Monday, March 20, 2017

THE CATFISH HOLE - Angling for Vegan Options in a Southern-Fried World

So I’m once again at a conference and they come to the “you’re on your own” lunch break.  I head to the parking lot not sure what I’ll do, amid a freezing rain down pour and a growling stomach.  Fellow attendees are nice enough to invite me to join them.  We pile into the RV and head for the Catfish Hole.

In ordering such things as green beans and fried okra, I don’t ask the right questions.  Turns out the green beans are cooked with bacon, and the batter for the core contains eggs.  Sigh.  Perhaps it was wishful thinking.  The corn on the cob is delicious – just be sure they don’t dip it in butter prior to serving.

I space about taking a photo of my plate upon arrival, and given the missteps in my ordering vegan, it’s hardly necessary, but here’s my “after” shot.  

One okra nugget left.  Corn on cob was yummy nostalgia.  Contraband hushpuppy front and center.

As you can see, I enjoyed the repast.   The pickles were also a vegan option, and I might have ordered a baked potato – naked of course, or its cousin, an order of fries.  I could have gone for the dessert of mandarin oranges as well.  Lots of options.  I just have to be a little creative and inquisitive.

And then there was that complimentary plate of hushpuppies.   They’re fried balls of fluffy cornbread that are made with eggs.  The Catfish Hole is known for these little bites of crispy fried heaven and I down two of them.  Delicious.  When you’re the face of veganism, sometimes a little compromise gets you a lot of cooperation and appreciation.

But the luncheon is anything but a loss for the vegan cause.  The questions I do ask start a conversation around the table about why I’ve adopted this lifestyle.  I’ve found the conversations about the plant-based diet are much more pleasant these days than in years past.  Or maybe I’ve mellowed.  People seem genuinely curious and respectful, rather than argumentative and obsessed with whether or not I am getting enough protein.  Times have changed.

The management is equally receptive, gladly answering my questions about ingredients (belated though they might have been) and one of them even offers to pass my business card on to a vegan relative.  I couldn’t  ask for a more pleasant experience all around.

The Catfish Hole
4127 West Weddington Drive
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Monday, March 6, 2017

HELLO NINJA - Rogers, Arkansas

Like so many vegan finds, I just stumbled on this one.  Attending a conference where lunch break came and I suddenly found myself alone, I went out prowling.  Saw an Asian place - a good bet for vegan cuisine.

Hello Ninja features sushi rolls and grilled Japanese main dishes.  I tried to experience both sides, and the menu made it easy with little leaf symbols alongside vegetarian dishes.
Asparagus roll with a side of lacy beets

I can recommend the asparagus sushi rolls, expertly made with sticky rice complimenting crispy thin spears of kelly green asparagus.

Hibachi Noodles with stir fried veggies

And for the hot dish, you can’t beat the hibachi noodles.  A bed of staming semolina noodles topped with savory stir fried onion, cabbage and bell peppers.

The service was excellent.  It should be noted I tend to drive my servers mad with numerous questions and trips to the kitchen to check ingredients and prep procedures.  If I ever get famous, I’ll no doubt have one of those reputations that make an establishment dread my appearance for this reason, but I am a good tipper.    I’ll be back to Hello Ninja to try the teriyaki tofu and the vegetable fried rice, and I’ll bring a few extra bucks to make my server not cry in her miso over so many questions.

3000 S Pinnacle Hills Parkway
Rogers, AR