Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Maggie’s Vegetarian Café

Maggie’s Vegetarian Café
311 North 8th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508
QISA(4433), 8-11$, Vegetarian (Vegan-Friendly)

I am not particularly fond of Nebraska. It’s not just the flatness of the landscape and endless monotonic farmland. The state lacks any discernible geologic personality. I remember driving across Nebraska decades ago, struggling to stay awake on the endless highway. It was painful, even worse than driving through Kansas. At least Kansas had the occasional suicidal tumbleweed bounding across the road to attack your bumper. Nebraska only had corn.

Even the University of Nebraska failed to make the best out of a bad situation. Their mascot could have faced this ennui with something ironically lethal like the Nebraska Lions, or Cougars, or even Ragweed. No, instead they chose Cornhuskers, which are typically whiny high school students taking on their first summer job detassling corn in the hot sun. "Shuck them!" is probably not the best football chant.

Lincoln, the capital city, is quiet, calm, friendly, easily drivable, and – consequentially -- rather dull. The downtown area lacks the glitz of Minneapolis, the historic charm of St. Paul, the green space of Indianapolis, the bustle of Chicago, or even the urban decay of Detroit. The entire downtown feels forgotten. And in the middle of this urban tundra, in fact blending in with the tundra, is the Haymarket District.

The Haymarket District is a fun, trendy area of restaurants, shops, and hotels that are way too cool for it’s locale. Walking through the District is like reading anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, you have to ignore the total lack of style and imagery and focus on the content. In the middle of the Haymarket District is Maggie’s Vegetarian Café.

Given my feelings about Lincoln and Nebraska in general, Maggie’s is a genuine find. The restaurant is small, comprising only three to four tables in a sparsely decorated room, but it combines a progressive, organic, vegetarian vision with wonderfully creative, colorful, and tasty dishes.
The restaurant describes itself as an, “all-natural, from-scratch kitchen that uses local, organic, and non-GMO ingredients. We strive to use only seasonal foods sourced locally for the best taste from the ground to the plate.” And in my humble opinion, they succeed.

I opted not to try the Avocado Melt Wrap (voted The Best Sandwich in Nebraska in the Food Network Magazine in September 2012), even though I love avocado. Instead, I decided to judge them on a non-award winning sandwich, the vegan Baked Tofu Wrap (pictured above). The wrap contained oven-baked organic tofu, onions, mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, organic carrots, and a house-made sweet mustard dressing. I found the wrap aesthetically made, showcasing all of it’s colorful ingredients in an artful palette. Or is it palate? The tortilla was thin enough to hold the wrap together without overpowering the ingredients, and the honey mustard dressing was tasty.

To complement my meal, I ordered an Izze pomegranate soda and a chia allspice muffin. Because I have never in my life heard of a chia allspice muffin. The muffin had a good consistency and blended the chia well ( I wasn’t overly aware of eating seeds), but frankly it could have used just a little more sugar. Or maybe some more organic, unrefined cane sweetener.

All in all, I heartily recommend Maggie’s, and now I’m looking forward to coming back to Lincoln to try out their award-winning avocado sandwich. I just don’t want to drive here. Lord, do I not want to drive here.

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