Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Dining Review: Perfect falafels and more at Sahara Café

By: JL FIELDS jl.fields@gazette.com
September 27, 2017 Updated: September 27, 2017 at 2:46 pm
0
Caption +
Sahara Cafe "Veggie Plate" (Dolmas) with Pita Bread and Falafels (no Taziki for vegan option) Tuesday September 19, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

I have a fondness for Middle Eastern food, as evidenced by anyone who has read this monthly vegan column over the past three years. I also have a pretty high threshold when it comes to ambiance at restaurants. I suppose that's largely because I'm a chef, and I'm enthusiastic about food.

If it looks good and tastes good, then I'm good. And that's great, because Sahara Café isn't a destination for a meal with romantic lighting. Indeed, the tiny dining spot looks a little worse for wear if the duct-taped booth seat is any indication. But I'm going to guess it's all due to high traffic for good reason: a prime location in the heart of Manitou Springs and, more important, the food.

My first bit of advice is to not get too attached to what you see on the menu. On my first, second and third visits to Sahara Café, I had my heart set on the fava bean plate. Making that love 'em or hate 'em legume the centerpiece is inspired, if you ask me. But each time I ordered the dish, I was told they didn't have fava beans. Exasperated, I finally asked when they might expect to get them. I was told whenever they bought them, but they hadn't had them all summer.

Sahara Cafe "Veggie Plate" (Dolmas) with Pita Bread and Falafels (no Taziki for vegan option) Tuesday September 19, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.  

Fine. Let's talk about the two things I repeatedly order: the veggie plate and the falafel basket.

The veggie plate ($9.45), also referred to as dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), is a solid meal and vegan when you hold the tzatziki. This striking plate has grape leaves wrapped around rice, creamy hummus with just a hint of spice, a fresh and flavorful tabouli salad filled with bulgur, fresh parsley and mint, and crisp vegetables via a simple lettuce salad with pickled vegetables.

If you ever wondered what vegans eat, this is it: vegetables, grains and legumes. Fresh flavor from the food itself, and little tweaks such as adding pickled vegetables, add a plant-based meatiness (umami!) that feeds the senses.

Sahara Cafe "Veggie Plate" (Dolmas) with Pita Bread and Falafels (no Taziki for vegan option) Tuesday September 19, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.  

The falafel basket ($8.95) is comfort food with zero guilt. Hold the tzatziki, and you'll still have plenty to enjoy: falafel (fried chickpea patties), more of that fantastic hummus, warm pita bread (it's vegan, no whey), and sesame-seed based tahini sauce. I've had a lot of falafel in my life, and what can make or break it is the texture, which is often dry. I was overjoyed when I bit into the warm nugget to find a moist texture nestled in the crunchy, fried exterior. This is the falafel of my dreams.

Other vegan items on the menu include hummus and meze plates (each $8.95). But what you won't find is an adult beverage. Instead, throw yourself into the culture of Sahara Café and enjoy a thick Turkish coffee ($2.59) or earthy sage tea ($1.99).

When you're craving flavorful, healthy plant-based Middle Eastern food and ambiance isn't the motivator, Sahara Café's vegan offerings will satisfy whether you're dining in or carrying out. You might not find fava beans, but you will find expertly prepared, protein-rich hummus and falafel served with crisp, fresh vegetables. And really, what more do you need from a pleasing plant-based meal?

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.