807 F Street, East Village
Oh Lawdie. Some much gunk. This whole holiday season I have gone ape on burgers, spuds, chocolate cakes, Cool Whip, donuts, burritos, donuts, grog, beers, vino...
Time to pull back. Take the higher road. Eat better. Eat less. Because Carla and I each stood on the weighing machine this morning. She weighed...uh, oh. She just mumbled that if I mention that, death would be a sweet release, after she's done slamming me against the wall. Okay, but me? I'll come right out: 208 pounds. That's like walking around with a 10-pound cat in your fanny belt.
And, here at F and 9th, my destiny stares me in da mug: Salad Style, it says. Oh yeah. That' s the salad place that's been hiding out here downtown for the last eight years. But it still looks fresh and has lots of people inside. Guess we're all thinking the same PH (Post-Holiday) thoughts.
So I take a deep breath and head in. The manager guy Juan is flying 'round, handling about four orders at once.
Looks like every worker from all the law offices and jewelry wholesalers around, plus some condoistas from East Village, are here.
"The salmon is awesome," says this gal on one of the log stools at the counter. She's drinking a $5 beer while she waits for her order. Huh. So wine and beer license. That makes it a bit more tempting.
Fact is most of the salads have some kind of protein mixed in with them. Like the grilled salmon ($9, or $12 for the large plate), the chicken meatball, or the chicken Caesar ($8/$11), or the ahi tuna and tomato ($9/$12).
But I'm into pure sacrifice here. Nuts and twigs. No mas. Rabbit food. Still, most have some flavor to help a new vegan out. The house salad ($6/$8) has organic greens, Cotija cheese, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, yellow corn, red onion and a vinaigrette. Ooh, and Morning Glory ($6) is basically low-fat yogurt, strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, pear, granola honey and mint. Could go for that, no prob.
Also the Moroccan couscous salad ($7/$10) which has feta, asparagus, black currants, toasted almonds and other stuff added to make it interesting would go down easy. Ditto the spinach and pear salad with goat cheese ($7/$10).
But no. Purity is everything. I grit my teeth and ask for the Totally Vegan ($7/10 — I get the $7). It's organic greens, paprika-spiced quinoa, that seed from the Andes, tofu, tomatoes, carrots, chickpeas, organic sprouts plus a miso vinaigrette. No sign of no animal flesh nowhere. But one of the customers waiting tells me that I don't need animal protein if I've got quinoa. "2013 was the UN's International Year of Quinoa," she says. "Because quinoa is the perfect food. True! It's like a grain, but it isn't. It's more like beetroot or spinach. It deserves more respect."
Wow. Quite a sermon. Whatever, makes me happier about going Totally Vegan.
Except I hesitate when a soba noodle salad passes by. It has the green tea soba noodles, plus grilled chicken, peanuts, scallions, ginger-sesame dressing. Looks totally delish. Juan says it and the spinach and pear and the salmon might be the three most popular salads.
But what the heck. Stay pure! I stick with the Totally Vegan... Until the gal on the stool says I should combine it with the spicy chicken Picadillo soup they have going today. "They're just such a combination," she says.
Sigh. I order one ($5). Then, now the floodgates of discipline have burst, I also can't resist getting a little flask of white wine they have going. Looks like it'd just suit the salad. Only thing: I discover it's eight buckeroos. So what started as a $7 meal, for the vegan salad, has gone up to $12 with the soup, and now, erk! Twenty with the vino.
But have to say. Sitting at a table outside under the trees eating all those nuts and twigs, chewing on the paprika-flavored super-protein from Bolivia (the nutty quinoa), taking a chewy, spicy chickeny slurp from the hot soup, and a sip from the cool — and way-cool to pour, from flask to glass — vino, I'm a happy camper.
Actually, the flavors of the different leaves, lettuce, arugula, are kind of interesting. And with the chunks of tofu and the quinoa adding their squelch and crumbliness, I could get interested in this salad thing, with a little help from soups and wines.
One thing: I'm totally full. Another: Maybe we're all headed back to the world of plants. Me, I realize how little attention I've given them, every time I go eat somewhere.
Think I'm going to have to change that.