October 17, 2021

thaibamboovt

For remarkable cuisine

Comedian Alex Falcone’s Guide to Vegetarian Dining in Portland

Comic Alex Falcone became a vegetarian as an act of teenage rebellion. “I wanted to try it out, and my mom was like, ‘Ugh, I think it’s just a phase.’ So I was like, ‘Well, now I’m going to do this until you die,’” Falcone says in a bit. “People are like, ‘How do you get enough protein?’ Spite. I photosynthesize spite.”

Years later, Falcone still gets a little embarrassed whenever he tells people he’s a vegetarian. The comic, who came up in the Portland scene and recently moved to Los Angeles, is passionate about food: He hosts a Top Chef podcast, and during his network TV debut on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Falcone spends a significant portion of his set talking about secret peanut butter cup stashes, pie-related injuries, and his affair with a breakfast taco. “I wanted to be a guest diner on Top Chef for 17 seasons, and they came to Portland the right after I left,” he says. “It was crushing.”

Falcone holds a place in his heart for the Portland food scene: Since he moved to LA, he’s made multiple trips back up to Portland, stopping for mac and cheese at Montage ala Cart. He’ll be back in Portland in October to record his first comedy album at Mississippi Studios, and ahead of his return, he shared a few of the spots he loves to visit for coffee, pasta, and breakfast — whether he’s eating at noon or midnight. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Coffee: Never Coffee, Dapper & Wise, Upper Left, Coava, Deadstock

“I love coffee so much. During the pandemic, I was ordering beans from three different shops in Portland: Upper Left, Dapper & Wise, and Never Coffee. Never opened late before I left, but it’s this fascinating contrarian shop — everyone was doing these simple lattes, but they would do these super sugary lattes. It’s fun to watch somebody do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. If I get to sit and stay, Coava has a cafe downtown that’s just gorgeous. And I also like sneakers, so obviously I love Deadstock. If I want good coffee and to feel like I’m not cool enough to be there, that’s where I go. They’re always really welcoming, but I’m still intimidated.”

Breakfast: Gravy, Kenny & Zuke’s

“My favorite thing in the world is breakfast food, but I eat it around noon, but that’s when I can get up and get breakfast most of the time. My favorite breakfast thing is biscuits and gravy, but not many places make a gravy that’s vegetarian; Gravy has one and it’s obvious and great. Kenny & Zuke’s opened right after I moved downtown, and I still love it there. I love a plate of latkes for the table; that’s my favorite move there. That or we would go to Stumptown for coffee and Kenny & Zuke’s for bagels, and then sit on the couches at the Ace.”

Croissant: Ken’s Artisan Bakery

Ken’s croissants are my favorite croissants. My wife had gone to France, and we tried every pain au chocolat in the city; his was our favorite. I feel like Ken Forkish is slept on a little bit because he’s been around for so long, but his croissants are still the best out there.”

Pizza: Ken’s Artisan Pizza

“I’m a big Ken-head, so anything he does is my favorite thing; Ken’s pizzas are my pizzas. Checkerboard Pizza, in the Pine Street Market, that was my favorite pizza in Portland. Now that it’s September and they haven’t reopened yet, I don’t have high hopes. I do love the pizza that Ken’s Artisan Pizza makes.”

Food Cart: Bake on the Run, Bing Mi

Bake on the Run is a Guyanese cart I learned about on Top Chef that I love, but my favorite single food cart item is the jianbing at Bing Mi. My strategy at Bing Mi is if you can get double of something, double it — double sauce, double cracker, double egg.”

Pasta: Grassa

“It’s not a fancy place, but I went to Grassa a million times. We would sit at the bar and watch the pasta machine running. Cacio e pepe is everywhere now, but Grassa was the first place I had it; it is phenomenal. Because I don’t eat meat, I eat a ton of pasta. Some people are healthy vegetarians, but I am not. I’m sad about the gluten pushback; if you’re not intolerant, it’s one of the few pleasures in this world.”

Mac and Cheese: Montage

“Before Montage moved, that was the good late-night spot. The last time I was in Portland, I went to the Montage cart three times in five days; I miss it so much. But they don’t yell at you! It’s not the same if they don’t yell at you.”

Ice Cream: Salt & Straw, Ruby Jewel

Salt & Straw named a flavor after me briefly, so they’ve won my heart forever. But that didn’t stop me from also loving Ruby Jewel. The salted caramel flavor with the chocolate, they salt the chocolate which is such a smart move.”

After-Show Meal: Original Hotcake House, Departure

“If I have a late-night comedy show, I love to go to the 24-hour Hotcake House with a bunch of comics and eat like 3,000 calories worth of breakfast foods. I’m not much of a drinker, so if I’m not doing late-night breakfast, I like to get a late-night dessert. One of the most fun things I’ve ever done is I went to Departure after a show with a couple of comics and chefs; it’s always fun to eat with chefs because they order the whole menu — it was us, late at night, in the sky, eating Departure desserts. I’m also a big Gregory Gourdet fan from the Top Chef days, so I loved everything he was doing there.”

Tickets for Alex Falcone’s album recording, Oct. 2 at Mississippi Studios, are now on sale.