Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Midwest scene report

i'm not dead, and neither, they tell me, is punk rock, so peep the MRR reference above.

HUDSON, WISCONSIN

Right off of the interstate heading out of minneapolis, econo foods is primely located for snack stops on the way to points further east. Of course, seasoned vegans know to expect slim pickings when entering a large conventional supermarket, but given the trend towards organics and natural foods lately, coupled with hudson's nest on the periphery of the progressive mecca that is the twin cities metro, one might be forgiven for getting one's hopes up.

And this might be especially forgivable upon entering and seeing the colorful signs advertising organic produce and snacks. Perhaps I'm a bit naive, then, for expecting more than Granny Smith apples and baby carrots and Garden of Eatin' brand tortilla chips. That's not to say that I have a problem with said brand, which I enjoy, although their name is problematic for a number of reasons.

And just try to find some Wheat Thins in this place! The snack aisle is laid out in the ol' (reading left to right, or right to left, reader's choice) cracker-cookie-cracker formation. In other words, upon searching through a shelf of crackers and finding no Wheat Thins, one must say "Oh, naturally, they're not here with the crackers, they're over their on the other side of the cookies with the rest of the crackers."

We were able to find this gem, which unfortunately did us no good:


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

I am pleased to announce that my favorite restaurant, Thai Classic, still has the best Pad See-Ew in the world. That's even though they got my order wrong the first time and forgot my hot sauce. They're really very nice people and make such phenomenal food, they get away with things that others would be scorned for, and I'm just fine with such a double standard. Also, check out that beautiful fucking website!

I am also pleased to anounce that Garcia's restaurant in Lincoln Square is still the place for cheap dates. The avocado burrito comes dairy free - cheese and sour cream are actually extra. After the free chips and salsa, this enormous concoction is a filling meal for two. I recommend asking for lime and salsa verde to spice it up a bit. With a side of rice and beans, we got out of there for six and some change (drinking water, not margaritas, as we were driving, but I assure you that I've got a glass of Tres Generaciones on the rocks right next to me as I write this).

The Chicago Diner made another strong showing this time around, although the Philly Cheese Steak was a bit dry. The Super Gyros were plenty moist, but still, I think the Philly Cheese Steak has a better overall flavor. It should be noted that this is most definitely not a cheap date destination, and might best be visited on payday for some of our readers with poor money management skills.

Penang has one vegan item that I know of, the Mango Tofu. It's amazing, served in mango skins, with strips of mango and strips of tofu, the latter of which have been fried hard in something resembling a combination of sweet and sour and sri racha. Served over rice, this is an amazing dish that I go out of my way to eat whenever I am in town.

I've done it before, I know, but I must mention the Pick Me Up Cafe. Kind of a hipster hang-out in Lakeview, the PMU's genius is that it serves comfort food and it does a good job of it. Nothing there is as amazing as something that you might find at Penang or Thai Classic, but there are a handful of vegan options and they're done right. If I had to sum the place up in one word, it might be "reliable".

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I must mention a couple of passings:
Mr. Salsa on Montrose appears to be no more, unless they moved and no one told me. That kind of shit happens sometimes.
Blind Faith Cafe no longer has their lemon seitan on the menu. My wife loves this dish, and as such, we did not eat at Blind Faith this time around. They even made our wedding cake, so our allegiances run deep, but without the lemon seitan, she was lost, and a bit sniffly.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

Having overcome my fear of the Skyway Toll Bridge (no shit, I just about had a panic attack on that thing - it's like you're driving up and off of the earth, but at any minute, a gust of wind of a semi or something might come along and send you careening to your death), I did manage to drive to Indianapolis. Having never been there, I didn't know what to expect, and now, having been there, I'm not sure how to describe it. It's an odd midwestern metropolis, in the loosest sense of the last descriptor. I promised some of my best friends that I'd rep their city in my mostly defunct blog, though, so here you go.

Tonight I asked my caterer roommate to answer a question in his professional opinon: "Would you ever consider putting blueberries on a sandwich?" His reply: "No, no I wouldn't." He had also been drinking since two in the afternoon, but his reply would have been mine as well, before visiting Three Sisters Cafe in Indy. You'll notice that they don't have their own website, which is some hippy shit in my opinon, and that makes sense, given that I ordered the Flower Child sandwich (it pained me to do so, by the by), which did, in fact, contain blueberries, along with avocado and I don't remember what other goodness. But it was an amazing sandwich, despite the rather hippy atmosphere provided by the Broad Ripple neighborhood, complete with teenagers singing folk songs in Stone Temple vocal in the parking lot of the hemp store, one door down. The food was fantastic, and the workers were nice enough to serve us even though we arrived kind of near closing time, and it's cool that a restaurant exists in an old house.

Speaking of cool, Blackwood's Monon Cafe was kind enough to extend an IOU to us when we learned of their cash/check (no plastic) only policy. Even better was their vegan carrot cake, whose frosting didn't taste like shortening like so many do. For those who care, I thought I might have heard one of the workers say something like "after the alleycat" and I noticed some nice single-speed looking jobbers out back. (for those confused, this is an exercise in elitist bike talk - it'll pass soon).

And since we barely left the neighborhood, let me recommend the Broad Ripple (the river isn't even that big) Brewpub. They make a great Kolsch. The Southern Style Vegan Barbecue Sandwich was too dry, which happens when you try to barbecue tempeh, but the Vegan Shepherd's Pie was rich and yummy, if a bit salty. I'd go back. Hell, they make their own beer!

Finally, Massachusetts Avenue is a nice place to wait out a rainstorm, particularly if you are at Bazbeaux Pizza enjoying a Senza Formaggio with mushrooms and pineapples while drinking a Stella Artois. Everyone their was very nice and the pizza was better than most vegan attempts.

MADISON, WISCONSIN

PeaceMeal Cafe is no more, and that's probably been the case for quite some time. I just found out today.

Here are two conversations I had in fucking Madison today:

ONE -
to old hippy guy:

"Excuse me, can you tell me where PeaceMeal Cafe is?"
"Never heard of it...is it a vegetarian joint?"
"Yeah."
"Down the toilet and into the sewer."
Walks away
"Okay, go fuck yourself."

TWO-
to me:

"Excuse me, are you the one who left the bathroom like that?"
"Well, uhm, yeah, I tried to flush it a couple of times, but I guess it didn't all go down..."
"Well then you should have told them [gestures towards Einstein Bagel staff]. There's no reason to leave the bathroom like that. Just no reason. It flushed right away for me. You shouldn't have left it like that."
"Okay, sorry."

And I'll admit, you know, it wasn't a classy move leaving brown water in the basin, but who engages a stranger in such a conversation? Weird dudes in Madison, that's who.

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