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Posted on Fri, May 17, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

Frugal Friday at Cardamom - menu and staff help those with diet restrictions find delicious deals

By Mary Bilyeu


Vegetarian Thali at Cardamom.

Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

Frugal Floozie Friday is a feature that seeks out dishes — appetizers, drinks, snacks, desserts, sandwiches, whatever — for $5 or less per person. Sometimes I split generously-sized items with loved ones, saving both money and calories; sometimes I find a great deal on a single serving that fits perfectly within the mandatory budget. I try to showcase several options to choose from, and you never know where I'll find them. Check out the column every Friday!

My dear friend Marcie joined Jeremy and me at Cardamom recently; Marcie and I had been counting down 'til it opened, and Jeremy was happy to share in the adventure of trying a brand spankin' new restaurant.

Marcie, unfortunately, suffers from numerous food allergies and intolerances; so Cardamom's menu — which provides a code indicating which items are vegetarian or vegan, which can be made gluten-free or vegan, which ones contain nuts or gluten — makes ordering much easier for those who need to be careful with their diets. Our waitress, Grace, was wonderfully helpful, too, in answering questions and checking with the kitchen to find out information about ingredients.

We ended up ordering an array of items from the lunch menu (available Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.) to try numerous dishes. The dinner menu is more extensive and costs a bit extra because of larger servings; the lunch menu offers some sandwiches and other quick items, as it is designed to facilitate a fast meal — but not typical "fast food" — for busy folks who need to get back to work for the afternoon.

The vegetarian thali (pictured above) costs only $10 and is absolutely generous enough for two, to meet our mandatory Frugal Floozie Friday budget of $5 per person. I ate a huge lunch from this platter, shared tastes, and still had enough food to bring home for another meal the next day. There were dishes of chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, and lentils; rice and naan; chutney and pickles; and even dessert, the creamy and fragrant rice pudding.


Vegetable Pakora and Onion Bhaji.

Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

All but one of the appetizers comes in under budget, so we ordered the Vegetable Pakora (left; potatoes, onions, spinach, and cauliflower) and Onion Bhaji (right) for $4 each.  I could happily have made a lunch from either of these, or divvied them up to enjoy a plate of half-and-half. The fried fritters, dipped in a chickpea flour batter, come with both tamarind and mint chutneys for dipping, and were excellent.

A full serving of the cardamom-infused rice pudding costs $3.50. Jeremy ordered the Gulab Jamun — fried balls of dough in a sweet, rose-scented syrup — which also costs $3.50, and which he enjoyed immensely; I was fortunate to be given a small taste, to see how good they were.


Rice Pudding and Gulab Jamun.

Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

You could also order a cup of soup for $3, a generously-portioned side salad for $4 (the lime vinaigrette, one of three choices for a dressing, was lovely and bright), one of the numerous beverages (the mango lassi for $3.50 was rich and creamy), or one of the luscious desserts (most of which come in under budget, or could easily be shared with a loved one).

I love Indian food, so it's wonderful to welcome another restaurant offering this fabulous cuisine!


Mango Lassi.

Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

1739 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Tuesday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 - 10 p.m.
Friday - Sunday: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 - 10:30 p.m.
Closed Mondays

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Mary Bilyeu writes for on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, telling about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests, meeting new friends ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions, comments, or suggestions:

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — where she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related; and look for her monthly articles in the Washtenaw Jewish News. "Like" her on Facebook, or send a tweet on Twitter, too.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.


Pretty Gritty

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

I'm still waiting for the Chop House visit. We ordered the steak for 49 dollars. I was more than enough for the 10 of us to share.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Last week a cupcake. This week splitting appetizers. Just review the restaurant and quit pretending it's cheap. Or go cheap once a month or something honest.

C'est la vie

Sat, May 18, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

Ever notice the look on a server's face (not referring to this restaurant, but anywhere) when you say you'll be splitting an entrée? "Here's a couple of cheapskates. There goes my tip," they seem to be thinking.

Susan Melke

Sat, May 18, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

I want to know why my comment was deleted. Everything i wrote was true. i violated none of the guidelines. Every word wrote was true. This frugal $5 charade is silly. I enjoy the reviews as I stated in my deleted posts. But to keep pretending its ony spending $5 is ridiculous. And then to delete the truth when posted is really irritating

UM owns

Fri, May 17, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

You've gotten to the point where you are making ridiculous statements to adhere to your "$5 mandatory budget". Split a $10 lunch entree? Eat one appetizer? Eat a bowl of soup? Time for you to change your guidelines so you stop making foolish statements.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, May 17, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

I don't recommend the momo lunch. The dumplings were scantily filled, a tiny bit undercooked, and very dry (served without any sauce other than a small container of chutney). The salad, which I had to ask for twice, was not dressed at all, just naked greens. The thali that other diners were enjoying looked worthwhile going back for. The place was full at Thursday lunch.


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

People who can't eat dairy products and are not vegan will need to ask their server about which meat dishes contain dairy as their "allery code" does not include one to identify meat dishes that are dairy free.