Tuesday, March 22, 2011

mokabe's coffeehouse

back in the old days when we were smokers and it was legal to light up indoors, we would stop by mokabe's for a little afternoon tea and a smoky treat.  these days, of course, the coffeehouse is smoke-free (although if you're so inclined, they have a little deck space set aside for you).  we've been eyeing their vegetarian menu for a while, and a lunch date with mokabe's has been long overdue. 

tower grove

mokabe's has a certain unfussy cuteness to it.  nothing feels very self-conscious here, and unlike other coffeeshops, it keeps the clutter to a minimum.  some mismatched furniture, a political-bumper-sticker-dressed fridge, a checkered floor and bright red walls give the place some character, but the real personality comes from the clientele.  this feels like a place where you can be a regular but still have some anonymity, and this is clearly a neighborhood gathering place.  mokabe's has a wide audience, and we think that reflects really well on them: just about anyone seems comfortable here.

our interaction with staff has always been minimal and, to be honest, we've never been too impressed by their... hospitality.  at times, we have been made to feel like we were an inconvenience.  we're not sure what it is, but we just shrug off the icy indifference and remember that we're supporting a local business.  we just chalk it up to indie coffeehouse protocol.

we started with the hummus plate, served with warm pita and scallions and feta.  our first few bites were good enough, but this little dish really grew on us.  it's deceptively simple, but that's what makes it work.  scallions were a nice change of pace, primarily because the substitution of onion for sodium kept it feeling pretty clean.  the portion size is just right, too, so don't be fooled by the photo.

the veggie reuben came next, and this one was definitely a letdown.  we sillily assumed that although the menu made no mention of a protein, it must come with something.  it didn't, so it's basically a reuben without the beef.  it isn't bad; it's just that we've had so much better--chicago diner's is better than the real thing, and the brentwood whole foods makes a pretty bangin' version, too.  the biggest problem is that the protein balances the tart sweetness of the sauerkraut and the 1000 island, so without it, it's just too tangy.  and although the bread was delicious, it was too buttery.  next time we'll order it dry.

finally, we concluded with the blue mac veggie burger, a housemade match meat patty served with blue's special sauce.  it's an old-school burger: onion, pickle, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, kaiser roll.  like the hummus, our first few bites were satisfactory but then it really started to grow on us.  it was as if the more bites we took, the more we felt ourselves transported back to poolside birthday parties (except the burgers of our childhood were never this yummy).  patties composed of match are always consistent in texture and moisture, and flavor soaks into them like the dye from a pair of rogue red underpants in a load of your husband's white undershirts: you can't miss it.  we couldn't even begin to guess at what's in blue's special sauce, but we like it.  it's a fun burger, and all the more delicious for its simplicity.

like the establishment itself, the food was no-frills, straightforward.  this isn't a slight--we dig the diner menu, and it fits mokabe's attitude.  the food is satiating, but won't bog you down.  we're not sure when we'll be back with places like sweetart and local harvest just around the corner, but mokabe's is worth a visit if you have a hankering for a coffee, a low-key meeting place, and some good eats.


vegetarian-friendly score:

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