Fine vegetarian/vegan cuisine at Raleigh’s Irregardless Cafe’ [classic article]

Whether you are a vegetarian or vegan or even none of the above, Irregardless Cafe’ is a wonderful find. Irregardess’ owner and “Chef Emmeritus” Arthur Gordon has been running the successful business for 35 years. He describes himself as “an old hippie” who first became a vegetarian to support his conscientious objector efforts during the Vietnam War.

He combines his lifelong love for the area with his pursuit of wellness knowledge, mystical studies and traditional Jewish love of the home to create his menu. I’m glad I got to try it!

First off — let’s put this right out there — the menu used to be all vegetarian, but has a few chicken and lots of local fish things on there. A business decision! There’s always going to be the one person in the group who doesn’t “believe” in vegetarian dishes. You know the type. They think they’ll still be hungry or something. The truth is, we’d all, including planet Earth, be healthier if at least once in a while, we’d fill up on veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains.

Gordon is old-school, in that he doesn’t believe in taking vegan items and making them into fake this or that. No Tofurky here. I never liked that stuff, either. I don’t like the chemicals or salt used to beef up the flavor, so to speak. Gordon doesn’t believe in loading you up with an unhealthy salt content, either. He also speaks in terms of “getting all your colors,” which I do too all the time! No, it’s not an MC reference. It’s about eating a variety of colors across the spectrum every day, to assure that you get all your healthy phytonutrients.

Gordon has a chemistry background and still attends many seminars at universities and through the State of North Carolina to learn about experimental cooking, sustainability.

Irregardless Cafe’ has live music every night — like acoustic, alt-indie, blues, etc. — and a dance band on Saturdays. They also offer the occasional cooking class.

You know how a restaurant might have several fine salads, but the side salad that comes with your entree’ is the Cinderella of the bunch? Not here. You can choose from any of the salads, including the ones with all the fruit, cheese and nut goodies, to accompany your meal.

I learned a food trick from Mr. Gordon. It’s not really cooking advice. . . it might more be characterized as “what to do with leftovers”: tabouli mixed into mashed potatoes tastes like German potato salad, what with the vinegar and all.

Irregardless Cafe’ has an appetizer on the menu called “Vegan Sex”. Did that get your attention? It sure did mine. It’s Stacked “salad” layering sliced avocado, oranges with a shallot dressing, quinoa tabouli (tossed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, & parsley), mashed sweet potatoes, and lime juice. Served on Jezebels’ tomatillo sauce. It’s cool, rich and satisfying. Get some.

Okay, enough of that.

Here’s another cooking tip from Gordon: when you make egg salad, grate the egg yolks seperately from the whites. Add your mustard and mayo to the yolks, then add the whites. Then, your egg salad won’t be goopy! I have a relative who makes the worst, goopy egg salad. Not cute.

Irregardless Cafe’ serves matzo at Passover. I wish my grandparents were still alive! Well, they’d be between 106 and 120 if they were. They wouldn’t go out during Passover, because the Bible doesn’t say “just refrain from eating leavened products” during the holiday, but you must also actively eat matzo.

I also learned that in Canada — Mrs. Gordon is Canadian — the Anglos rush their dinner in an hour or hour and a half, while the Francos take 3 hours, minimum. Hmm! Food for thought.

The seasonings and flavors at Irregardless Cafe’ are delicate and natural. Nothing’s made too hot to handle — some veggie restaurants do that, to create artificial excitement, I guess. A lower salt content allows the natural flavors to shine through.

I had an appointment — so Anglo of me! — so I was not able to try the apple-almond tart with salted caramel. I’m still upset about that. It’s, and Mr. Gordon will understand what I mean when I say this, a shanda.

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