take-out vehicle: aluminum foil
Located near Wachovia Bank on the downtown mall, Hamdingers is one of the better run food carts I've seen in Charlottesville. Run by Patrick Critzer, Hamdingers mobile food cart provides much more than usual mobile cart fare. He has a beef hotdog on the menu, but from the 6-deep line in which I waited for lunch, I saw only one person order it. The rest of the orders were spread amongst the remaining menu—grilled tofu (of which I saw multiple orders), roasted chicken, grilled sausage, roasted vegetables, rice, and bacon dates. Only the salmon cake sandwich remained unordered.
Almost everyone in front of me was a regular, and Patrick seemed to start in the middle of a past conversation with each of them. I was impressed by that.
Despite my bad luck at Nicola's Veggies (see post below), I was still determined to discover some vegan-friendly options, so I ordered the roasted vegetable sandwich with avocado and srirachi sauce. He offered cheddar as an option, and though tempted, I declined in favor of something better on the side: the bacon-wrapped dates.
I noticed that Patrick wore no gloves when he assembled orders, yet he never once touched the food. With a sheet of foil on his left hand and tongs in his right, he was surprisingly nimble; my sandwich took about 10 seconds to create. Another second or two to wrap and crimp the foil, and I was on my way.
My vegan friend keeps telling me that he eats great food and has been nothing but satisfied with his diet. Usually just talking to him about it makes me want to gnaw on a block of cheese, but I have to admit: this sandwich was good. I couldn't swear up and down it was technically vegan—and I was too enthalled by patrick's speed-blurred tongs to ask—but considering he serves tofu and seems to make an effort to provide healthy vegetarian food, I'll take it on faith that, sans the offered cheddar, I ate a vegan sandwich.
The vegetables were great. Though advertised as grilled, these clearly-roasted vegetables had just the right amount of crunch and flavor, yet remained easy to bite inside of the bun. The avocado and srirachi, which don't come standard but are free if you want them, added some great complimentary flavors. In all, the sandwich included: roasted red bell peppers, yellow squash, mushrooms, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, the avocado sauce, and the srirachi. A definite thumbs up.
The bacon-wrapped dates, while placating my inner carnivore, weren't quite as good as I had hoped. Of course, I'm forced to compare them with the bacon-wrapped dates from Mas, which, if you haven't yet had, I pity you. These dates were good, don't get me wrong—salty, sweet, and satisfyingly bacony—but they pale in comparison. Still, it's a cool thing to get from a food cart.
All-in-all, i very much enjoyed my mostly-vegan lunch. I won't be turning in my meat-eaters badge anytime soon, but I'm glad to know that, indeed, vegans can eat some tasty food.
Speaking of tasty food, here's another treat from Hamdingers:
Hamdingers' coconut potato curry with ginger spinach
(courtesy of c-ville weekly)
1 Tbs. olive oil (or your favorite fat, says patrick)
1/2 cup minced mix of ginger, garlic, jalapeño
1 cup chopped onion
meat of choice (optional)
1/2 cup mix of fresh ground cardamom, coriander and mustard seeds
3 lbs. potatoes, diced
1 lb. spinach
2 cans coconut milk
3 cups stock (meat or vegetable)
green peas or cooked lentils (optional)
salt and pepper
Saute ginger, garlic and jalapeño in a little of your favorite fat, remove and reserve. Then saute the onion, and if you want to add meat, do it now. Cook until lightly browned; add cardamom, coriander and mustard seeds. Let it get sticky, then add potatoes and spinach. Put the earlier mixture back into the pan. Stir in coconut milk and stock and cook until potatoes are tender, add salt and pepper to taste and some green peas or lentils if you like.