Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Full Plate Cafe - Come for the vegetarian grub...and just the vegetarian grub

Although I'm far from becoming a vegetarian anytime soon I welcome, nay, get downright excited about the cuisine. As I've mentioned before, I grew up on a lot of healthy meat-free foods. I've always said, "If you can make bulgar wheat taste good, you can make ANYTHING taste good". Now, you won't find me admitting this very often, but apparently, in this case, I might be wrong. You see, the hubby and I went to a little place called A Full Plate Cafe last week where the vegetarian fare was to die for, and the chicken was downright murdered. It seems, they have disproved my theory.

"Taste, taste, taste". Gordon Ramsey rams this saying down the throat of every chef he critiques. If I were to adopt a way of life based on a saying, perhaps this would be the saying I would choose. Of course he's talking about tasting food as you cook it and most certainly before you serve it to paying customers (if I molded my life after this saying it would be more like "eat everything, eat everything, eat everything" but you get the idea). Personally, I taste my food during it's cooking process often (ok, very often). It might not be the best way to maintain your weight (damn you summer clothes!) but it IS the best way to maintain the quality of the food you're cooking. So where am I going with this you ask? Well, I had some of the worst cooked chicken at A Full Plate Cafe last week and I can't imagine that the chef tasted it before it went out...or for that matter...has tasted chicken in a long time.
A Full Plate Cafe's website contains a lot of info. In between paragraphs about why they chose to paint the walls "concord grape purple" and a little bio about the owner's past, they mention that the restaurant was designed to be a place where vegetarians and meat eaters alike could enjoy a meal. I applaud that idea since I, myself, have a vegan brother. What a good concept! However, there might be a problem with execution. The co-owner says she's a vegetarian. I have no idea whether the chefs are or are not vegetarian, but I would be willing to bet they are. Again. I have no problems with vegetarians EXCEPT that they can't taste the meat they're cooking, and in turn, might serve sub-par meat fare. **please note...I'm not sure if any of this is the case...I AM, however, sure that both my chicken and my husband's chicken were overcooked into oblivion...and am simply assuming that this is the problem**

The vegetarian aspects of this meal were wonderful! We shared the fried green tomatoes to start (as pictured above). They were crispy, packed with flavor and served with some good quality mozzarella and a bed of greens. We practically licked the plate clean.

For my main I chose the Greek platter with chicken and falafel and the hubby ordered the chicken and waffles. We shared a side of braised cabbage and white beans.

Ok. I hate writing bad reviews. Honestly. I almost didn't write this review because I didn't know how to describe our chicken, but the other aspects of the meal were so good I felt the critisizm was constructive. My platter was filled with fresh veggies, a lovely warm piece of flatbread (of the whole wheat variety), good quality feta, some PERFECTLY cooked quinoa (a grain), a few balls of decent falafel...and what looked like chicken jerky. Being a long time member of the clean plate club I hated leaving the chicken behind as I ate the rest of my meal but it had to be done. It was practically inedible.

Nick's chicken on his chicken and waffles plate unfortunately followed suit. His waffle was fine and the sweet bbq/maple syrup was delicious, however his chicken was fried to within' an inch of it's life. He said he couldn't imagine how one could overcook fried chicken THAT much, unless they had dropped it in the fryer prior to us sitting down at our table.

Now this is why writing a poor review abut the chicken hurts...the side of braised cabbage was sublime! It was smokey and creamy and perfectly seasoned. It had some bite but was tender to the tooth. It was one of the best cabbage dished I've ever had (including the million sides of cabbage I had in Germany). Whoever made this dish has talent. Honestly. **I wish I took a better picture, but trust me, it was delightful**

So where do we go from here? Do we return and only eat the vegetarian fare? I might do just that. Do we go back and give them one more chance at cooking the proteins and hope that our chicken debacle was a fluke? Probably not. It it were my restaurant I think I might throw caution to the wind and remove meat from the menu entirely. There aren't a lot of good vegetarian restaurants around these days that meat eaters would be happy visiting, but I'm telling you right now, even a crazy carnivore like my husband would have been happy with a full plate of that cabbage and white beans for supper.

When all is said and done I hope that the Full Plate Cafe sticks with what it does best, and starts doling out full plates of amazing vegetarian fare. I promise...the meat will not be missed.

A Full Plate Cafe
1009 N. Bodine St.
Philadelphia PA 19123
A Full Plate Cafe on Urbanspoon

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