If hunger strikes while you’re roaming around the Davis Farmers Market, there are generally two options: Start snacking on the fresh produce you just bought or choose one of the several restaurant booths located at the far end of the market. Armed with a notebook, pen and dining companion, I set out to sample the Farmers Market’s cuisine on one Saturday afternoon to determine which stand reigns supreme.
First up was Katmandu Kitchen, a Nepalese and Indian restaurant normally located on G Street. On this day, it was operating out of a small tent filled with steaming silver pots. On the menu was a selection of veggie, chicken and lamb combo platters, samosa, pakora and chicken tikka masala.
I decided to go with the chicken tikka masala, a basic dish but one I figured any Indian restaurant should get right. For $6, I got a bowl of white rice covered in a slightly spicy orange broth with large pieces of chicken.
The dish was quite enjoyable. The sauce had the perfect amount of spiciness and bold flavor and I appreciated that it didn’t skimp on chicken – the four or five large pieces were plenty. It was hot, tasted extremely fresh and was just the right size for lunch.
“I get the chicken tikka masala every time I come here. I’ve gotten it like five times in a row,” said Sammy Steele, a neurobiology, physiology and biology major transferring to UC Davis next year.
Accompanied with Steele, sophomore physics major Christopher Wolverton ordered the lamb combo platter and agreed that they usually eat at Katmandu when they come to the Farmers Market.
“We’re boring,” Wolverton said.
Raja Indian Cuisine
My dining companion then joined me with a huge portion of lamb momosa from Raja, another downtown restaurant operating out of a tent. The menu also included spinach, rosemary and garlic naan and veggie, tofu and lamb wraps. In fact, my companion tried to order a lamb wrap but was told they had run out and would get more from the restaurant in five minutes. Not wanting to wait, she decided on the dumpling-like momosa for $8.
The dish looked absolutely delicious, but I found myself slightly disappointed when I finally managed to take a bite of one of the somewhat difficult-to-eat dumplings. The dough tasted like a very plain noodle and the lamb inside didn’t have any strong flavors either. I actually thought it was ground beef until my companion told me it was lamb. The dish seemed to be an ordinary meatball inside dough, a fact that was proven to me when I tried to eat half of one momosa and the meat fell out completely.
I am still wondering what exactly makes this dish Indian, because although it didn’t taste bad, it definitely didn’t have that distinct Indian flavor.
Jaymes’ Fat Face
Out of all the Farmer’s Market booths, Jaymes’ Fat Face always seems to have the most devoted following. And why not? The menu includes creative, entirely original “sammies” and a selection of gourmet popsicles. My companion had never eaten at Fat Face before, located on L St., so she was eager to try the breakfast sammie for $6 and strawberry basil lemonade Popsicle for $2.50.
The sandwich ended up being my favorite dish of the day. Egg, cheese and bacon filled a soft ciabatta roll with a delicious salty and savory flavor. The popsicle was icy and crunchy which made it a little messy to eat, but the fresh strawberry and hint of basil made up for it. Even though I needed to save room for the next meal, I kept coming back to this one.
“This is the best popsicle I’ve ever had,” said Alison Von Striver, a graduate student in science education, eating the plum, cinnamon basil and green tea Popsicle.
For my fourth and final lunch of the day, I headed over to Montoya’s Tamales, a Mexican eatery that doesn’t have a restaurant location in Davis. I was excited to choose one of the several kinds of tamales and burritos offered on the menu, until I noticed that nearly every item written on the menu was crossed out. The vendor told me that the only dishes left were the chile verde tamale and chorizo burrito. This was at about 12:40 p.m., 20 minutes before closing, so I recommend going early for the best selection.
I went with the chorizo burrito, and all I ended up writing in my notebook was “not good.” This was one of the least appetizing burritos I’ve ever had. The filling was a simple mixture of rice, cheese, and chorizo, but it was all the same mushy texture. The tortilla also tasted mushy, like it had been reheated too many times. Even though it was almost closing time, the food should still taste fresh. This was not fresh, and was my least favorite meal of the day.
Verdict: Jaymes’ Fat Face
With its innovative menu and obvious commitment to serving freshly made food, Jaymes’ Fat Face emerges as the hands-down best place to dine at the Farmers Market. Besides, there’s something about strolling among the booths, icy popsicle in hand, that just screams “Davis” to me. With a “fat face” or not, I’m coming here again.
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.