vegansaurus!

10/09/2008

Review: Sabra Grill!  »

You climb a narrow staircase to get in here, and the noise from Chinatown/FiDi/Union Square fades away. The walls are covered with Jewish and/or Israeli art/photography/iconography (the DalĂ­ print is a highlight). The owner is a big, friendly, intimidating man. The last time I was there, the waiter’s yarmulke had Mario (as in, one of the Super Nintendo Brothers) embroidered on it.

Important note: They close two hours before sundown on Fridays for the sabbath, and they close for Jewish holidays, too. I recommend checking an online calendar before getting your hopes all up for the food. I have made this mistake, and it’s crushing.

I have eaten there about 10 times now, at first during my painful FiDi lunchbreaks, and most recently with my cousin who had never had falafel before. Sabra probably ruined him, as it is doubtful he will ever find such divine little falafels outside of the Holy Land. The service is not the fastest, but everyone is so polite, and I think the prices are quite reasonable. One of my omnivorous friends got the lamb sandwich, and sang its praises to the heavens.

The lamb, friends, is not what I am here to tell you about.

THIS IS THE BEST FALAFEL I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It has ruined me for all other falafels, and I have eaten a lot of balls of fried chickpeas in my life. I had NO IDEA that falafel could be so fucking moist and crispy and delicate and goddamn, just thinking about it has started me salivating like Pavlov’s dog, the falafel is just so fantastic. Not kidding.

If this is the standard, I will never eat any other falafel but Israeli falafel ever again. In this city, it is Sabra or nothing.

But! I completely forgot about my other favorite part of Sabra: the pickles. I am barely a pickle person; sometimes I can choke down a few bites of a sweet pickle, and I generally have no problem with relish in and on the many things you can put it. Real pickley pickles, though, much like raw cherry tomatoes and soft grapes, make me absolutely gag. Biting into one of those things is one of my worst food experiences ever. This is why I like sweet; they’re teeny, unintimidating, pleasant every once in awhile. What Milka is to Lindt 70 percent, so is the sweet pickle to the dill.

Sabra’s pickles are no wussy-baby sweet pickles: they are thick slices of juicy, salty dill pickles that they give you on a plate before bringing you your precious falafel. And I love them. I could, and once almost did, eat myself sick on them. It’s hard to share them. Just these lovely pickle slices in front of you, calling your name. Sabra changed my life, or at the very least, changed my palate.

If you are visiting the city, it is just inside the famous Chinatown gates on Grant Avenue, and after an hour (read: more than one minute) wandering around that neighborhood, an hour of quiet upstairs at Sabra with the city’s best falafel is exactly the remedy for your case of exhaustion/overstimulation. Tip: If you only want a falafel-in-a-pita lunch, order the falafel sandwich. It is not on the big menu, but sometimes they forget to give you the small sandwich menu, so be sure to ask for it.

[external photo by Brett L.]

10/07/2008

Review: Medicine Eatstation  »

At first I thought that I could not find the words to describe how much I loathe stupid Medicine stupid “Eatstation” (it’s not even a word and no I will NOT teach my browser to learn it, as I did my name and the various permutations of “vegan”), but then I discovered that yes, yes I could.

I used to work right next to the Crocker, and I didn’t have to technically leave the building to get to Medicine from my office. Now, if I hadn’t been stuck with shitty insurance* that charged me a zillion dollars for my various medications and therapy, and refused to cover my nutritionist costs even though I have a medical diagnosis that should allow me free nutritionist visits for the rest of my crazy life, I would buy lunch more often. Still, after a year of employment at my that job, I felt as though I’d plumbed the depths of the third-floor food court (OF HELL), including Medicine. In fact, I tried it three times. Why? Because I am incapable of learning my lesson the first time, is why.

Each time I’ve gone, the service has been slow, and the staff at the counter has always been rude. They ignore the customers, they keep one register closed despite an out-the-door line (people, NO, just, go get soup), and two out of three times I’ve seen them stop taking orders to chat with each other. Just flat-out stop working! Christ, it was just terrible.

The food is also BAD. I’ve had their signature Medicine roll, the miso-braised eggplant—which is no longer on the menu—and a cold soba salad, and they were equally yet singularly yucky, not to mention overpriced. The worst offense was the limp, squishy, tasteless soba. My mother, a white lady from south Jersey who now lives in a Bay Area suburb and teaches spinning classes to other suburban white ladies, can make better cold soba salads, and she hasn’t been to Japan since 1984. Truth. [NB: do not be fooled by the picture, that food is the opposite of delicious.]

Also, the prices are astronomical. Wonderful Japanese restaurants like all-vegan Cha-Ya and very-vegan-friendly Minako don’t charge so much for such simple dishes, and when their prices do match Medicine’s, the food is incomparably better.

FURTHERMORE, after a much-ballyhooed temporary closing, Medicine reopened and was no longer vegan, instead serving local, wild-caught, long-lived, guaranteed-happy, volunteered-to-be-murdered-so-honored-were-they-to-be-part-of-Medicine’s-cuisine fish as well. Maybe this isn’t so bad—now it’s not a shitty overpriced pretentious vegan place, it’s just a shitty overpriced pretentious place, so it isn’t contributing to our bad reputation. But no, think of the fish!

The last time I went in, the day of the terrible soba, I waited for 45 minutes for it. I know, right? After all that I still wasted three-quarters of my unpaid-yet-mandated lunch hour waiting to get food I couldn’t even manage to finish once I got it. About 30 minutes in, another front counter girl ended the personal phone call that she’d been engaged in when I arrived, and handed me a “Sorry About the Wait, Let Us Make It Up to You” card, good for a whole 15 percent off my next purchase at Medicine, expiring that Friday. Because of course I was going to come back, I am a stupid, stupid person.

Truth: I did not.

*Never complain about your insurance, because one day you may find yourself with two weeks’ of pills left and zero medical coverage, and then you will miss the days of paying a lot of money for those medications, because whatever “a lot” was, it wasn’t as much as the retail price.

[photo via yelp]

10/02/2008

Review: the Fruit Guys  »

Once upon a time, a time we shall call “before Jan. 11 2008,” I was a gainfully employed young woman, working full-time in an office in a beautiful Financial District building. It seems so long ago, but how clearly I remember it. I had coworkers, and a view, and a big bottled water dispenser, and we took coffee breaks, and every other Tuesday we’d get a delivery of fresh fruit from The Fruit Guys.

I remain ambivalent about these people. It’s lovely to have fresh fruit in the office. However, what’s with the year-round apples and oranges? Friends, these too are seasonal fruits. Oranges in the hot summer months are totally unnatural. Apples in the springtime? Also unseasonal, and strange. Further, the really good summer fruits, you know, peaches and nectarines and the like, often arrived having suffered chilling injuries during some part of the tree-to-office process, and thus were all mealy and disappointing when they finally ripened.

Though getting fruit delivered to the office is nice, there’s no reason to settle for substandard produce. Ask some local CSAs about their office deals—they’ll never send you any of those icky red delicious apples, or brittle June oranges.

[photo via yelp]

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