List: 7 Dishes That Died in Vain
I work in the restaurant industry (Digital Marketing Strategist for Hal Smith Restaurants, for the record), and I know that restaurants change their menus for a variety of reasons. Maybe it's to keep things fresh, maybe it's because specific ingredients are no longer in season, or maybe it's simply because certain dishes no longer make economic sense. I get it, I really do. However, that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking when your favorite items disappear from a menu with seemingly no reason at all.
There's always a reason, of course, and I even know the reasons for why some of the following creations are no longer available. Regardless, I think these poor, dead dishes deserve their place in history and should be memorialized properly. Consider this a very late wake, if you will (and I'll be crossing my fingers for one or more resurrections).
#1 - Cauliflower Al Pastor Tacos via Revolución
You might be saying, "but Emily, Cauliflower Al Pastor is still on Revolución's menu." Wrong. A Cauliflower Al Pastor steak usurped my beloved tacos. Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Cauliflower steak, in my humble opinion, is a trend that needs to die; it's basically a cauliflower head that's been cut in half, seasoned and grilled, and it's boring as hell. I've had cauliflower steaks at restaurants a couple of times, and we even tried to make it at home once, and I just don't get it. For one, cauliflower steaks are not very filling, and they're usually kind of pricey for what they are (the one at Revolución is $12, for example, and the one at Kitchen No. 324 is $14). And secondly, you can do much more interesting things with cauliflower...like turn it into tacos.
The cauliflower in Revolución's former tacos was small and bite sized, and the marinade fully encompassed every tasty morsel. It was served in a corn tortilla and topped with pineapple, radish, caramelized onions and cilantro. It was, simply put, glorious, and two of these babies were quite filling indeed.
Now, full disclosure, I have not actually had the Cauliflower Al Pastor Steak at Revolución, and I know many of you are probably saying I shouldn't knock it before I try it (you can see a photo of it here). But I just can't bring myself to do it. I go to a taqueria because I want tacos, not a hunk of cauliflower. And that's a statement coming from a cauliflower-loving vegetarian, btw.
Are you there, Revolución? It's me, Emily. Please bring back the Cauliflower Al Pastor Tacos!
5 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#2 - Vegetales Tacos via Revolución
While the Cauliflower Al Pastor Taco was my favorite, there was another excellent vegetarian taco on Revolución's menu that got the axe: the Vegetales Taco. This one had cumin roasted carrots, chipotle crema, toasted almonds, cilantro and onion. I believe this was a short-lived item on their menu, and I honestly think I only had it once or twice, but it obviously made an impression on me.
I take the loss of these tacos hard because they were so unique. No place else in the city was doing vegetarian tacos with unique ingredients like this, and now nobody is (but gotta give Big Truck Tacos a solid shout out for their Crispy'cado Taco). I mean, a carrot taco? Who would've thought? It sounds strange, but it just worked so well.
I know I've been ragging on Revolución pretty hard, but I do still think they're a high-quality restaurant. It's like I'm not mad, just disappointed, you know? With this menu change, they did add Cheese Enchiladas and a vegetarian Oaxacan Pizza to the list, and I'm sure those are both quite good. The point though, is this: I can get cheese enchiladas practically everywhere, but I can't get Cauliflower Al Pastor or Vegetales Tacos anywhere.
3.5 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#3 - Spaghettini via Picasso Cafe
The loss of the Spaghettini at Piccaso Cafe hit me hard. For those who aren't aware, spaghettini is incredibly similar to spaghetti, but it's thicker and has a hole in the middle like a tube, meaning it soaks up sauce with ease. It was a super simple dish: the aforementioned noodle plus almond sundried tomato pesto, spinach, crushed red chili, burrata cheese and basil. I probably could make something very, very similar to this at home, but I know in my heart that it just wouldn't be the same. Picasso has tons of other excellent items on their menu, but the simplicity of this one just made it really special.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Picasso Cafe catered our wedding reception. When we sat down with Chef Ryan Parrott to plan the menu for our event, I asked him why he took the Spaghettini off the restaurant menu. His response: the burrata was expensive, and the dish just wasn't selling. And hey, man, that's fair. I don't like it, but I get it.
4.5 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#4 - Loaded Nachos via The Loaded Bowl
When The Loaded Bowl first opened their brick-and-mortar store back in 2016, I was super excited to try it because I was anxious to see how they'd expand their menu beyond the offerings of the food truck. They debuted with a pretty sizable menu, and it was awesome (more details here). Besides just "loaded bowls," they were now offering wraps, tacos, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads and starters, like their Loaded Nachos.
The Loaded Nachos were made with corn tortilla chips, vegan refried beans, lentil chorizo, cashew cheese sauce, mixed greens, fresh pico, vegan sour cream and guacamole. So why do I mourn the loss of this fairly basic dish, you might ask? Because of the lentil chorizo. The details of the lentil chorizo have faded from my memory with time, but it was a total game changer. I definitely want to try making my own sometime, as it totally upped the taco game and vegetarian-based Mexican food game in general.
Maybe a year after The Loaded Bowl opened, they changed their approach; they were going back to the basics, back to the original intention of "loaded bowls." Just judging by the comments, people (myself included) weren't entirely pleased. The nachos were gone, the tacos, sandwiches and burgers were gone, and everything would make an appearance now and then as a special.
Maybe The Loaded Bowl bit off more than it could chew with the majorly expanded menu, which is fair enough. Maybe one day they'll open up the floodgates again, if even just a crack. But I can tell you this; I go to The Loaded Bowl far less often that I used to.
3 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#5 - Frito Chili Pie Wrap via The Loaded Bowl
It was the chili that made this thing. I used to get a bowl of chili from The Loaded Bowl probably two or three times a month. It was my absolute favorite thing. There's actually quite a few places with excellent vegetarian chili in town (I'm partial to Urban Johnnie's veggie chili), but The Loaded Bowl's was a cut above the rest.
The Frito Chili Pie Wrap was one of those things that you just had to try: a flour tortilla stuffed with homemade three-bean chili, cashew cheese, roasted sweet potatoes and corn chips. The sweet potatoes helped to soak up some of the juiciness from the chili, and the whole thing was a rich, decadent, perfect mess. Maybe this was a little too out there for some people, but I thought it was brilliant.
Long story short: bring back the chili, please!
4.5 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#6 - The Epic Sandwich via The Red Cup
I 100% did not see this one coming. My office is located in Norman, and since I'm not in the OKC area like I was with my previous job, the only chance I have to enjoy some of my local favorites is on half-day Fridays. So one Friday maybe a month or two ago, it was time to leave work and I was calling in a to-go order at The Red Cup. As always, I asked for the Epic Sandwich. Then I received a slap in the face. "Oh, that's not on the menu anymore," the guy told me. "We don't have the carrots to make it."
For reference, the Epic Sandwich was essentially a vegetarian reuben, made with house sauerkraut, mushrooms, carrot lox, cheese, spinach and good burger sauce on marble rye. The house sauerkraut and the carrot lox were standouts on this baby. I'd never tasted anything like it, and I ordered it every chance I could get.
So I'm wondering if the Red Cup maybe ordered their carrot lox from a supplier? When you google it, it sounds simple enough: thinly sliced carrots marinaded in smoked salt, brown sugar, black pepper, and liquid smoke. The guy I talked to specifically said, "we don't have the carrots to make this," so a supplier issue seems like an obvious conclusion. I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this one...I might try making carrot lox myself, but I'm definitely going to ask the Red Cup about the mystery behind the offing of the Epic Sandwich.
5 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.
#7 - Cheese Enchiladas via West on Western
I thought these cheese enchiladas were amazing and definitely worth a mention, but I can live without them. For a brief period of time, West had a "West Goes Western" (or something like that) section on their menu, which featured various Mexican dishes, including these cheese enchiladas. I loved these enchiladas because they reminded me of New Mexican food, which is one of my favorite cuisines in the world. They were topped with sour cream sauce + hatch green chili sauce and served with Mexican lime rice & green chili pinto beans, and the entire trifecta was outstanding. I believe this was available before West was bought by Provision Concepts; either way, whoever made these enchiladas needs to have their own Mexican restaurant.
But now, West has another new menu with absolutely fantastic vegetarian options, including Vegan Bolognese and a crazy good veggie burger. You lose some, you win some.
2 out of 5 on the Heartbroken Scale.