Baristas + Bites
469 Fore St., Portland
We are not grab-and-go people. When we go out to eat, we like table service, a relaxing vibe, and plenty of time and space to enjoy a meal. So when Baristas + Bites opened in Portland’s Old Port a couple years ago, with its emphasis on healthy take-out, we barely noticed. Just not our thing.
Damn. We were missing out. On a recent rush through town, lacking the stomach for a Whole Foods experience, we finally stopped into Baristas + Bites. We ordered three wraps: Banh Mi Tofu ($8.99), BBQ Tempeh ($8.99), and Hummus + Veggie ($8.99).
The Banh Mi Tofu wrap is filled with marinated, organic Heiwa tofu, pickled carrots, daikon radish, and jalepeños, with Sriracha vegan mayo, fresh cucumbers, mint and cilantro. The tofu is perfectly seasoned and has enough density and bounce to anchor the wrap. The spice and tang of the daikon, pickled carrot, jalepeño and Sriracha mayo are spot on, and the fresh herbs take this wrap over the top. It is absolutely delicious. Following a suggestion on the menu, we also tried the Banh Mi on a toasted hoagie roll during a subsequent visit, but this version was less satisfying. The ratio of filling to bread wasn’t as well balanced as it is with the wrap, and the hoagie roll, while pillowy soft and delicious, detracted from an otherwise totally fresh and healthful-feeling experience.
Next, we tried the hummus wrap. Neither one of us was looking forward to another hummus wrap. As a vegan, this is so often the only option at local sandwich spots. One can only stand so much bland hummus, white lettuce and Sysco tomatoes.
We were so wrong. Baristas + Bites’ Hummus + Veggie Wrap rockets beyond bland with an incredibly fresh (like, made that morning), house-made hummus. This is a colorful wrap with perfectly ripe, crisp vegetables: spicy arugula, pickled onion, shredded carrots, sliced red peppers, bright red tomatoes, and cucumbers. There is a perfect balance of flavors, with a bit of acid, spice and salt. The hummus itself is expertly seasoned and has the added texture of red onion, pumpkin seeds and whole chickpeas.
Impressed as we were so far, our final wrap, the BBQ Tempeh, was our favorite. Whoever makes the chipotle pepper barbeque sauce should be given an award — it’s spicy and sweet and rich and satisfying. This is also a very colorful wrap, with fresh avocado, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh cilantro and vegan mayo. The flavors combine to deliver a crave-worthy experience.
On our return trip, we also tried this one on a gluten-free wrap, but were totally disappointed. The wrap fell apart almost immediately, and it was almost like eating paper. Our only criticism of Baristas + Bites concerns the tortillas. We’d love to have a spinach or whole wheat or any other option beyond standard white.
Overall, we were blown away by the diversity of flavors packed into just three wraps. Whether we’re on-the-go or not, we’ll certainly be going back to Baristas + Bites.
Baristas + Bites is open Monday – Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.