Friday, November 8, 2013

Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches

Bentonville, Arkansas has become a mecca of fine cuisine and interesting eateries since The Crystal Bridges museum came along two years ago.  Located at 1406 Walton Boulevard in Bentonville, Arkansas, Which Wich offers submarine sandwiches tailored to your specifications.  Thus the name, your sandwich, whichever way you want.  We have eaten there several times, and the sandwiches are always very good.  This place is like Subway with a twist.  Instead of telling the sandwich artist what you want as they make the sandwich, at Which Wich you fill in information on a bag.
The first time you come to a Which Wich, you will notice a wall of ten brown paper bags. Each bag corresponds to a popular type of sandwich served by Which Wich:  for example, turkey, Italian, ham and pork, etc.  For vegetarians there are a couple of options.  One can either get the Vegetarian itself, or a veggie and eggs sandwich for breakfast.  Underneath the Vegetarian bag, there are numerous empty bags and an assortment of red magic marker type pens.  The customer uses the pen to choose from multiple items in an assortment of categories.
One can opt for any of five types of vegetarian sandwiches:

Black Bean Patty(Corn & black beans blended into a savory patty)
Hummus(A savory spread of garbanzo beans, tahini & olive oil)
Tomato & Avocado(Fresh tomatoes & avocado)
Caprese(Fresh mozzarella, pesto & tomato)
Artichoke Hearts(Artichoke hearts, provolone & shredded parmesan)NEW
White, Wheat, Lettuce Bowl or Lettuce Wrap

The Hummus is said to be very good, but I have always picked the Black Bean Patty.  Once you have chosen a type, then there are many more allurements.  You can choose from white or wheat bread, or you can opt for a lettuce bowl.  You can even ask for a lettuce wrap.  Sandwiches are available in three sizes:  7 inch, 10 inch and 14 inch.  I usually get the 7 inch with chips and a drink.  The 10 inch sub is large enough that it comes cut into two wedges.  It might be enough to feed two people,  but I would probably choose the 14 inch for that situation.

Before you start adding vegetables and condiments, there are a couple more formalities.  Do you want the sandwich hot or cold, and do you want extras:  double meat or sliced egg.  After that, you can choose any of the “additions” you see below.  The little red dollar sign next to double cheese and avocado means that there is an extra price for these items.

Double Cheese$
Pepper Jack
Cheez Whiz®
Spreads & Sauces
Hot Pepper Mix
Olive Salad
Sweet Chilli SauceNEW
Regular Mustard
Dijon Mustard
Honey Mustard
Deli Mustard
Regular Mayo
Light Mayo
Horseradish Mayo
Spicy Mayo
Spicy Ranch
Fat Free Italian
Balsamic Vinaigrette
1000 Island
Honey Mustard Dressing
Caramelized Onions
Red Onions
Crispy Onion Strings
Veggies & More
Banana Peppers
Black Olives
Bell Peppers
House ChipsNEW
Dried CranberriesNEW
Candied WalnutsNEW
Oils & Spices
Crushed Red Pepper

The customer chooses one or more items from each category to complete the bag.  Then one hands the bag to a cashier and pays.  The sandwich should be ready within a few minutes, and comes pushed into the same brown paper bag you wrote instructions on moments earlier.  Cool!

Although the general idea is very similar to Subway, these sandwiches are so much better.  The ingredients are fresh and the sandwiches really are tailored to your own specifications.  While the sandwiches are very good, this is not a gourmet sandwich shop.  It still is very much a sub shop.  As long as that’s what you’re expecting, you should definitely give Which Wich? a try someday soon.  You won’t be disappointed. 

If you are a vegan, then this is truly a good option.  At Subway, a veggie sub without cheese would really be your only option.  Here you can opt for the Black Bean Patty sandwich, the Hummus sandwich, or the Tomato and Avocado sandwich.

For vegetarians, the addition of Which Wich to the local lunch scene cannot be understated.  There aren’t many places, including Subway, where a vegetarian can find five or six sandwich options on the menu.  You don’t have to worry about your food being cooked on a greasy grill in leftover hamburger grease, or having to depend on French fries and shakes to get you full.  Which Wich? is fun, convenient and healthy at reasonable prices.  7 and 10 inch sandwiches are under $10.   Anyone who has tried to eat out as a vegetarian in Northwest Arkansas knows that this is not L.A. or San Francisco.  Convenience is not easy to come by.  It’s just easier to brown bag your lunch, especially when you’re too hungry to drive all over town looking for a place to chow down. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greenhouse Grille

The Greenhouse Grille used to be a small restaurant on Archibald Yell.  I ate there in 2007 or 2008.  In its present incarnation, it has moved into a large green building at 481 S School in Fayetteville.  My wife and I ate there Friday night.  We were both impressed by the quality of the food, and the fresh ingredients.  The service was fast and efficient, and the waitress very good.  The food was served promptly.

My wife and I look at the menu at The Greenhouse Grille, while I sip a Fat Tire.  I ask the waitress what’s good for vegetarians, and she points out several options ranging from the Organic Quinoa Sautee with fresh vegetables, to the Organic Bean Burger.  More insistently, I try to get the waitress to tell me what the best choices on the vegetarian menu are.  But she dodges around me, saying that “they’re all good.”  To my doubting eyes she replies that it “just depends on what you are in the mood for.”   My wife says “this is pricey,” once the waitress leaves. And I have to agree that the entrees are a bit steep.  They are also mostly on the meat side, which surprises me just a bit.  The Greenhouse Grille has quite a good following among my vegetarian friends.  Since my wife is not a vegetarian, she considers the entrée menu more thoroughly than I do.  She decides on the Gulf Shrimp and Angel Hair pasta.  At $20, it is a bit more than what we usually pay for an entrée when we eat out.  She also gets a cup of shrimp and sausage soup for $6.50.

I consider the Organic Quinoa Sautee with fresh vegetables at $18, mostly because I would like to try the fresh vegetables.  Since the Greenhouse Grille has a strong emphasis on local, sustainable cuisine, this seems like it would be a good choice.  The Quinoa Sautee features grilled zucchini, kale, roasted tomatoes and leeks over organic greens with parmesan and toasted almonds.  It sounds inviting, but the Organic Bean Burger at $10 and the Black Bean and Spinach Quesadillas at $10, both seem like fine accompaniments to a good beer.  I finally decide on the Quesadillas, and I am just delighted when they arrive a few minutes later with tortilla chips and some amazingly good organic hummus.  I have to fight my wife for the chips.  Her Gulf Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta is very good.  She is impressed with the freshness and the preparation.  But the serving portion is not very large, even for a petite woman.  She leaves a bit hungry.

There seems to be much to experience here beyond an evening meal.  We are seated under huge flat panel speakers that prompt the eye to look around for a reason.  At the opposite end of the room is a small sound stage.  A little reading around on our I Phones proves our suspicion correct.  The Greenhouse Grille often has live entertainment.  It also has an award winning Sunday brunch, as well as a full lunch menu.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fresh Market

If you’re on the West side of Rogers, stop by Fresh Market for a unique grocery experience.  Located next to P.F. Changs in the Pinnacle Mall, you can find it at 2203 Promenade Boulevard.  It occupies the space of the now deceased Border’s bookstore.  This store will overwhelm you with the stunning variety of its gourmet temptations, but be warned that it is very expensive.  While there are plenty of choices for the discerning vegetarian, vegan options are harder to find.

My wife and I stop by Fresh Market on opening day, and are dazzled by the number of people that have decided to do the same thing we do—check this place out.  There are so many people in the parking lot outside P.F. Changs that we park the equivalent of a football field away.  The walk is hot and slow.  But our spirits are instantly lifted walking into Fresh Market.  As you walk in, you see the produce section to the right, with a 20 foot olive bar and a smaller salad bar.  In the center of the store, there is a large, square make to order section.  As you move around it, there are various options:  sandwich wraps, a sandwich bar where they will make a sandwich to order, a sushi bar, and a deli bar with many types of prepared salads and soups. 

If you are a carnivore, there will be many possibilities for a quick and tasty lunch.  There’s a grill outside where two middle aged guys will gladly cook something up for you.  The sandwich bar has several sandwiches and wraps with meat.  Vegetarians can choose from the California Vegetarian Sandwich for $4.99 and the Greek Salad Wrap for $5.99.  The California Vegetarian Sandwich has spinach artichoke dip as a spread, while the Greek Salad Wrap has feta dressing and feta cheese crumbles.  If you want a vegan sandwich, you do have the option to build your own sandwich.  You can choose your meat, cheese, vegetables, spreads and bread.  If you do not add extra meat or cheese, one of these self-designed sandwiches is $5.99. 

From what I can see, one of these sandwiches is likely to be your only lunch option as a vegetarian.  Of course, there is a nice salad bar as well.  Since I am famished, I consider the salad bar.  But there is no bread to accompany the salad.  It just does not seem like salad will be enough by itself.    The choices are pretty similar at Ozark in Fayetteville, though Ozark also has breakfast burritos and a pizza bar.  For lunch, there are several options for a vegetarian or vegan in the posh part of Rogers, so you really need to be in the mood for salad to do lunch here. I have written about many of these other choices on the blog if you want to review more lunch spots:  Green Bean, Mellow Mushroom, Qdoba and P.F. Changs.

But Fresh Market is not primarily an eatery; it is a gourmet grocery.  Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Fresh Market has 120 stores throughout the United States, and plans to have 500 eventually.  Each store has several departments:  meat, seafood, prepared foods, deli and cheese, a bakery, coffee, candy and a floral shop.  The whole back wall is meat and seafood, which delights my carnivore wife.  There are also two long rows of cheeses.  You can read more about their stores at 

Since I have been a vegan since January, I am looking at the breads and coffees.  There are also ethnic sections that I find interesting.  There’s an Indian section, a Mexican section, a long row of pastas and sauces, and an Asian section.  I’m sure that I will find some good stuff here in the future, but my initial reaction is that there are critical things missing.  For instance, I do not see Fantastic Foods products.  Their meatless taco filling is a tasty addition to a vegan Mexican meal, and can easily be picked up at Ozark in Fayetteville or Cooks in Rogers.   I look for Newman’s Own Sockarooni pasta sauce to check the price.  We use it extensively at our home, so I know the pricing well.  It’s $4 per bottle compared to about $2 at Wal-Mart.

I do buy a bag of Airship’s Black Apple Dark Roast, whole bean coffee.  The floor person tells me that it was roasted in Bentonville two days ago.  The flavor is highly aromatic and I cannot wait to sample it.  I also pick up an Artisan Multigrain baguette.  My wife gets some baby back ribs to go.  We also get an apple pie since they are on sale for $5 and look delicious.  

We see several people we know, and they all have levels of excitement about Fresh Market coming to Rogers.  Everyone acts like they will be back.  The prices may be unusual, but this is a gourmet grocery.  We don’t have anything much like this in Northwest Arkansas.  Ozark foods is somewhat similar, but the emphasis is more on natural foods that gourmet foods.  Cooks is also in Rogers, but also has an emphasis on natural foods.  It also has a much smaller scope than Fresh Market.  Since Cooks recently remodeled and upgraded their store earlier this year, it seems that they knew competition was coming their way in Rogers. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Two locations in Northwest Arkansas:

2005 Promenade Boulevard in Rogers
603 W. Dickson in Fayetteville

Food                Very good
Service             Very good
Price                Under $10 per person
Tip                   No—buffet style

When you are looking for upscale alternatives to traditional fast food lunches in Rogers and Fayetteville, an intriguing spot for vegetarians and vegans alike is Qdoba.  The food is prepared fresh, you can mix and match ingredients to have almost any kind of taco or burrito prepared, and the food is ready almost instantly.

The first time you come to Qdoba, you will stand in line to order from a group of Subway like sandwich artists that craft your creation to order.  For vegetarians, there are a couple of standard options that I like:  the vegetarian burrito and the grilled veggie burrito.  The difference is that the grilled veggie burrito comes for a fixed price with grilled vegetables and your choice of beans, rice, cheeses and salsas.  The vegetarian burrito comes standard with guacamole for a fixed price.  You can mix and match ingredients in almost any way you want without incurring extra charges, as long as you don’t try to put guacamole and grilled vegetables on the same burrito.  That will cost you.  A  vegetarian burrito is $5.99 plus tax, while a grilled veggie burrito is slightly more.

What do I usually order?  The guacamole is fresh and delicious.  I look forward to it so much that I most always opt for the vegetarian burrito.  I start with one ladle of rice, one ladle of pinto beans and one ladle of black beans.  The servers look puzzled when I say that I do not want cheese or sour cream.  I have the impression that most people do not pass up that little fat blast.  Instead I move right on to corn salsa and green salsa.  Then I finish off the burrito with guacamole.  Just so you know, this is a monster burrito.  They do not skimp on the ingredients.  I have to tell them to confine the rice and beans to one ladle each.  I would guess that they add at least a half cup of fresh guacamole.  Don’t even think about supersizing, or god forbid, ordering two.  One burrito will easily feed a large man—speaking from personal experience.

There are many more things for a vegetarian or vegan to sample here, and I intend to get to them all eventually:  tacos made to order, three cheese nachos, taco salad, mango salad and Mexican gumbo.  I have actually had the Mexican gumbo.  It’s perhaps best described as a soup style burrito.  Nice on a cold winter’s day, but in general I would prefer my burrito the old fashioned way.

Plenty of establishments serve up Mexican food made to order, but not this with this quality and this attention to allowing the customer to mix and match ingredients to create their own bliss.  Qdoba is not only high quality, but it’s also fun and convenient.  You can read more about the standard menu fare and creative mix/match choices on their website

Friday, March 30, 2012


Simply called Taj, this amazing Indian restaurant is located near Wal-Mart, at 310 S. Walton Blvd., in Bentonville.  It’s in an orange building, so you can’t miss it.  Very quickly, this is what fans of Indian food  in Northwest Arkansas have been waiting for:  authentic Indian food prepared fresh, and served in a pleasing atmosphere.  The vegan and vegetarian options are abundant.  Whether eating off the menu, or the buffet, expect to pay about $14-$15/person with the tip.  And yes they even have delivery.

My wife and I both love Indian food, which we realize is not the case with everyone.  Until the last couple years, Indian restaurants have been almost non-existent in Northwest Arkansas and even Southern Missouri.  And the ones that have existed have been so pathetic as to not deserve comment.  So it is with a sense of relief that we look at the Urbanspoon reviews for Taj one day and see that they are 95% positive.  It’s hard to get a score that high on Urbanspoon without being very, very good. 

We first tried Taj on my birthday, when we were prepared to order off the menu and spend a little money.  We started with the samosas for an appetizer, along with tomato and cilantro chutney dipping sauces.  A samosa is a triangular pastry filled with potatoes, onions, peas, coriander and lentils.  They can also be made with chicken or lamb, but they are generally meatless appetizers at Indian restaurants.  Here they are very tasty.  We are impressed.  We have had samosas many times, and view them as a harbinger of the quality we can expect from the main course.

For the main course, I get the Mattar Paneer (Indian style cheese and peas in sauce) and my wife orders the Butter Chicken.  We both order our dishes medium hot (3 on a scale of 1 to 5).  Mine is spicier than I would ideally prefer, but my wife loves hers.  I will try a spicy of 2 next time, since I do like my food a bit spicy.  Since we are treating ourselves, we decide to order our meals “Thali” style, which is to say with an assortment of smaller accompanying dishes to make a complete meal.  You receive rice, dal (yellow lentils in sauce), sambhar (soup), papad (chips), cucumber raita (a cool dipping sauce), the dessert of the day and the curry of your choice.  Everything is very good, but we end up taking so much home!  If you don’t want so much food, you can order your meal “a la carte.”  Here this means that you receive only the entrée, and a serving of rice.  Whichever you prefer, order the Naan bread.  It’s only $1.50, and makes an amazing compliment to virtually any Indian meal.  If you want to make things a bit more interesting, try the Onion/Paneer Kulcha—fresh Naan stuffed with onion and grated paneer (Indian style cheese).

We did try the buffet on Saturday noon, and it was amazing.  In fact, I think we preferred this to the meal we had.  I can’t identify all the dishes on the buffet, but there are several vegan and vegetarian options.  One can sample a little of many types of sauces and curries over rice, until finding just the right combination.  I know that we had Dal (yellow lentils in sauce).Of course, there is all the Naan bread you can eat, as well as dessert.

Friday, March 2, 2012

P.F. Chang's China Bistro

Located in the Pinnacle Hills Mall, at 2203 S. Promenade, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro can be readily identified by the life size horse statue in front of their establishment.  If you miss that, there is always the tantalizing smell of garlic wafting through the air.  Since many major cities have one, P.F. Chang’s is not indigenous to Northwest Arkansas.  But it has food and atmosphere to rival the better Chinese restaurants in the area, and it provides a welcome alternative to the proliferation of Chinese buffets.  It is also VERY vegetarian friendly, with numerous vegan friendly options and even a gluten free menu.

The night that we come we are seated after a brief wait, by a friendly greeter gentleman that we never see again.  The waitress arrives shortly and we order vegetarian lettuce wraps for an appetizer.  The vegetarian lettuce wraps are very tasty.  We have ordered them over and over again without being disappointed.  Vegetarian lettuce wraps consist of baked tofu, diced and mixed with spices.  You scoop the mixture into lettuce shells, and eat the filled shells like a sandwich.  Though my wife is a carnivore, she eats the lettuce wraps with glee.  If you order them with a side of brown rice, they can serve as an entrée.  You might also want to order another appetizer to complement them.  Sichuan-style asparagus is one of my favorites.

As opposed to salt and pepper on the tables, P.F. Chang’s has bottles of vinegar, spicy oil and soy sauce.  They also provide hot mustard and hot sauce.  And the waiters and waitresses provide free demonstrations in how to mix them together. 

P.F. Chang’s has four items on their vegetarian menu proper:  the Coconut Curry Vegetables, Buddha’s Feast (steamed or stir-fried vegetables over brown or white rice), Ma Po Tofu and Stir-Fried Eggplant.  The Coconut Curry Vegetables is a rich and sensuous dish, and I reserve it for special occasions when I have earned the calories.  Buddha’s Feast is a lighter dish that can be ordered with baked tofu, a low calorie alternative to the crispy fried tofu in the Coconut Curry and Ma Po Tofu dishes.  According to Calorie Lab, the Coconut Curry Vegetables has 950 calories, of which 567 are from fat.  The steamed Buddha’s Feast has 200 calories, while the stir-fried Buddha’s Feast has 340 calories.  The baked tofu would add to the calorie totals of each.  By the way, all the vegetarian dishes are vegan.  I have, however, ordered vegetarian fried rice with baked tofu on occasion, and I assume that this has egg in it.  Tonight I decide to ask for somethinng a little different.  I ask the waitress if the chef can make the Almond and Cashew Chicken with tofu instead of chicken.  The chef has no trouble obliging me, though the dish comes overflowing with tofu.  There are very few vegetables, almonds or cashews.  I am still happy with the dish, just not echanted by the broccoli forest. 

If you were wondering, my wife usually orders the Chang’s Spare Ribs.  She absolutely loves this dish, which comes with a very unusual cole slaw to tempt vegetarians.  Tonight though, she opts for the Wonton Soup.  She is absolutely delighted with it.  As you can see from the photo, it's a meal in itself!
The atmosphere is dark and romantic, with a few prized booths for special occasions.  Oftentimes there is a 45 minute wait on Friday nights.  Since we had a Border’s bookstore right next door, until it closed recently, we never found the wait very annoying.  You can also order a drink and sit at the bar, though we have rarely done this.  We did have the best lime margarita we had ever tasted at P.F. Chang’s.

In general we spend $25 to $30 on dinner, which I realize must come as a complete shock to anyone reading this in New York or Los Angeles.  Since I know that people outside Northwest Arkansas are now following my blog on Twitter, I assume that some of you will want to try P.F. Chang’s in other cities.  My wife and I have tried P.F. Chang’s in Tulsa and St. Louis as well, and found them very comparable in quality to the one in Rogers.  The prices are also comparable, but obviously this would not be true everywhere.  In all, P.F. Chang's is a restaurant that come highly recommended for their food, atmosphere and service.  The prices are reasonable.  But be prepared for the wait. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

21 Day Vegan Kickstart

In lieu of eating out this January, I have opted to try the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart. The kickstart is sponsored by The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. They are a group of physicians that are committed to bettering the lives of people and animals through conscientious medicine. The kickstart occurs every year in January, and is a chance to embark on a vegan diet with the support of a wide range of experts and celebrities. Once you sign up, you receive a daily email with breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes of the day, as well as insights from the guest of the day. Today, Day 11, the guest is Rip Esseltyn. Bestselling author of the cookbook, The Two Engine Diet, Rip is a firefighter and triathlete who is also a vegan.

Today’s suggested menu is cereal with plant milk (I use rice milk) and banana for breakfast, missing egg sandwich with creamy broccoli soup for lunch, and Farmhouse salad with leftover Quinoa Pilaf for dinner. Yesterday’s staple menu included oatmeal with mango and cinnamon for breakfast, a vegan veggie burger for lunch with leftover Mexican Corn Salad (a dinner salad from the night before), and Cream of Broccoli Soup with Quinoa Pilaf for dinner.

By the way, you don’t have to eat the dietary recommendations for any given day. The website prints out the menu for a week in advance. You can pick the recipes you want to cook for the week and forget the rest. Last night we made Monday’s dinner entrée, Barbeque Style Portobellos. Always a day late and a dollar short. But seriously, this dish is better than you can imagine. My carnivore wife could not stop marveling at how good it was. If you want to try it, here’s the recipe:

Barbeque-Style Portobellos
Makes 2 servings
2 large portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup vegetable juice
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Cut into 1/2-inch strips.

Combine vegetable juice, apple juice concentrate, red peppers, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, and black pepper in a blender. Process until smooth, then transfer mixture to a non-stick skillet and heat until bubbly.

Add mushroom strips, turning to coat evenly with sauce. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

I substituted pretty freely to customize this for a household on a budget, using roasted green pepper instead of red, apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar, and the juice of one orange instead of concentrated apple juice. For fruit juice I used Welch’s grape cherry mixture. We spooned it over jasmine rice, though the options are abundant. You could use brown rice, French bread, English muffins or even baked potatoes. The recipe says to serve it with steamed spinach, but we used corn on the cob. And we had a vegan cranberry banana bread for dessert.

You can chat with other dieters on the Kickstart website, to find out what brought them to try a vegan diet for even 21 days. Sure some are lured by the promise of quick weight loss, but there are those with deeper motivations. You can also find some really cool recipes for things you would probably never imagine a vegan could make. How about grilled garlic vegan shrimp with chocolate cheesecake (pictured above) for dessert?

In the coming days I will talk more about the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart, why I decided to do it, and the experiences I am having with it. There’s also a 21 Day Vegan Kickstart book, by Dr. Neal D. Barnard, that you can buy. You can get it on Amazon, starting February 8, for about $10.