I love going out on Saturdays with my girlfriends. A couple of weeks ago, I met my friend Kasmira for lunch in Clifton, as we were both headed that way. We wanted to try Thai Café, but I didn’t realize that I’d never been there for lunch—they don’t open until 4 PM! So we decided to go to Olives, on Ludlow in the former Za/Uno’s location.
I had been to Olives with friends back in 2007, slightly after they opened. What I had that time was good bar food—a good burger, some good appetizers—and looked forward to going again. This time, I wanted to do something healthy and light (this food writing gig is hard on a girl’s figure), and Kasmira did too.
Olives has a pretty broad selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. I wanted something vegetarian, and so did she, so we each got a vegetarian sandwich: Kasmira got the Veggie Melt, and I got the Veggie Pita. The side choices were fries or chips, and we didn’t want to be excessively healthy, so we each got the fries.
Kasmira’s roasted veggie melt, which was roasted vegetables (squash and eggplant, mostly) with garlic, herbs, and veggie cream cheese wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Of the two sandwiches, this one looked the best, but turned out to be fairly bland. She grabbed the salt shaker, which she said helped a bit. She took the other half home, and said it was actually a lot better heated over the next day, so the flavors had some time to develop.
I had the veggie pita, which was supposed to be grilled eggplant, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, mozzarella, pita, sun-dried tomato cream cheese and Parmesan yogurt dressing on the side. There was no parmesan yogurt, and those vegetables combined into something bland—the grilled eggplant was unseasoned (but not bitter, which is a common eggplant issue), the cucumber slightly mushy, and the mozzarella tasteless. I used a bunch of salt and pepper, which helped, but realized it probably wouldn’t be a whole lot better the next day, and declined to take the rest of the sandwich home.
The fries? Well, I guess that fat makes everything better, because they were pretty good—crispy and salty.
Some restaurants really try to cater to vegetarians by offering great veg choices that appeal even to meat eaters, but a lot of restaurants seem to think that salads and French fries are sufficient. It’s not true. Vegetarian food can be as flavorful and interesting (if not moreso) than meat-based meals— but when it’s uninspired, it’s even more disappointing. With a little more thought to seasoning, these sandwiches could have been awesome choices. My advice? Head to Olives with your meat and potatoes friends—if you have vegetarians in the group, just go for appetizers (such as the excellent Wild Mushroom and Artichoke strudel) and cocktails, which really seem to be their sweet spot.