Callous-un had been talking about this vegetarian restaurant for a while, so I curtailed my carnivorous hankerin and we headed to Café Manna to eat some sticks and grass. Hahahaha. I joke.
The hostess that seated us was way out of control happy and chatty. Not in a bad way, just in a super noticeable way. It made me feel like the rest of us were at a wake or something. She was THAT happy. She walked us through the bamboo-floored room, past the non-toxic paint and foyer partitions of recycled plastic, to our bamboo table. The server came over and asked what we’d like to drink: Organic Pinot Grigio for both of us. When the server brought over the wine, she also brought pita chips and Baba Ghanouj. I haven’t had a lot of Baba Ganouj before, but this was a delicious appetizer. Very smooth dip to start our meal out.
I was surprised at the number of items on the menu of this vegetarian place. I expected various combinations of sticks and grass, nuts and berries, and joy-less tofu crumbles, but the menu contained a whole bunch of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches, and desserts. I actually had to decide between a handful of dishes. I finally decided on the Spiced Tempeh and Glazed Soba Noodles. Callous-un opted for the Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch. Both of our dishes were vegan, according to the menu, so my vegan friends can shut their non-dairy pie-holes now.
The food came out rather quickly, I’m guessing because there was a severe lack of meat that needed to be heated to e.coli-killing temperature. The food looked beautiful on the plates. My Tempeh was one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever eaten, and probably one of the only vegan dishes I’ve ever eaten. It’s pan-sautéed cumin and ginger spiced with buckwheat noodles, asparagus, sugar snap peas, and stir-fried veggies in a sesame tamarind-sake glaze. Seriously, this was delicious. The noodles were firm and tasty and the tempeh was perfectly cooked and not soggy.
Callous-un was less pleased with her meal, the Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch. Her meal looked like some sort of landscape from Egypt. It had two pyramids surrounded by a delicious-looking curry. One pyramid was made of basmati rice and the other was made of quinoa (it’s like bigger couscous). The coconut curry was filled with a variety of vegetables and topped with a “curried cashew crunch” – still not sure what that was. Callous-un took issue with the vegetables mostly – they weren’t cooked enough for her taste. She expected a bit more smoosh and a bit less crunch. The handful of bites I had were quite good and I liked the crunch, but Callous-un is a veteran vegetarian food consumer and knows better than I. So I guess the moral of this story is if you’re a vegetarian you might not like it, but if you’re an incognito carnivore, you might like this.
The hostess talked Callous-un into getting dessert (all it took was handing her a menu). The hostess talked up the Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie. As the hostess was saying the word “vegan”, all I could hear was M.Giant’s voice in my head replacing the word “vegan” with “joy-less”, and I started chuckling. I had to explain the outburst after the hostess left. Thanks for getting me in trouble in another state, M.
The dessert arrived and looked pretty good. After the first few bites, Callous-un announced she wasn’t thrilled with it as it wasn’t very sweet and was very dense. Upon my own tasting, the top raspberry portion was very good, but the brownie part was just too flavorless for me. The raspberry sauce was good and the green goo (I found out it was mint of some sort) was also delicious. The three blood oranges went to me, since I’m a veteran blood orange eater from way back. This dessert this didn’t win me over to the dessert brigade or anything, so don’t expect to be wowed.
While we were eating, we noticed this lovely family from India sitting nearby. The young girls ordered this horrific looking green drink that made me gag if I saw them drinking it. But the hilarious part was everyone at their table had their own pepper mill, including the father’s pepper mill which was about two feet tall. We were unsure if the family had brought their own individual mills or what. We didn’t see any other tables with peppermills nor saw any staff carrying them around with them. We can only assume this family travels with their own seasoning implements.
I popped (not pooped) in the restroom before I left and was amazed to find a cabinet filled with all kinds of after dinner accoutrements: mouthwash (all organic), crap-spray, lotions, potpourri, etc. I’m not sure if this is a regular vegetarian restaurant thing (you know how… uh… odiferous... vegetarians and vegans can be) or if this is just their thing.
After dinner, we headed downtown to the bar that Coach and I used to hit up that we could never remember the name of. In the past, it’s been Marshall Steve’s, Admiral Gregory’s, and our favorite Captain Magillicutty’s. The actual name is Major Goolsby’s and it’s a decent sports bar that serves girly drinks and standard bar food (which we weren’t interested in). Then we walked around the corner to the Old German Beer Hall, a place where Chicken Little and I hung with the Rat City Roller Girls in 2008. Had another beer there and called it a night.
Top 5 things about Café Manna
1. Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch
2. Spiced Tempeh with Glazed Soba Noodles
3. Baba Ghanouj
4. The top portion of the Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie
5. Awesome stuff in the bathroom cabinet
Bottom 5 things
1. Significant lack of meat at this place… hahaha
2. Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie
3. Organic Pinot Grigio is not impressive
4. Crunchy vegetables (so says Callous-un)
5. Apparently, it’s rude to laugh when you hear the waitress say “joy-less”