Carnivore's Holiday: Maoz Vegetarian

 
 
A 10-part adventure on the other side of the food chain
 
Part 4: Maoz Vegetarian
4601 N. Lamar Blvd. 323-2259, www.maozusa.com.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 05.29.12
 
The true omnivore’s foray into vege-territory isn’t much of a stretch. But at Maoz, a pan-European element amplifies the feeling of “other,” all the way up to live-audience versions of Beatles, Zeppelin and Creedence classics in the air. Familiar songs in an unfamiliar context. The United Colors of Benetton models on the menu boards look like they’d enjoy the playlist with amused irony.
 
The Maoz (pronounced “mowz”) chain is based in Amsterdam, with shops in Spain, France and the United Kingdom. Austin is one of its seven U.S. markets. Impressive reach for a shop that’s essentially a falafel stand rendered in cool green and chartreuse tile with wooden tables and benches with hard Scandinavian lines.
 
 
What you’re eating: Falafel is the building block at Maoz. The size and shape of mini-muffins, these bark-brown nuggets are shaped from chickpeas ground in the store daily, so I was told by an ambassadorial blonde with a crisp European accent. She described the loads of cilantro that give the falafel its crumbly dappled-green core and alluded to the Maoz Magic Powder that brings a cumin-scented third-continent flavor to the mix. Magic Powder from Amsterdam. Take that however you like.
 
The two key falafel-delivery vehicles at Maoz are a sandwich made with sturdy air-fluffed pita bread ($5.25) and the Salad Box ($8.10), a round plastic clamshell the size of Seth Rogen's cereal bowl. Each comes with five falafel muffins and a one-way ticket to the compact salad bar. I’ll forgo a recitation of the red and green cabbage slaws, pickled beets, chickpeas and salad staples to focus on the herbs. A bloom of parsley from matchstick carrot salad. The mown-grass dill in a chop of cucumbers. The gum-wrapper charge of mint from tabouli. The clove-cigarette incense of a hot chile salsa that will scorch your tongue. They’re best appreciated in the salad, set off in neat piles. As a team in the crowded pocket of the pita, they blend into a one-world flavor that compromises their sovereignty.
 
A $9.70 combo deal added juice, fried eggplant slices and hummus to the salad bowl. A sandwich combo adds fresh, fat Belgian-style fries and a drink for $8.95. Substitute apple, carrot or orange juice for $1.
 
What you’re drinking: The juice is no tossed-off pour from a jug. My blend of carrot and apple was run burring through the juicer in front of my eyes, all earthy, sweet and pulpy.
 
Other options: Maoz also makes a half-sized sandwich for $4.85. Add-ons include boiled egg, baba ganoush and avocado. Besides the chile salsa, there’s a medium-hot cilantro salsa and a mild tomato red. Three creamy sauces cool and amplify the falafel: garlic (too sweet), tahini (earthy and dry) and yogurt (just right). There’s also a daily soup and vegan rice pudding.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)