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The Deep Southeast, part 1: where (and where not) to eat in Milwaukie

Where are we? Oh. Milwaukie.
Where are we? Oh. Milwaukie.
By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Uh-oh. Did you make a wrong turn off of Woodstock? Did think highway 99 would never end? Did you think SE Milwaukie Ave. in Sellwood was just a name? Surprise: you are now in the actual city of Milwaukie and, to make matters worse, you're hungry.

I once heard the southbound McLoughlin Boulevard strip referred to as the path "straight through the heart of the culture void." Milwaukie does have a palpably different atmostphere from suburbs like Lake Oswego or Beaverton -- however, it is not a lost cause. You just have to know where to look, because Milwaukie is not the sort of city that wants to hold your hand. If you're the type of person to walk into Foxy's or Dotty's and order the house-made veggie burger with shoestring fries and whatever's on draft and not understand why the staff is laughing, then this guide is for you.

Skip it: Ohana Hawaiian Cafe
10608 SE Main St, Milwaukie, OR 97222

Traditionally, Hawaiian food is very meat-based, and that's where Ohana's energy and variety lie. Vegetarians, Ohana has one word for you: Tofu. Yaki soba with tofu, or a tofu steak. Out of 24 main plates and mixed plates, those are the two options.

A mildly experienced vegetarian might be undeterred and plan to make a more exciting meal out of the sides. Unfortunately, most of the sides are reiterations of things that would come with one of these two meals. Choices of sides include:

  • The same rice that comes as a side with the meals above
  • The same macaroni salad that comes as a side with the meals above
  • The same side salad that can be substituted for the macaroni salad for a $1 fee in the meals above
  • Yaki soba without the tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Grilled pineapple
  • Poi, which research reveals to be a soupy taro root concoction, but which which the menu only cryptically describes as, "If you gotta ask what it is, you probably won't like it" (well, isn't that helpful?)

Vegetarians are simply not the crowd Ohana caters to -- though their beautiful dessert case, displaying purple sweet potato pie and guava chiffon cake, is enough to make you want to give the place a second chance. But once you've gone there once, you've pretty much seen it all.

Still want to give it a go? Ohana is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (though from November to April, they close an hour early on Sundays).

Hit it: Rice Thai Cookery
10614 SE Main St, Portland, OR 97222

A couple doors down from Ohana, Milwaukie's token Thai restaurant features the usual suspects -- spring rolls, salad rolls, noodles, stir fries, and curries. On the bright side, the wide variety of dishes keeps things interesting. Portions are large, easily allowing you take home enough for another meal. The servers are polite and relatively quick, the decor is a little quirky, and the dining space is nice and open.

(For those who adopt a looser definition of "vegetarian" or whose motives are purely environmental, Thai Rice Cookery also serves fried grasshoppers with Sriracha. They're a traditional Thai food, and a very sustainable protein source. Would you try them? Do you find the prospect of eating insects ethical? Unethical? Practical? Creepy? Enticing? Gross? Feel free to discuss this issue in the comments section!)

The downside? Rice Thai Cookery does not offer anything new or radical to those who live in Portland and are surrounded by Thai options. Nevertheless, Rice Thai Cookery is a good, safe choice. Stop by when you're in downtown Milwaukie, but be sure to time it right -- the hours vary depending on the day, and the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner on weekdays. Regular hours are:

11 a.m to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9p.m., Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday
12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday
12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday

Subscribe for more news about vegetarian restaurants in the Portland metro area, and stay tuned for more articles in this series.

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