Friday, December 5, 2008

Natural Gourmet is not natural.

My friend Chandra and I had lunch together at Natural Gourmet in Champaign. The food was quite tasty. The prices were not.

I got the "woon sen salad" to start. The price was $6.99, but it sounded tasty and I was in the mood for a salad. It was definitely tasty, but the portion size was little more than a side salad. It had a nice spicy, limey dressing, bits of chicken, bean thread noodles and some peanuts all on top of a small pile of lettuce. But I'd probably price it more around $4.99.

Chandra ordered the "rice soup" with chicken for $5.99 and the "mini vegetable egg rolls" for $3.49. The soup was good! The stock was delicious and the other ingredients were chicken, rice, cilantro, dried garlic slices, green onion, and a few other things. The portion was adequate and I think that the price was fine. The egg rolls were definitely mini and the dipping sauce that came with was quite nice, but I wouldn't have priced it above $2.50. I just can't see the sense in charging twice as much for mini egg rolls that, combined, wouldn't equal more than a regular egg roll. But then again, they DO call themselves "natural GOURMET".

Since my lunch wasn't adequate, I ordered a bowl of the "noodle soup" with chicken, which was the same thing as the rice soup... only with super thin noodles instead of rice. Although my budget didn't appreciate the extra soup, my stomach did. I must say, it was difficult and awkward to eat. But then again, when is a noodle soup NOT slightly difficult to eat?

I was thirsty, so I looked around the store to find something to drink (since the lady at the cafe wouldn't give Chandra a cup of water), but found myself drawn back to the "limeade" for $1.99 in the cafe area. I'm a big lime lover, and it was one of the less expensive drinks in the store, so limeade sounded like just the thing. I thought MAYBE it would be a decent portion because it's a drink, right? No, it came in a cup about 4.5 inches high that was half full of ice. I paced myself in order to make it last, but alas, I ended up disappointed more so in my hopeful optimism that the limeade gods were looking down upon me in pleasure when I should have known better.

We took our "ticket" (a white napkin with scribbled prices) up to the register and paid for our meals. My total price came to a bit more than $16 after tax and since there was no spot to write down a tip before totaling the bill, I felt no guilt in not including one. $16 bucks for soup and salad in a natural foods grocery store? Maybe in Chicago, but in Champaign it's just plain robbery.

I'll spend the next couple days recouping from my tragic loss of income, vowing never to return to (un)Natural Gourmet and hoping that the limeade gods look down on me in a more favorable way next time.


Anonymous said...

i eat there all the time... you have to understand that they use very high quality ingredients and that the man making the thai food is an extremely well-seasoned chef that used to run the very successful magic kitchen thai restaurant in springfield, google that. so in my opinion, you're actually making out with a deal on the food.

Angela Isola Maria said...

i understand the quality of the ingredients. i'm a thai food connoisseur of sorts, so i appreciate the dishes for their taste. i did not appreciate the lack of customer service (which has proven to be a pattern with my friends that DO eat there still). and the portions, i feel, were just a bit too small. so, i definitely don't feel like i made out with the whole experience. yay for flavors, nay for everything else.