On a gorgeous, unseasonably warm Thursday in January, the new Bare Bowls truck made its debut in back of The Menil Collection building. Despite the fact that it was its first day out, it didn't lack for customers. A crowd that averaged five people persisted during our visit.
Bare Bowls is the latest effort from the same people who run Pure Catering. You might notice the logos and business names are similar. You see, the bowls aren't bare; the food is. The emphasis is on clean, healthy ingredients, sourced locally when possible. You may have seen Chef James doing demos at the Urban Harvest Farmers' Market, along with his partner Carrington.
Glass shakers held coarse black pepper and exotic red salt on the chrome counter, holding promise that quality ingredients were being used inside the truck as well. The menu was rather limited on our visit, with only three items offered. One was a Caesar salad special; the other two were the signature "bowls." My partner and I chose the bowls.
The "bowls" are large, biodegradable cups. Lids are offered, which helps hold heat and makes for easy transport. An outstanding green tea was one of the beverage choices, with slices of fresh strawberries floating on top. It was very lightly sweetened with agave nectar. It was the perfect drink for a sunny, comfortable day.
Each bowl is named after a region. "The Mexican" included slow-cooked pork carnitas, which were as good as I've had almost anywhere. The pork was tossed with green tomatoes, onions, micro cilantro and thin tortilla chip strips. All this was served over local brown rice with smoked Spanish sofrito.
"The Northern Indian" was completely vegetarian, but the bed of hearty black lentils made me not miss the meat one bit. Roasted tomatoes, pickled mushrooms and sweet potatoes rounded out this dish.
I'm glad such nice salt and pepper were available, because we found both found the dishes a little under-seasoned. Since the emphasis here is on local, healthy food, I guess they don't want to make assumptions about peoples' salt intake.
I was pleasantly surprised at how filling one bowl is. The portion size was slightly more than I wanted, and just right for my six-foot-one husband. This is the kind of food your personal trainer or nutritionist probably gripes at you to eat. I felt great all afternoon, so maybe they're talking sense after all.
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That said, there are no health nuts or gurus to be found here; just two lovely people working hard and doing something they believe in. I strongly recommend you keep an eye on their Twitter feed, @barebowls, and go check it out yourself. Check the website for what they're cooking at www.barebowlskitchen.com, but be aware that they are probably not making every single item at any given time.
One last thing: allow 10 or 15 minutes for your order to be prepared if there are others in front of you. They're really cooking inside that truck. It's worth waiting a bit for a great lunch that's going to carry you through the rest of your day.