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La Siringitu
1501 Mountain Road NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
phone 505-244-9105
open Wed-Sat noon – 7pm, special dinner menu 5-7pm
www.lasiringitu.com

We stopped into this two-year old establishment on a Friday afternoon around 2pm. There wasn't anyone else there, so we were seated immediately, and the friendly, attentive waitress (who we both found super cute, by the way) started up some funky music while we waited for our orders.

The building is pretty plain from the outside, but they've done a great job with decorating. It's very bright and airy inside, with skylights to let in lots of natural light. Plants were all around, and there were hardwood floors, and many paintings on the walls. The décor is largely African, from the wall hangings to the paintings, which suits, as it is own by three African American folks (two women and a man), and staffed by them and what seem to be their friends.

The menu is totally tantalizing, with lots of delicious options. Most of the items aren't vegan, but can easily be made so. We started out with the soup of the day – both options (corn chowder and split pea) were, according to the chef, "absolutely vegan," and we went with the split pea. It was a healthy serving and piping hot, very flavorful without being spicy. The delicious veggie broth had a nice amount of split peas (obviously), onion, zucchini, greens and (we think) some lentils.

It was tough to choose an entrée – we had the choice of BBQ burgers (one vegan, one non), a cold sandwich, grilled cheese, the Jambalaya rice boat, African burrito, taco, bean of the day and rice, hummus and pita bread, seasoned curry tofu salad, and more. We finally decided on the hot sandwich and the seaweed wraps.

The sandwich came on a gorgeous wheat bun, with apple slices, lettuce, green bell pepper slices, a strip of fake bacon, and smothered in BBQ sauce. The crisp, sweet apple was great with the BBQ sauce (which was somewhat sweet itself), and the tofu slices were thick and tasty. They didn't skimp on portions here – it was big, and it was yummy!

The seaweed wraps (which were filled with their Jambalaya rice, veggies, tomato, and fried tofu) were not as delicious as the sammitch, but were good too. XAkk said they reminded him of "green egg rolls." The Jambalaya rice was not as seasoned as we had expected, but still good, and the surprise of corn inside gave them a little more body. They came with a slightly spicy dipping sauce that was kind of like a plum sauce, but more chili pepper-y, and not as thick.

Most of the desserts weren't vegan but sounded good (yogurt and fruit parfait, ice cream and fruit medley), and we were tempted by the plantain and pineapple with coconut sprinkles, but we decided to try that next time.

Throughout the meal our water glasses never got empty, and our waitress answered our many questions about La Siringitu like we were old friends. The only odd thing was the music that she had on – which started out funky and soul-tinged, sort of Western/African fusion, turned out to be very Jesus heavy. At one time the singer (it was a recording of a live show) was talking about how we were living in "the greatest time in history" because the internet, technology, etc., give the opportunity to spread the gospel throughout the world. This is totally not our style and was mildly off-putting, but the food was so good that we quickly forgot the Jesus-y music.

Aside from regular old dining in, they also do a "heat and serve" menu, where you can call in and place an order, then pick up it later to take home and put in the oven. They offer several mix and match options, with choices of between three and five of their "signature dishes." Another cool thing (which we forgot to check whether they are vegan) is their seasonal pies – at the time they were offering sweet potato pie or bean pie.

The building also includes a space where they do chair massage, hand massage, and even put in corn rows! They have community events when they can, but not a regular schedule yet. One of the owners sings and dances so often puts on performances, and they are very into promoting "community awareness" with events and in combination with other organizations, groups.

We both made trips to the restrooms before we left and found that even they were lovely! The men's room was plain, but nice, and clean, and the ladies room had beautiful decorations, a selection of lotions to use and it even smelled great!

On the way out we mentioned to our waitress that we were thinking of moving to the area and she said, "Welcome home!" And with places like La Siringitu, we can see that could be true!

-- Liz & XAkk












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