Monday, September 12, 2005


Central Market Cafe

Central Market Cafe is kind of a funny place. It's probably the only grocery-store cafe I would consider a restaurant in its own right. The food is pretty dependable, too, as long as you know what to order. For me, without exception, that has always been their Veggie or Vegan burger.

I've always wondered if the cooks just go into the grocery store and buy the supplies they need everyday.. If so, I'd *really* be interested in knowing where they get their fries, which are some of the best in the city (my ranking for fries is probably Opal Divine's, Posse's, EZ's, then Central Market Cafe). The patty they use for the vegan burger is great, too. It's of the meat-impersonation variety (unlike the superior veggie burger at Artz), which is usually fine by me. It has always impressed me that "Vegan Burger" is actually an item you can order, though unfortunately it's not on the menu. I'm not sure, but I believe the vegan and veggie burgers use the same patty.. and all that's different in the vegan one is a different bun and a lack of mayo, etc.

This review concerns the Central Market Cafe South location. It should be noted that the last time I went to the OTHER Cetral Market Cafe location, up around 41st and Lamar, they told me they "do things a little differently here" and that the menu there wasn't the same. The last time I heard "We do things a little differently here", someone was in the middle of telling me how people work 35-hour weeks in France. So I don't know if that's somehow related here. Also, the veggie/vegan burgers there used a completely different patty... I believe it was the Gardenburger patty. I'm ABSOLUTELY sick of the standard Gardenburger patty, to the point where even the sight of the box makes we want to... seek out some privacy.. quickly. So for me, the south location is therefore the way to go.. no doubt about it.

Now... the other vegetarian options freak me out. Once I tried... I think it's called.. "Silken Tofu". This was an absolute mistake I should have seen coming. Imagine being served a small rectangle of tofu, with a few herbs and spices on it. The waiter tells you "This is your meal, and you will like it." Of course, you eat it, because the gun's pointed at your head. Maybe I would've enjoyed it if I were in prison.

I also had a pasta there once... I vaguely remember a creamy sauce... lots of pine nuts... and not enough food. To top it off, I believe there was a stomach ache involved. If I'm going to suffer a stomach ache, I should at least get a decent helping of food. Sorry, but I don't remember the name of this dish, and there seems to be no menu online. Just tell them to not give you the "stomach upset" pasta.

Enough of the not-so-great food there. What else about the vegan burger? The bun can sometimes be a bit thick, but it's pretty good; looks like whole wheat flour. I always like to choose the excellent fries as my side (which also means it will have a few fried onion string things), but one could also go for fruit salad or side salad... probably a couple of other options. Nowadays, they've been putting guacamole in the burger, which I'm not really into in this setting... so I just ask for it on the side. I also ask for extra lettuce, and that usually works out pretty well.. (I think it's green leaf lettuce usually). There's also tomato and onion inside, as well as a few pickled vegetables on the side.

It's a big meal. The last time I got it for lunch during a work day, I was pretty much out of commission afterward. It was almost like coming out of a buffet. So if you're veggie, and you visit this place, the veggie/vegan burgers, especially with fries, score highly with me. Everything else... don't bother. There are probably a couple of vegetarian things on the menu I still haven't tried, though. And in case you don't know, Central Market, the grocery store, is owned by HEB, which is a large grocery store chain in Texas and Louisiana. As far as non-natural-food grocery store chains go, HEB is pretty cool, as in they seem to do a relatively good job listening to their customers, etc. For example, just as for the natural food stores, HEB's milk doesn't contain synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone. You can't get that guarantee at Albertson's, Randall's, or Walmart Supercenters, etc, as far as I know. To me, that's a huge plus. For me, Wheatsville Food Co-op is still king, but I still find myself at HEB a lot.

Anyway, there you go.. No data on the meat items for you, but at the south location, the veggie/vegan burger (with awesome fries) is great! Also, I forgot to mention the excellent salad bar with several veggie and meat options. I believe both locations also have live music sometimes, which is cool... Give it a shot!

They do have a lot of food that is hit-or-miss at Central Market. I'm down on their specials usually. They cost twice as much and often aren't quite as good as their regular menu items. Their pot roast is quite good, though, as is their salmon. The fries are spectacular, but if you're in a healthier mood, their fruit salad is pretty darn good too. Which makes sense, considering Central Market is attached. I'm also fond of their non-caffeinated Tropical Paradise iced tea. And the laid-back atmosphere is great too, except on the rare occasion when the bus boys are cleaning a table near you and cleaning fluids get squirted onto your food. Just watch out for that, and it's all good.
Thanks for the review here. I wasn't aware of vegan burger, thanks for it too. I would try it for sure.
Gold prices
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