Saturday, May 24, 2014

Carrots 'n' Dates (Windsor)

Each morning as I drive to work, I notice a beautiful bright orange (but not too orange) sign with sleek modern lettering announcing the newly opened vegan and gluten free cafe called Carrots 'n' Dates. It's very inviting. I always want to stop and check it out, but 7:38 a.m. isn't the right time.

On my way home, I think to myself, "Now where WAS that new crunchy health food cafe?" I try craning my neck around as I pass each cross-street, hoping to see the big orange-ish sign. But I never see it. So I continue on home, only to be greeted by the same gorgeously alluring sign the next morning.

Finally on Friday I decided to turn around and retrace my route westward to find the sign. Lo and behold, the street I chose for my turn-around was the right one! Carrots 'n' Dates is on the corner of Argyle and Wyandotte Street East, in the basement of the building that houses Salute Coffee Bar and a broadcast media station.  Hint to owners of new cafe: do whatever you have to do to convince your landlord to allow signage on the other facades of the building; you are only reaching the westbound traffic on that busy thoroughfare.

I parked and peeked inside.  The first thing I saw was two people waiting for something and no staff in sight.  There was also a single pair of customers seated. So I stepped up to the other counter to peer around, only to be greeted by a stack of dirty dishes someone had left there. Oops. That's a completely forgivable offence when you are slammed, but there were staff back in the kitchen, and very few customers right at that moment.

The decor appealed to me: funkily calligraphied blackboards and rough-hewn interior paneling, reminiscent of my cousin's horse stable, following the currently very hot trend of mixing barn rustic with urban sleek.

The next thing to impress itself upon my brain were the prices.  The Asian-inspired salad (brown rice vermicelli noodles, green onions, red peppers, cabbage and sesame seeds tossed in peanut sesame dressing) is $10.50. I don't know about you, but that strikes me as rather pricy considering what you get. I took a look at the sample one in the deli case and can tell you that it's not one of those huge honking things you end up taking half of home to pack in next day's lunch. I am not one to balk at a high price if the ingredients warrant it.  I understand that a salad can be expensive if it includes, say, a generous sprinkling of a gourmet cheese or nuts.

Just for a reality check, I called Taloola Cafe to see how much a couple of their satisfying salads laden with goodies are. Their popular Blue Green (kale, blue cheese, sliced fennel, cranberries, walnuts, pear dressing) is $7.35 all in.  Taloola's Popeye (baby spinach, bell pepper, red onion, feta cheese, chopped pecans with special homemade fig dressing) will set you back just $6.75 including tax.

I took a look at the smoothie list at Carrots 'n' Dates. Their Healing Raw Juice (fresh greens and veggies) is $7.50, Power Green Smoothie $6.95, and a glass of Kombucha $6.25.  At Taloola I usually have a thick "Figlioni" smoothie for $5.10, tax included.

So I think my "sticker shock" isn't entirely unwarranted.

I ordered the $6.25 glass (looked to be about 8 oz.) of Kombucha and was surprised that it was handed to me in a clear disposable cup. Maybe I was giving off "to go" vibes since I was standing at the counter rather than sitting at a table being waited on. Strange not to be asked, though. I hope it was at least one of those new biodegradable cups that only looks like plastic, otherwise I have extra volunteer work to do this weekend just to get my karma back on track.

Since I love trying new things and Carrots 'n' Dates offers many vegan and gluten-free things I've never tasted before, I'll probably go back. But Taloola will remain my haunt--for its comfy atmosphere and rock solid consistency in prompt customer service, cleanliness and reasonable prices.

Carrots N Dates on Urbanspoon

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