Ours is a community with a voracious appetite. But food comes at a cost. My goal here is to go on a food safari, setting my sights on the delicious and delectable options often overlooked around town. As a single dad of two growing boys, I consider myself a frugal foodie. I like to maximize my investment to get the most out of a dollar. Ten dollars will be my tipping point. The days of the $5 lunch are long gone but I believe there’s still affordable food—be it a sandwich or late night tapas—available to us. Outside of setting my sights on what’s out on the range, I also hope to tap into our other side. The gatherer. Armed with little more than a five-dollar bill, I will visit the area’s farmer’s markets scouring the booths for earthen bounty. I am not a trained chef; every thing I have learned is through observation and experimentation. But I have a will and a way and a limited budget, so let’s go hunting…
I have lived in the area long enough to remember when that iconic brick building sitting on the V-island between Main Street and Weaver Street in Carrboro housed Spring Garden, which if my memory can recall was a Greenboro-based pizza joint with an array of beers.
Today, The Spotted Dog, which has been there since opening in 1998, occupies the location. Their focus is on fresh, healthy food and they pride themselves on locally-sourced and house made fare. I can’t remember that last time I had been there and yet suddenly I found myself in need of lunch on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s an eclectic menu for sure, especially for vegetarians who can sample some of the South’s most traditional dishes in accordance to their diet. Veggie BBQ ($8.95), Black-Eyed Pea Cakes ($13.25) or the cleverly named Chik-Faux-Lay ($9.25), which consists of crispy soy chicken on a bun with lettuce, tomato, red onions and mayo (just like that other place) are good representations.
I had the Crab Cake Sandwich ($9.25). Born and raised in Maryland, it is terribly difficult to not order blue crab when I see it on a menu. My choice was close to my self-imposed ten dollar cap, but it was crab what can I say? It arrived spiked with a pickle on top of the bun. I love it when chefs give the food some love. As often discussed, if it doesn’t look good, chances are it won’t taste good. Accompanied with lettuce, tomato and a remoulade sauce, it was not overly bready, pretty crabby and laced with a touch of bourbon and spice. It was served with in-house made potatoes as a side. Well-done Spotted Dog.
Photographer Sonnie Plakotaris, a vegetarian, ordered the Curry Quinoa Burger ($8.95). A Lunch Special, the house made burger is comprised of organic quinoa, currants, garbanzo beans, flax and sunflower seeds. Then served on a bun with organic greens, cilantro and a vegan curry mayo. So good was this burger that Plakotaris searched for a recipe online mid-meal with visions of making her own at home. The curry mayo complimented the burger well. And, “cilantro makes everything better,” she said. I agree as it is one of my favorite and most widely used green herbs.
Speaking of green, The Spotted Dog recycles everything: paper products, cardboard, cans, bottles—even cooking oil. They also compost their food waste generating “little trash,” according to their website. Adding, “which is a good thing when you are located on an island!”
All photos by Sonnie Plakotaris