“A veggie restaurant in Raleigh? It’ll never work” was the reaction of most folks who consider Raleigh a meat and potatoes town.
Early this spring, however, the Irregardless, located on Morgan Street in the shadow of Central Prison, opened its doors and now has a full house every lunch and most dinner-times.
The basic attraction of the Irregardless for most Raleigh people is the novelty of eating “exotic” food. “Have a bite of this — it’s just like a real hamburger!” Some patrons, wary of exposing their young to unfamiliar food, bring along a big Mac.
The best surprise for the veggie nouveau of Raleigh, though, is the price. Pleased customers have lunch happily for $1.25, including beverage and dessert.
The menu resembles those of the Somethyme and the Wildflower, with homebaked brown bread the basis for sandwiches, and fresh vegetables and sprouts for salads and casseroles. Jule, the chief cook whose cuisine was the inspiration for the restaurant, enjoys her work. “The biggest hassle,” she says, “is doing the math in translating recipes.” Her favorite is quiche. “I like cooking things that look as good as they taste,” she explains, “and I like the way quiche gets brown and puffy with cheese and then the fresh green color of the vegetable.”
According to Andy, one of the three partners, he and his friend Art were hamburger bachelors when invited to share a meal with Jule.
“Her food was unbelievable” says Andy, “the meal was always something different and tempting. The best was that it was filling and tasty without giving you that bloated feeling like you get eating a big dinner and then you just sit in sort of a coma waiting to digest it.”
“The name (Irregardless) became symbolic,” explains Andy, “because we didn’t have much money and no experience, but we went ahead and did it ‘irregardless.’ ”
In fact, their naivete was such that for the first few weeks they opened only for dinner. Satisfied patrons often inquired about lunch and with some hesitation the Irregardless opened for lunch and the partners and staff are still reeling from the avalanche.
The food at the Irregardless is good, filling and cooked with enthusiasm. Service is also enthusiastic but during rush hours a bit erratic. The lunch menu includes such items as:
open face sandwich (tomato, avocado spread, onion, sprouts) — $1 Italian surprise (tomato sauce, mushrooms, lentils, green pepper, mozzarella) — 75¢ beanburger — 75¢ humis special — 50¢ lentil stew — $1
Beverages include: herb tea for 20¢ with refills; coffee 25¢ and milk 25¢.
The evening menu features two entrees during the week and three on weekend nights. The price ranges from 85¢ to $1.75 for a variety of casserole dishes including a non-dairy sunflower dish.
For most, eating at the Irregardless is a timid venture into the edge of some mysterious world. For vegetarians the variety and quality of the cooking is almost worth a trip to Raleigh.
The Irregardless provides music but unfortunately the L-shaped room has abominable acoustics. Chris Mapes, a folk-rock singer, has played the Irregardless several times, but prefers the Somethyme. “The crowd there really listens if you’re good,” he says, “but here people, especially businessmen, come to talk and they don’t take the time to look at the art on the wall or listen to the music.”