Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

South Congress Cafe

Our plan was to surprise my friend at South Congress Cafe the other night... She arrived a LARGE tad too early (normally she would have arrived 15 to 20 minutes late), and this almost ruined the plans. I don't know how she managed not to notice us scrambling about like ants, trying to pick seats at the table. It might have had something to do with the large crowd. This place is clearly popular. Long wait? Yes.

This place has no one genre. Maybe we could call it American, but with a heavy tex-mex influence? There were probably four vegetarian entrees on the menu, but only three I remember. All of them sounded good, but only one seemed like a complete meal to me:

- Angel Hair Pasta: Not enough protein for my taste. Common problem with pastas.
- Vegetarian Stroganoff: No tofu or cheese anywhere, so ditto.
- Portobello Fajitas: Cheese present. Full meal. I had to order this.

Ok, so here's how the evening went. First some bread arrived. No further comments on this, because it was absolutely nothing special. Asti's bread was much more interesting. Then, the main course made it's entrance. To summarize: the main fajitas were excellent.. Everything else accompanying it was generally pretty average. Here's the detailed breakdown:

- White flour tortillas: Ok. Better tasting at Julio's, but certainly these were better for making hats, as they were much bigger.

- Rice: Two rices actually... Some kind of green one, which was... blah, and then the saffron rice. That was great, and pretty unusual for tex-mex-ish stuff.

- Beans: The beans were... nowhere to be found. This is one of those things that irks me. Perhaps I've not consumed enough fajita plates in my lifetime....

- White/Red cabbage shreds: Raw. Unspecial. Ignore unless you love cabbage or need to write a restaurant review.

- Sour cream and guacamole: These served their purposes well, I suppose. The guac was all luxuriously whipped, but it was average in taste. The guac at Maudi's is way better.

- Grated cheese: I love cheese. It was a major contributor in my abandonment of the vegan lifestyle. So by definition this stuff was good... but it was totally average for cheese. It reminded me of Monterey Jack. Anyway, it worked.

- The actual fajitas. Now these were, again, EXCELLENT. Marinated portabello mushroom slices.. Sizzling alongside the shrooms were some onion, green and red peppers, and small dried peppers, too. Yeah! Now for my slight, paranoid concern... I wonder if these mushrooms were grilled with the meat fajitas... Hmmm. Next time I will ask. Either way, I was sad when these were finished.

- Mystery Pico de Gallo: Once again, style over substance. I'm sure you could find better pico in a school cafeteria, but ... it won't be gift-wrapped in a corn husk. It's all about priorities.

Back to the tortillas... I received two huge ones, and I only had enough room to finish one. So one of my friends did, in fact, fold it into a hat, which I promptly wore for about two minutes. It was a great time... half the table was totally embarassed, which I found totally amusing. A couple of others wore it, too, including the birthday girl. Pictures exist, FYI, but it wasn't my camera... sigh.

Now for dessert:

- Cream cheese brownie with ice cream: Okay. Where was the cheese again? I looked everywhere, even under the plate. Nothing. The brownie itself was all right. The ice cream? Exceptional. Mexican vanilla... very nice, and, importantly, purchased from Amy's. By the way, this was free for the birthday girl.

- Raspberry chocolate tort: I normally like raspberry, but I didn't thing the raspberry syrup here was notable. The tort part of it was just ok, I thought. Thick, but not the kind of chocolate taste I like. Wasn't worth it.

Anyway, there you have it. This place was overpriced for the quality, at least for my stuff... The other guests mostly liked their food, it appears. Maybe I wouldn't have this gripe if the fajitas' side items hadn't been so average. I wish I could have just ordered the portabello fajita pieces a la carte. Seems like the place is local, though, so that's a plus. There's a lot more on the menu to check out; that's for sure.

Comments:
I agree with you. The place is a little overprice for what they serve.

Try going there for brunch on the weekend. It is a little more reasonable.

Their wild boar red chile pozole is incredible. Also worth trying is their salsa sampler that has 3 salsas and a variety of chips (yucca, corn, flour).
 
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You had a great time there and that i can sense through your post. I usually don't visit places regularly where i have to wait for long but i would definitely be there once. This seems to be an interesting place.
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