Here’s a bit of a conundrum for me. I’m recommending a place that I didn’t enjoy. I know. It sounds crazy, but stay with me.
I just hate, really *really* hate, raw/macrobiotic food. I believe that not all oils are bad for you. I believe that you can actually cook food without it being deprived of nutrients. And I believe that spices and salt are not mutually exclusive with proper dietary eating.
Needless to say, Borrowed Earth Cafe is not the place for me. But, and here’s my reason for recommending it, I think that people who DO like this more extreme type of diet will find quite a bit to like about the place. And I think anyone who has the bravery to open a raw restaurant in DOWNER’S GROVE of all places, deserves some kudos.
Katie and I happened to stop in at Borrowed Earth over the weekend, needing a quick bite to eat before we partook in the dollar show at the Tivoli. We were hungry, and it was close. It met all of our criteria.
To call Borrowed Earth Cafe a laid back dining affair would be like saying valium gives you a slight buzz. The place just oozes with, forgive the derogatory terms, granola hippiness. It seemed as if everyone was practicing yoga WHILE serving up the food. It took nearly 20 minutes for our waitress to get to our table. She blamed the wait on a rush of people, which looked to be about 3 more tables than were previously there.
We ordered three dishes: one appetizer and 2 sandwiches. The food took another 20-30 minutes to come out, thereby negating our movie time. We didn’t understand the wait, because it looked like most of the food we ordered was pre-made. The falafel came from a tub, as did the “cheese” in the pirogies. The only thing we saw being “made” were the slices of jicama that were the pirogies themselves. It was just that everyone was moving with such relaxed…slowness, that nothing was getting done in the normal amount of time.
The pirogies were easily my favorite part of our meal. The jicama was fresh, and the “cheese” filling of pureed nuts, shoyo, and red bell pepper was flavorful without being overpowering.
The main courses were sadly disappointing when comparing them to their prices. Katie’s 7 dollar grilled “cheese” was maybe 4 inches diameter. I was a bigger fan of the raw rye bread than she was. The cashew nut “cheese” was definitely reminiscent of cheddar, offering up a slight tang with each bite.
I ordered the 9 dollar “falafel” wrap. I put falafel in quotes only because I believe a falafel needs to be fried or baked, and not served as a raw mix wrapped up in a piece of lettuce. It tasted of falafel; but a tablespoonful of raw mix does not a falafel make. This was the biggest disappointment of our meal.
The restaurant itself is a nice little space. The kitchen is open-air, with a group of stools there so you can see your meal being prepared while talking to the chefs. They even have some cameras set up so people can watch the action from above.
So, you see. That’s why I’m torn. The prices are definitely cheaper than going to somewhere like Karyn’s Raw, but I just don’t think we got enough for our money. But the fact that people don’t have to drive to Chicago for their Raw diet fix is something for them to celebrate. Maybe, once the place has been opened for longer than 2 years, service and staff will have perfected everything.
Until then, it was a near miss for us, but maybe it’ll be a hit for the right audience.
(We actually had to go find a pizza joint for a second lunch.)