Señor Lanky had some work to do in Baltimore, so I tagged along to visit our friends Laura and John, who moved down about a year ago. They took us to a wonderful and funny Tex-Mex restaurant called The Golden West Cafe, located on 36th St., “the avenue” in John Waters’ funky Hampden neighborhood. The Golden West has an extensive, vegetarian-friendly menu.
Appetizer lovers that we are, we ended with three appetizers: John’s favorite, the buffalo tofu (crisp deep fried tofu balls soaked in spicy buffalo sauce with ranch dipping sauce); breaded, fried plantains with a feta dipping sauce (rumored to have long been absent on the menu due to a soured love affair and a cook’s refusal to recreate the popular appetizer); and fried dill pickle chips, since Señor Lanky and I are on a never-ending quest for the country’s best fried pickles. Everything was tasty in a savory, fried way, though the buffalo tofu was a revelation. Why had we never thought of this before?
I ordered the Aztec Burrito, a three sisters-style dish stuffed with beans, corn, squash, plantains and a bit of pepper jack cheese, topped with both a mild green salsa and a spicier roasted red pepper salsa, served with crema. I think they should use the roasted red pepper salsa for the entire dish, as it livens the beans and squash nicely while also balancing the surprising sweetness of the plantains.
Señor Lanky ordered the Huevos Montuleños, two sunny-side up eggs atop sweet corn cakes, surrounded by spicy pinto beans, roasted red pepper salsa, topped by feta cheese and served with flour tortillas and slices of sweet fried banana. The feta may seem like a strange choice, but was actually delicious, balancing the sweetness of the corn cakes.
Laura ordered her stand-by, a vegan riblet sandwich, dripping in tangy bar-b-q sauce, but crunchy and almost caramelized underneath, served on a cornmeal kaiser roll with a mixed field greens salad on the side.
Senor Lanky was so enamored with The Golden West that we actually returned the next day for brunch. We exercised some restraint this meal and only ordered one appetizer, the Tater Tots, served in a large cone with ranch and chili-mayo dipping sauces.
I ordered the mostly colorless, though rich and yummy, biscuits and gravy platter – a large, square buttermilk biscuit topped with two eggs, a vegetarian mushroom gravy, and served with a side of hash browns. It was much, too much food, but comforting after all of the hot sauce I had been adding to my food the last few days.
Overall, I wouldn’t call any of our meals at The Golden West Cafe healthy, and the wait staff can be slow and little difficult (only one credit card per order, little knowledge or concern of their bar menu, which is extensive but undersold) but the food in generally quite good, the atmosphere cheerful, and the prices reasonable. I’m eager to try new places when we next return to Baltimore, as just on “the avenue” I found many engaging options.