Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Silly's in Portland, Maine

In tenth grade I got my drivers license and began spending most of my free time in Portland, shopping for CDs and frequenting the $4.98 vegan buffet at Little Lad's. So how did I overlook Silly's? I'd never heard of this vegan-friendly East End institution until I moved north, two hours away from the falafel, pizza, and desserts I might have devoured as a teenager.

Though the restaurant serves meat and dairy, Silly's makes vegans and vegetarians feel welcome. The thoughtful, creative vegan menu got my mouth watering, so while we ran errands in Portland last weekend we made sure to stop in for lunch.

The shaded, kitschy backyard garden was busy on a Saturday afternoon. Our table offered a prime view of flowers growing in a polka-dotted bathtub. A family of sparrows arguing in a nearby tree drowned out most of the nostalgic 80s music.

I ordered the Zoomazoom wrap, which featured falafel fried to crispy perfection inside an enormous white flour tortilla (brown rice tortillas are also available). Thanks to plenty of raw spinach, lettuce, tomato, onion and olives, this falafel wrap felt a little healthier than most. The creamy, mildly spicy sauce was a change of pace from rich tahini dressing.

We shared the Peppakalaspinavegandocious, a colorful pizza with a puffy, filling crust. (Our server repeated the order back to us with obvious joy--he'd been practicing that one.) A creamy basil sauce that tasted like it was made with white beans was hidden beneath spinach, roasted red peppers, kalamatas, garlic and fresh tomatoes. I'd probably skip the sauce next time, because it made the center of the crust soggy, and the garlic and olives drowned out its mild flavor. For a few bucks, you can add Vegan Gourmet mozzarella to any pizza, but with all those vegetables, this one didn't need it.

The best and most surprising part of my meal was a thick, heavenly nutmeg milkshake made with Soy Dream and Organic Edensoy. I'm usually put off by the strangely sweet, beany flavor of soy dairy products, but in this shake I couldn't detect anything weird behind the nutmeg. Silly's has a shake to suit any palate, from classics like coffee and strawberry to the more adventurous cranberry sauce, molasses, curry, and tahini. The chai flavor is next on my list, along with a slice of dark chocolate vegan cake to go.

While vegans can't eat everything on the menu, Silly's has more than enough to keep us entertained and well-fed. Silly's earns a triumphant four on the chickpea scale!


  1. That falafel wrap sounds like exactly what I would order as well! I wish there were more places like this around... what simple but enticing entrees!

  2. Silly's has lost a lot of it's appeal (for me anyway) in recent years, especially when it went to table service; but the backyard seating and the deep fried pickles still make it worth a visit now and again.

    Have you ventured out to GRO on Congress Street yet?

  3. I haven't been to GRO yet, but it's on my list! Have you been? How is it?

  4. Well, I think I've called it the vegan hipster dive, and that seems about right. I have a number of posts on it here, but all you really need to know is that there are three really good things on the menu aside from the smoothies and the chocolates: (1) the salad with sundried tomatoes and their homegrown shitakes, (2) the nori dumplings (wow, those are good), and (3) the zucchini noodle salad (also, exceptional).

  5. Here, this is a better link to the GRO posts.

  6. Thought everyone would like to know about our easy method for making tempeh at home.
    We produced Betsy's Tempeh in Mich. for 9 1/2 years and developed a user friendly tempeh that all our customers enjoyed.
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