One of my favorite meals during my trip to Portland, ME was at the Green Elephant. A family friend recommended the restaurant, knowing we were having a tough time finding restaurants with great vegetarian options.
The Green Elephant is located just steps away from the Portland Art Museum (which I highly recommend and is free on Friday afternoons). I became instantly obsessed with their sign which has a green fork in place of the L in elephant.
Inside, the restaurant is warm and cozy. The rows of tables were dotted with bright pink flowers, like candles on cupcakes.
The far left wall has a few leather booths, each beneath very ornate chandeliers.
I loved the coat rack on the back wall. You hang your jacket over a fork, knife or spoon!
And of course there was an actual green elephant. This cutie was sitting on the bar.
The elephant is incorporated into the menus as well.
The restaurant offers two full pages of vegetarian delights, including a list of daily specials. I love that they are attached with a leather ribbon (vegan leather, I am sure).
In addition to the food menu, Green Elephant also offers an extensive list of teas. This will be perfect for warming up as the temperatures continue to dip this fall.
To begin, my mom and I each ordered a ginger peach ice tea.
We were both pretty hungry after shopping for three straight hours in the old port so we ordered the vegetable dumplings to share. They came in a very lovely presentation.
There were six pieces, so we could each have three. I hate when you order a dish to share and you each get one or two. This was perfect. The veggies inside were really delicious and I loved the saltiness of the ginger-soy sauce.
For her entree my mom went with the stir fry Asian vegetables and tofu. It came with Chinese broccoli, napa cabbage, bok choy, snow peas, carrots and tofu topped with a brown sauce.
Half way through the meal I asked how she was enjoying it. She replied, "The brown rice is a little crunchy, which I love. The brown sauce tasted mostly of peanuts. It was nice and creamy, but still had a slight kick to it. It left me feeling much more satisfied than I usually do after eating Asian food."
I went for one of the daily specials, the bahn mi Vietnamese sandwich. I have been really into bahn mi lately. I've had great ones at All Star Sandwich Bar and Strip T's. The Green Elephant version came on enormous pieces of French bread with a side of Vietnamese slaw.
The goodies inside the sandwich were phenomenal. It was packed with lemongrass tofu, pickled carrot, daikon, jalapeño, onion, cucumber, cilantro and vegan cilantro-garlic mayo. That mayo was addicting! I wanted to take home a jar and put it on all my future sandwiches.
My one complaint about the sandwich is that there was way too much bread. I felt like I was constantly tearing away hunks of bread to get closer to the good stuff.
The Vietnamese slaw on the side was quite yummy. The shredded veggies were topped with peanuts and fried shallots (hello, shallots!).
I am very lucky to live walking distance to two of the best vegetarian restaurants in Boston - Red Lentil and Wild Rice Vegan Cafe - and I have to say, Green Elephant can definitely compete with them! The veggie dumplings and the bahn mi sandwich were both superb, especially the sandwich. To the point where I would consider driving to Portland just to eat this sandwich again (and then tacking on another activity so I don't have to admit I drove four hours for a sandwich).
In a town dominated by seafood, vegetarians can find a sea of choices at Green Elephant.