Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Special Monthly Buffet At Mango Grove -- Drawing The No-Meat Crowd, Plus Cool Kids

Big plates from Mango Grove's vegan buffet
Anyone can love Mango Grove because it serves some of the best food in Howard County, but they're breaking out the welcome mat for a niche market -- that's still a welcome adventure for everyone.

Okay, they're breaking out the dinner buffet, not the welcome mat.

Mango Grove does a lunch buffet most days with both vegetarian and non-veg options.  But the Columbia restaurant is adding a monthly dinner buffet with all vegan food and attracting a young, cool crowd in the process.  It's a partnership with the Humane League, which advertises the event and gets a donation as well.

We stumbled on August's vegan buffet in mid-month, and it's a feast for about $20.  The buffet shows off what Mango Grove does best -- a mix of straight Indian food like spinach and chickpeas with Chinese-Indian dishes like "broccoli 65" and a noodle dish that is their version of chow mein.

That broccoli 65 is a treat.  Deep-fried and spicy, it's a dish that will please even folks who don't normally like the green vegetable.  But the best dish was jackfruit and potatoes, a savory curry that shows off the jackfruit's sweetness.  A guy at the buffet compared the consistency to pulled pork.  Not exactly, but it is a substantial dish that is really unique.

The monthly buffet is clearly a treat for vegans.  But it's no compromise for anyone.  The food is really good, and you can always order off the menu if you need a dosa or some other dishes.  (Mrs. HowChow got a lassi, then hid it behind the wine list so that she could fit into the vegan crowd, but still have her yogurt shake.)

Mrs. HowChow and I were amused because the Mango Grove crowd definitely took on a different look.  It's always fun to be in a restaurant full of happy chatter.  We're just not used to a crowd of tattooed 20-somethings in an Indian restaurant.  A few older folks, a few kids.  But it felt more like Fells Point than Columbia.  Bravo!

I think the monthly vegan buffet will be the fourth Monday of every month.  That's what I wrote down, although I realize that doesn't match August 11.  Check out the Human League's Facebook page for Maryland.  They posted about the August event, and they say the September one will be on the 22d.  I assume they're publicize future ones.

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