I was happy to find Home Grown Café in Newark, DE, home of the University of Delaware, when I arrived in the Delaware Valley a few years ago. As the restaurant's name suggests, they have/had a college town, hippy vibe going on. Why wearing patchouli and growing dreads in college is a rite of passage, I do not know.
A few years ago, a shop selling jewelry made by the owner and hippy-themed goods was connected to the restaurant. The adjoining shop was phased out to expand the restaurant, as were the large tie-dye wall hangings in the restaurant. The restaurant now has vampy booths, low lighting and a bar specializing in frou-frou cocktails. They dropped the healthy, hippy vibe and joined the slick, metro bandwagon. Incongruously, the name of the restaurant and its rainbow swirled sign remain, as well as a few jewelry cases.
Get past the jewelry cases and you can get to the menu. About 75% of Home Grown’s menu can be made vegetarian or vegan, usually by substituting seitan. In the past, I’ve eaten a couple of their different seitan wraps, spaghetti with "meatballs", falafel, burrito, and “chicken” sandwich.
The seitan “chicken’ sandwich with garlic aoli was my favorite, and I ordered it every time I went after I discovered it. I crave this sandwich, but I have not been to the restaurant in over a year. I finally paid a visit last week to see a friend’s band play, and…they changed the menu!!! Gone was my garlic aoli “chicken” sandwich, along with the polenta fries and some other things I used to order. What was I going to order?
I thought about mac and cheese, since I’m obligated to try it when I go out, but theirs sounded sooo wrong – "panko and tortilla crusted macaroni and cheese served with avocado lime aioli, chipotle ketchup and micro herbs." You know that saying about how you should take off an accessory before leaving the house? Well, that mac had waaay too much bling going on. It scared me. Just Say No!
I decided to order the green apple wrap with seitan, brie, granny smith apples, walnuts, tomatoes, and apple vinaigrette. All of the ingredients listed in the wrap, with the exception of the seitan, were indistinguishable in each bite. I could not have told you what was in the wrap and the vinaigrette was not tangy.
A choice of side – chips, field green, or mashed potatoes – comes with wraps and sandwiches. I’ve had the field greens, and they are just that – a smattering of some greens. Not too exciting. I’ve also had the mashed potatoes and remember them being buttery and yummy. The mashed potatoes I got were cold.
My friend ordered a falafel. The first thing she said was that there were too many onions in her sandwich. When will kitchens realize that onions are strong and need to be either caramelized or sliced very thinly? The falafel balls were as dry as a desert and slightly burned. I don’t think I’ve tasted a worse falafel. I felt embarrassed that I had praised Home Grown before bringing my friend.
My frou-frou drink was not as pretty as they used to be, either. Last time I got a red candy rim on my glass with a slice of apple. This time? ¡Nada!
What the hell, Home Grown? I suggest you wipe that coke from your nose and go back to tokin’.Warning – Home Grown is really more of a restaurant than a bar, but bands play on a small stage and it can be loud. Avoid the restaurant on music nights if you want to have a conversation with your date. Also, late at night, squealing college kids – it is a college town – come in to drink martinis and look chic. Annoying and comical at the same time.
Home Grown Cafe, 126 E. Main St., Newark, DE 19711, 302-266-6993
Mon.-Sat., 11a.m.-1a.m., Sun., 10:30-11pm