Restaurant Review Oasis Café
unless I’m starving and pressed for time, I try not to eat while I’m working. For one thing, I believe it’s important to give your food your undivided attention; for another, a messy sandwich or anything saucy can really gunk up a keyboard.
That said, when I sat down to type out notes for a review of Oasis Café in Eldorado, I had trouble making any progress at first, because the halfsandwich I had brought home from lunch earlier that day kept distracting me. It was a called the Caprese, basically a variation on the classic tomato-basilmozzarella salad on slabs of rich focaccia-like bread. It was dense with milky-sweet mozzarella, with a garlic-lemon aioli to give it an extra punch. I wished for more of the superfresh tomato and the pesto, which stood in for basil leaves. Still, I couldn’t stop going back for just one more bite.
The Mediterranean-inspired Oasis is a mostly nondescriptlooking sandwich shop (it’s hard to disguise the truth of its origins: Many moons ago, the space was occupied by a Subway franchise) hidden in Eldorado’s La Tienda shopping center. The quiet but friendly current owners are John Conlon and Rebecca Silva, who apparently do a good bit of the work behind the counter and in the kitchen; they’ve done a nice job sprucing and cleaning the place up, with brightly colored walls and cheerful chalkboard menus. There’s a tiny patio outside, though during the height of summer, even with sunshades, it’s still not an ideal place for lunch. Frankly, if it weren’t amply shaded, the expansive wall of windows in the main dining would admit more sunlight than would be comfortable on a July afternoon.
The menu features some of the usual suspects — falafel, gyro, souvlaki; a salad heavy with olives, cucumber, feta, roasted red pepper, and dolmas — but it’s not so extensive that you’ll need a vocabulary lesson or to brush up on your Greek. A few more conventional offerings are part of the mix as well, from a Cubano and a Reuben to a tuna hoagie and pulled barbecued pork (though I’m not sure what business American cheese has being on that particular sandwich).
The Vegan Oasis is another plate-cleaningly addictive sandwich. Toasty warm, a pillowy pocketless pita cradles Ping-Pong balls of not-at-all greasy falafel, their tawny crusts giving way to mildly herbed, faintly fluffy savory centers with a nubbly toothiness. Taking it over the top are paper-thin ribbons of onion and disks of cucumber, uncommon but oh-so-welcome black and green olives, and slices of impossibly red and ripe tomato, all doused in a creamy but bright tahini sauce.
The Street Oasis is a simple gyro — one of Oasis’s supple pitas cradling super-tender lamb and beef and more of those ruby-red tomatoes, all thoroughly lacquered in a bright but luscious tzatziki. I’ll also be back for another Big Greek Salad, a giant bowl of crunchy green lettuce strewn with more vibrantly briny olives, chickpeas (always welcome in my book), artichoke hearts, feta, shaved onion, sliced cucumber, and thick strips of roasted red pepper that were smoky and sweet but a bit unwieldy. You get a bonus of two little dolmas, tiny tender capsules of vinegary rice in briny grape-leaf casings. The whole thing feels like a steal for less than eight bucks. And I’m so glad the owners resisted the temptation to call it “My Big Fat Greek Salad.” Each sandwich also comes with a side — sometimes tabbouleh, sometimes slaw, both in miniscule cups, but you won’t care, because the sandwiches hog the spotlight. The tabbouleh is the type that’s heavy on chewy specks of soaked bulgur rather than parsley; it’s enjoyably chewy, salty, and lemony. The slaw is delightfully vinegar-based, bracing, and crunchy, its light dressing giving off intriguing hints of caraway.
Oasis is a welcome addition to Eldorado, a captive-audience community with historically slim pickings in the truly good, worth-leaving-home-for food department. The owners would do Eldorado a big favor by staying open a bit later to cover more dinnertime hours. This also seems like the ideal takeout food to enjoy over a beer at the Santa Fe Brewing Co. taproom just around the corner. to that!