Portia's Café skips all the meat but none of the flavor

The year I went vegan was a year of feeling amazing and of fun kitchen experiments. I eventually gave in to the siren song of brie, but lately, I've been cracking open old favorite vegan cookbooks-and discovering new restaurants to explore. Portia's Cafe, which opened about eight months ago in Clintonville, is a new weekend brunch go-to.

The small, bright restaurant buzzes with conversation; like so many places in Clintonville, it's a meeting place for old friends and families. Service follows suit, with wait staff welcoming customers with the familiarity that typifies the neighborhood.

Start off with Vegetable Curry ($3.50 cup, $6 bowl) or Red Lentil ($3, $5) soup. Both are satisfying and complex; the curry has savory coconut notes and the lentil is lemony and bright.

The Burrito ($10) is loaded with lettuce, rice, black beans, house-made vegan sour cream substitute and vegan "cheese" on a gluten-free wrap with a texture that reminds me a little of Ethiopian injera, but without the sourdough flavor. Ask for a side of salsa-Portia Yiamouyiannis and her cooks add just enough cilantro to make it sing.

And don't leave without trying one of Yiamouyiannis' cashew- and coconut-based vegan Cheezecakes ($6). We're hooked on the lemon flavor, but chocolate is a great seller, too.

Vegetarians will find so much to like about Portia's-it's a luxury when a menu contains nothing that's off-limits. But I'm betting the carnivore in your life will like it, too, for the atmosphere and familiar, comforting food missing all of the meat and none of the flavor. 4428 Indianola Ave., Clintonville, 614-928-3252, portiascafe.com