My first introduction to a cucumber sandwich was sometime back in the mid-1990s, when I was a young teenager on some kind of church or tennis trip to the Deep South. Somewhere between Georgia and Louisiana, which might be Alabama, I remember stopping in a tiny town where the air hung thick around the ancient, mossy trees and reverberated with the incessant buzz of overzealous cicadas. In a little yellow cottage with a wrap-around porch, there was an old lady serving cold lemonade and cucumber sandwiches that reversed any preconceived notions I'd had about the South, restaurants in people's houses, or cucumbers as a respectable sandwich filling.
Several weeks ago, in Dallas, I experienced my first twinge of déjà vu, a sudden throwback to that Deep South summer at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse.
The shop is housed inside a charming old cottage, just a block from the McKinney Avenue trolley, with soothing music, lots and lots of power outlets, and an astoundingly friendly staff that doesn't hew to the sometimes snobbish ethic of Uptown. What's more, they serve good coffee. Oh yeah--and vegan cinnamon rolls.
As soon as I discovered this little oasis, I began visiting with a frequency and fervor that bordered on excessive. I would plan my meals (read: skip breakfast and lunch) in order to enjoy one of those massive, tastes-like-real vegan cinnamon rolls, make special budget allowances for their deliciously foamy soy cappuccinos, and justify my sweet tooth with the fact that the cookies, too, were vegan.
Unfortunately, Crooked Tree doesn't offer a cucumber sandwich--but those are pretty much a thing of the past, anyway, since I'm sure the one I had all those years ago was as overflowing with creamy dilled mayo as any self-respecting non-vegan cucumber sandwich would be. They do, however, make a no-frills veggie sandwich (tomato, lettuce, cucumber and hummus on toasted whole-wheat bread), as well as several lunch options for meat-eaters. The clientele is mixed, but with a preponderance of well-scrubbed kids in their mid-twenties busily inspecting their iPhones and laptops, and a conversation about veganism is hardly rare.
Despite the turnover in bakers--Dallas' much-loved Covert Vegan bakery closed recently, ceding its clientele (which included Crooked Tree) to Tough Cookie Bakery--the new vegan baking outfit has shown equal aptitude in making irresistible breakfast (or lunch, or dinner...) pastries. Meaning, I can't so much as drive down McKinney without veering suddenly down Routh for a soy cappuccino, a molasses cookie and a whisper of summer in Alabama.
Crooked Tree Coffeehouse
2414 Routh St.