I had been meaning to check it out for months, but as I am rarely in the Tower District, these days, I never seemed to get around to it.
So this last week, I made a point to check it out. I pulled up and went in, slightly excited, as I am anytime I am going into a restaurant for the first time and my stomach is growling. It was a deli style restaurant, in that you place your order at the counter and they deliver it to your table. I thought the decor was fairly nice, pretty modern and eclectic. And the patio was great, situated in the front of the restaurant with a waist-high wall that gives a little privacy, yet it's still open and airy.
I walked up to the counter to look at the menu and lo and behold this was a vegetarian restaurant! Which I am totally cool with. I am a meat eater, but I am also vegetable and fruit crazy, never had a problem with tofu, so I was still pretty stoked. But then my heart dropped...this place was vegan. I can go without meat no problem but try to take my cheese away and you will be missing a limb. I considered leaving, but after talking to the nice girl behind the counter I thought I would give it a shot. She recommended the Garlic "chicken" which was actually meatless. She said a lot of people who aren't vegetarian really like it. I thought that was pretty unlikely but what the heck.
After I placed the order, I moved about five feet to my right and ordered what I think was a chocolate/banana frappe of sorts. I was totally looking forward to this as Indigo Cafe (the beverage/cafe portion of the restaurant) is owned and run by Matt Bishop and his wife (and business partner). He’s been in the business forever, in fact he ran his own portable cafe for over seven years out of the V.A. hospital and is an all around coffee drink expert, and I had actually been a customer of his for years as I was always taking my dad to the V.A. I knew what ever he made up for me would be wonderful! I took my first sip - I was right - delicious.
I sat down and waited with some trepidation for my order. Once I got it, I was pleased to say that it looked like chicken and was served with a nice salad. I took a bite and breathed a mental sigh of relief. It was great. It actually did taste like chicken. It had the right texture and everything. I ate the whole plate. I mean I truly enjoyed it. My friend ordered the Happy Burger which had some kind of vegan patty, lettuce, tomato, mushroom, sprouts, and onions and was served with potato chips. He ate all of his and he is not a vegetarian either. He pronounced it very satisfying. I am definitely going back. The only thing I would change is they need to get a cheese substitute as a lot of the dishes they serve would be fantastic with melted cheese.
Just a note: I looked up the words Au Lac and found it is was the name of Vietnam under the Thuc Dynasty (257 B.C. to 207 B.C.). It is also the name of the Lac ethnic group, inventors of the wet rice cultivation technique and bronze drums still used today by the Muong minority. The Lac were followed by the Au or Tay Au who arrived from the Chinese province of Kwang Si. The two peoples integrated and formed the new kingdom of Au Lac.
But I digress. Au Lac/Indigo Cafe is located at 1495 N Van Ness Ave, just one block south of McKinley. For more information call 559-237-4052.
The Au Lac crew - Trung, Matt, and Amanda
RV mural by Jason Graham
Photo by Kurtz