Where We Eat: Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe with Sides of Japandroids and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
As the name implies, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe, is more than just a restaurant. It is also an art gallery, concert venue, hipster hangout and drinker’s paradise. From the moment you squeeze into the way too tight parking spaces and see the metal horse lying upside down in the grass surrounded by half buried bowling balls acting as a black rubber road that ends beneath a winged Elvis shrine, you know this will be an unforgettable experience.
Having been to Ella’s a number of times as an audience member, but never a performer, I was excited to finally get out there and try some of the “Americana” food. We arrived there early on a Friday, hungry, and were told that we had a bit of a wait. It was suggested that next time we call ahead and make a reservation. My mother-in-law pulled the out-of-town card and all of a sudden a place opened up for us on the second level. When we made our way up the steps we noticed a number of empty seats. Maybe they were reserved, maybe it was an oversight, either way it wasn’t a good start.
Each of us was given a menu that seemed pretty hefty. As we flipped through the pages we noticed that some were different than others. J-Fur’s for instance had X’s through it (turns out it was the gluten free menu) and her father’s had items in it that were not in any of the other ones (turns out it was an old menu). Talk about not having their act together. But these are the small things that can be overlooked as long as the food is good. And it was.
I decided to start with an appetizer. The “Viva La Chimi” called to me. This chimichanga is stuffed with roasted garlic mashed potato, fire roasted poblano peppers and mozzarella. It is then served with a Tamarind soy sauce and Chipotle Sour Cream. Eight dollars for an appetizer seemed a bit pricey but I wasn’t paying so I forced myself to relax. When I saw the size of the portions, I felt better about it. I really could’ve just eaten those chimichangas as a meal and been fine (and full) with it. These chimis were very crispy and fried to perfection on the outside and heavy and filling inside. I wasn’t a big fan of the Tamarind Soy Sauce, so I spent most of my dipping time in the Chipotle Sour Cream. Weird because I can’t stand Sour Cream in the real world.
Also on the docket for this evening was the veggie burger. Ella’s isn’t one of those places that only offers a veggie burger for vegetarians. Other main courses I contemplated were the Bungalow Cavatappi, Beet Box & Veggie Pot Pie or the Hippy Pizza. I did not consider the Roots (sweet potato, shallot, pearl onion, pecans, chilies, balsamic reduction and feta) as it sounded way too sweet. But I will be experimenting with a home version of this later as I think it can be really good with just a few changes. What drew me to the veggie burger (called the Good) was that it was a homemade patty topped with some of my favorite toppings: spinach, avocado, tomatoes, crispy onions and a sweet mustard sauce. I also asked for a side of garlic ketchup to dip the burger in. The patty was nutty and had a great texture to it. It, like a lot of homemade veggie burgers, fell apart pretty easily making it less of a burger and more like…a sloppy joe? Pile of beans and nuts? I expected amazingness out of the burger and only got above average. I guess I really need to temper my veggie burger expectations as they usually wind up being a little let down. The best part of the burger was that it was paired, not with your typical french fries, but with fried green tomatoes.
Ella’s Veggie Burger (the Good)
The fried green tomatoes were huge. You received four slices of them. Similar to the chimi, I felt the texture and exterior were fried to perfection. They weren’t overly greasy (which would’ve been detrimental to my pants). I didn’t jot down what the dipping sauce was but it was very good.
The Fried Green Tomatoes
J-Fur decided to go with a tofu curry. I tried to talk her into the cavateppi but she had her mind set on a big bowl of panang curry in coconut milk with sauteed vegetables, fresh basil, tofu and tea infused Basmati. The curry itself is fifteen dollars. Adding tofu made it even more expensive. While the taste was pretty good and the size was enough for two meals I felt this was the most ridiculously priced of all the menu items. Maybe it was the vegetable combo or the time it took to create the dish that made it so expensive. I’m sure there is a reason for it. I just know how much it costs me to make a curry and it isn’t anywhere near that price.
Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe is an interesting place to eat. The food was pretty good, the portions were large and could easily be shared with friends or family. I may return, I’d especially like to try out their Soul Food Sunday menu, but I think I would focus my meal on side dishes as these seem to be the can’t miss options here. That would also allow me to save some room to give the Peach Cobbler a try.
Japandroids have a new album (which should be arriving at my doorstep in record form any day now). “The House that Heaven Built” has been circulating the internet for a while but a new track surfaced this week in celebration of the release date. “Evil’s Sway” is Japanadroids continuing to do what they do best:
No meal at Ella’s would be complete without music from Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. A new track by the band, “Man on Fire,” was recently remixed by Little Daylight. It is perfectly fried, not too greasy.
The original, which is lighter, more church-like: