Wednesday, April 13, 2011

High Noon Cafe - Jackson

How often do you try and eat outside your comfort zone? Do you stick with the tried, true, and familiar or are you constantly seeking something new and exciting? I’ve known a few people that would eat a hamburger for lunch each and every day of the week, but if you mentioned the word sushi, they would clam up like a scared turtle. Conversely, if you’re an adventurous eater, there’s very little cuisine that falls outside your comfort zone. The world is your oyster and you can will yourself to try almost everything at least once. Well, that’s what I tell myself. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn’t hold very many personal culinary danger zones but there is one exception: the world of the Jackson vegetarian.

To the meatless eaters of the Jackson metro, pickings are fairly slim. Yes, almost every menu has a salad, and, if you're lucky, you may even find some vegetables that aren't cooked with pork. The veggie minded diner can also have some luck at ethnic outposts like Spice Avenue, Bombay Bistro, or Saigon. However, there’s really only one place in town that is completely meatless. That’s the High Noon Café inside of the Rainbow Foods Co-op.

The High Noon Café isn’t a large restaurant. There are just a few booths and tables inside but what they do have a huge number of awards. On the back wall, next to the kitchen entrance, is a goldmine of Jackson Free Press “Best of Jackson” awards. Being, to my knowledge, the only meatless restaurant in town does lend yourself to more than a few “best vegetarian” awards. With six wins on the trot, I’m surprised the category hasn’t been retired or renamed in their honor.

For the semi-carnivorous, knowing where to start at The High Noon Café is a challenge. I've had my fair share of garden burgers in the past and they just don't cut the mustard. So I decided to start small and during my first visit, I took advantage of the daily special and ordered a bowl of squash soup.Canon G12 pictures 096
Tinted an odd shade of green, this soup was exactly what you’d expect from a squash-centric soup.
Canon G12 pictures 095
There was a nice squash flavor and plenty of toothsome chunks of celery but the whole bowl was too watery. I wish the soup had been partly pureed just to have a little substance and creaminess.

A second visit brought another foray into the High Noon Café’s repertoire of soups.
This time it was Italian vegetable and I won’t lie, I liked it. With carrots, tomatoes, green beans, corn, celery, and topped with a touch of thyme this was a hearty soup. I just couldn’t stop the nagging voice in the back of my head. All I heard was “this would be better if they had cooked it with a ham bone.” Even though I was trying to enjoy the vegetarian dish, I had to agree.

When it came to entrees, my endeavors weren’t nearly as successful.
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I love tofu and I’m a big fan of spaghetti with garlic bread but this dish just didn’t make the grade.
Canon G12 pictures 109
Beneath the layer of tofu and Parmesan, there was the simple combination of spaghetti and tomato sauce, but it was too damn watery. If the tomato and onion had any flavor to give to the noodles, it was all drowned in a pool of undrained pasta.
Canon G12 pictures 107
As for the chunks of tofu, not amazing but not a bad spaghetti meat substitute. I prefer more of an Asian style approach to tofu but when combined with the nutty garlic bread, things were looking pretty good. It’s just a shame the spaghetti and sauce were so watery; I’m not saying I’d prefer this to a traditional spaghetti and bolognese but it’s a nice break from the ordinary.

Speaking of disappointing dishes, my second visit brought me face to face with the High Noon Bowl.
Essentially a bowl of brown rice with steamed vegetables and baked tofu with a choice of teriyaki, sesame ginger, or spicy Thai peanut sauce, this was a filling lunch.
Well, filling and bland, even with the sesame ginger sauce, there just wasn’t anything exciting in this bowl. Sure there was a nice variety of vegetables with carrots, cauliflower, edamame, and broccoli, but it was under seasoned and boring.

One thing at The High Noon Cafe that is definitely worth a look is their carrot cake.
It may look like a sad imitation of pacman but there is a bounty of flavors at work here.
Each bite left me wondering, as I tasted applesauce, cinnamon, and even a little banana bread.
The icing did leave me in a quandary, it was rich yet flat, there just wasn’t the depth of flavor you expect in a cake icing. Thankfully a fair amount of shredded coconut did provide an extra layer of texture and flavor not to mention visual appeal so the dessert worked.

Even with a few mediocre dishes, you have to admire what Chef Carrero is doing with The High Noon Café. Serving an all vegetarian menu in the heart of the Deep South, where it can’t be a side of vegetables without deep frying and/or pork involved, takes gumption and they do a decent job of it. They certainly have carved a niche in the Jackson landscape, but for my money, if I’m on the prowl for an all veggie dish, I’ll stick to Indian food. A vegetarian curry may not have the simplicity of the High Noon Café but I’ll never want for flavor.

High Noon Café Address & Information
High Noon Cafe on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

Wow, that looks absolutely terrible. The spaghetti water was particularly unsightly.

Love the blog though. If I ever make a trip to mississippi I will be sure to visit here first. Keep up the good work!

BC said...

Shoulda tried the special of the day and/or the high noon burger.