So sorry for the hiatus. Last week was not fun personally, and food-wise was quite boring. But I can make up for the absence with this lengthy entry on road trip food!
I’ve been out of town—I road tripped to Oklahoma City, then Dallas, then St. Louis to see Nine Inch Nails. I had a blast, and ate some INCREDIBLE food along the way. I was a little less almost-vegan at times (I ate eggs twice, plus some non-vegan desserts) but still vegetarian. I also remembered to take pictures of almost everything.
The one picture exception (which I regret greatly) is the first meal of the trip. A crappy cell phone picture is all I’ve got for that. I departed from KC on Friday morning with my friends Emily, Tyler, and Henry, and less than 5 hours later we were in Oklahoma City, craving Middle Eastern food. We unexpectedly found a place right off the highway (1 N. Hudson Ave, corner of Hudson and Sheridan), called the Olive Branch Café.
I ordered the vegetarian platter, which cost me a very reasonable $6.25. And as you can usually expect with Middle Eastern food, the plate was huge. It had a big pile of tabbouleh, three baby falafel, and a small mountain each of hummus and baba ghanouj. It also, of course, came with a giant basket of pita bread on the side.
Delicious. At one point I noted to my friends that the hummus reminded me of the hummus at Holy Land Café, one of my two favorite Middle Eastern restaurants at home in KC. While we were paying our bills after the meal, we were talking to the staff about how we were from out of town and happy (if not a little surprised) to find good Middle Eastern in Oklahoma City. When we told them we were from KC, the older man asked us in his thick accent if we had heard of a place called Holy Land. As it turns out, he was the one who opened it! “I taught them everything they know,” he said. Apparently he sold Holy Land and moved to OKC awhile back to start up Olive Branch. Don’t you just love coincidences?
After the NIN show in OKC, we drove to Dallas. We got there just before 3:30am, I think, and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Indigo on Main, and passed out. After waking and getting up, we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk to lunch.
We went to the amazing Cosmic Café (2912 Oak Lawn Ave, cosmiccafedallas.com). It’s an extremely eclectic (as you can see) all-vegetarian restaurant right near downtown Dallas. Emily and Tyler and I had eaten there on the trip to Dallas we took last November to see Tori Amos, and we knew without a doubt we were going back. On the last trip, I had ordered the Buddha’s Delight—aloo palak (Indian spinach and potatoes), which came with a veggie samosa, pappadum, rice, a tiny cup of dal, and whole wheat naan. This time, I tried the Bombay Sage, which was basically Indian enchiladas—spiced lentils with tomatoes rolled in flour tortillas. It came with pappadum, whole wheat naan, and mango chutney.
YUM. I actually took two of the rolls, dumped out the filling, and gave the tortillas to Henry (cuz who needs to eat three flour tortillas in one sitting?). I tore up the last tortilla and mixed it in with the filling for a delicious warm “salad.” Here’s a blurry picture of the lentils inside.
Emily and Tyler got the same thing, the veggie quesadilla. I’m not sure what was inside, but it came with avocado, basmati rice, and black beans (most of which I ended up eating).
Henry got the “Herban Renewal”: avocado, cream cheese, spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella, and herbs on naan. Not my cup of tea (considering the mushrooms and cheese) but some of you may find this appetizing.
For dessert, we ordered the same thing we did last time—a dish so simple yet transcendent that I’ve recreated it at home many times since. They call it “Sweet Awareness,” and listen to this brilliance—it’s peanut butter, tahini, and honey, smeared on naan, stuffed with bananas, and topped with a mango drizzle. OH MY GAWD.
There are no words.
Saturday night, we also went to a place we’d gone in November. It’s a very unique Mexican restaurant in Deep Ellum called Monica’s Aca y Alla (2914 Main St, monicas.com).
Last time, I got the Mexican lasagna—a fusion casserole-style dish with black beans, roasted corn, and cheese smooshed between corn tortillas, baked, and served in a pool of two-tomato coulis. This time, I went for the Angel enchiladas, an idea so simple and good I’m ashamed I’ve never thought to make such a thing at home. It was enchiladas stuffed with seasoned, roughly-smashed potatoes. Genius! It came with sides of rice and fat-free (and therefore lard- and butter-free) re”fried” black beans. Their thick tortilla chips and spicy salsa made the perfect complement.
Emily ate veggie too. She got the Cha-Cha burrito, a flour tortilla stuffed with guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, and black beans.
We all shared a dessert. It was the one we got last time and fell in love with—how could you not?! It’s a Cuatro Leches cake. Yes, you read that right—not Tres Leches, but Cuatro. Who knows what the fourth one is! The spongy yellow cake soaks up the milk and becomes unbelievably moist, and a paper-thin layer of frosting tops it off. “True” vegans, hide your eyes.
The only other thing consumed that night was lots of rum. No pictures of that, though!
We brunched al fresco at a place we’ve been itching to try—the award-winning Breadwinners Café, next door to a bar we also like called the Quarter (3301 McKinney Ave, breadwinnerscafe.com). My meal was decidedly non-vegan, though I did make alterations. I got the San Antonio Scramble (I’ve told you, I do enjoy an egg every now and then). It was a pile of scrambled egg (I got Egg Beaters) topped with some amazing black beans (I had them hold the cheese and sour cream). On the side I got a food that I adore but rarely eat, since I eat breakfast or brunch out so seldom—breakfast potatoes! In general I’m a ketchup hater, but breakfast potatoes are one thing that require it for me. I also got a side of steamed broccoli and a little cup of salsa. Simply scrumptious.
We were all craving Indian for dinner, so we consulted the GPS, which led us out of Dallas and to Las Colinas, to a restaurant called Mayuri (397 East Las Colinas Blvd Ste 180, mayuri.com). It sat on an adorable little street with shops on one side and pretty condos on the other.
I had a specific sauce craving, and so I got paneer tikka masala. Honestly, it was the best I’ve tasted; rich and thick. Emily got one of my favorite Indian dishes ever, dal makhani (stewed lentils). Here you can see my dish in the middle left, and Emily’s in the top left. Naan made the meal complete.
After a 7-mile treadmill run at the hotel that morning, I was starving. I got a huge bowl of fruit, dry wheat toast with jam (I’m a jam fiend, by the way), and a large coffee for breakfast from the hotel café. Simple, healthy, tasty.
We didn’t really eat lunch, due to the late breakfast we ate and the early dinner we knew we’d be eating. We did share a slice of caramel apple pie at Café Brazil in Deep Ellum in the afternoon…but we devoured it so quickly and eagerly that I forgot to snap a picture of it.
For dinner, we decided to round out our sampling of the local ethnic food, and visited Thai Lotus Kitchen (3851 Cedar Springs Rd, thailotuskitchen.com).
It was unassuming and super-tiny inside.
The food, though, was out of this world. I’d truly put it in my top three Thai experiences of all time. I ate the Prik Khing, which (heartbreakingly, since I can’t eat it again) is a dish unique to Thai Lotus. It was tofu cubes, red bell pepper, carrots, and green beans in a red curry-peanut sauce; jasmine rice on the side. Gah!
That sauce just floored me. Henry also ate veggie and got the Thai basil stir-fry with tofu, bell pepper, baby corn, bamboo shoots, carrot, mushroom, and basil leaves in a spicy brown sauce, plus rice.
Emily and Tyler got pad thai, but not vegetarian. Check it out, though—mmm.
Dessert was a plate of mango sticky rice.
Subsequently, we went and rocked out at the Dallas NIN show.
With heavy hearts, we left Dallas after breakfast at the hotel (more breakfast potatoes, yeah!). Just south of Norman, OK on I-35 we stopped at Mason’s Nut Shop so I could buy a 3-lb. bag of pecans for my grandma. We collectively decided that instead of trying to find another place to dine in OKC, we should just go back to Olive Branch. I ate light, but perfect for me—good old hummus and pita. This time, I remembered to get a picture.
Nick and went to St. Louis for the last NIN show. Nothing to tell there, really—ate snacks on the road, and a yucky bar pizza with the cheese peeled off before the show. I managed, though. Perhaps the rum helped.
Nick and I drove home after having stayed the night in STL, and were starving upon our return. We got Chipotle—for only the second time in my life. See, for years I’ve been very anti-Chipotle, ever since I took a bite of it in high school and detested it, and then learned how fatty and high-calorie it all is on top of that. But a couple weeks ago, Nick finally got me to give in and try a veggie burrito bowl. I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about Chipotle being a nutritional black hole. Well, conditionally: it’s all in how you make it. Twice now I’ve gotten a bowl (who needs a 300-calorie white flour tortilla?) with just a little bit of rice, a ton of black beans, fajita veggies, roasted corn salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole. Seriously good. I’m officially a convert.
It was an amazing week, chock full of good food and great music. It doesn’t get any better than that.