Coriander Cafe: Campus Corner Round-up, part three
This is part three in my series exploring some of the best places to eat in what I consider to be one of greater OKC’s most awesome shopping and dining districts — Campus Corner in Norman (see part one covering Victoria’s Pasta Shop and part two covering Pepe Delgados). Today we take a look at Coriander Cafe, a truly unique eatery from two innovative, local culinary entrepreneurs.
Occupying the space right next to Victoria’s, Coriander Cafe has a fantastic location in a historic building on the corner of White Street and Buchanan Avenue. The interior is simple and modern, with stained concrete floors and a semi-open kitchen feel. The menu concept is a modern take on Vietnamese fare. Many of the traditional Vietnamese dishes that are prevalent in OKC’s Asian District are offered here, providing Normanites with a viable Vietnamese option much closer to home.
As someone who has spent a lot of time dining in OKC’s Asian District, it’s hard for me not to compare Coriander Cafe to what I’ve experienced in central OKC. So, my thoughts are going to reflect some of those comparisons. For instance, things are a bit more expensive here than what I’m used to for Vietnamese food. A bowl of Pho is $8 and a Bahn Mi sandwich, $6. But the higher-prices are justified, in my opinion, by the higher-quality ingredients (especially the meats) and, of course, the location and atmosphere.
The menu is pretty simple. The entree section includes about five options — Bahn Mi (see a pic), Rice Bowl (see a pic), Noodle Salad (see a pic), Pho Soup, and Lettuce Wraps (see a pic) which are served with your choice of meat (or tofu). It is this selection of protein that really sets Coriander Cafe apart for me. I can tell they have put a lot of thought and care into their assortment which includes roast pork, pork sausage, beef short ribs, sesame ginger beef, beef meatball, lemongrass chicken, spicy hoisin tofu, lemongrass tofu, and lemon garlic shrimp. It’s a great selection and the options I’ve tried have all been very well seasoned and prepared.
On my first visit, I tried the Bahn Mi with roast pork. The pork was the star of the show — tender and juicy with just enough seasoning to stand out but not so much as to overpower. The sandwich also comes with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, pate’, aioli, jalepenos and cucumber. The veggies were crisp and everything was flavorful. The french baguette bun is locally-sourced from La Baguette. Interestingly, after visiting on this day I tweeted about my visit and Coriander Cafe immediately tweeted back, apologizing and indicating that I had visited on a “bad bread day.” Evidently, they weren’t pleased with the batch of bread they had received that day. While I had thought the bread was a little too crusty (making it a bit tough to eat), it certainly wasn’t anything I was concerned about. Yet, I was impressed all the more that they were so attentive to each of their ingredients. A good sign, I think.
I’ve also had the noodle salad ($8), which is basically their take on the vermicelli bowl I know and love at several Asian District spots. I had the sesame ginger beef on this one. Again, the meat stole the show with the rest of the ingredients supporting nicely.
Their appetizers include egg rolls, veggie egg rolls, egg drop soup, green papaya salad, and Vietnamese-style spring rolls (see a pic). Interestingly, you can add “crunchies” to your spring rolls for 50 cents extra.
The story of Coriander is made even richer when you find out a little bit about its owners and their history. Take a minute to read their about page to get to know a little about Chris Le and Jeremiah Caldwell. When you visit, you’re likely to find them both working and excited to talk with you about their restaurant. These guys are very passionate about what they do. They’ve accomplished a lot, bootstrapping their business without a lot of funding to work with. They’re also one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to utilizing social media and the web effectively. Their website is simple but top-notch and I’ve enjoyed all of the food photography they share on their Facebook page.
Coriander Cafe is pretty new to the well-established Campus Corner scene, but it’s proven that a solid concept, good implementation and a lot of hard work can be successful, even for first-time entrepreneurs just starting out. Though you can find more “traditional” Vietnamese cooking in OKC’s Asian District, Coriander Cafe brings a modern spin with quality ingredients that I feel is worth a visit to experience first hand. And for those in the Norman area, it’s a very unique option bringing some nice variety to the robust selection of restaurants on Campus Corner.
Have you been to Coriander Cafe? Let us know what you think in the comments below.