It’s a common dilemma when we are deciding where to eat out. If no particular place is calling to us, we still have a list of general demands. Ours might be that we don’t want anything too far away, too expensive, too noisy or too crowded. We don’t want greasy fast food. We might want interesting but not ethnic.
This decision is not made easier if one is a restaurant reviewer, by the way. You just have more items in your mental index to slog through. But if we lived in the way-up-north end of Stone Oak Parkway, we’d suggest SoGo as a good, all-purpose choice.
Fresh salads, imaginative sandwiches and panini, hot entrées and soups are available every day. If you look at the extensive list of entries on the Chef’s Case list (sogo-sa.com), you’ll find more of the above, all with a creative touch, that are rotated into the daily menu.
Mark Arriola is the chef, and SoGo offers catering. The baked goods are fresh and you may also pick up a bottle of wine or even a can of San Marzano tomatoes while you’re there.
The restaurant is casual; you stand in line to order your food and pick up plastic-ware and pour your drinks after paying the cashier. The interior is pleasant and bright. Our only complaint was the table tops, which are made of some composition material that feels sticky even after it’s wiped down. Our purses stuck to it, our papers stuck to it. If we’d suggest one capital investment, new table tops would be it.
We had few complaints about the food. Really, our main critical observation was that the panini fillings needed to be warmer. I don’t think it’s cheating to do a quick warm-up of sliced meats or chicken before it goes on the bread, then into the grill.
That said, everything tasted good. Better than good was a friend’s lemon-roasted chicken. He struggled to share even a bite, but what I tasted had good lemony flavor complementing the herbs; moist, meaty chicken and crackly skin. (At least he said the skin was crackly. He nabbed mine before the bite got to my plate.)
Meanwhile, across the table, another companion was making lustful noises at each bite of her carrrot-sweet potato and ginger soup. It was a deep, appetizing orange with a not-too-intense dose of the exotic ginger, and every bit as good as she made it sound.
Her smoked chicken panino, while not hot enough in the center, was full of flavor, and especially suited to its dressing of chipotle mayonnaise.
I had prevailed upon the cook and chef to make me a meatloaf panino, even though the meatloaf sandwich offered was cold (and looked good). I was grateful that they said yes, and I enjoyed the meatloaf. Again, it was cool at the center. On the side, though, were very hot, freshly fried sweet potato chips that were so good I ordered more as a side for the table. We dipped them into chipotle-flavored ketchup, which really was gilding the lily.
While I’m mentioning sides, a serving of sautéed root vegetables came with the chicken. This was worth ordering seconds of, too. The vegetables were perfectly tender and we were happy to find sliced parsnips in the mix. The humble parsnip has taken on a trendy tone lately, as cooks discover this root vegetable’s subtle flavor.
A couple of nights later SavorSA’s Web guru and remarkable photographer, Nick Mistry, checked in with his thoughts on two more Sogo specials. One, the Italian Dip, with smoked ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone on tomato foccacia made him “very happy.” He poured the homemade Italian dressing (for dipping) over the lettuce and tomato in the sandwich (we suspect he is a hoagie boy) and he’ll be back for that sandwich again.
Two of us at SavorSA have had the roasted beet salad. They roast the beets, the salad is enormous and balanced with sweet-sour from fresh oranges and balsamic vinegar. Then, add the red onions, grape tomatoes, navel oranges, bleu cheese and candied pecans tossed with baby lettuces. Oh my, yes.
At lunch that day, we shared dessert — a slice of Chocolate Italian Cream Cake. Chocolate, coconut and pecans would satisfy the most demanding dessert-a-holic, but after finishing lunch we also picked up a nice little red velvet cupcake with a crown of creamy frosting from the baked goods case. To eat later, you know, at home.
It didn’t make it home. But it did bring me happiness on the long drive back. This was fitting, as someone reminded me later. SoGo’s motto is “Creating joy through food.” We’d say they’ve succeeded.
19903 Stone Oak Parkway
10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon. -Thurs.
10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sun.