Veggie Garden

The other day I went out to eat at the Suma Veggie Cafe near my house.

While I was checking on the web I found a web page for the Veggie Garden – another similar restaurant on Arapaho Road – the same street as the Veggie Cafe. This one is only about a mile to the west. As a matter of fact, for most of the day I thought they were the same restaurant. Luckily, they have pretty much the same hours, menu, and prices, so I was still good to go.

When I first wrote my blog entry, I actually called it Veggie Garden, and it wasn’t until I posted the picture of the place that I realized my mistake. Search and replace is your friend.

Today(Sunday) I had an hour or so before the library opened so I decided to try out the other Vegetarian option.

Veggie Garden is located in another rundown strip on Arapaho road, just west of Highway 75 and the Richardson Library and City Government complex. Araphaho makes an irregular jog to the north at that point and the area is crowded with inexpensive strips that have attracted a number of diverse businesses. The economy has cut through these like a scythe, but there are a few still open. I’ve been to the Salvadorian Pupuseria, but there is a well-known Brazilian restaurant hiding out, along with I Gemelli Italian Ristorante, Olive Lebanese Fusion, Mexican (with the interesting name “Holy Frijoles”), Kasra Persian, and the Peace Pipe Hookah Lounge, with the interesting looking “House of Poets” next door (that is a place I have to check out). In a more ordinary vein, there is an excellent burger place plus the usual bunch of fast-food choices and auto-parts stores. There’s even a car wash called the “Rubber Ducky,” a coin shop, and an inline Hockey Arena.

This is what I found in one drive-through. Obviously, this is an area worth a little more exploration. I think I need to have a plan and write about it. Stick around.

Veggie Garden

Veggie Garden. The parking lot is full of a lot of very aggressive sounding parking signs.

Not surprisingly, it was very similar to the Veggie Cafe. A small buffet offering Vegetarian versions of standard Asian dishes. This one was a little more intent on duplicating the taste of meat dishes – for example some of the dishes were labeled as “chicken” or “beef” though they were made of tofu or other soy.

I like it, the service was friendly and very good (no table piled with papers, no grumpy owner). I guess, to sum up:

Advantages of Veggie Garden

  • Friendly Service
  • More ordinary tasting food
  • Closer to the library
  • Better beverage selection

Advantages of Veggie Cafe

  • Slightly more adventurous food
  • Closer to my house
  • Very slightly better prices
  • Parking is less of a hassle

The same:

  • Decor (not very good)
  • Customers (interesting and diverse)
  • General idea/concept
  • Everything else

Are two choices better than one? Why eat meat again?

Suma Veggie Cafe

I remember when we first thought about moving from Mesquite to Richardson. When was that? Seven years ago? I had found this little worn-lookng neighborhood while walking the Owens and Duck Creek trails down from the YMCA at Collins and Plano roads while Nick was in a swimming club there. It wasn’t long before we were looking at specific houses. I didn’t know much of anything about this area – so I drove and walked around the place a bit.

One question I had was if it was possible/easy to walk/ride a bike from the nearest DART station at Arapaho and Central to the neighborhood. By odometer, it was what? Two point six miles? That’s a bit long for a walk, but an easy bike ride. In measuring the route, I found a little restaurant that looked intriguing along the way. A big sign proclaimed Suma Veggie Cafe. It was nestled into a little cheap strip along Arapaho road. Next door was a Subway, then a nail salon, a few mysterious doors, and then the other end held a big, brassy Texas Bar-B-Que.


The Veggie Cafe on Arapaho in Richardson

Veggie Cafe on one end… Bar-B-Que on the other. Well, this strip had the bases covered. I figured I could walk or ride my bike home from the DART station and stop off and get something to eat halfway, take a break. Some days the Bar-B-Que would be in order, or sometimes I could get a sandwich….

But it was the Veggie Cafe that caught my eye. From the sunsetting street it seemed a bright expansive friendly place. I made a note to eat there as soon as I could.

It took seven years.

Today I puttered around the house and once my chores were at a good stopping point (they are never finished) I decided to go get something to eat at the Veggie Cafe. I have no idea why I decided to go there today, except that I’m tired of the same old stuff and am trying my best to think of something, anything new or a tiny bit different.

I checked a website and found they have a Vegan Buffet from eleven to three on Saturdays – that’s the ticket.

The place is smaller that I thought it was when viewed from the street. It is exactly half the size – the back wall is mirrored. Its décor is pretty much standard for family owned Asian restaurants in strip centers that are getting a bit long in the tooth.

One unique feature is a prime table near the front that has been given over to newspapers, a steel water-bottle, books, ledgers, cups of pens and scissors, notebooks, mail in several languages and the other usual flotsam and jetsam that a small business generates. I guess a place this small doesn’t sport an office for the paperwork – it’s odd to see it all piled up front. From reading reviews it appears there is often a grumpy owner at this spot – but he didn’t show today.

There is a huge portrait of the supreme master on the wall behind the register and a big gold smiling Buddha beside.

The buffet was fairly small, which I see as a good thing. A huge buffet, groaning under the weight of a hundred steam tables may look good, but you know that stuff has been out there a long time. I like a small selection of dishes, brought out fresh and continuously.

Veggie Cafe

The humble interior. The buffet says All Vegan (click to enlarge)

I can’t really say the place was really good but… I really enjoyed it.

What did I eat? I have no idea. There was something with tofu, something with those little corns, some cabbage in some sort of a curry sauce, a stir fry with something very tasty and completely unidentifiable, oh, and some tempura vegetables – broccoli and something else.

Would you like it? I don’t know. Probably not. The other customers were very eclectic – a young skinny pierced couple, she had bright purple hair – when I arrived they were talking to another illustrated woman who was expounding upon the evil of foie gras. There were some families, a few small groups of various cultural background, and a strange quiet frumpy older man by himself with an odd look on his face (I guess that made two of us).

I thought of the difference between an odd neighborhood place like this and a focus grouped cookie cutter chain casual dining chain. The biggest difference is in the customers – though it’s hard to put your finger on the disparity. Like the restaurant itself, the customers were all a little quiet, a little ragged, more familiar than fashionable.

I want to go back. I won’t wait seven years.