Photographs by Celia Storey
A heaping portion of Kale Salad With Cajun Chickpeas comes with a side, in this case batter-fried cauliflower.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Finding the veggie-soul-food kitchen MeMe's Twisted Potato and More in Little Rock is not difficult, as long as you don't go looking for a sign.
Just get on Wright/Asher Avenue anywhere east of Booker Street and drive west until Booker shows up on the left. Pick the corner that doesn't have a cemetery on it. Turn in at the two-story, blond brick house with plenty of parking in front.
MeMe’s Twisted Potato and More
Address: 3005* Asher Ave., Little Rock
Hours: variable, but usually noon-3:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
Cuisine: Vegan/vegetarian soul food sandwiches, salad and sides
Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D
Alcoholic beverages? No
Wheelchair accessible? No
But don't park in the front. Pull around back, under the shade trees. If she's open, there will be a signboard propped against a red-barn outbuilding. MeMe's is in the back of the house. You enter via a step-up covered patio, through a white metal door with a sticker that says, "WiFi."
Don't do what I did. Don't plod to the front door and push the doorbell. Meredith Coleman will answer eventually and invite you around back, but MeMe's is a one-woman kitchen, and Coleman needs to be cooking. And you want her to be cooking. She really can cook.
"Everything we make is plant-based," Coleman says of her vegetarian/vegan menu. But, she warns, "it's soul food."
So there's plenty of frying going on behind the clean white partition in her one-room, white cinderblock kitchen.
Without a bank loan to get her started, MeMe's is a work in progress. At our first visit three weeks ago, she apologized that she couldn't serve her signature Twisted Potato yet. She was waiting on delivery of a cooker; for now the menu is just the "And More." But that's a lot, and all the ingredients are garden-fresh.
A week later she was training two helpers to take orders over the phone -- and you want to call in, I cannot emphasize this enough. Also, do not show up in a hurry for the food. The helpers were learning to request phone numbers so customers can be summoned when their takeout is ready.
MeMe's serves carryout only. There is one wrought-iron table and three chairs on the patio if you can't wait to pop open your foam box and start eating, which could happen because that kitchen smells amazing. I inhaled a sandwich in the driver's seat of my car, licking my fingers and chin clean, like a cat. And I would do that again.
She has a Facebook page, delivery service accounts and a website, memestwistedpotato.com, but her actual hours and daily menus vary. To be sure she's open, call (501) 960-0499.
She sells $10 (or so) lunch specials for most of the items listed at higher prices in the menus on those websites.
On my first visit, I ordered a Kale Salad With Cajun Chickpeas with fried cauliflower on the side. For $12.25, I feasted on bite-size bites of mild kale, crinkly; lots of nutty-tasting baked chickpeas, not at all spicy; chopped strips of red and yellow bell pepper; and a little diced red onion -- tossed with a vegan green goddess dressing.
The batter-fried cauliflower looked gnarly but fell apart in my mouth and was just salty enough.
A co-worker tried the Vegan Reuben, $10 for the lunch special, including one side. He chose zucchini fries.
"A gently spicy, messy sandwich," he reports. "The bun fell apart early on, but was tasty. I ate the rest with a fork."
The Reuben has non-GMO soy protein, sauerkraut, MTP sauce and sweet spicy pickles on a vegan bun. The soy protein had a not-corned-beef texture but was "quite flavorful," and the sauerkraut kept the sandwich in touch with Reuben roots.
We asked Coleman what MTP stands for and she said, "MeMe's Twisted Potato." The sauce had a tangy, tart bite, perhaps from the diced pickles? It's like the special sauce that comes on a Big Mac, but better. The spice is just enough to give the sandwich a slight kick, but not so much that you're rushing for a cold drink.
Worth rushing for anyway is the homemade Lavender Lemonade ($4.50 for 16 ounces). Its wholesome sweetness comes from agave, not table sugar, and the lavender adds a gentle tang.
The zucchini fries were cold and limp, but they had been hauled halfway across town -- including a pause to let a funeral procession pass by. They still had a bit of crunch and were nicely seasoned, my co-worker reports.
My aforementioned parking lot moment happened because of MeMe's Berneice Fried Green Tomato sandwich ($11.10, with a side) -- a gorgeous, croissant-textured seeded bun spread with cooked spinach, the vegan "MTP sauce" and loaded with deliciously tangy, cornmeal-breaded and fried green tomato slices that melded into one another. I spotted sliced red onion in there, too, and bits of crispy pickle. Two big leaves of a noble lettuce, I'm guessing butter, brought the chlorophyll.
A hungry vegan can nom-nom-nom a lot, but the 8-ounce side of sexily smoked black-eyed peas was so generous, I had leftover peas to enjoy again at dinner.
Whatever that MTP sauce is, do not wipe it off your fingers. Lick it off.
Weekend on 05/31/2018
*CORRECTION: MeMe’s Twisted Potato and More is at 3005 Asher Ave. in Little Rock. A previous version of this story gave a wrong address.
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