Good Veggie, Hold the Service

The food at the eclectic Oasis Vegetarian Eatery succeeds in spite of the awful service.

Full Disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. I love meat. It's delicious. I grew up on a cattle ranch, for crying outloud.

This fact gave me a little pause when it recently came time to review the Oasis Vegetarian Eatery and Food Co. But I wasn't too worried, as James Reel--my esteemed predecessor as The Weekly's editor dude and the current arts editor--was joining me. He's a vegetarian. Plus, over the years, I've come to appreciate good vegetarian cuisine. (Going to school at a college in the Bay Area will force a person to develop such an appreciation.)

Well, it turned out that I had no problems with the food at the Oasis. It was quite good. Too bad there were problems elsewhere.

James and I met there at noon on a weekday. Only one other table was occupied; the dining-party count peaked at a total of five or so while we were there, so the place was nowhere close to busy.

This surprised me; it's a damn cool place. It's a delightful bohemian city joint, with many of the delightful bohemian city joint stereotypes: a concrete floor with a red paint job that needs to be done; art adorning the walls (much of it with a nod to the Grateful Dead), including a large, bright mural along an entire wall featuring colorful bears playing underneath a rainbow; and fresh flowers at each table, with Blú Italy water bottles serving as vases.

Our waiter was quick to bring water--although it was without ice and semi-warm. He also took our orders fairly quickly after we decided what to get. And that was not easy, as the selection is impressively huge, with dozens of choices between appetizers, salads, sandwiches, veggie burgers and entrees--all vegetarian.

James decided to get the country fried tempeh plate ($8.25) with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed greens. It also included miso vegetable soup. To drink, James selected a limeaid ($1.95).

I went with Rainbow Fluff's famous Oasis Burger ($4.95) with veggie bacon ($1). I also decided to try the miso vegetable soup ($2.75 for a cup) and the Greek salad with feta cheese ($4.75). To drink, I tried the hot chai tea ($1.25).

The limeaid and the chai were delivered promptly. James pronounced the limeaid to be "sweet but sharp." My chai was tasty, albeit a bit cold.

And this is where things started to go awry. James and I had a nice chat about the newspaper biz, but soon, it dawned on us that 15 minutes had passed without sight of our waiter. My water glass was empty, and there was no soup or salad in sight.

Finally, I got more water--again, iceless and lukewarm--and our soups came. (We hadn't gotten napkins yet, and had to flag down a server to get some.) Filled with carrots, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables, this isn't the kind of miso soup you get with your sushi. James was higher on the soup than I was; I liked it, and the vegetables were nice and fresh, but I thought it was a tad bland.

Then, about one minute later, our server unceremoniously plopped down our meals and my salad. We weren't even half-done with our soups yet. This was not good, considering that by the time we finished our soups and attacked our meals, they were getting cold.

In spite of the cooling, they were both tasty. James' tempeh--a cake consisting of soy and/or grains--was, in James' words, crisp and thin with a good consistency. The gravy--James guessed it was a miso concoction--was also well-prepared. I tried a bite, and I liked it. Coming from Mr. Meat Eater, this is saying something. James' potatoes featured browned, minced garlic, which he happily raved about. He also enjoyed his kale with bread crumbs, leafs which were tender without losing their color.

My burger was delicious. The bacon was strange; it tasted like burnt potato chips. And while the patty was a bit dry--a common problem with veggie burgers, something that was made even worse by the delay--it was quite good. The onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles were all crisp and fresh.

After my burger, I had my Greek salad. Normally, I like my salads before the main course, but seeing as it was delivered at the same time as my ever-cooling burger, I had no choice but to save it for dessert. It was fine (the vinaigrette dressing, which was tangy with a hint of bitterness, didn't rock my boat, but that doesn't mean anything was wrong with it), but I would have preferred it pre-entrée.

And with that, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Our waiter, despite only a small amount of business, was AWOL. Finally, he came to pick up our dishes, and we asked for the check.

By this point, I was thoroughly irritated with the service, or lack thereof. (James noted that he'd had "leisurely" service at Oasis before, too.) And to top it off, we were delayed while paying the check because the credit card printer was out of paper, and the staff was having problems replacing the spool.

Because of all this, lunch took almost an hour and a half, which is unacceptable for a work day. And for that reason, I won't be returning to the Oasis for a while. It's too bad, too; I like the food and the atmosphere. But there are only so many hours in a day.

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