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.

The first in a series of pleasant surprises comes from looking at the menu.  As a vegetarian, I am delighted with the number of choices available to me.  How have I been a vegetarian for 30 years without ever hearing about Mellow Mushroom?  The appetizers are called “Munchies” on the menu.  There are 12 Munchies listed, and 10 of them are vegetarian.  You can pick from pretzels, hummus and toasted pitas, bruschetta and vegetarian tortilla soup—just to name a few.  For carnivores, there is the Meatball Appetizer and the Oven Roasted Wings.  We decide to split the Stuffed Portobello.  We have never seen a stuffed mushroom quite like this.  There are three large mushroom pieces with artichoke hearts, feta cheese, spinach and tomatoes layered in between them.  These are not the stuffed mushroom caps that you get at other Italian restaurants.  It all comes on a bed of ornately drawn balsamic vinegar.  It’s delicious, and we know that we are in for a treat.
Though we don’t opt for a salad, there are several to choose from, as well as the opportunity to build your own by picking from five categories:  lettuce base, veggies, cheese (including the option of Daiya vegan cheese), protein (including the options of avocado, tempeh, tofu and BBQ tofu), and dressing.  Are you beginning to get the idea that this is a vegetarian/vegan friendly place?  Uh.  Yeah.
We also don’t order a hoagie, but it is worth taking a moment to mention that there are five vegetarian hoagies to pick from:  the Portobello & Cheese, the Tofu, the Tempeh, the Avocado, and the Capri.  For carnivores, there is the Turkey and Cheese, the BLT, the Meatball and the Jerk Chicken.  And that’s just a sample.
We also don’t decide to get a pizza, which is probably why most people come.  Though the pizza menu looks very tempting, we decide to split the House Calzone. Let me talk about the pizzas for a bit though, before we get to the calzone.  There are numerous pies with interesting names, like the Magical Mystery Tour (pesto base with mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella, feta and jalapenos), and the Kosmic Karma (marinara base with mozzarella, tomatoes, spinach and added pesto).  For carnivores, there is the Philosopher’s Pie (steak, olives, portobellos, and cheeses), and the Red Skin Potato Pie (red potatoes, bacon, onion, sour cream, cheeses, ranch and chives).  As with the salads, you can also build your own.  Vegans can choose Daiya Vegan cheese.  A small pizza goes for about $10, with mediums being more like $15-20. 
 The calzone comes with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.  Half of it is slightly more than my wife can eat.  Suffice it to say that the House Calzone would be a very healthy portion for one person eating alone.  The calzone is delicious.  We have tried calzones at other places, so we have some basis for comparison.  The crust is crispy on the outside and tender inside.  The spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms are well done without being overcooked.  The calzone is also served with a small cup of delicious marinara dipping sauce. 
For desert we split a piece of key lime pie.  The pie is a circle rather than a wedge.  It has the diameter of a silver dollar.  Though delicious, it is not much for two people.  We savor every bite.  Our bill comes to about $22 without the tip.  The price seems so right. 
Not only was the food better than we had expected from a chain restaurant, but the service was timely and courteous from the moment we arrived.  We had a very pleasant local food adventure, and found a place we will gladly return to for future adventures. 

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