Note: This is the second of two reviews conducted by TVS at this restaurant.
901 W. Morgan St.
Review Date: (prior to 1997)
The Irregardless Cafe has been welcoming customers since 1975 (although a fire closed it for an extended period just a few years ago). The proprietors, Arthur and Sanford Gordon, announce in the menu that their "goal has been to serve the finest and freshest foods available." They also espouse the desire to "form a community that enriches the quality of life in Raleigh." We like these sentiments. And we liked Irregardless Cafe.
The restaurant is an open and friendly place with booths along the walls and a big picture window facing onto Morgan Street. On our visit, a guitar and stand-up bass provided pleasant, unobtrusive background music. The blonde wood tables and appointments set a cheery tone and the "Smoking outside only" preserves that healthy, wholesome atmosphere. This is a comfortable and relaxing place.
Irregardless offers several "starters" - homemade bread (20 cents a slice), homemade yogurt ($3.50), fruit salad ($4.75), hummus and pita ($4.75), and soups ($2.50 or $3.50). We were happy with the two soups we tried. The curried lentil had "plenty of lentils...That's good," said John Meckley. I had the vegetable chowder with cheddar and scallions, and it was excellent. It was milk-based and had corn and new potatoes with the skin left on. Obviously fresh, and very flavorful.
There were several salads (dinner up to Chef's), loaded with the stuff folks think of when they hear "vegetarian": alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds, Asian Greens, olives, seasonal stuff. (We didn't try a salad but they looked great.) Jeremy Horne groused that the fruit salad was mislabeled "vegan" (since it contained yogurt or cottage cheese). There was also a Tabouli Salad Platter (bulghur wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppermint, parsley, scallions, spices, pita, $4.35), that was properly labeled "vegan". (We didn't try it either.)
For our main course, we could choose from eight sandwiches or two (out of four) entrees from their daily offering. (One vegetarian and one vegan entree is always included in the daily fare, I was informed, with the warning to "come early" since they do sell out.) We tried the Pasta Provencal (penne pasta tossed with a sauce of zucchini, red and green peppers, squash, eggplant, onion, mushrooms, calamata olives, herbs, and tomatoes, $9.50). Linda Meckley was expansive regarding the latter: "Exceptional! Lots of filling, and the flavor was just right." Jeremy was reticent regarding the former, but I can tell you that it looked and smelled wonderful and he finished it all.
The rest of us were happy with sandwiches. The Beanburger (pocket sandwich with "burger" of lentils, carrots, rolled oats, celery, onions, brown rice, with Middle Eastern and Mexican spices, dressed with onion, tomato, sprouts, ketchup, mayo, mustard, $4.00) was very good, according to Meg Gallagher. She liked everything else too (she sampled freely) and planned to return despite the half-hour drive. Liz Nulton mentioned the distance (from Durham) too, but also positively: "The Camille's Caraway Sandwich (melted Swiss cheese, tomato slices and caraway seeds on rye bread with sprouts, mustard and mayo, $4.35) was great! I would drive to Raleigh just for it!" I should know better, but I ordered the California Pocket Sandwich (whole wheat pita filled with sliced avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, Monterey jack cheese, lemon tahini, and sprouts, $4.50), and had to struggle to keep it together. It was fresh and tasty, but my search for the non-disintegrating pita pocket continues...
The desserts were big (and pricey). I tried the Apple Crisp, and it was huge, two or three inches deep and four or five inches across. I liked it fine, but the crust was so hard I had to use the handle of my knife to crack it open. The Chocolate Chambord Pie ($4.25) was rich and chocolatey.
You may have heard (or believe) that there is no such word as "irregardless." There is such a word, of course, but as my dictionary observed, "it is still a long way from general acceptance." Its employment here confirms for me the whimsical attitude which the restaurant embodies. Drop by, relax, enjoy a pleasant, healthy meal. Let your hair down and don't take everything so seriously for a while (it certainly aids digestion). You will be glad you did.