chocolate. The vegan Reuben and unchicken salad sandwich were also very tasty. Must visit if you are vegan and in Portland!

Pros: Best mocha, Tasty food, Laid back

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Red and Black reopens with a vegan menu - Edit

I was very pleased with my experience at the Red and Black Cafe this time. They have new staff members and a vegan menu and vegan baked goods. The only dairy seems to be for the drinks. The prices are still reasonable and we got our food almost immediately even though it was busy. I like the tempeh BLT and the dragon noodles and the Mediterranean snack.

Pros: vegan menu, low prices, good food

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Temporairly Out of Business - Edit

Unfortunately the building owner evicted all businesses to remodel and my understanding is that Red & Black will not be coming back. I believe they are relocating but they aren't sure where yet. It's too bad because it seemed to be a very popular hang out in our community.

Pros: Vegetarian, Vegan, Good Food

Cons: Relocating

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Tasty but Simple - Edit

The menu is simple, mostly sandwiches with a couple full size meals (dragon peanut noodles and an indian dal curry were on the menu while I was there). Not much in the way of breakfast items although there is a friatta (not vegan) and granola. There's a bakery case with vegan goodies, the cinnamon rolls with the butter cream frosting look awesome but I didn't try one. They may be moving too so check with them before hunting them down.

Pros: prices, open sundays, tempeh

Cons: street parking, smoking right outside, little grungy

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