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The mother of vegetarian food

Steven Senn

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I am not a vegan. Or even a vegetarian, far from it in fact. I’m a meat eater – your prototypical carnivorous omnivore. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the occasional meat-free cuisine, like pasta with marinara sauce or a veggie sandwich, it just means I’m not programmed to eat tofu-based meat substitutes made to taste like chicken or beef when I can eat the real thing. My brain tells me that’s silly, and I try to listen to it.

That’s what I like about new vegetarian restaurant Mother’s menu, there are no tofu nuggets or fake bacon slices, just vegan and vegetarian dishes made to celebrate the flavors of creatively prepared vegetables in familiar ways. A burger doesn’t have to be a meat substitute tofu burger, it can be a carrot nut burger; and it can be delicious.

The restaurant itself is very clean and hip looking, you might even say hipsterish, if that were a word. It’s got a bit of a Portland or Seattle bistro vibe to it – kind of intimidating because you feel less cool than the other patrons and especially the staff. It’s located just a couple doors down from Sacramento’s legendary Crest Theater, on a reinvigorated block of downtown K Street thanks to the addition of hot spots District 30, Dive Bar and Pizza Rock. This formerly drab block of K Street is suddenly cool and hip. Mother’s staff is really cool and hip too; you just know they are in cool and hip rock bands, something like Grizzly Bear or Bon Iver.

That’s not to say that the staff wasn’t friendly and capable, because they were – the bearded gentleman at the counter who took my order was more than willing to offer food suggestions and refill my water. I ordered from him at the counter, got a number and another employee ran the food out to me about 10 minutes later. It was a beautiful day outside, so I decided to dine outside on the patio and people watch.

I was actually in the mood for vegan food, if that’s even possible for a meat eater – I’d given up booze and had been about a week into a detox cleanse so eating healthy just seemed like the next logical step. I ordered a couple of vegetable sides, the aforementioned carrot nut burger, and a cast-iron skillet full of chili served with jalapeño corn bread.

The food all came out at the same time and after snapping a few pictures for this review, I dug in. The first of the sides, blistered shishito peppers ($5), was a handful of finger-length peppers charred and tossed in smoked-salt seasoned oil and a touch of lemon juice. They had a nice, sweet flavor that packed a lot of flavor and very tolerable heat. Not a bad starter. (Not bad, but did I just pay $5 for that?)

The next side, pan roasted delta asparagus with chimichurri ($6), met my expectations of being delicious. The asparagus were cooked perfectly and topped with a garlicky chimichurri sauce. The sauce was pretty spicy – every so often I’d find a really hot spot that would take a few chugs of water to recover from.

The carrot nut burger ($10) was hands down my favorite. It had harissa ketchup, agave mustard, onions, Portobello mushrooms, and pickles on top of the cheese-covered carrot nut spread, which was almost like a thick, pasty hummus. The whole sandwich looked a bit structurally unsound, sort of like a sloppy joe, so I dove in without inspecting it too much and fell in love with its mélange of flavors, which just seemed to work together and make culinary sense.

The chili ($12) was a bit of a disappointment. It was bland tasting and thin in consistency, basically a bowl of poorly seasoned pinto beans and pieces of red onion peppers. Maybe I got an unlucky scoop or maybe chili needs carne. The shredded jack cheese on top helped give the chili a needed flavor boost and the jalapeño corn bread served with it is pretty good.

Mother is the type of place to go to if you aren’t that hungry. The portions are small and a bit pricey, but the ingredients are undoubtedly fresh and high quality.

Steven Senn can be reached at [email protected]

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