Wanna see a magic trick? Take a run-of-the-mill weekend and instantly make it an outstanding one by treating yourself to Indian food not once, but twice, in two days.
Last Saturday I enjoyed a lunch buffet with a local meetup group at a new (to me) Indian place at Brier Creek called Zayka.
I’m unsure of the names of everything I tried, so the plate below shall go nameless. But as you can see, it was varied and colorful. And, alas, as you unfortunately can’t taste, it was absolutely delicious.
I found an afternoon nap in order following that feast …
On Sunday I lunched with two young friends at one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been eating chaat at Cool Breeze in Cary for nearly seven years. Located in a strip center called Chatham Square (I like to think of it as Cary’s Little India), Cool Breeze is casual and inexpensive.
Chaat is crunchy, savory, Indian street food. And Cool Breeze’s is all vegetarian.
I have several favorites on the menu:
- Aloo Chole Chaat — (First photo at the top of this post.) My #1, it’s a wildly flavorful combo of chickpeas, potatoes, onions, yogurt and masalas. It’s got a definite kick to it, but the yogurt tempers the spice. (When my daughter was eating vegan she’d have it sans yogurt. I’m not sure how she managed. Her tummy used to hurt from the heat and many glasses of water she had to guzzle …)
- Parathas — A paratha is unleavened flatbread, and Cool Breeze serves them several ways. I particularly like the one alongside kheema, a spicy sloppy Joe-type mixture. That version also comes with fresh sliced cucumber and onion. Bad breath afterward, but worth it.
- Samosa Chaat — Samosas to the 10th degree: smothered in peas, chutneys, yogurt and more.
If you’ve never had chaat and are unsure what to order, try the Geet Bazaar combo — it’s plenty enough for two people. In fact my friends, two hungry college students, couldn’t finish it.
Be careful with the Dahi Batata Puri. They look like crunchy puffballs with holes in the top and filling inside. (It’s the thing you see on Rob’s fork in the photo above.) The first time I tried one I made the mistake of biting it in two, and ended up with all the goodness hidden inside the puffball on my chin and shirt. Instead, pop the whole thing into your mouth and feel and savor as the flavors explode. It’s quite a sensation.
A visit to the Gateway for lunch a few days later was a good way to calm my taste buds.
I’ll be the first to admit the Gateway is not the type of restaurant I typically frequent. It’s a country-style, meat-and-veg place frequented by loyal regulars.
The only reason I know about it is because of a business-related video shoot. Long story for another time.
I’ve found that sometimes, Southern cooking restaurants serve too much overcooked and underflavored foods spanning only the brown-and-yellow color spectrum. I was pleasantly surprised at the Gateway.
First of all, our plastic basket of bread included not just dinner rolls, but corn sticks!!! I haven’t seen corn sticks locally in ages. I like them better than hushpuppies. It’s something about the shape and texture. I’m sorry to say I devoured mine before taking a photo. But I did take a snap of my veggie plate.
I had cabbage, candied yams and squash. And I have to admit that the squash (in the foreground above) was some of the best I’ve tasted in a long, long time. The yellow crooknecks and onions were soft and cooked to death in true Southern style, but oh-so-tasty. I also snuck a bite (well, maybe quite a few) of potato salad from my friend Erica’s plate. Wow. I hate to say “some of the best I’ve tasted” again, but it’s true.
And to top it off, the service is warm and friendly — family-like, to tell the truth.
Go early — the Gateway is only open for breakfast (think biscuits, grits and country ham sandwiches) and lunch.