Aviv PDX, a vegan Israeli-owned restaurant in southeast Portland, Oregon, has an interesting backstory. The owner and head chef, Tal Caspi, was born and raised in Israel, but has lived in the United States for the past 25 years, on and off.
Aviv opened in the summer of 2017. Caspi decided to name the restaurant after his favorite city in Israel, Tel Aviv. Having been out of the country for a long time, Caspi did not know when he opened the restaurant that Tel Aviv or Israel “was so vegan.”
In fact, veganism is on the rise across the world and especially in Israel. With the new alternative meat brands growing, “it’s a huge opportunity for the environment and the animals, for people to make the change and do the right thing,” he says.
When we asked Caspi about his vegan background, he said, “I became vegan four years ago, because it was always something I wanted to do! It was definitely for the animals, but also for environmental and health reasons.”
The idea behind the restaurant is to “change people’s minds [about veganism] without having to be aggressive.”
Caspi wants people to understand that veganism is not about yelling at meat-eaters, but instead showing them good and healthy food that they will love.
Among the dishes at Aviv is a grilled mushroom plate using mushrooms grown specifically for the restaurant by MindfulMushrooms. “Mushrooms are the best meat alternative, and that is why we use them so much in the restaurant,” says Caspi.
The grilled mushroom plate is served on polenta cakes, with a cashew chimichurri sauce. Caspi loves this dish because it’s very personal: The mushrooms represent the Pacific Northwest where he lives now. The polenta goes back to his ancestry in Argentina, where his family originates. The cashew chimichurri sauce complements his Israeli side. He says he loves adding the homemade hot sauce to the dish to give it a little kick.
Aviv packages its homemade hummus, Gonzo, in-store and sells it at many stores in the Portland area.
The vegan ice cream at Aviv PDX is a hot seller, and Caspi is always coming up with unique flavor combinations. One of his favorites is halva ice cream, which is a coconut-based ice cream with chunks of fresh halva tossed in. Another delicious flavor is the curry ice cream.
Aviv is expanding and opening an ice cream shop in the upcoming months, called Be Sweet, which will continue to focus on vegan and savory ice cream.
Aviv PDX is meant to be “an open table to have everyone come and eat. It was created as a safe place, for queer people, Palestinians, Israelis, everyone. It’s an area that promotes coexistence and good food,” Caspi says.
Aviv PDX’s Harif (Middle Eastern chili paste)
1/2 tablespoon garlic
1 1/2 cups rice oil
1 cup dried ground Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoon Urfa Biber (dried Kurdish chili pepper)
1/4 tablespoon salt
Process the garlic and jalapeño in food processor until fine, then add rice oil. Mix until it turns into a paste. Add paste to all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until blended thoroughly.