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Veggie, but Not Vegging

Dinner at One World Proves the Vegetarian Café is Growing Strong

Christopher Myers

One World Café Johns Hopkins

Address:100 W. University Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21210-

More on One World Café Johns Hopkins.

By Richard Gorelick | Posted 8/4/2004

As one of this city’s very few nonethnic restaurants that offers lots of vegan and vegetarian options, One World Café has developed a loyal and appreciative following; my vegan friend swears by their powerhouse ($4.95) and Boca burgers ($6.95), and all of us had, at one time or another, enjoyed coffee, dessert, and brunch there. But since it had been a while, or never, since any of us had sat down at One World for a full dinner, we headed in—a vegan, two fish-eating vegetarians, and an omnivore.

One World was hopping when we got there, and we had to wait for a table in the dining room. We noticed that the dining area, which steps down from the café/bar up front, now looks more cared for—more like a dining room—than previously, when it was more loungelike. The room, actually the whole place, has grown up, shrugged off a little haphazardness, without sacrificing its informal, undergraduate scrappiness—a billiards table remains, but the room doesn’t look anymore like a pool hall.

Tuesday nights are half-price burrito and quesadilla night at One World, and we think that accounts somewhat for the big crowd. Some of what we tried that night betrayed signs of an overwhelmed kitchen, and our server admitted as much. A first course of hummus, which you would have expected to fly out of the kitchen, took a good, long time; a side dish was replaced without mention. My advice is this: Unless you’re surrounded by patient and understanding people like my friends, or unless you’re going for burritos, don’t go on Tuesdays.

That hummus dip ($4.95), by the way, was worth the wait. Obviously homemade, the dip was wholesomely thick, even lumpy, with chickpeas, as though someone had learned to make it in a time before food processors. The dip is served with warm pita bread and sliced carrots, cucumber, and broccoli. Here’s a little thing that bothered me, though—that broccoli didn’t look or taste so good—even the busiest kitchen can be prepped with proper, vibrant vegetables. Blanch those babies.

One of our entrées was close to ideal. The lasagna du jour ($11.95) is prepared from scratch here every day (as in “du jour”), and it’s one of the best vegetarian versions we’ve ever met. Everything assembled and baked in perfect balance—firm noodles, gooey cheese, homemade tomato sauce, and fresh, colorful yellow squash, zucchini, and diced carrots. We got a big, shapely hunk of it, too, accompanied by a baby lettuce salad and rustic garlic bread. We were all impressed, too, with the baked enchilada rojas ($11.95), gently baked tortillas stuffed with cheddar cheese and fresh vegetables, topped with guacamole (again, fresh and homemade-tasting). But beans and rice, chips, almost anything, would have been more welcome than the off-tasting vegetables that accompanied the enchiladas.

We had good fortune with some of the vegan entrées here—Thai vegetable and tempeh sauté ($10.95) or the steamed vegetables and ginger-baked organic tofu ($7.95). But we can’t recommend at all the ambitious Indian plate ($12.95). Yellow lentils and vegetables were mushy, basmati rice was undercooked, and “baked Tandoori tofu” was just some sauce on tofu. Some of the dish’s problems may have been due to kitchen stress—I wouldn’t try it again, though. A vegetarian dish worth trying are the “crabcakes” ($11.95), seasoned, zucchini-based patties. Actually, we struggled to identify the cakes’ other fillers—don’t vegetarians want to know if they’re getting protein?—but they did taste good, and the cakes held up as a fancy vegetarian meal. (It was here that coleslaw was replaced, without explanation, with a tomato salad.) At the end, the dessert case beckoned. Vegan carrot-ginger cake ($4.25) was good but not stellar, a supposedly “you’d never know” vegan version. Firm and flecked prettily with carrots, it wasn’t moist enough, and its ginger flavor didn’t come through.

Overall, dinner felt like dinner here, and I’m glad to see One World evolving, changing. I think it’s even OK to mess up as you grow— seriously, that Indian plate sucked.

Seitan worshipper

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