[Sidebar] December 28, 2000 - January 4, 2001
[Food Reviews]
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Crazy Burger

Stellar neo-hippie fare

by Johnette Rodriguez

144 Boon St., Narragansett, 783-1810
Open Mon-Thurs, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Major credit cards
No handicapped access

Walking into Crazy Burger is like walking into a juice bar/coffeehouse in the early '70s in California. Eclecticism reigns in décor -- light green on the slatted wood walls with prints and paintings from local artists (and a string of multi-colored chili pepper lights) and all manner of things hanging from the ceiling, including paper lanterns and, at this time of year, paper snowflakes. There are seven booths and four tiny tables, along with seats at the soda fountain-like counter and, in the summer, a terrific deck out back with picnic tables. The indoor tables have a '70s-type geometric print in the oilcloth, and the napkins are soft cotton, gingham, and flower-printed.

The other flashback is the wide-ranging vegetarian and vegan menu. I remember when Crazy Burger first opened in '95, and all the veg-heads in town were flocking to try the restaurant's veggie burgers and the delicious sides, such as orzo salad and Bangkok slaw, that come with them. The burgers are still there -- five vegan ones, five "mad cow" ones, and six in the "hoof, fin & claw" category -- and they still win raves.

Crazy Burger has been primarily a breakfast hangout for us, since it's served till 4 p.m. in the summer and all day in the winter. It's a great place to ponder the possibilities: multi-grain blueberry pancakes, brioche French toast or Belgian waffles; three kinds of crepes (with apple slices and maple cinnamon syrup is a winner); four kinds of quesadillas (with turkey sausage is Bill's favorite); all manner of breakfast pizzas and omelets; scrambled tofu, either Mexi-style or vegan; and eggs Benedict or Florentine, with our favorite hollandaise this side of Holland.

It had been a long time, however, since we'd been there for dinner, and my main memories were of grilled pizza. I was curious to see what chef/owner Mike Maxson (formerly of rue de l'espoir) was up to, since I'd heard that he now was offering an ambitious set of dinner entrees, including pork tenderloins, oven-fried chicken, and roasted salmon. Other regular dinner items at this BYOB establishment are a "vegan du jour," curried veggies the night we were there; and a "pasta du jour," currently switching between black bean-scallion ravioli with blackened scallops, and pumpkin ravioli with a grilled turkey roulade. The latter won Bill's vote right away. The pumpkin-and-ricotta ravioli ($15.95) were smothered in a Baileys Irish Cream-and-pumpkin sauce with a bit of Cotswold cheese thrown in. The sauce was dreamy on both the pasta and the turkey slices, which were also very tasty.

I chose the roasted salmon ($15.95) with a pistachio pesto crust and a chipotle-orange-carrot glaze. I'm usually partial to salmon with no adornments, but that tongue-twisting combo was very tasty, though a little too rich for the richness of that fish. The accompanying orange-cumin baby carrots were scrumptious, and the yin-yang rice cake (made with white and dark purple rice) provided a nice, simple balance to the more complex things on the plate.

We each had a tiny warm-from-the-oven bread loaf served with our entree. When we asked for butter, we were doled out one pat (obviously in keeping with the health-consciousness in this eatery). Our dinners also came with a very generous salad, with crisp mesclun, tiny chopped sweet red peppers, sprouts, homemade croutons and, our choice, a mango-lime vinaigrette. Yum!

To circle back to the beginning, we ordered Pacific Rim rolls ($6.95) from a fistful of appetizers -- you can choose five for a pu-pu-style "Wacky Platter" ($15.95) -- and a wood-grilled pizza, "The Champ" ($9.95). Our thoughtful waitress, Camille, believed we'd taken the restaurant's name to heart when we ordered more food on top of these two. She reassured us that we'd be stuffed with these, and I'm sure she would have been right, but, sigh, the job of a reviewer is to taste more than two things!

Inside the rolls were chunks of broiled chicken tenderloins, with a bit of Bangkok slaw, all tightly wrapped in an egg roll skin, pan-browned and served with a spicy Thai peanut sauce. Bill could barely keep from eating all eight of them. But the pizza vied for our attention, with its grilled portobello and eggplant chunks, steamed greens and fresh mozzarella, on a base of roasted red pepper and cashew pesto, and drizzled with red pepper oil. It was an international food carnival on two plates.

We nibbled the two appetizers, ate considerable amounts of our entrees and ordered a dessert to go: Crazy Burger's justly famous raspberry Key lime pie ($4.75), a fluffy yellow custard made the authentic way, from Key lime juice, eggs, and sweetened condensed milk, with raspberry sauce swirled on top. If she hadn't been convinced before, Camille may have thought that we'd completely lost our minds by then. When we made our "food reviewer" confession at the end, she finally understood, and she was very helpful in answering our questions. Her easy friendliness also reminded us of California in our hippie days. The only thing at Crazy Burger that doesn't call that era to mind is the food; it's much, much better than anything you could get back then!

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