Pies and Fries

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Rudy’s Can’t Fail

I’ve been anticipating this post for so long! J and I checked out the new Rudy’s (co-owned by Green Day’s Mike Dirnt) for its grand opening. M, C and T (gelato co-workers) all work there now, but unfortunately none had a lunch shift on this day.

RCFC is in a former adult bookstore, right next to the awesome Fox Theater where I've enjoyed many a concert. Uptown Oakland's getting all sorts of fancy nowadays with new bars and galleries. As expected, this is the new punk rock hangout spot.

Breakfast anytime and food served from 7-1am every day. Insane...ly excellent! J's French toast was grossly mushy so we asked them if they'd perhaps undercooked it, at the risk of being "those girls." The waiter was a dream and quickly returned with a new plate that was much improved.

My Tofu Ranchero (9) with scrambled tofu, tortillas, black beans and salsa wins the blue ribbon for "Ugliest Food." I requested it without cheese, which made them assume I was vegan so they didn't include the sour cream, either. False move. I love sour cream. Failure to follow orders, or simply over-attentive? Oh well it doesn't matter because they were so awesome about the French toast. But yeah, they can basically make anything vegan if that's your jam. (Also, they have nice jam on all the tables.)

For such a saucy dish, my plate was surprisingly bland. I craved an extra component of fat or spice, as well as some toast to mop up all the salsa verde. But thankfully J and I got some fries that saved the day.

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Saturn Cafe

I’ve been to Saturn Cafe several times, the first time at its flagship in Santa Cruz, but never ate a proper meal until this week. Finally, moving onto main courses without being distracted by the many appetizers and salads. (Because how does anyone say no to Nacho Fries?)

Here is E, a fellow veggie, who’s particularly on a Saturn Café kick lately. With a well-deserved milkshake after a long day of work (for both of us).

E’s favorite burger, the Space Cowboy (9.50) with BBQ sauce, onion rings, fakin bacon, and cheddar. I’m love kitchen sink burgers, but this didn’t work for me. So oftenfake meat tastes too processed unless it’s done really expertly (aka made in-house) and I always think I like BBQ sauce more than I actually do. Glad I tried it, but next time I'm sticking to my standby—the portobello burger. Our delightful waiter offered to split this in half for us, with a huge pile of fries for each plate. Everyone I know who’s been to Saturn falls in love with its fried items. I think they coat it with cornstarch to give it that extra crisp.

We also split a Tuesday special—crunchy potato tacos with black beans and the house salad with cilantro dressing (7.50). I liked the variety. If you didn’t already know, I can rarely resist black beans if they’re on the menu. The tacos were a tad greasy, and next time I might ask if they could keep them soft/unfried for me. Even so, they were bland and begged for a ton of tobasco and cilantro dressing. Gringo tacos to the max.

At the end of the day, how can I complain about a meal after I’ve managed to devour it all? I'm generally not a huge fan of diner food, but I'd come back if I ever needed a hearty meal.

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A”Maoz”ing Falafel

This is a story of a hungry girl and the day she met the falafel of her dreams.

This self-serve falafel bar is located in what used to be Moolicious, a cereal bar and possibly the worst business venture ever. I would've preferred a more decorative interior that conveyed "healthy comfort food" rather than "Asian frozen dessert".

To start at the beginning we have to go deep in history, to 2009, when news spread that Maoz Vegetarian would be opening a franchise in her neighborhood. And this European chain wasn’t any old floozy – there are only a handful in America, all on the East Coast. Its introduction to California one month ago was a very special day indeed, and it just so happened to be one block away from UCB campus!

If you pay with card you can interact with this fancy screen in front of the cash register. Like I said, the sleek chrome and minimal decor doesn't really rev up my appetite, but I forgive them because 1. they are European 2. they play clubby European music 3. exploding falafel

4. Their unlimited salad bar is pristine, well-stocked, diverse, 90% vegan. 100% SEXY. Most notable were their roasted broccoli/cauliflower, marinated chickpeas, fennel salad, herbed carrots, and CILANTRO SAUCE.

C chose a meal deal with falafel, fresh juice, and sweet potato fries (~8). I tried both these and J's of the Belgian variety, and both were great. Not a single soggy fry. I suppose these look a little burnt but carcinogens are also known as tasty.

My Junior falafel (4.5) came with a small bed of lettuce and four flavorful patties of chickpea and parsley - crispy outside, tender inside, it held its own against the 'lafels at my former fave place, Bongo Burger. You best believe I went back to the salad bar twice to refill my pita (which was the thick fluffy kind instead of the dry ones with a layer of air in the middle!). Amazingly, none of the toppings were over-salted which meant they were delicious on their own instead of as a condiment.

I will probably never try this, but it makes for good conversation.

The story ends in satisfied tummies and a vow of loyalty. I am thinking about my limited time in Berkeley and already beginning to miss this place.  I want to share it with the world. Hit me up if interested, ’cause I’m ready for a repeat.

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Chick-O-Pea’s, please

After passing by the shiny new exterior of Chick-O-Pea’s three times, desperately peering through the windows like a stalker, I finally satisfied my lust for falafel action. This was its second day of business so I’d give them a while to work out the kinks.
The interior is sparse but bright and happy like a typical “healthy” restaurant. The cashiers/workers have the strangest vibe like they’re reading my soul – sidelong glances that last way longer than socially acceptable – but just pay quickly and move along. One lady who might’ve been an owner was really nice though, and offered us paper cones to sample each topping with. I thought the menu was quite cute (aka simple and short) but hopeful, as they also listed some items like burgers etc that were “coming soon”.
i don't understand why their salads and appetizers are refrigerated in to-go boxes. wasteful.

i don't understand why their salads and appetizers are refrigerated in to-go boxes. wasteful.

The chickpea salad (6) was quite heavy on the romaine but included tasty marinated beets and cucumbers and a garlicky/lemony/tahiniiii olive oil dressing that I enjoyed. The chickpeas were cooked and dressed perfectly and my favorite part of the salad, as I’d hoped, since not getting those right would’ve been pretty disgraceful.

Receive your plain falafel in a pita and head to the self-serve toppins bar, with nine different toppings ranging from asian pickled daikon to dill-y cucumbers to olives and cornichons to cauliflower (!) and three sauces. What could be missing; maybe some fries in an assortment of flavors with accompanying dips! Sounds failproof to me, since people/I love this self-serve trend almost more than we love crispy fried patties of mashed beans. It makes me feel powerful and now I don’t have to get my kicks from the ketchup dispenser at McDonald’s like I did as a lass.

organic falafel and saffron fries (with aioli, somewhere) thanks to my lovely hand model
organic falafel and saffron fries (with aioli, somewhere) thanks to my lovely hand model

 Once again Chick-O-Pea’s, you live up to your name. I loved everything about the falafel (7) – flavorful without being salty, perfectly fried, modestly-sized patties, soft and dense innards with parsley, onion and sesame seeds. The toppings bar also got my approval because falafel is quite the perfect canvas to work with, especially with all those fresh, marinated/pickled veggies to pile on.  All these lovely factors didn’t distract me from the sad state of the pita bread, though, which is frustrating since awesome pita is everywhere. The pita I make at home and the complimentary ones from places around here are always toasted, thick and doughy, but this was thin, dry, and perhaps saddest of all, split into half per order. I can’t believe I was having such delicious falafel that was wrapped in papery bread which tore and fell apart halfway through the meal. Bongo Burger uses the same pita but it’s exactly half the price for the same size and the falafel is equally awesome.

with spicy harissa fries

with spicy harissa fries

I couldn’t get excited about the fries (2.5) because they were too thin for me, and the saffron tasted stale (likely due to my ambivalence towards the flavor) and didn’t pair well with the flavorless aioli. The harissa was fairly spicy and tasted a lot like fries with curly-fry seasoning without the marvelous crunchy/curly factor. What amused me the most was that everything spicy on the menu and at the bar had “spicy” right after the name, and still, every time i so much as looked at the spicy options the employees would caution me once again like I was approaching a minefield. Well I don’t have a high tolerance for heat but their stuff was more mildly tingly than explosive. It will be a while before I’m back.

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