Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kosmos Greekafe

I noticed that Kosmos Greekafé had generated quite a bit of comment on the Internet, and that it was favorably reviewed by lots of people on Urbanspoon. So I decided to stop by their store at 2136 N.College Avenue in Fayetteville the other day.

When you first walk in, the restaurant has a cold, antiseptic feel—almost like a hospital waiting room. But the server at the front counter is quite friendly, and lets me take a bit to peruse the menu on the wall behind her. I came wondering what they might have here for vegetarians, thinking falafel would probably be the only option. But the choices are abundant. There’s the Greek salad for $5.49 (or $2.99 for half), the Falafel salad for $6.99, the Vegetarian Pita for $4.99, the Falafel Pita for $4.99, the Vegetarian Platter for $7.99, and Spanakopita (spinach pie) for $7.99. There are also various appetizers and desserts that vegans and vegetarians might eat.
I decide to order the Falafel Pita since it has been a while since I have had falafel. Also, the price seems right. Or so I thought before I added fries and a drink and feta cheese. By the time I am done, my bill comes to about $8.50. I am surprised that it has escalated that far since I started by ordering a $5 sandwich. But the server is quite patient in walking me through the extra charges I have accumulated by opting for all the extra goodies.
Although I have been eating falafel for 30 years, I realize some people don’t know what it is. According to Wikipedia,
Falafel (/fəˈlɑːfəl/; Arabic: فلافل‎, [falaːfil] ( listen)) is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. Falafel is usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze.

It’s hard to describe falafel in such a way that the inexperienced can truly experience its wonder. When I worked in a cafeteria during grad school in Iowa, the staff hated falafel day because the patrons went mad for it. The little chickpea balls must be fried in oil, which creates quite the mess. And yes, we are talking about carnivorous Iowa students devouring a dish without meat for lunch.
Not five minutes after I order, the server brings my order to the table I have chosen. I am astonished at the amount of food. The falafel sandwich is easily as large as a half foot sub, and twice as heavy. The falafel balls are fresh and cooked to perfection. The pita also has onion, lettuce and tomato in a tzatziki sauce. This sauce is also something you need to try. It is made of strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. I had never had it before trying it at Kosmos. It was delicious. Far more common as a compliment to falafel, in my experience, is sesame tahini (a peanut sauce). In addition to the mammoth sandwich, there is also a full basket of fries. Why anyone would need to add feta cheese to the sandwich, let alone get dessert, is a mystery to me. I am even more astonished when I see myself mopping up the last little bit of tzatziki sauce with the last fry.
The food at Kosmos Greek Café is fresh, and the people are nice. The atmosphere could seem a little warmer, a bit less corporate. But at least the place is painted royal blue. I read once that McDonalds interiors are red and yellow because these are active, aggressive colors that make people eat and run (so that McDonalds can move more customers in more quickly). The food is so good here. Not being a fan of Greek food generally, it is hard to comment on how authentically Greek Kosmos is. I can see from the reviews on Urbanspoon that there is some difference of opinion on this issue. But the reviews there are mostly positive, and I think that is as it should be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Einstein Bagels just opened a second location in Northwest Arkansas.  On College Street in Fayetteville, just in front of Ozark Natural Foods, Einstein will catch many of the people coming to this mainstay of alternative food shopping in Northwest Arkansas. 

The day that I come this store has just opened its doors to the public, and pandemonium rules the day.  There seem to be too few servers and even the manager is losing his cool with a new guy who obviously has not caught on to the fact that the person operating the cash register needs to help in other parts of the store when he’s not busy. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Marlo's Taco Shack

Marlo's Taco Shack

If you live in Northwest Arkansas, it’s hard to throw a stick very far without hitting a Mexican restaurant.  They are everywhere, and Fayetteville is no exception.  Marlo’s Taco Shack really is just a shack just across from the Harps on Garland Avenue.  It doesn’t look like the type place where you would put a restaurant.  I came here today because I am starving, and exhausted from doing work near The University of Arkansas.  Also, I keep hearing reviews from friends and acquaintances who say things like “Mexican, you know the place I like is Marlo’s.”  Or simply “that’s where I go.”

Big wow!  The place is very homey inside, and the server is super friendly.  The only menu is a large board above the kitchen entrance.  I ask the cashier if there is anything vegetarian, and she says “Honey, I can make anything vegetarian!”  The menu is divided into roughly seven categories:  dinners, salads, burritos, tacos, nachos and singles (tostadas, chalupas and taco burgers).  There are a few other interesting items up there too.  My favorite is the tailgater bucket of large queso, large guacamole, large salsa and a huge bucket of chips for $15.99.  There is also a large entry at the bottom of the menu that says anything can be made vegetarian.

I decide to order an enchilada dinner.  It comes with two cheese enchiladas, and my choice of two of the following three:  rice, beans and guacamole salad.  I decide to omit the rice.  They also have Pepsi products instead of Coke.  I choose the diet Pepsi.  The cashier gives me chips on a paper plate, and a squirt bottle of salsa along with my diet Pepsi.  She says that she’ll let me know when my order is up.  I am not expecting much from the squirt bottle of salsa, but it is really very tasty.  The salsa has substance and a lively taste without being too hot.  The chips are just average chips, but I wish there were more of them.  In most Mexican restaurants you receive a basket of chips.  Here it is just a few (maybe a couple dozen).  My order comes up very quickly.  The cook says “vegetarian,” and the cashier nods at me to let me know this is for me.  There are no waiters or waitresses.  It’s like a Mexican McDonald’s on a budget.  You come to get the food when it’s done.  With drink, my order comes to about $7.

The enchiladas are small but very good.  The refried beans have no hint of lard taste, which is always a big plus for a vegetarian.  The guacamole salad is my favorite, and the next time I come I think I may just get a large guacamole salad.  The lettuce is fresh iceberg like you would prepare at home, and not the shredded stuff you get from a bag like at so many Mexican restaurants.  The guacamole is fresh, and mildly spiced.  It seems to be heavy on fresh avocado, with minimal cilantro and pepper spices.  The food is fresh and refreshing. 

One final note about Marlo’s is that it attracts a very interesting range of clientele.  I don’t see anyone even remotely Mexican working or eating here, but there are young and old, black and white, students and working class people.  It’s a very comfortable place that seems to attract people who want good food at a good price without the corporate feel of fast food restaurants.  I think you know by now that I’ll be back soon. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lancashire Boulevard Farmer's Market

This past weekend began as a drive around Bella Vista to drop in on some of the plentiful garage sales that great fall weather can bring.  It won’t be long before the weather turns too cool for outdoor sales.  The garage sales dampen our spirits, as it seems the good stuff has pretty well been picked clean by 10a.m.  I do grab three books for .50 apiece, including a pretty beat first edition of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, and an obscure book about baking bread called Our Daily Bread(with one bread recipe for every day of the year, including Leap Year!).

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thai City

fried rice
Thai City sits just off the intersection of Highway 412 and Mt. Olive in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.  It’s right next to White Oak, in a heavily trafficked area.  But you could miss it if you were not paying attention.  We’ve always thought of this as a hidden treasure.  The food is great, the portions are ample, and it’s vegetarian friendly.  Run a by Hmong family, it’s a nice addition to the Northwest Arkansas restaurant scene. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mojo's Pints and Pies

I had the opportunity to try a couple slices of Mojo’s cheese pizza at Razorbash, and it was delicious.  The crust is different in a good way.  This place is definitely on our to do list the next time we are on Garland near the University of Arkansas campus. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mellow Mushroom

When we stopped into the Mellow Mushroom in Rogers last Friday night, we were not prepared for the 30 minute wait.  So we decided to come back another time.  As it happened, my wife and I found ourselves in that vicinity again later in the week, with schedules so busy that there was no time to cook.  At 4 in the afternoon, it is much easier to find a seat. The walls are filled with gold records, and there is a sign in one corner designating the area a playground.  It’s hard to make sense of the mixed signals the atmosphere is creating.  So our hope for the food is not high.  Neither of us has ever been to a Mellow Mushroom before.  Little did we know that this would be a thoroughly pleasant local food adventure.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Orange Leaf

Orange Leaf self-serve frozen yogurt stores seem to be popping up all over the Midwest.  I saw an Iowa friend mention one on Facebook a couple weeks ago, and since then I have seen them in Joplin and Fayetteville.  The other day, I spied one on familiar ground near the Starbucks on Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers.  The woman behind the counter said they had only been open 10 days.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ozark Natural Foods Postcript

We won a bag of food at the Owner's Day Appreciation Weekend which I wrote about on here last month!  Look at some of the cool stuff they stuffed into our bag:  Hain's Carrot Chips, Field Day Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce, Woodstock Kosher Dill Pickles (organic), Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins, Dr. McDougall's Miso Ramen, Choice Rooibos tea, back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies (already gone--yum), and Field Day Cheese Ravioli.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Green Bean

Green Bean Rogers
If you’ve haven’t heard about a trendy little natural foods lunch spot in Rogers called Green Bean, then you’re one of the few.  I read an Internet review a few months ago that made it sound like a well kept secret amongst the chosen few. So when I am on my way to the airport for business one day, I decide to drop in for a quick bite.  I know it is in the Village on the Creeks mall, near the Village Athletic Club.  When I arrive the line extends to the back of the store near the restrooms.  Luckily I have my iPhone.  I decide to Google the menu while I wait.  The copyright on the menu says 2006.  Has this place really been here that long?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jason’s Deli

You can certainly find larger salad bars with more selection that the one at Jason’s Deli, but it would be hard to find one with fresher ingredients. We have been going to their location in Fayetteville since we discovered it tucked under the awning at Nelson’s Crossing. Just look for Eyemart on the corner of Joyce and College. You’ll find Jason’s Deli nearby.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grocery shopping: Some Big Choices at Sam’s Club

On a whim, my wife and I recently decided to join Sam’s Club. A local department store with groceries, Sam’s is conveniently located close to our home. You can find it behind Neighborhood Market, a grocery store run by Wal-Mart. I think it a bit odd that Sam’s should be so close to another grocery store, especially since Sam’s is also affiliated with Wal-Mart. Granted, Sam’s is more than just a grocery store. But the placement next to Neighborhood Market still seems strange.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Owner’s Appreciation Weekend at Ozark Natural Foods

Although we live in Bella Vista, our work takes us into Fayetteville quite frequently.  So my wife and I decided to become members at Ozark Natural Foods.  Although there are plenty of natural foods stores in Northwest Arkansas, Ozark is the largest.  Every so often they have an Owner’s Appreciation weekend.  It’s a chance to get some nice discounts, sample foods and interact with other members.

Grilling vegetables: A Macho Man's Delight

When the summer sun is setting in the western sky, and the warmth of the day is fading into night, we like to fire up the grill on the back patio. My wife may cook up some form of charred flesh, but often she joins me in eating veggie hot dogs and hamburgers. They’ve come a long way from their tasteless beginnings. As you can see from the recipes below, there are endless ways to grill vegetables to round out your meal. You can even grill fruit.